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This week's cover: 'Into the Woods' enchants EW's holiday movie preview

Ever since Chicago ushered the movie-musical back to the big screen with panache, the song-and-dance genre has had a bumpy road in Hollywood (here’s lookin’ at you, Rock of Ages). But the man behind the 2002 Best Picture winner hopes to turn the trend around with another tuner, this time based on one of Broadway’s most beloved Stephen Sondheim musicals. Director Rob Marshall takes the reins on Disney’s Into the Woods, and he’s gathered an A-list cast and creative team to conjure up a glossy adaptation of the 1987 fairy tale fantasy that’s decidedly different from any storybooks you might have gathering dust on the shelf.

In this week’s Entertainment Weekly—which features four exclusive covers of the fairy tale epic’s all-star cast—we dive headfirst into the design of the dark, sprawling world of Into the Woods, the musical tale about a childless Baker (James Corden) and his wife (Emily Blunt) who attempt to lift a witch’s curse by venturing into an enchanted forest filled with classic characters like Cinderella (Anna Kendrick) and Rapunzel (MacKenzie Mauzy). But this isn’t your mother’s Cinderella VHS—nor your daughter’s DVD, for that matter. “I didn’t want this to look like a cartoon world,” says Marshall. “It’s not sunny, sunny, sunny—we wanted a sense of danger.”

With the chance to re-invent the iconic musical, it wasn’t hard for Marshall to reunite members of his Chicago design team and lure top acting talent to the project—including Johnny Depp as the big bad Wolf and Meryl Streep as the Witch. “I’ve been offered many witches over the years, starting when I was 40, and I said no to all of them,” the actress tells EW. “But this was really fun because it played with the notion of what witches mean. They represented age and ugliness and scary powers we don’t understand. So here’s my opportunity to say, here’s what you wish for when you’re getting old.”

Come for the woods (and your first look at Depp’s Tex Avery-style lupine), but stay for the rest of our annual holiday movie preview, which includes candid chats with season stand-outs Julianne Moore and Eddie Redmayne, a behind-the-scenes look at Exodus: Gods and Kings, The Imitation Game, and the final Hobbit film, and of course, the calendar that will guide you through it all. The only question is, which cover will you pick?

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'Saturday Night Live' best host poll: And the winner is...

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Saturday Night Live turns 40 years old next year. The big 4-0. What does that mean, exactly? Well, to put it in perspective, that means 11 of the 21 people who hosted during SNL‘s 39th season were not even alive when the show premiered on Oct. 11, 1975 with George Carlin as host. The show has evolved slightly from one cast to the next. But at its core, it’s still the same format that Lorne Michaels and his irreverent crew established way back when, though the first few seasons relied on such a small circle of guest hosts that Buck Henry became the inaugural member of the Five-Timers Club before the end of season 3.

It would be interesting to go back to the very beginning and award a Mr. Saturday Night to the best host for every season of SNL. Elliott Gould might take the prize in season 1 for performing double duty, and perhaps Steve Martin wins in season 2 for the same feat. But who deserves the honor for season 3: Martin again, for hosting a record three times, or a tongue-in-cheek nod to Chevy Chase, who brawled with Bill Murray on his first time back after leaving the show?

At least we know who have been the best hosts of the last three years. In 2012, EW.com readers crowned the first Mr. Saturday Night, Jimmy Fallon. Last year, Justin Timberlake ran away with the trophy. This year, the two title-holders teamed up for one super-size Christmas spectacular with Fallon as host and Timberlake as musical guest. But still, Fallon has hardly been a cinch, rising and dropping in the weekly polls that eliminated one host at a time until we were left with six finalists. His former Weekend Update co-anchor Tina Fey is back in the game, and Catching Fire‘s Josh Hutcherson is the surprise dark-horse who remains in striking distance. Might he surprise everyone and accomplish what even Jennifer Lawrence could not last year — win Mr. Saturday Night?

Before we announce the victor of this year’s contest, though, there are six other non-democratic awards to present. READ FULL STORY

'Saturday Night Live' poll: Who was the best host of the year? -- VOTE

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Early during this season of Saturday Night Live, Alec Baldwin interrupted first-time host Edward Norton to share some pointers on how to host the legendary show, a late-night institution in its 39th season. “It’s a three-wheeled bus careening towards a blown-out bridge,” he said, describing the delirious mayhem that can either terrify or thrill a novice. It’s not easy in the slightest, and honor to those who make it look so.

For the third straight year, Entertainment Weekly has asked its online readers to vote for the best Saturday Night Live host each week. And every week, we eliminated one guest host, until we were left with six of the season’s finest. Last year’s Mr. Saturday Night Justin Timberlake didn’t return this past season to defend his crown. Instead, he lent his unofficial support to BFF and fellow Mr. Saturday Night Jimmy Fallon as his musical guest and all-around secret weapon. (He even sent Fallon’s rival, his old digital-short pal Andy Samberg, a very public show of non-support.) But this final vote promises to be extremely close, with only six percentage points separating the last week’s top-3 vote-getters: Fallon, Josh Hutcherson, and Anna Kendrick. To that mix, add Samberg, who is going to be fresh in everyone’s minds, and Tina Fey, an all-timer who was granted a second chance. Hoping to make up ground is first-timer Andrew Garfield. While Timberlake won last year with nearly 50 percent of the vote, it’s entirely possible that this year’s winner takes the prize with under 30 percent. READ FULL STORY

'Saturday Night Live' host poll: Did Charlize Theron's show sing? -- VOTE

Charlize Theron can’t sing – but that really is about the only thing she can’t do better than you. She’s beautiful, of course, has an Oscar, and has proven on Between Two Ferns and Arrested Development to be extremely funny as well. Her return to Saturday Night Live for the first time since 2000 — she was promoting The Legend of Bagger Vance then — is pegged to A Million Ways to Die in the West, her comic western with Seth MacFarlane; Hmmm, so maybe the only thing she can’t do well is believably watch Will Smith caddy for Matt Damon.

Saturday was a mixture of high and lows, as most SNLs are. Still, Theron had some fine moments that should make for an interesting vote in this week’s Mr. Saturday Night poll. With only one week to go in the season, our contest is truly wide open. Andrew Garfield made a splash last week and holds a commanding lead in the voting with 39.5 percent. That’s a solid but not spectacular debut showing, and it will be interesting to see if the Spider-Man star can hold those numbers. Jimmy Fallon was rock steady again with 22.3 percent, and he might be poised to move up again if anyone falters. Anna Kendrick had been in first place but her support was slashed in half, from 33.9 to 16.9 percent. Ditto for Josh Hutcherson, whose week-to-week numbers have been like a yo-yo; he sank to fourth place with 15.7 percent. Louis C.K. was eliminated with only 5.6 percent. READ FULL STORY

'Saturday Night Live' host poll: Was Andrew Garfield an 'SNL' superhero?

Andrew Garfield had a pretty great weekend. His Spider-Man sequel grossed more than $92 million and he delivered a promising debut as host of Saturday Night Live. Credit the writers or his celebrity helpers — who included girlfriend Emma Stone, Jack Bauer, and Chris Martin — if you must, but Garfield more than held his own. He was bold, imitating his Social Network adversary and SNL all-star Justin Timberlake during a “Celebrity Family Feud” sketch; he was a brilliant man-on-the-run in a fake trailer for The Beygency; and he even had some fun anti-kissing his real-life girlfriend in a Spider-Man sketch. Combine that with some very funny Weekend Update bits — bravo Leslie Jones! — a great twist on Oliver, and a decent cold open about disgraced basketball owner Donald Sterling, and you get what I thought was one of the finest episodes SNL has had all season.

But in our third annual Mr. Saturday Night contest, my vote counts as much as yours – and the competition is tight. The most recent host before Garfield, Seth Rogen, landed with a thud, garnering only 3 percent of the vote and a quick elimination. Anna Kendrick retained her lead, but just barely, with 33.9 percent. Apparently, Josh Hutcherson‘s fans came back from spring break to vote, as his support more than tripled, from 10 percent to 33.8 percent. Jimmy Fallon held steady with 22 percent, but he’s not necessarily the one to beat anymore, despite his status as a former champion. Louis C.K. finished fourth again, with only 7.3 percent, and he’ll be tested to hold off Garfield this week. READ FULL STORY

'Saturday Night Live' best host poll: Did Seth Rogen play it too safe? -- VOTE

Perhaps Seth Rogen’s latest Saturday Night Live episode wasn’t especially inspired: it opened with the requisite weed jokes, made fun of his oft-imitated laugh, and leaned on some unnecessary celebrity cameos. But if you love Rogen’s slacker comedy, maybe that was exactly what you tuned in for. At least he didn’t tap dance or juggle torches to prove that he’s not just a funny guy.

Voters in our ongoing third annual Mr. Saturday Night contest will have to decide whether Rogen played it too safe for a guy who was hosting for the third time, or if he delivered exactly what the audience wanted.

Last week’s host, Anna Kendrick, sang her way to the top of the poll, scoring 47.8 percent, nearly twice as much as her nearest competitor, Jimmy Fallon, who looks slightly vulnerable for the first time with 24.8 percent. But who knows if Kendrick’s impressive debut will last: Louis C.K. scored 33.1 percent in his first week, but he sank to fourth in his second frame, with only 8.72 percent. Some of Josh Hutcherson‘s fans took the week off, apparently, as he went from 22.9 to 10.0 percent, still enough to hold third place. Sadly, Melissa McCarthy‘s luck finally ran out after narrowly skirting elimination for three straight weeks; she barely trailed Louis C.K. with 8.70 percent. READ FULL STORY

Cut 'SNL' sketch parodies '90s Nickelodeon -- VIDEO

The kids on children’s programs are really happy — and, as Saturday Night Live explained it this past weekend in a cut sketch — there’s a surprisingly dark reason for that: Speed.

The conceit featured a look back at fake ’90s Nickelodeon show Zap! (which looked an awful lot like 1999 PBS program Zoom!). A television host (Beck Bennett) explained that thanks to the show’s producers, the cast of Zap! had a pretty serious drug problem — as evidenced by later episodes of the no-longer-G-rated program. (“Friendship” has never been so cracked out.) READ FULL STORY

'Saturday Night Live' best host poll: Anna Kendrick's episode sings -- VOTE

Having great vocal range typically implies an ability to sing in a variety of octaves. I’ll take it on faith that Anna Kendrick, who hosted Saturday Night Live this weekend, has that gift to a certain degree. But I’m more impressed by Kendrick’s other musical range: the ability to sing a G-rated version of a beloved Disney princess tune and a raunchy ditty that includes the lyric, “Each dong is like a snowflake.”

Kendrick’s show emphasized her singing background — not a bad way to go for the Pitch Perfect star. Perhaps the show was short on laugh-out-loud moments, but it still was a fine showcase for the actress. It will be interesting to see if the voters reward her in this week’s Mr. Saturday Night poll.

Last week’s host, Louis C.K., made an impression and pushed Jimmy Fallon out of the top spot, with 33.1 percent. Fallon dipped 12 points to 30.0 percent but remains a strong second. It seems nothing can deter Josh Hutcherson‘s fans, as his bloc remains solid with 22.9 percent. That’s up two points from last week. Melissa McCarthy narrowly dodged elimination for a third straight week, even though her support slipped from 13.5 to 10.4 percent. Lena Dunham got the hook instead after her numbers plummeted from 19.4 to 3.7 percent. READ FULL STORY

'Saturday Night Live' recap: Anna Kendrick is a (pitch) perfect Disney princess

Disney fans, this was a Saturday Night Live for you.

Going into the episode, it seemed likely there would be at least one musical sketch moment. After all, Anna Kendrick was a Tony nominee when she was just a teenager, starred in the cult classic Camp, and is perhaps best known as the lead in the a cappella comedy Pitch Perfect, which somehow spawned a huge radio hit for the actress with her cover of “Cups.” (Don’t worry. That was – cleverly – spoofed last night as well.)

While a little singing seemed to be a safe bet, no one could have expected that the show would go full Disney princess, with no less than four music moments by Kendrick. The program wholly embraced the host’s musical side, and likely recruited a few more fans eager to see Kendrick’s upcoming interpretation of Cinderella in December’s highly anticipated (and slightly feared) adaptation of the musical Into the Woods. (Other upcoming Kendrick musical performances: The Last Five Years and Pitch Perfect 2.) While the show – and Kendrick – were more charmingly amusing than laugh-out-loud funny, this episode will still go down in the “success” column thanks to a combination of clever writing, higher-than-normal energy, and a host that somehow rapped more than Drake did a few months back. READ FULL STORY

Anna Kendrick hosts 'Saturday Night Live' this weekend: Talk about it here!

Get ready for SNL: The Musical.

The host: Anna Kendrick, who snagged an Oscar nomination for Up in the Air but is probably known best for crooning without accompaniment — unless you count a little cup percussion — in Pitch Perfect. Sondheim-lovers of a certain age may also remember the actress’ film debut as Fritzi, the most conniving girl at theater camp – and real Kendraholics know that even before that, at the age of 12, Kendrick was nominated for a Tony for her work in Broadway’s High Society (a musical adaptation of The Philadelphia Story).

Long story short: The lady can and will be singing tonight, maybe just in her monologue, possibly from the moment the cold open begins all the way to the end credits.

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