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.
  • Assessing the Coolness of Everything That Happens in the 'Guardians of the Galaxy' Trailer
    By: Michael Arbeiter May 19, 2014
    This new trailer for Guardians of the Galaxy has hit the web and it, as one might have expected or hoped, is cool. Cool in entirety. Cool incarnate. Every single thing about it is cool. Want proof? Watch it. Want further proof, you maniac? Check out our rundown of every single thing that happens in the trailer and linked assessment of whether each element is, in fact, cool. Establishing shot of a gloomy, destitute temple: That is cool. Peter Quill's (Chris Pratt) disappearing electronic mask-helmet: That is cool. Peter Quill's jet-powered boots flying him out of danger through a hole in the wall: That is cool. Norman Greenbaum's "Spirit in the Sky": That is cool. A giant spaceship: That is cool. A Mos Eisley-like hub for alien menaces: That is cool. Hovering robots staring down a shirtless Peter Quill: That is cool. Peter Quill juggling what is likely some kind of spherical robotic entity or explosive devise: That is cool. Rocket Raccoon (Bradley Cooper) and Groot (Vin Diesel), doing their thing (thang?): That is cool (kewl?). Gamora (Zoe Saldana) slicing and dicing: That is cool. Drax the Destroyer (Dave Bautista) head-butting somebody: That is cool. The personification of evil taking form in a dark, stoically seated figure: That is cool. An ominous hand crushing an orb of power: That is cool. Marvel Studios Peter Quill's rallying underdog speech: That is cool. "This August" title card: That is cool. Aerial shot of a futuristic military base: That is cool. Everybody walking around on a stone circle reminiscent of something out of Legend of Zelda: That is cool. Glenn Close's haircut: That is cool. The expositional establishment of the stakes in this movie: That is cool. Explosive debris raining down from a gigantic ship: That is cool. A door shaped like a circle: That is cool. Bradley Cooper's Will Arnett impression: That is cool. Rocket Raccoon and Groot losing their s**t: That is cool. Gamora losing her s**t: That is cool. A shot of the gang in prison jump suits: That is cool. Peter Serafinowicz cowering: That is cool. Peter Quill losing his s**t: That is cool. A giant skull: That is cool. Marvel Studios Peter Quill's awed gasp syncing up with the rhythm of "Spirit in the Sky": That is cool. Body slam!: That is cool. Explosion: That is cool. Drax the Destroyer's knife-wielding shot: That is cool. A haze of fire droplets that resemble Navi from Legend of Zelda: That is cool. Ships zooming through an electric field: That is cool. Peter Quill's speech continues: That is cool. Groot giving a little girl a flower: That is cool. Peter Quill and Gamora watching each other undress: That is cool as long as they're both okay with it. Rocket Raccoon's quip about his species' lifespan: That is cool. Drax the Destroyer losing his s**t: That is cool. Gamora screaming into the face of a creature that resembles a Na'vi... not from Legend of Zelda, from Avatar, in which Saldana actually played a Na'vi, which is maybe why I'm making such a gratuitous jump to that connotation when, really, the creature doesn't look all that much like a Na'vi: That is cool. Robot laser: That is cool. Various explosions, shots of anthropomorphic neighborhood pests yelling: That is cool. Strangling: That is cool. Marvel Studios Benicio Del Toro doing that thing that Ross and Monica did to discretely flip off their parents: That is cool. Gamora and Peter Quill near-kissing while she wears his headphones: That is cool. Drax the Destroyer conducting an orchestra of mayhem: That is cool. Groot: That is cool. A windstorm of peril: That is cool. Zoe Saldana's hand: That is cool. The hulking device into which Peter Quill's audio cassette tape is hooked: That is cool. "Hooked on a Feeling" by Blue Swede: That is cool, but I was enjoying "Spirit in the Sky." Peter Quill's solo march: That is cool. Gamora's semi-solo march: That is cool. Drax the Destroyer cocking his head a little, as if to insinuate himself a bit more subtly than did his peers, which is ironic since he is perhaps the least subtle in physical form and personal nature of the gang: That is cool. Groot's nifty shoulder trick: That is cool. Groot saying, "I am Groot": That is cool. I really like Groot. Rocket Raccoon showcasing his self-esteem in a maxim of circular logic: That is cool. Rocket Raccoon adjusting his crotch: That is cool, I guess. The gang's prideful march: That is cool. John C. Reilly introducing the name of the movie: That is cool. John C. Reilly lamenting his lot in life, and the fate of the universe altogether: That is cool. More prideful marching: That is cool. Rocket Raccoon yelling: That is cool. This movie looks cool. Follow @Michael Arbeiter| Follow @Hollywood_com
  • 'Mad Men' Recap: I'm Drinking Rum and Dancing to Sinatra
    By: Michael Arbeiter May 19, 2014
    AMC This weekend was a kind one to Don — it saw him win the lead in a Burger Chef pitch and entertain an unprecedentedly agreeable visit from Megan. But Mad Men has no interest in this brand of kindness, using the façade of the perfect weekend to showcase just how vacant everything in the man’s life seems to be. Well, almost everything. The real victory, beyond occupational leaps or oases of marital harmony, is that long-awaited smile from Peggy: the establishment that once again, these two are in this wicked run together. Coming to form at the head of such a (deceptively) smooth episode after a seasonal throughline of potent animosity, the ultimate achievement at first feels like a bit of a forced utility, rushed into production in order to satisfy Mad Men’s seven-episode semi-season. But a well-placed scene from Joan exemplifies just what Peggy’s smile truly means, to Don and to us. Back in New York after a successful stay in Detroit, Bob Benson awakens to the callous face of homophobia — his Chevy rep, likewise a gay man struggling to hide his identity from friends and colleagues, winds up in at the courthouse after an attempted sexual encounter with an undercover cop. Bob retreats further into his own folds of secrecy after seeing just how unforgiving the world (or maybe just New York) is to men like them and springs a marriage proposal on his beloved pal Joan. Sharper than he, and just about everybody on this planet, has given her credit for being, Joan rejects the arrangement, identifies Bob’s true desires, and spells out the fact that they should both wait for true, organic happiness instead of forcing the fates in their favor. Again, her diatribe comes off a little heavy-handed for the likes of Mad Men, at least on first viewing. But the sequence is masterfully situated between Peggy’s initial smile at Don, who has joined her in the otherwise empty office on a Sunday afternoon — him lamenting his dead-from-the-neck-up marriage to Megan and her writhing in the inadequacy of her Burger Chef pitch and, more so, the fact that she has nothing else to care about — and their devolution into eye-welling, throat-quavering admissions of desperation for one another, at least at this point in time. AMC Just as we might have felt at the forefront, Peggy’s grin is rather forced. And that’s because as uninterested as Mad Men is in giving its characters perfect lives, it is even less interested in giving them perfect moments. We have been waiting for Peggy to hinge herself to Don once more; Don has been aching for this emancipation from her contempt. But nobody has suffered more from this period than Peggy herself, manufacturing a connection to Don over his espousal of lessons that seem like they should have come at the very beginning of her career (“Here’s what you do when you have writer’s block…”). Unlike Joan, Peggy is willing to push her way into the embrace of a hand-crafted happiness. She is willing to redefine what “family” means — both for herself and her Burger Chef clients, centering her revised pitch around the reappropriation of the word — in order to make her days a little more livable. But unlike Joan, Peggy has something in the man kneeling before her. The man who insists on a dance to the radio’s broadcast of Frank Sinatra’s “My Way.” Both victims of the job who have seen everything else in their lives suffer its merciless bite, they are reminded this week that neither one is on this course alone. They just happen to be traveling in opposite directions. In the Benjamin Button story of Don’s corrosive decline and Peggy’s bumpy ascent, this week might well mark their “meeting in the middle” moment. A stark reversal to the series favorite “The Suitcase,” we see Don returning in part a heavy favor owed to Peggy: validation. Validation of the idea that all this time spent huddled over a desk, spilling guts into the work, relegating oneself to the parameters of a business card might very well have meant something to somebody. He could instead be teaching her that a life might be better off spent anyplace else, but in Peggy Don has somebody else that could never comprehend such a fallacy. The episode is arranged in such a way as to excel on two levels. At first, we see everything play out perfectly: Don reclaims his position in Peggy’s heart, she snags her ingenious pitch, and the both of them, and Pete Campbell (having scared his daughter, accosted his ex-wife, and disappointed his Angelino girlfriend), form their own brand of family over a Burger Chef meal. But Mad Men, and this episode about would-be perfect moments, is better than perfect: it’s human, knowing that the turn of true value isn’t Don, Peggy, and Pete finding “the family they were seeking all along” in one another, it’s the admission that what they’ve been seeking all along might no longer exist, if it ever did. But, unlike Joan, they’re willing to put up the front if it means not having to dine alone. Episode grade: A, with bonus points for Pete Cambell merrily shouting "I'm drinking rum!" Follow @Michael Arbeiter| Follow @Hollywood_com
  • All the Shots of People Staring in Wistful Silence in the New 'Interstellar' Trailer
    By: Michael Arbeiter May 16, 2014
    In 2011, cinematic scholar and prolific movies writer Matt Patches pioneered a special appreciation for the Spielberg Face. For those yet untouched by the phenomenon, the Spielberg Face is that look of childlike awe and wonder you're guaranteed to find on the mug of any of the enchanting filmmaker's big screen heroes. It's a staple of the artist's filmography — while Steve certainly has the market cornered on whimsy, a few other directors seem to have adopted the silent stare to exemplify their own psychological brand. In the trailer for his new film Interstellar, the nihilistic Christopher Nolan appears to be doing just that: directing every one of his actors to stare off into a vacant distance in a fugue state of wistful, hapless sorrow. Take a look! YouTube/Warner Bros. UK Trailers At the :24 mark, Casey Affleck looks out upon the wasteland that has become of his beloved Earth, saying nothing, as his beard constricts his jaw from moving properly. YouTube/Warner Bros. UK Trailers At :43, a field of baseball players call a TO on what must not be that important of a game to begin with (they don't even have numbers, or logos, or anything) to quiety stare down a dust cloud. YouTube/Warner Bros. UK Trailers And here we find our hero Matthew McConaughey, dipping into his long untouched vault of emotional expressiveness to glare out his Deep South screen door without so much as a word for the cornless fields before him. [:55] YouTube/Warner Bros. UK Trailers Michael Caine usually has a helping of wisdom for the plucky young gents that hobble to his doorstep, but here he treats McConaughey only to a sullen, closed-mouthed glare. Back up, at least, Mike. You're in his bubble. [1:00] YouTube/Warner Bros. UK Trailers You think things look bleak and muted sitting down... [1:03] YouTube/Warner Bros. UK Trailers ...look at how much bleaker and muter they are standing up! [1:05] YouTube/Warner Bros. UK Trailers Hey look, the kid's doing it now, too. Cheer up, kid. [1:17] YouTube/Warner Bros. UK Trailers Oh, oh jeez... things just got way more wistful and silent than we could have anticipated. How are you gonna stare out into the distance and mull over your laundry list of regrets through all them tears, McConaughey? [1:21] YouTube/Warner Bros. UK Trailers Academy Award-nominated actress Jessica Chastain will not be deterred by the fields of flaming wheat that surround and ultimately threaten to kill her. She's got some defeatist, squinty-eyed profile gawking to do. [1:41] YouTube/Warner Bros. UK Trailers "All we've got left," these kids think (not say, think), "is a trunk full of clutter, hearts full of destitution, and eyes full of whatever the unforgiving horizon can offer up." [1:46] YouTube/Warner Bros. UK Trailers Exclusive word from the set is that Anne Hathaway had to be instructed several times not to break into song during her scenes of silent staring. [1:53] YouTube/Warner Bros. UK Trailers And there it is, at 2:04. The longest stare of them all — that into the endless vaccuum of space, perhaps the most lonely, wistful, hopeless place conceivable. Family, friends, and any semblance of a home left literally lightyears away, with nothing standing ahead but black, cold face of emptiness... staring right back at us. Should be a fun movie! Follow @Michael Arbeiter| Follow @Hollywood_com
  • All the Shows That CBS Canceled While 'Two and a Half Men' Was on the Air
    By: Michael Arbeiter May 14, 2014
    CBS Broadcasting On Wednesday, CBS bellowed the very announcement that so many of us high-minded television viewers had been waiting years to hear: Two and a Half Men would finally be coming to an end, following its upcoming twelfth season (via Deadline). For more than a decade now, the Chuck Lorre sitcom has represented to our fair, noble, completely infallible community a ravenous black hole that was eating up time slots, viewership, and funding that might otherwise go to sitcoms of wit and emotional merit. In fact, throughout Two and a Half Men's dozen-year run, CBS has given the axe to a legion of comedies that were indisputably far better to the Sheen/Cryer/Kutcher phenomenon. All of them more worthy of the network's love than Two and a Half Men, we're running through the ill-fated half-hour series that suffered cancelation while Duckie and his revolving door of brother figures reigned supreme. Check out the list of undeniably superior series below, and join in our outrage that these gems didn't get their fair chance. $#*! My Dad Says Canceled after how long? 18 episodes.Was it good? Well, no.Was it better than Two and a Half Men, though? Sure! Probably. A little. Accidentally on Purpose Canceled after how long? 18 episodes.Was it good? Eh, no.Was it better than Two and a Half Men, though? Yeah! Baby Bob Canceled after how long? 11 episodes.Was it good? No...Was it better than Two and a Half Men, though? I mean, you know. It's a baby. Babies are cute. Becker Canceled after how long? Six seasons.Was it good? Yes!Great! So, better than Two and a Half Men? You'd becker believe it.What? Nothing. The Class Canceled after how long? 19 episodes.Was it good? It was fine.Better than Two and a Half Men? You get an A+ for that assessment!Stop. Okay. Center of the Universe Canceled after how long? 10 episodes.Was it good? Not really, but you know what was good? Andy Richter Controls the Universe. That's what I first thought this was when I read the title.Well, was it better than Two and a Half Men? Which one, Andy Richter? Absolutely. Oh, you mean this one? Yeah, sure. Charlie Lawrence Canceled after how long? Two episodes.Was it good? See above.Okay, but was it better than Two and a Half Men? I mean... at least it was about something (it was a satire about homophobia in the political sphere).So yes? Let's go with yes. Courting Alex Canceled after how long? Eight episodes.Was it good? Well, if you liked Dharma & Greg, but you... oh, you didn't like Dharma & Greg? Well... if you liked that one scene in Can't Hardly Wait...So wait, was it better than Two and a Half Men? It was. The Crazy Ones Canceled after how long? 22 episodes.Was it good? It wasn't terrible.So it was better than Two and a Half Men? Yes. Gary Unmarried Canceled after how long? Two seasons.Was it good? Watchable!Better than Two and a Half Men, I take it? Indeed. How to Be a Gentleman Canceled after how long? Two episodes.Was it good? God no.Was it better than Two and a Half Men, though? Okay, I'm really, really trying to prove a point here... Listen Up! Canceled after how long? 22 episodes.Was it good? Not quite.Was it better than Two and a Half Men, though? At the very least, it wins for the Jason Alexander factor. Love Monkey Canceled after how long? Eight episodes.Was it good? Yes!Better than Two and a Half Men, then? Sincerely! Mad Love Canceled after how long? 13 episodes.Was it good? It was okay!Better than Two and a Half Men, I assume? Yeah! My Big Fat Greek Life Canceled after how long? Seven episodes.Was it good? It was very much not.Was it better than Two and a Half Men, though? Objectively speaking, yes. The New Adventures of Old Christine Canceled after how long? Four seasons.Was it good? Yes! I mean, not great... but you know, good. It was good.Better than Two and a Half Men? It was better than Two and a Half Men, yes. Out of Practice Canceled after how long? 22 episodes.Was it good? We'll give it this: it had some funny people in it.So, better than Two and a Half Men, then? You're gonna tell me that a show with Henry Winkler, Ty Burrell, and Stockard Channing isn't better than Two and a Half Men? You're gonna stand here and tell me that? Partners Canceled after how long? 13 episodes.Was it good? Try "regrettable."Wow! But was it better than Two and a Half Men? ...yes. Rob Canceled after how long? Eight episodes.Was it good? Don't....Um, so, was it better than Two and a Half Men? Please, seriously, don't....But we really need — JUST DON'T. Rules of Engagement Canceled after how long? Seven seasons.Was it good? It was run-of-the-mill. Potently run-of-the-mill.Better than Two and a Half Men? Leagues. Still Standing Canceled after how long? Four seasons.Was it good? I remember laughing!Better than Two and a Half Men? For sure. The Stones Canceled after how long? Three episodes.Was it good? I've got to be honest with you, I have no memory of this existing.Hm, okay. So do you think it might have been better than Two and a Half Men? I'd bet my soul on it. We Are Men Canceled after how long? Three episodes.Was it good? You know, "good" is such a relative term...Any chance it was better than Two and a Half Men? Really, who are we to say what's "better" or "worse" than anything else in this world? Welcome to the Captain Canceled after how long? Five episodes.Was it good? Was it ever!You didn't answer the question. It was not.Better than Two and a Half Men? You know what? I'm going to let you decide this one. Worst Week Canceled after how long? 16 episodes.Was it good? It should have been called Best Week! Because this show was the best!Are you lying? I might be.Was this show better than Two and a Half Men? Some schools of thought would deem it so, yes. Yes, Dear Canceled after how long? Six seasons.Was it good? You know what, it was totally acceptable!Ah, good. So definitely better than Two and a Half Men? DEFINITELY. Can we end here?Yes, we're out of shows. Oh thank God. Follow @Michael Arbeiter| Follow @Hollywood_com
  • Review: 'Million Dollar Arm' Is a Strangely Likable Movie with So Many Problems
    By: Michael Arbeiter May 13, 2014
    Walt Disney Studios via Everett Collection Million Dollar Arm takes a lot for granted when it comes to its audience. It assumes that anyone paying to see this film must care about baseball. Odds are it's right — you've got to have some motivating factor beyond Jon Hamm's jawline. But it assumes you care enough that it doesn't matter how little its characters seem to. We see so few instances involving any carnal appreciation for the game throughout the bulk of the picture, least of all from cranky and materialistic sports agent J.B. Bernstein (Hamm), that when the final act treats us to its coup de grâce tearjerkers we can't help but feel like we're being thrown one hell of a curveball. But that isn't the worst of the film's assumptions. As a last ditch effort to find a ringer both talented and bankable enough to save his career, J.B. throws caution to the wind and high tails it to India on a scouting mission for strong-armed cricket bowlers. So casually racist that you'd think this film takes place long before 2008, J.B. hates everything about cricket (...why?) and India on the whole, submitting immediately to the idea that he's in a third-rate wasteland where nothing can get done, nobody knows anything, and any young boy would be elated to get out of dodge. And Million Dollar Arm has no interest in proving him wrong: The film never second-guesses (and assumes we won't either) the notion that Big Leagues hopefuls Dinesh (Madhur Mittal) and Rinku (Suraj Sharma) would be happier and better off in America. It assumes we won't take any issue with the idea that two boys from India must have never seen an elevator, a television, or a moment of good fortune. Sure, they might not have... but it's as if Million Dollar Arm expects us to believe there is no other option when a wide-eyed Sharma wanders through a Californian hotel like Wall-E exploring the starliner. Walt Disney Studios via Everett Collection The film gives itself so much regrettable leeway while carting through the necessary points of its true story, jumping from the laughable inception of J.B.'s plan to move his search overseas to the languid introduction of the two boys (neither of whom is given any backstory) and their entry into the MLB's consideration. But scattered throughout are beats and scenes that seem ripped from a different script entirely — J.B.'s gradual appreciation of Dinesh, Rinku, and much bemoaned translator, documentarian, and aspiring baseball coach Amit (Pitobash Tripathy) as his surrogate family. Of course the vast majority of his emotional realizations come at the behest of his beautiful, kooky tenant Brenda (Lake Bell), but the kids are usually at least nearby. It's shocking how much the personal material does to salvage Million Dollar Arm, though. J.B.'s relationship with Dinesh, Rinku, and Amit, and — perhaps more importantly — the relationships between Dinesh, Rinku, and Amit themselves are funny, warm, and flavorful enough to give this otherwise faceless movie some real character. Secondary players Bill Paxton and Alan Arkin do little to surprise, playing disgruntled and unconscious respectively, but there's a reason these guys are always called on to do the same thing. And if that's not enough for you, Aasif Mandvi's kids keep throwing up. It plays both like an extended metaphor about the hidden joys in family life and a non sequitur gag from Tomcats. Take your pick.   Million Dollar Arm's charming points are strong enough to distract at times from its boisterous misgivings, but they peer through in the end. Not every baseball movie needs hair-tustling and eye-welling. Not every baseball movie warrants a Pride of the Yankees elegy about the glories of the diamond. But Million Dollar Arm wishes it was one of these movies (so much so that it actually rips the Lou Gehrig speech right out of Gary Cooper's mouth). Still, instead of building a story about the love of baseball or even about the magic of this story, Million Dollar Arm keeps all its genuine energy on a bunt: the story of some jackass who warms up to a couple of kids after a while. Not a bad play, but hardly the grand slam it was going for. 2.5/5 Follow @Michael Arbeiter| Follow @Hollywood_com
  • The Evolution of the Batsuit from Adam West to Ben Affleck
    By: Michael Arbeiter May 13, 2014
    ZackSnyder/Twitter Zack Snyder, director of enough obtuse mediocrity to justify suspicion of blackmail behind his landing the gig directing a movie about the two most beloved comic book characters in American history, has given the world its first glimpse of his take on the Dark Knight. Two shots from the set of Batman vs. Superman hit the web today via Snyder's Twitter account, showing off the latest version of the superhero's famed uniform and trusty ride. ZackSnyder/Twitter Though we can only guess how star Ben Affleck, depicted here with a glower for the ages, will treat the long familiar Bruce Wayne, we are offered a healthy glance at the Batsuit we'll be spending time with in this film. Just a costume, you might claim, but perhaps just as lively and vivacious as the man it cloaks (in Kilmer's case, even more so). In fact, if you look back through the history of the Batsuit — with our scientific breakdown — you'll find it has evolved quite a bit... Batman: The Movie (1966)Starring Adam West, directed by Leslie H. MartinsonSUITIS ORIGINALIS 20th Century Fox Film via Everett Collection Back when people wore things made of fabric and cloth, the Batsuit was a simple entity.  Batman (1989)Starring Michael Keaton, directed by Tim BurtonSUITIS SHIFTICUS Warner Bros. Pictures The 1970s must have seen a nuclear power plant lay waste to the waters of Gotham, because the genetic code of the Batsuit shifted dramatically between its first and second big screen incarnations. Here we see an all-black (save for the yellow pelvic logo) suit comprised ostensibly of galvanized rubber, armed with defensive wristular fins, and topped with a substantually more constricting headpiece. Because the '80s weren't about silly things like comfort or functionability. Batman Returns (1992)Starring Michael Keaton, directed by Tim BurtonSUITIS CONSISTICUS Warner Bros. Pictures via Everett Collection Keaton and Burton's second go saw few changes to the Batsuit... though that mask does seem a little angrier this time... Batman Forever (1995)Starring Val Kilmer, directed by Joel SchumacherSUITIS NIPLICUS Warner Bros. Pictures via Everett Collection Doing away with any semblance of subtlety, the '95 tin-plated model was mostly about intimidation: Abs. Pecs. Nipples.  Batman and Robin (1997)Starring George Clooney, directed by Joel SchumacherSUITIS REGRETIBLUS Warner Bros. Pictures Um. Hm. Batman Begins (2005)Starring Christian Bale, directed by Christopher NolanSUITIS SERIUS Warner Bros. Pictures via Everett Collection Now things are getting serious. With a mask that allows not even for the occasional smile, the suit that reared its upsetting head in the Nolan era did away with any hint of color (be it yellow, silver, or gray), kept its contours angular, and found a fair balance between statuesque and athletic. The Dark Knight (2008)Starring Christian Bale, directed by Christopher NolanSUITIS ANGRICUS Warner Bros. Pictures via Everett Collection Taking a page from the Kilmer book, The Dark Knight slapped Bale's sophomore uniform with a bit more pizzazz in the torso area — not showing off human muscles, per se, but an exoskeletal design reminiscent of weaponry. Dark times, those aughts. The Dark Knight Rises (2012)Starring Christian Bale, directed by Christopher NolanSUITIS CROSFITUS Warner Bros. Pictures via Everett Collection Sleeker, slighter, and stocked with arm straps and shoulder pads. The most extreme species of Batsuit we've yet to see. Batman vs. Superman (2016)Starring Ben Affleck, directed by Zack SnyderSUITIS AFLECUS ZackSnyder/Twitter The diminutive ears of the original, the light feel of the Keatons, the abdominal audacity of the Kilmer era, and the colorless palate of the Bale/Nolans... plus, inscrutably, so many veins. Affleck's Batsuit has taken a few traits from each of its ancestors (except the Clooney one) to become a species all its own. Follow @Michael Arbeiter| Follow @Hollywood_com
  • Review: 'Godzilla' Is a New, Fresh, Exciting Adventure for the Classic Monster
    By: Michael Arbeiter May 12, 2014
    Warner Bros. Pictures via Everett Collection With only a week and change having passed since the release of The Amazing Spider-Man 2, we no doubt feel the question living fresh in our minds: can we ever judge a remake without considering its predecessors? The conversation about the stark contrast in critical favor between Marc Webb's release and Sam Raimi's trilogy (the second installment of his franchise in particular) buzzed loudly, and we imagine the volume will keep in regards to Gareth Edwards' Godzilla. But it'll be a different sound altogether. The original Godzilla, a Japanese film released in 1954, reinvented the identity of the monster movie, launched a 30-film legacy, and spoke legions about the political climate of its era. The most recent of these films — Roland Emmerich's 1998 American production — is universally bemoaned as a bigger disaster than anything to befall Tokyo at the hands of the giant reptile. With these two entries likely standing out as the most prominent in the minds of contemporary audiences, Edwards' Godzilla has some long shadows cast before it. And in approaching the new movie, one might not be able to avoid comparisons to either. It's fair — by taking on an existing property, a filmmaker knowingly takes on the connotations of that property. But the 2014 installment's great success is that it isn't much like any Godzilla movie we've seen before. In a great, great way. This isn't 1954's Godzilla, a dire and occasionally dreary allegory that uses the supernatural to tell an important story about nuclear holocaust. A complete reversal, in fact, first and foremost Edwards' Godzilla is about its monsters. Any grand themes strewn throughout — the perseverence of nature, the follies of mankind, fatherhood, madness, faith — are all in service to the very simple mission to give us some cool, weighty, articulate sci-fi disaster. Elements of gravity are plotted all over the film's surface, with scientists, military men (kudos to Edwards for not going the typical "scientists = good/smart, military = bad/dumb" route in this film — everybody here is at least open to suggestion), doctors, police officers, and a compassionate bus driver all wrestling with options in the face of behemoth danger. The humanity is everpresent, but never especially intrusive. To reiterate, this isn't a film about any of these people, or what they do.  Warner Bros. Pictures via Everett Collection The closest thing to a helping of thematic (or human) significance comes with Ken Watanabe's Dr. Serizawa, who spouts awe-stricken maxims about cryptozoology, the Earth, and the inevitable powerlessness of man. He might not be supplying anything more substantial than our central heroes (soft-hearted soldier Aaron Taylor-Johnson, dutiful medic and mom Elizabeth Olsen, right-all-along conspiracy theorist Bryan Cranston), but Watanabe's bonkers performance as the harried scientist is so bizarrely good that you might actually believe, for a scene or two, that it all does mean something. Ultimately, the beauty of our latest taste of Godzilla lies not in the commitment to a message that made the original so important nor in the commitment to levity that made Emmerich's so pointless, but in its commitment to imagination. Edwards' creature design is dazzling, his deus ex machina are riveting, and the ultimate payoff to which he treats his audience is the sort of gangbusters crowd-pleaser that your average contemporary monster movie is too afraid to consider.   In fairness, this year's Godzilla might not be considered an adequate remake, not quite reciprocating the ideals, tone, or importance of the original. Sure, anyone looking for a 2014 answer to 1954's game-changing paragon will find sincere philosophy traded for pulsing adventure... but they'd have a hard time ignoring the emphatic charm of this new lens for the 60-year-old lizard, both a highly original composition and a tribute in its way to the very history of monster movies (a history that owes so much to the creature in question). So does Godzilla '14 successfully fill the shoes of Godzilla '54? No — it rips them apart and dons a totally new pair... though it still has a lot of nice things to say about the first kicks. Oh, and the '98 Godzilla? Yeah, it's better than that. 4/5 Follow @Michael Arbeiter| Follow @Hollywood_com
  • 'Mad Men' Recap: The Weirdest Episode of 'Mad Men' Ever
    By: Michael Arbeiter May 12, 2014
    AMC A quick run-through of everything this week's episode of Mad Men has to offer: threesomes, cartoon monkeys, hippie parties, evil computers, and a guy who cuts off his own nipple. But if you want to get to the heart of the strangeness of "The Runaways," you have to appreciate the peculiar choices episode director/series cinematographer Christopher Manley made in shooting it. The ep poses a stark contrast to Mad Men's usual structure (a few patient, meaty scenes many minutes in length, flowing seamlessly into one another) with a collection of jagged 15-second clips that lob off mid-conversation or immediately after someone picks up the phone; twice this latter technique is used, once with Betty and once with Megan. We can chalk this up to the throughline of people not getting what they want in this episode — Don wants to see Stephanie (the niece of the late Ana Draper, who phones him in hopes of getting a little support for her fatherless baby-on-the-way), Megan wants to save her marriage, Ginsberg wants to defeat the nefarious machine wreaking havoc on Sterling Cooper & Partners (and woo Peggy), Lou Avery wants a little respect for his beloved comic strip creation Scout, and Betty wants... ugh, who knows — a theme that collapses when the most unpredictable desire is met: Don gets his groove back. Way back when, Don earned the ire of cigarette kingpin Philip Morris when he penned an editorial decrying the health problems caused by their product. It was the first in a string of antics that fissured Don's stellar reputation in the advertising game, particularly in the eyes of his own bosses and partners. The climax of that string, of course, cost him his place at SC&P at the end of last season, so a mending of the former might be the right touch (psychologically and thematically) to undo the latter. We can't really see Mad Men let Don taking his seat back at the head of the industry, so we're a bit perplexed as to what his apparently fruitful ad hoc chat with the Philip Morris boys this week will lead to (if not just the displeasure of Lou Avery and Harry Hamlin). But mystery aside, Don's determined play at the cigarette account is the only thing about "The Runaways" that feels cohesively put together. AMC The episode is littered with awkward gambits. Cautious reveals are shafted for abject ones (re: the initial shot of Stephanie's pregnant body), subtlety is all but foregone in thematic references (that 2001: A Space Odyssey send-up went over nobody's head), an incriminating conversation is overheard by the wrongest of persons from a bathroom stall (come on, guys, didn't something like this just happen in "A Day's Work"?). "The Runaways" strings together incredibly bizarre conceits, Michael Ginsberg's sudden schizophrenic explosion topping the lot, with such overt techniques and uncomfortably paced scenes that you can't help but wonder if what you're watching is next-level genius or a severe artistic mishap. But the material is all interesting. Even the dreadful locking of horns of Mr. and Mrs. Francis lands us some cherished time with Sally, whom we get to see adorn little brother Bobby with that same big-hearted kindness to which she treated Don a couple weeks back — it's adorable, and dripping with severity. Megan's play at a drug-induced threesome "for Don" (after growing jealous and suspicious of his concern for pregnant Stephanie) might be frustratingly ill-fated, but we get the feeling that it's the penultimate straw for the pair. And Ginsberg losing his mind over Sterling Cooper & Partners' new computer, devising homophobic conspiracy theories, jumping Peggy in her own apartment, mutilating himself (his severed nipple "for Peggy" beats Megan's ménage à trois by just a touch as the worst way to win someone's heart), and being carted off by mental health professionals is all enthusiastically stirring, if still outrageous enough to call the script's judgment into question. But, being told mostly from Peggy's point of view, it has its place. This job will kill them all. The future has no patience for (or interest in) men and women who aren't ready for it. And as Ginsberg is wheeled off screaming, Peggy begins to cry. Both for her suffering friend and for herself. Having seen her own era take down Don, she knows she might be next. Episode grade: B, with bonus points to Don for getting us away from Megan's banjo party so quickly Follow @Michael Arbeiter| Follow @Hollywood_com
  • A Brief History of All the Things That Are Just Like Other Things Leading Up to 'The Double'
    By: Michael Arbeiter May 09, 2014
    Magnolia Pictures via Everett Collection A brief history of things that are very much like other things, or at least that have been accused of being so: 1831-42: Nikolai Gogol publishes a several works of fiction, including "The Nose," "The Overcoat," and Dead Souls. 1846: Fyodor Dostoevsky publishes Dvoynik (in English: The Double), a novel about a timid, awkward guy who meets his confident, assertive lookalike. 1846: Literary critic Konstantin Aksakov accuses Dostoevsky of lifting from the various works of Gogol's, stating in a review of The Double that "Dostoevsky alters and wholly repeats Gogol's phrases." 1985: Director Terry Gilliam releases Brazil, a film about a tremendous corporation. 2002: Writer José Saramago publishes O Homem Duplicado (in English: The Double), a novel about a timid, awkward guy who meets his confident, assertive lookalike. 2006: Richard Ayoade begins starring on the British sitcom The IT Crowd, about the technological department of a tremendous corporation. 2007: Richard Ayoade stars in an unaired pilot for an American version of The IT Crowd, which was very much just a carbon copy of the original. 2007: America becomes aware of Michael Cera. 2009: America becomes aware of Jesse Eisenberg. 2009: America accuses Jesse Eisenberg of being a carbon copy of Michael Cera. 2010: Michael Cera stars in Youth in Revolt, in which he plays two roles: a timid, awkward guy (in keeping with his off-screen image) and a confident, assertive looklalike. 2010: Jesse Eisenberg stars in The Social Network, a film about a tremendous technological corporation. In the film, supporting cast member Armie Hammer plays two roles, though they are essentially the same character. 2011: Director Michael Brandt releases The Double, a film not at all affiliated with Dostoevsky's novel The Double. 2014: Jake Gyllenhaal stars in enemy Enemy, a film — based on Saramago's novel The Double — in which he plays two roles: a timid, awkward guy and his confident, assertive lookalike. 2014: Now a director, Richard Ayoade releases The Double, a film — based on Dostoevsky's novel The Double — about a tremendous corproation and starring Jesse Eisenberg. In the film, Eisenberg plays two roles: a timid, awkward guy (in keeping with his off screen image) and a confident, assertive lookalike. The first Eisenberg grows to hate the second Eisenberg for stealing his shtick. 2014: Some film critics accuse Ayoade of lifting from Gilliam, likening the dystopian aesthetic to that of Brazil.  2015 and on: Films, stories, and people will continue to work their way into our lives, earning scorn for their similarities to those that came before, be these similarities the result of theft, homage, simple coincidence, or diluted perception. Follow @Michael Arbeiter| Follow @Hollywood_com
  • 'Beneath the Harvest Sky' Directors Gita Pullapilly and Aron Gaudet Talk Resurrecting the Coming of Age Film
    By: Michael Arbeiter May 09, 2014
    Jeff Vespa/Getty Images Gita Pullapilly and Aron Gaudet are the married helmers of Tribeca darling Beneath the Harvest Sky, a gritty glimpse at deep friendship and small town ennui in the backdrop of depressed northern Maine. The film is a searingly authentic tribute to an area long overlooked by Hollywood's all-too narrow focus on big stories in big places, and one that shows the directors' commitment to truly capturing a subject down its smallest minutiae. We got a chance to talk to the two directors about how married life influences art, why comparisons to Superbad are always welcome, and why the kids of today are in deep need of a good, old-fashioned coming of age film. I don't think I've ever seen a movie that took place in Maine before. Are you guys from Maine?  Aron Gaudet: I’m from Maine.  We moved to Maine to make the movie. I grew up about four hours south of where the movie took place. And in the 26 years that I grew up and lived there, never went to that area in Maine. Because there’s just potato farms and there’s not a lot to do there. You never had reason. Four hours south and you’re in Boston so you’d always choose south. What is it about this place that you felt deserved a story?  Aron: We were definitely wanting to make a coming of age movie like we grew up with, like Stand By Me, or The Outsiders or something, and what I knew about northern Maine and the kids in northern Maine is that they turn 18 and they just want to get the hell out of northern Maine because there’s no opportunities there for them unless they’re a farmer or from a farming family. So we just stumbled across these photos of a potato harvest in northern Maine and were like, "Oh, it’s really beautiful up there. Maybe that could be a setting for that kind of story we want to tell." So we just went up there to see what was up there and kind of fell in love with the area and the people and then felt like, okay there’s definitely a great setting for a story. Gita Pullapilly: And we have a documentary background, so the year and a half we wrote the script, we were researching through the entire period as well, and that really helped us because we could really get a sense of what each of these groups of people were going through and what their backstories were. The illegal prescription drug trade between Canada and Maine, we never would have thought if we just stayed in New York and started writing the story, but by spending so much time and doing the research, we were kind of surprised and taken aback at just how prevalent the illegal prescription drug trade at the time was. It started to weave into the story in a profound way for us. Aron: Even in pre-production, our location manager who was from there, he had a location for Aidan Gillen’s character’s sort of garage that he was smuggling drugs through. He was like “oh I got this great place” Before we could use it, the actual guy that lived there got arrested for smuggling cocaine through it. So then we were like, "Okay the location is out, but the authenticity is there." It clearly would have been a good idea. Gita: Great location manager. Aron: Things like that would happen where we’re just like “Okay, this is happening up here." It’ s very much based in reality. Gita: And we were curious what people in northern Maine would think of the movie and we’re blown away by the response because they’re like “You guys nailed what our life is like up there.” It’s almost like the biggest compliment for us because it’s just like yeah we represented that community and there voice as well as we could. In making a movie that deals with something as serious as illegal drug trafficking, were you hoping to call attention to it, or were you more interested in simply telling a good story? Aron: The documentarians in us always think, if there are any social issues in a movie, it can at least open discussions about stuff like that. I think, for us, we went up there thinking, okay we’re gonna do a coming of age movie set during a potato harvest, and then there was so much of this stuff happening that I was like “Oh this is part of the story.” And also, the documentarians in us were like, "Okay, this is where the story goes." This is what’s happening here, this is what life is like,  so it just naturally became part of the story. Gia: I don’t know if you saw our first film, A Way to Get By, it’s a documentary. In that film, obviously there are social issues, but even as a documentary filmmakers, we never like to hit you over the head with a social issue. We’ve always felt that the best stories are the ones where you discover things through the story and the audience can make their own assumptions and judgments through what they feel in the movie. that I think in any form of movie that we make will always be with us, just the subtlety. I think subtlety is so much more powerful sometimes than trying to force it down your throat.  Is there anything that you were hoping, specifically in regards to how this sort of lifestyle is affecting the youth, that people take away from this film? Aron: What we really liked was that it was a unique setting. The story could only happen there, but for the kids, it felt like it was universal for a lot of kids growing up in rural towns anywhere across the country, and the stuff they’re dealing with. You hear about the same sort of stuff in small towns in Vermont or small towns in the Midwest. It’s interesting to me what kids go through as they’re becoming adults, and a lot of times they find themselves in very adult situations, but they’re 17 and they’re still not sure how to best handle them. I think that makes for good drama. Gia: I love the idea of loyalty and trust, and I think it’s almost in its purest form in those teenage years where you would do anything for your best friend. I think that’s why we resonate with Stand By Me and The Outsiders. It’s that bond that you have with your buddies that you’d do anything for. And we just felt like those movies didn’t really exist right now, of the Twilight movies that exist out there. Aron: The bond will always be broken when your friend turns into a vampire.  Gita: And we were just like, isn’t it a shame that teens our age, the films that we resonated with, don’t have a film in this time period that can resonate with them as well. That to us was almost like a fond memory of what we had, and we kind of wondered, “Does that exist here, and can it exist in the present?” Saying that, and I mean this in an entirely complimentary way so... Gita: (Laughs) Aron: (Laughs) The way you set up that question. Gita: Yeah, like is this going to sound that bad? I'm going to compare it to a movie, and I just wanted to let you know that I love this other movie. The one movie I thought about after watching Beneath the Harvest Sky was Superbad. Gita: Oh, yeah! We love Superbad.  Aron: Same casting director. Allison Jones cast Superbad and also cast our movie. Because of their friendship, and the love between two guys. Both movies feature a romance on the margins, that takes a backseat to the central friendship. And the boys don't know what's going to happen after high school. They want to stay together but they're drawn to different things. Aron: In many ways, both of them end up really being a love story between friends. Gita: There’s something about Judd Apatow’s style where he can get comedy across, but the difference between his comedies and other comedies is that they actually have a lot of heart to it, and that’s what we love. More than anything, Beneath the Harvest Sky is about the heart and genuine love of two people together. It doesn’t have to be sexual, it can be a different way... This might be your most crazy interview.  A lot of the romantic relationships in this movie go sour, and I though that was funny since the two of you are married. Gita: (Laughs) Aron: It makes us feel better about our relationship. We tear down everyone else. Look at all these jerks. We’re still together. Gita: I think it’s so funny, and maybe because we are married, we know the difficulties of what it takes to be married, and how you have to work tremendously at it. Especially with us, we’re around each other 24/7 and we love being around each other 24/7 but marriage is incredibly hard and I think most people, it’s like you put on a façade of what these relationships can be like to the outside world, but in the real world, when you open the door and you walk inside the house, this is what real complex issues are like, these marriages. I think it can really be seen through these teenage perspectives. Aidan Gillen, what was the relationship with father and son?  You know there’s this repairing of a relationship happening, but we kind of hint that there was something else more, and you see what Emory’s mom is like, and we have one scene and that’s all you need to know about what this woman would be like. Aron: I think a lot of times too, people up there are just trying to survive, and their relationships get sacrificed for survival, and it makes Dominic and Casper’s relationship that much stronger where for them, they put their relationship before everything else.  A lot of other characters will sacrifice a relationship trying to survive or trying to get ahead.    Gita: When we started researching and we got up there, the first thing we literally, verbally said when we drove up to Aroostook County was, “How do people actually survive in towns like this?” Aron: So much industry, like mills, close. There were 200 farm families all farming the land up there and now it’s all consolidated and there’s six farm families. At the high school, there used to be 200 kids that graduated each year, and now there’s like 12. So the population has just nosedived as people just left. So it’s like, yeah how are people surviving? You have to drive an hour to work at Wal-Mart or you’re working on a farm, or you’re not working and you’re dealing drugs. You’re figuring out a way to survive.  Gita, are you from a small town as well? Gita: I’m from South Bend, Indiana, home of Notre Dame, but South Bend outside of Notre Dame is actually a small town. There are just these small communities. And like, Breaking Away was another movie that we watched. Aron: That was definitely a reference film for us, and set in Indiana. Going back to people commenting on the authenticity of the film, did you have any specific guidelines or formulas for representing the town? Aron: We definitely scoured northern Maine for places that we felt like felt like northern Maine. Even talking with our cinematographer, when we were location scouting, I said something to the effect of “If we don’t need hand sanitizer when we come out of one of these locations, it’s not real enough.” So a lot of these places we’d come out of, you’re in these dusty potato houses, or you’re out in a field. We wanted that earthy, dirty feel, but from a distance you look at it and it’s beautiful because it’s just rolling hills but you get in there and it’s dirty. Gita: I think that represents the larger look of the film. From the outside, everything is breathtakingly beautiful, but once you get a better look inside, you realize it’s dusty and dirty, and there’s a lot of breaks and cracks in it.  And then you go to Boston, which is so interesting because usually in films like this, kids are trying to escape to New York or LA. It's cool that Boston is treated like Nirvana. I've never seen Boston treated that way before. Aron: That probably comes from my growing up in Maine because I definitely viewed Boston as, “Oh, if I could get to Boston.” I think in northern Maine, they almost don’t see that far. It’s like if we can even get to southern Maine, or if we can get to Boston, it’s like a whole nother world to them. Boston is an eight hour drive from northern Maine, so even that just seems like a world away, and growing up, it was always like, Boston is my town.  Gita: And if you asked anyone from Indiana, it would be Chicago so we definitely felt that. I remember even when we were dating, because we actually worked in television news before  we actually started doing film, and we were living in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and we were trying to figure out where we wanted to make our next move and live, and Aron was like, “Boston has always been my dream, so we moved to Boston.  So is that where you guys live now? Gita: We don’t live there now, we enjoyed our time there. We lived in Boston, and then we moved to New York with the release of our documentary, The Way We Get By. Aron: We lived in New York for three years and then moved to Maine to make the movie. We just wanted to go out all in.  Gita: When we commit, we have to really commit. For us, we can’t just write from New York, write from LA for something like Beneath the Harvest Sky  or any of our other projects. We really have to research and feel the story inside and out to be able to write it. I think that definitely comes through in the move because the setting feels very palpable, so I think your three years paid off. Gita: Yay! That’s good to hear.   Aron: I’m glad it paid off. It’s been a long time in Maine now. Gita: We hope that people come out and see the movie because we open this week on all the digital platforms. We released with the festival. Aron: It’s on VOD, and iTunes and Amazon and all that. Gita: We literally made this movie for teens so we’re just really hoping they come and find the movie, see it, and experience it. We tried. Beyond bringing the genre to the present, was there anything about the teen genre or the coming of age story that you thought had been lacking, even in the films you love, something you wanted to get in touch with in Beneath the Harvest Sky? Aron: Well even some of the better coming of age movies that have been coming out recently, it seemed like it was always a throwback to a John Hughes movie, which we loved growing up too, but that’s different than Stand By Me or The Outsiders or Breaking Away or At Close Range. Some of those ones that are a little darker.  So for us, that was something that we felt like was lacking. Can we go a little darker with it? Through the research, this is darker. What they do up there and everything, it’s not a John Hughes movie, it’s different than that, so that was something that appealed to us. The darker teen movie.  Do you think these movies are relatable to all kids, even if they didn't have these elements of crime influencing their lives growing up? Aron: I do, but any small town kid, they’re going to a party in a gravel pit or doing that sort of stuff there. That sort of harvest farming with friends. I’m sure in towns all across the Midwest, on their breaks from school, they’re doing some sort of farm labor so some can relate to that. Gita: Even in present day, something like the vodka tampon scene  for example. That we discovered in Maine and  then we read it in the script and were like  “This is really crazy,” and we talked to law enforcement to find out if it actually happened. Then we found out in the Midwest that there’s people doing the same thing. Word of mouth spreads  with teens very quickly apparently. I grew up in Long Island, and people in my high school did that. It happens all across America. Aron: We must be old. We didn’t realize that happened.  What did you see in your two leads, Emory Cohen and Callan McAuliffe? Gita: They’re brilliant actors and they have very different talents of how they get their  performances out there.  Aron: Their processes couldn’t be further apart from each other, which was interesting to see them work off of each other.  Emory was Casper 24/7. We never met Emory until we wrapped production. He was always Casper. Callan was very much “I’ll give you what’s in your script.” They were at opposite ends of the spectrum, but together they were so great. If you talked to them together, they were like a comedy duo. We just loved them hanging out together. They would genuinely make each other laugh and stuff on set and really did form this friendship  that played well in the movie. Gita: They’re both very talented and people consider this to be their breakout roles in a lot of ways so we’re really excited to see what they do next and  we also hope that they just continue working with us. Beneath the Harvest Sky is available on VOD, Amazon and iTunes.  Follow @Hollywood_com //