Author

Michael Arbeiter
Staff editor Michael Arbeiter’s natural state of being can best be described as “mild panic attack.” His earliest memories of growing up in Queens, New York, involve nighttime conversations with a voice from his bedroom wall (the jury’s still out on what that was all about) and a love for classic television that spawned from the very first time he was allowed to watch “The Munsters.” Attending college at SUNY Binghamton, a 20-year-old Michael learned two things: that he could center his future on this love for TV and movies, and that dragons never actually existed — he was kind of late in the game on that one.
  • Review: 'A Most Wanted Man' Is Sharp and Strong But Ultimately Unremarkable
    By: Michael Arbeiter Jul 25, 2014
    Roadside Attractions via Everett Collection To a weathered cinephile, there might be nothing sadder than a movie like A Most Wanted Man: the sort that is technically perfect, or close to it, but that lacks the panache to earn it hospice in the viewing public's minds and hearts. The latest John le Carré adaptation, a markedly superior film to Tomas Alfredson's Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, treats its political thriller with the patience and density that you might imagine a real spy to devote to his missions. Director Anton Corbijn is determined to build a world of espionage as piercingly authentic — if not necessarily in practice (how the hell would some two-bit film critic know what the trade is really like?) than in ambiance — as possible, paying for this triumph with the loss of accessibility and narrative rhythm. Impressively enough, the film never sinks quite to the level of tedium. But it never hits the highs of real encouragement either. Philip Seymour Hoffman plays German agent Günther Bachmann with a lovable combination of Bond-caliber determination and Office Space schlubbiness — he's a man so entrenched in his job (the "catching terrorists" racket) that his identity beyond the margins of worktime hours seems limited to sips of scotch and silent glowers. Unsurprisingly, Hoffman is A Most Wanted Man's greatest triumph: his access of the obsession and self-deprecation in a man who might have otherwise been a dimensionless vehicle not only rescues his character, but the otherwise stark A Most Wanted Man in entirety. Roadside Attractions via Everett Collection Without Hoffman, there is no movie. Despite acceptable turns from costars Grigoriy Dobrygin (as a Chechen Muslim targeted by Hoffman's organization), Rachel McAdams (as the diplomatic attorney driven to help Dobrygin find asylum), and — best of all — Nina Hoss (as Hoffman's colleague and friend), Hoffman is the principal feature keeping A Most Wanted Man alive. But even at its liveliest, the film never feels particularly vibrant. Always smart, meticulous, and impressive, A Most Wanted Man lacks the nominal imperfections — the quirks and peculiarities — that might result in an active pulse. Ultimately, we are welcome to marvel at A Most Wanted Man, but it'd be nearly impossible to revel in it. 3/5 Follow @Michael Arbeiter | Follow @Hollywood_com
  • Hercules vs. Lucy: Who Is Your Blockbuster Action Hero of the Weekend?
    By: Michael Arbeiter Jul 25, 2014
    Paramount Pictures via Everett Collection/Universal Pictures via Everett Collection This weekend, you have two choices in the way of fantastical, action-packed blockbusters. On the one hand, you have something from the old stockyards: Brett Ratner's Hercules, a light-hearted take on the Ancient Greek myth about the epitome of alpha-male machismo (with, appropriately, Dwayne Johnson playing the lead). On the other, we have something rather new: the limit-pushing Lucy, which draws ideas from the most progressive of quantum theories and packs them into a Scarlett Johansson shoot-'em-up. Surely there is room enough in our summer movie schedule for these heroes of past and future glory, respectively. But when faced off against one another, which comes out the champion? POWERS AND ABILITIES Hercules' super strength, while mighty impressive in its own right, pales in comparison to everything Lucy's got going on in her rapidly evolving brain. Things kick off with simple tricks like mind-reading and telekinesis... but pretty soon (without spoiling anything), Lucy's abilities get far more expansive. Point: Lucy. CHARACTER We never really get to know much about Lucy. She likes her club music and loves her mom, but what else do we have to sink our teeth into? But there's no anonymity with Hercules, with whom we're all familiar enough thanks to our sixth grade English teachers.  Point: Hercules. ACTOR The Rock has charisma, sure, and sold a few laughs in Michael Bay's supreme Pain & Gain. But Johansson is a bona fide actor, capable of charm and chills alike. Although she's not giving a performance at the caliber of Lost in Translation or Her in Lucy, she's still adept in every sequence. Point: Lucy. THEMES Hercules is all about believing in yourself, standing up for what's right, sticking by your friends, making your own destiny... all that . Lucy is essentially about the meaninglessness of human existence. Less fun. Point: Hercules. BOX OFFICE PREDICTIONS Even with the benefit of its familiar source material and likable central star, Hercules is predicted to suffer at the hands of ScarJo's Lucy. Point: Lucy. MOST IMPORTANLY, HOW ARE THE MOVIES? Both good, neither great. We'd give Lucy the edge for originality and Luc Besson's superior visual flair, although Hercules' spirit is indelibly more inviting. Check out our reviews for Hercules and Lucy, and sound off below with your own votes.
  • Anastasia Steele's Interview Etiquette in the '50 Shades of Grey' Trailer Is All Wrong
    By: Michael Arbeiter Jul 24, 2014
    YouTube/Fifty Shades of Grey, Focus Features Anastasia Steele may be a timeless literary hero. She may be a beacon of female agency in the realm of modern sexuality. She may be a vessel for the release of personal frustrations for readers the world over. She may be any and all of these things. But a good interviewer she is not. At least that's what we've gleaned from the first trailer for Fifty Shades of Grey: We're not claiming to have all the answers behind a seamless interview, but we do know a few basic rules. Rules that Dakota Johnson, as the spiritually lukewarm Miss Steele, so callously breaks in this first look at the film. Steele pays a visit to the nauseatingly sleek office building of one Christian Grey (Jamie Dornan) in order to conduct "an interview for the newspaper," as she so facelessly introduces. What's to follow is an onslaught of cardinal sins and groan-worthy slip-ups on the part of the would-be reporter. Always look your subject in the eye.Nerves are understandable, but keep your nose out of your notebook. Steele's face barely reaches sea level. Keep the discussion going.Any conversation is bound to hit a few lulls, but Steele allows for a pause so diabolically long and piercing that it's sure to kill any momentum in what otherwise might be an engaging back-and-forth. YouTube/Fifty Shades of Grey, Focus Features Don't make yourself the focus.While it's not a crime to inject a personal reflection here or there in the interest of forging an empathy and connection with your subject, Steele allows the chat to switch gears entirely and begins lamenting her own meaningless life. If you do insist on talking about yourself, keep it upbeat! You probably shouldn't go and have sex with the person you interviewed.Although this one has its detractors. Follow @Michael Arbeiter | Follow @Hollywood_com
  • Michel Gondry Has Apparently Changed His Mind About the 'Eternal Sunshine' Message
    By: Michael Arbeiter Jul 23, 2014
    Columbia Pictures via Everett Collection We first encountered the bounties of Michel Gondry's imagination in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, his second collaboration with Charlie Kaufman (after Human Nature) that earned both parties new legions of admirers. Gondry's latest film, Mood Indigo, is perhaps his most visually imaginative, bringing objects and ideas to life in a sweet, simple, sad love story about a French dreamer and his sick wife. In a conversation about the new movie, Gondry taps into the tenets of his mind, discusses bringing his visions to life, and even reconsiders the impeccable message that made Eternal Sunshine such a winning film a decade back. When developing the more surreal elements of the film, is there a certain direction you go in visually? Were there margins you set for your aesthetic style, or do you just let your imagination run wild? Michel Gondry: There is stuff that comes back, it’s funny that you mention the insects. I did something very close to that with the shaver in The Science of Sleep. And I was probably more or less consciously influenced by Boris Vian from a young age. It’s … just making you believe that objects can be alive, that there is not a strong difference between things [and people]. In the imaginary world, the table has four legs; I could put shoes on the legs of this table, and it is something different. So it’s how I imagine things. It’s sort of functional, it’s not really an artistic way of looking at things. So it might be messy at the end, but it doesn’t come from trying to be a type of image. Is that just sort of how you live your day-to-day life, being an imaginative person and writer, just noticing things like that? MG: Yeah. Things remind me of something else… or sometimes, even when you see something far in the distance, you don’t really understand what it is. So your brain tries to find an explanation. It can be the shape of a cow, or a shop window, or anything. But your brain tries to tell you what it is. In a way, my imagination takes from that. It’s like when you try to remember a dream, but it’s all messy. Sometimes you try to make sense, to make a story out of it, but it’s really hard. Your feeling tells you [that] you’ve been through a very complex and traumatic story, but then if you look at the detail, the rest of it makes no sense. I try to put that in order so it becomes something more explainable. So I do that with everything I touch. Mood Indigo has a particularly unusual structure — the conflict comes to life very late in the film. And you can say the same for some of your other movies. Can you talk about how diverting from the norm helps you tell the stories you want to tell? MG: I don’t know, exactly, the format… so that’s by ignorance, I guess. Some people say that there are only seven types of stories you can tell. That’s quite depressing! … In the movies, they don’t tell you exactly what kind of story it is. You decide it yourself. It’s just a story when it finishes. It’s my technique. so I don’t have the preconceived idea. Some people, maybe, say that I don’t know how to tell a story. Maybe we just on what the story is. Drafthouse Films via Everett Collection We got to spend a lot of time in the “happy chapter” in Mood Indigo, before the sadness sets in. Did you particularly want to immerse your viewers in this dreamlike state before we hit the hard stuff? MG: In the French version, we had much more time on the dark side. Incidentally, when we tried to distribute in … some other countries in which Sarte’s part is a little lighter. In the first version it was much heavier. And some people felt, myself included, that it was a bit long. So I felt what I wanted, for sure – I didn’t think of balance – I wanted to start as ripe, full, inventive. A little bit shallow at the beginning to show the contrast with the really, really somber, emotional [ending]. So I didn’t see it in terms of balance, but in terms of cooperation. Speaking of the mood, I wanted to hear you talk about the very interesting use of color in this movie. MG: That was the first visual impression I had when I read the book. I discovered the book a long time ago, way before I ever thought I would become a film director. And it stuck with me. I though, if ever I was asked to do this adaptation I would do it this way: start in color, finish in black and white. I feel like it’s very gradual. MG: Yeah, it starts in the middle, when Colin is looking for a job. At this point, we lose 10 percent of the color, and then the next part is 20 percent, 30 percent, 50 percent, and so on, until it’s completely black and white … We wanted to [shoot the film] in winter, and we shot in black and white. Even though it was digital, we set the camera so it was black and white. So we could not come back and change our minds. I didn’t want to give any possibility to anyone to influence me to change that. And did you think that they would be able to? MG: I had one bad experience on a video, where I was supposed to do it in black and white. We shot it in color for blue screen purposes, and then the producer convinced me to keep it in color. To this day I regret it. Stick to your plan! You mentioned earlier that you had ideas for this book when you read it many years ago. Which ideas were in your head back when you first read the book, and which ones came to you as you were making the movie? MG: I had a list of numerations in the book which I sometimes wrote down, and I wanted to present the film a little bit like a personal flashback of my first impression reading the book. I remember the ice-skating rink, the stretching guy, all the chaos … I had many impressions that stuck with me from the beginning. Was there anything that came about during filmmaking that wasn’t among your original impressions? MG: The characters were very transparent in the book. We needed these actors, like Romain Duris, who are emotional. In the book they are very transparent. We needed to correspond to how young people are hanging out in Paris. I couldn’t think of a French young actor who I would love to work with. So that’s why I picked these [actors]. Focus Features via Everett Collection Like you said, the characters in this story are transparent, and in the movie can get a little wacky. Can you talk about finding the humanity and gravity in characters, and in a world, like this? MG: A lot of [the writing process] gets in the way of directing the actor or finding right tone or finding the emotional thread. So I managed somehow, more or less, to forget all the technique. To really stick with the actors. That’s one of the most important things to do. Was there anything specific that these actors brought to the film? MG: Yeah. Romain did. Audrey [Tautou] had this idea that she would be – she would say “very, very, very, very!” … that sort of style. Just a detail like that. Aïssa Maïga, who played Alise, she had this idea that she had a secret in her mind: a love affair with Colin. And people add their own agenda, and their little secret carried that way enriched the character. Sure. Like Omar Sy’s character and the money. There’s a lot of interesting side stories going on. MG: Yeah, the money was a big issue, and it was even bigger in the book. The fact that it keeps shrinking, he had to count his money, and everything. So I sort of thought I’d diminish that in the adaptation. I thought it was a bit reductive. You just felt like it was a little unnecessary? MG: Yeah. Reading the book, it can really digress … [in the film it felt] a little more trivial. In fact, maybe now the money issue was it was trivial to push it so far. It was too trivial to be pushed that far. I wanted to talk to you about the ending. The ending of the movie reminded me of the ending of your other film, Eternal Sunshine. Even if something ends sadly, it’s better to experience it. Since it can be seen as the theme to two of your movies, can you talk about what this message means to you? MG: The idea is that if you just erase everything, then it’s like lazy eyes, it’s less intense. Every person might say there’s one specific memory that ruined all your life, maybe you should erase it. I mean, in movies it’s different. You can really enjoy a movie that’s really sad. Because it resonates with a part of your life that’s not necessarily happy. But we cry in movies… it’s one of their purposes. You can catch Mood Indigo in theaters now! Follow @Michael Arbeiter | Follow @Hollywood_com
  • Review: 'Lucy' Is a Fun Action/Sci-Fi That Lands Somewhere Between Creative and Ridiculous
    By: Michael Arbeiter Jul 23, 2014
    Universal Pictures via Everett Collection I think about Limitless more often than any person should: occasionally. Topping the film's lengthy list of shortcomings is the stinging presence of wasted potential (funny, since it's a movie about the wasted potential of the human mind) capping its high stakes exploration of the expansive question, "What would happen if we used 100 percent of our brains?" with the softball answer, "We'd be pretty good at predicting stock patterns and learning new languages." In Lucy, we have the exact same hypothetical, albeit delivered in a different kind of story altogether — Limitless was effectively an addiction thriller, Lucy is an action/sci-fi. But the answers are much bigger. American slacker Scarlett Johansson comes about her newfound mental capacity much like Bradley Cooper is, by way of experimental drugs. Lucy (Johansson), an effectively anonymous character with whom we identify principally over just how regular she seems to be, has the substance thrust into her system by a sociopathic crime kingpin (Choi Min-sik) — neither party has a clue what CPH4 (which lacks the nominal panache of Substance D or Melange or Dropper or Chems) is capable of doing with Lucy's brain, nor even does top-of-his-game academic Morgan Freeman, whose main purpose in the movie is to be there to explain to us what the hell is going on... and inject a subtle plug for his upcoming film Dolphin Tale 2. But it's this grand mystery, this shriek of possibility, that makes Lucy a fairly riveting experiment. And from one rather unexpected source: Luc Besson, who has never veered too far from the straight-and-narrow path, entertains quite a few what ifs with his latest picture. Universal Pictures via Everett Collection What if you could access 20 percent of your brain? Then 40, then 50, and eventually 100? What if you had the sensory capabilities of the average dolphin? Or you had total command of organic energy? Or a free supply of the stuff that kicks you into life as a developing fetus? What sort of powers would you find at your disposal? What sort of consequences would amount from this state of evolution? How would your worldview change, your feelings change, your humanity change, your body change? And what if a filmmaker were to brave the task of telling this grand a story? Would he deliver the account in the ordinary aesthetic and kinetic fashion of his standard one-way actioner stricken with existential tunnel vision? Or would he vie toward imagination? Jumping from his onscreen narrative to footage of wildlife fornication and blank screens that prompt recollection of a certain Looney Tunes short? Why not? What if? If it sounds silly... well, it is. A great deal of Lucy will inspire smirks and scoffs. In its ambition to explore the possibilities of its premise, landings are overshot and marks are missed altogether. And sure, there are probably far more intriguing ways to go about the concept than performed by Besson and Johansson in this picture. But very little of Lucy feels like wasted potential. It's creative, even when not entirely original. It's exciting, even when just a bit aimless. And it's ambitious, even when it doesn't seem like it has a complete idea of what it's doing. Ultimately, Lucy wants to be a movie about possibilities, and it at least puts an honest go toward living up to that endeavor. 3.5/5 Follow @Michael Arbeiter | Follow @Hollywood_com
  • What Is Edgar Wright's 'Baby Driver' About?
    By: Michael Arbeiter Jul 22, 2014
    WENN/Lia Toby We might well bemoan the loss of the Edgar Wright touch on Marvel's upcoming Ant-Man feature, but there is a silver lining: now, the innovative action-comedy director gets to work on his own original (and, likely, far more interesting) project. Deadline reports that Wright will next helm a film called Baby Driver, a mixture of "crime, action, music and sound." Even with all those nouns jumbled together, the project is still largely ambiguous. And with a title like Baby Driver, we can only begin to imagine what it might be about... A baby that's also a driver?Wright directs a Look Who's Talking-style family comedy (rated R for language and violence, but still... for the family) about an infant who sets out on the road in his parents' Chevy Camaro. Somebody who drives babies around? Like a chauffer for babies?Inspired by Vin Diesel's The Pacifier, Wright creates a film about a tough guy getaway driver who takes a new gig picking up the Wasserman kids from nursery school... and grows to love them. Somebody who drives actual babies? Like the car is a baby, and the guy drives the baby-car?In the distant future, Jonathan Swift's "Modest Proposal" has been brought to life in a few interesting ways. This dark dystopian fantasy has people driving around vehicles made of discarded babies, in light of the recent metal shortage. An early-years biopic about Good Will Hunting star Minnie Driver?Get it? An animated film about a young screwdriver?Finally, Wright takes his visual style to Pixar, breathing life into a toolbox of adventures led by a plucky young screwdriver named Phillip. So, maybe one of those. Or, you know, an actual idea. Either way, we're excited. Follow @Michael Arbeiter | Follow @Hollywood_com
  • Review: 'Magic in the Moonlight' Is a Tired, Sometimes Funny Throwback to Pre-Woody Allen Hollywood
    By: Michael Arbeiter Jul 22, 2014
    Sony Pictures via Everett Collection When Hollywood movies were very much "a certain thing," Woody Allen's weren't. An innovator from the get-go, Allen celebrated the possibilities of cinema by contorting and creating, giving us in everything from What's Up, Tiger Lily? straight through his '80s string a filmic style that America hadn't yet seen. Now that he's done his due diligence, Allen seems content to make the sort of pictures that snagged his heart in the first place: the romantic comedies of the '40s and '50s — appropriately, Magic in the Moonlight borrows the Jazz Age setting of classics like Some Like It Hot — that operated in a certain straightforward, delightful fashion. Allen's latest follows the swath of Billy Wilder, Blake Edwards, and Howard Hawks, but aims for the Woody brand with muted doses of his signature nihilism and cantankerous banter. But seven decades after this cinematic golden age and four past Allen's heyday, Magic in the Moonlight's charms wear thin and familiar rather quickly.  Magic in the Moonlight doesn't carry too many surprises; kind of a shame for a flick about magicians and mediums. But it's not the premise that is in principal need of reconstruction, it's the Allen chatter. The movie opens immersed in the fun inherent in the rantings of a misanthropic blowhard illusionist (Colin Firth, whose comic delivery in the early scenes of this movie is markedly impressive) who knows the margins of reality and can barely stomach the thought of some charming charlatan passing as a psychic (Emma Stone) pulling the wool over the eyes of a gaggle of unsuspecting millionaires... whom he also detests for their stupidity, but it's the thrill of the "A-ha!" that drives him to prove the clairvoyant a fake. Sony Pictures via Everett Collection Firth's comical butting of heads — both with the enamored aristocrats (Hamish Linklater plays the hysterically doe-eyed son who is smitten with Stone's Sophie; Jacki Weaver is a giddy matriarch longing to connect with her dead husband) and with the alleged swindler — ensues, opening up an unmistakably Allenian world of privilege-induced idiocy and shirt-stuffing. But what kicks off as great comedy grows tired by the fifth or sixth time we have to hear the curmudgeonly Stanley (Firth) pronounce his skepticism or watch the entrancing Sophie declare her devotion to possibility. After a while, what started out as a classic-era throwback reveals itself to be something with very little to show off, new or otherwise. Still, even in its most redundant hours, Magic in the Moonlight never dips to levels of unpleasant. Firth and Stone are always a joy to watch, especially when playing rounds of combat. Allen's diatribes about mortality and meaning tire, but never fall dead asleep. And there is something consistently funny about Linklater playing a dead-from-the-neck-up Pittsburgh WASP serenading Emma Stone with a ukulele. Ultimately, Magic in the Moonlight won't be a memorable trip back to the age of Wilder or Hawks, or a reminder of why you started watching Woody Allen movies in the first place. Instead, it's just a pleasant enough romp with a few hearty laughs and ample opportunities to let your mind wander back to your favorite scene in Sleeper. Ha, yeah, Sleeper. That was a good movie. 3/5 Follow @Michael Arbeiter | Follow @Hollywood_com
  • Hilarious 'Simpsons' Moments That I Think About Every Single Day
    By: Michael Arbeiter Jul 21, 2014
    FOX I would never be so bold as to declare any one Simpsons quote the funniest of the lot. With 25 seasons (and about 10 good ones) it'd be impossible to allocate inarguable superlatives to a single line, moment, character, or even episode. But even if candidates for all-time favorites are perpetually up in the air, there are a dozen or so instances from the prolific series that stick with me consistently. Quotes and gags that pop into my head multiple times a week, sometimes with only the slightest provocation, diverting brain power from the legion of more important things I might be wise to pay more attention to. A few of these examples aren’t even especially funny (at least not in comparison to some other gems from the show), but have for some reason found a comfortable home just beneath my conscious thought. In celebration of The Simpsons' imminent arrival in our lives in two whole new ways — in its first full-series marathon on FXX, and in its pioneer journey to digital distribution (via EW) — I couldn't resist paying tribute to these moments back upon these neurological leeches from one of my favorite TV series. Please chime in with your own! "'Give me five bees for a quarter,' you'd say."Speaker: Grampa SimpsonEpisode: "Last Exit to Springfield" (Season 4, Episode 17)Context: Strikebreaker Abe begins reminiscing on the good old days during a meeting with business mogul Monty Burns. Eventually, his rambling takes him to the above quote about the alleged mid-20th century colloquialism for American currency.Pops into my head whenever: Someone asks me to make change. "That's my dad's shootin' car!"Speaker: Nelson MuntzEpisode: "Bart the Mother" (Season 5, Episode 22)Context: Juvenile delinquent Nelson introduces Bart to his father's prized possession.Pops into my head whenever: I see a car. Seriously. Any car. "So I says to Mabel, I says..."Speaker: BartEpisode: "El Viaje Misterioso de Nuestro Jomer (The Mysterious Voyage of Homer)" (Season 8, Episode 9)Context: None.Pops into my head whenever: There's a lull in conversation aching for placeholder smalltalk. "Then I go and spoil it all by doing something stupid like explooode yooou."Singer: Sideshow BobEpisode: "Black Widower" (Season 3, Episode 21)Context: After an ostensibly romantic musical montage, Sideshow Bob reveals his true intentions behind marrying Marge's sister Selma Bouvier: he aims to kill her!Pops into my head whenever: I hear a Frank Sinatra song. FOX "Oh no! My brains!"Speaker: Hans MolemanEpisode: "Team Homer" (Season 7, Episode 12)Context: An ether-induced Mr. Burns ostensibly drills a hole into the brain of perpetually unfortunate Hans Moleman.Pops into my head whenever: Anything causes me duress or anxiety (which, if you know me, you know is no rare occurrence). "No wires at all! Except one."Speaker: Principal SkinnerEpisode: "We're on the Road to D'ohwhere" (Season 17, Episode 11)Context: After procuring a cherished ringtone (Bart groaning in sorrow) for his "brand new cell phone," Skinner brags about the lack of wires weighing the phone down... before pulling out the one necessary, and particularly bulky, cord.  Pops into my head whenever: I hear somebody discussing cell phones. "The ironing is delicious."Speaker: BartEpisode: "Grift of the Magi" (Season 11, Episode 9)Context: Bart mocks Lisa for her stint in detention via Springfield Elementary's new academic regime (under which he is thriving), highlighting the unusual turn of events for the siblings... or trying to.Pops into my head whenever: Anything unexpected happens. This is the perfect example of a quote that isn't outrageously funny but that has proved itself a resilient go-to quote, due largely to its simplicity (and all-purpose nature). "WHOOO'S NEEELSOOON?!"Shouter: HomerEpisode: Once again, "Bart the Mother" (Season 5, Episode 22)Context: Prompted by Marge, Homer asks Milhouse where the conspicuously absent Bart might be... but Homer doesn't bother leaving his seat at the kitchen table, he simply shouts out the window across the alley to get his answer. Upon hearing that Bart is over at Nelson's place, he has one last question for Milhouse.Pops into my head whenever: Anyone I know mentions an unfamiliar name. "Play it... cooooooooool."Speaker: Homer/GrampaEpisode: "Lady Bouvier's Lover" (Season 5, Episode 21)Context: Homer aims to teach his father how to woo Marge's mother, bestowing his lessons of "cool" through the means of a funky little ditty.Pops into my head whenever: I'm faced with giving advice (usually unsolicited) to a friend (usually unrequited) FOX "Why did I have the bowl, Bart? Why did I have the bowl?"Speaker: MilhouseEpisode: "The Canine Mutiny" (Season 8, Episode 20)Context: Milhouse is bemoaning Bart's troublesome dog Santa's Little Helper. He accuses Bart of lying for the pup when he allegedly ate Milhouse's goldfish, a crime that Bart attempted to cover up by trying to convince Milhouse he never had a goldfish.Pops into my head whenever: Honestly, there is no organic trigger for this. I just think about it a lot. "Your store is being robbed, Apu!"Speaker: HomerEpisode: "A Hunka Hunka Burns in Love" (Season 13, Episode 4)Context: Homer tries to write legitimately prescient fortune cookie fortunes. This is one of them.Pops into my head whenever: I open a fortune cookie. "No! No one's going Catholic!"Speaker: MargeEpisode: "Lisa Gets an A" (Season 10, Episode 7)Context: Bart asks a stressed out Marge if the family can convert to Catholicism for the "Communion wafers and booze."Pops into my head whenever: Anyone asks my endorsement on any plan, significant or menial. "I hate every ape I see from chimpan-A to chimpan-zee..."Singer: Troy McClureEpisode: "A Fish Called Selma" (Season 7, Episode 19)Context: Prolific actor McClure performs the final scene of the hit musical, Stop the Planet of the Apes, I Want to Get Off!Pops into my head whenever: Anyone mentions the original Planet of the Apes, any Planet of the Apes apes follow-up feature, apes, chimpanzees, the alphabet, hatred, Broadway musicals, music in general, The Simpsons, television, or most other things. Few contributions to the English language have affected my life so prominently. Follow @Michael Arbeiter | Follow @Hollywood_com
  • Review: 'Planes: Fire and Rescue' Has No Real Characters or Story
    By: Michael Arbeiter Jul 18, 2014
    Disney For whatever reason, I cannot effectively connect to a motorized vehicle as a sentient character. Planes, Cars, Transformers, Herbie, KITT, Jerry Van Dyke's mother. Maybe it's because I never learned to drive. More plausible theory: Every big or small screen attempt to allot sentience to a motorized vehicle has been grievously underwhelming. Okay, I'll give you Knight Rider. But the latest example of the endeavor, Planes: Fire & Rescue, is no Knight Rider. It's barely even a Cars. The feature from DisneyToon Studios is as hollow as you can imagine a 3D animated movie to be. And this degree of vacancy feels like more than just a waste of time for the targeted youth. Dane Cook's celebrity racing plane Dusty Crophopper, a leading man completely without hue — and don't think children's movie heroes are exempt from the expectation of nuance; Woody, Wall-E, Remy, were all leagues more recognizable than the anonymous Dusty — busts one of his principal cogs and learns that he can't exceed a certain speed or else he'll crash. In other words he'll never race again. So with an existential crisis on the horizon, and a town in jeopardy, Dusty switches gears and decides to learn how to become a firefighter. In large part, Planes: Fire & Rescue is a love letter to public servants, opening with a title card that dedicates the film to the brave men and women who work to keep our towns and cities safe. In this element alone is the film passable, propagating appreciation for a line of work that bears unquestionable merit. But the story surrounding this message is so tattered and lifeless that it'd be surprising if any of Planes' target youths access the throughline moral. Disney Dusty's personal journey jumps from one quasi-conflict to the next, each piece representing a fraction of a story that we've seen in other animated films, so that you're never given the opportunity to connect with him over any of his qualms. His shattered dreams of racing, his newly evident mortality, his struggle to find new purpose, his quest for self-betterment, his drive to help others. All are teased, none are explored. And the characters surrounding Dusty are even worse, the lot composed of sexist and racial stereotypes that are far more uninteresting than they are genuinely offensive. Every secondary player is a one-off joke, and not a good one; the only laughs in the flick come from the occasional play on words, but even for a pun-junkie will that tread wear thin. With characters this shallow and plotlines this scattered, your kids cannot possibly engage with a movie like Planes: Fire & Rescue. They'll relegated to staring at it, retrieving little more than bright colors, speedy scenes, goofy voices, and the obscenely frequent flatulence joke. This is clearly all Planes thinks that kids can handle, but that's an egregious affront to a demographic that fueled the works of classic Disney, golden age Pixar, and Hayao Miyazaki. I think they can manage a few well-crafted airplanes. 1.5/5 Follow @Michael Arbeiter | Follow @Hollywood_com
  • Review: 'The Purge: Anarchy' Has a Lot of Ideas, But None of Them Amount to Much
    By: Michael Arbeiter Jul 17, 2014
    Universal Pictures via Everett Collection The Purge: Anarchy has more ideas than you might expect. But it also has more ideas than it knows what to do with. Somewhere in the cobbled mess of the second Purge movie to get the green light, there are discussions about class warfare and the oppression of the impoverished. There is even a somewhat earnest attempt to access the psychology of a killer — to tap into what might make an ordinary joe stand up and purge his heart out once a year. There are dissections of the morality behind purging. Is it okay if it's for revenge? Is it okay if it's to level the playing field? Is it okay if we're turning the hounds back on those who released them? Is it ever okay? Lots of questions at bay in The Purge. Lots of ideas. Unfortunately, none of them are given the attention that they need to blossom into anything truly interesting. Instead, that attention goes (unsurprisingly) to the brutality and tension that spans the length of the movie. As three sets of Purge Night victims (a mother and daughter whose financial distresses are obstinately spelled out at the forefront of the story, an uppity young married couple on the brink of separation, and a well-armed man of mysterious intentions) band together in a feat of survival, we witness efforts so grim and vile that they're inclined to turn a sane viewer off of violent movies for the foreseeable future. Universal Pictures via Everett Collection But we're not quite sure if that's what The Purge: Anarchy wants, opting ultimately for the cathartic joys of the shoot-'em-up climax on which any number of nihilistic blockbusters have relied. In the wake of this incongruity — tapping into the disparate messages of striking back against the tyrannical rich, but also finding compassion and rejecting the urge to purge — we have no idea what The Purge wants us to take away. And that leaves us assuming that it doesn't really want us to take away anything. So, we're left with the bare bones: 100 minutes of upsetting violence, paper-thin characters, grotesque cinematography, and laughable dialogue. If we can't hang our hats on the occasional interesting point it tries to bring up, we don't have a great deal remaining. 2/5 Follow @Michael Arbeiter | Follow @Hollywood_com