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.
  • The Most Nicholas Sparksy Moments in 'The Best of Me' Trailer
    By: Michael Arbeiter Jun 05, 2014
    Relativity Media Mere seconds into the new trailer for The Best of Me, you'll know. Without any warning or background information, you'll have no doubt in your mind: this is a Nicholas Sparks movie. And what a Nicholas Sparks movie it looks to be.   Directed by the guy who made Soapdish, The Best of Me is only the latest frosting rose on the store bought ice cream cake that is Sparks' catalogue of novels-turned-films. After years of the same old love story game, you'd think a new Sparks flick might be inclined to veer from routine just a tad. Well, you'd be left ugly crying amid an Atlantic Coast downpour, because such is far from the case. The first trailer for The Best of Me looks to wrangle in just about every conceivable Nicholas Sparkism in its brief 90-second lifespan. And here they are, every single Nicholas Sparksy moment in order of Nicholas Sparksiness. 28) Gleeful outdoor wedding embrace (1:08) 27) Dude teen giving girl teen a rose (:22) 26) Comparatively [see #10] explicit illustrations of teen sexuality (1:12) 25) Secondary characters weeping openly (:40) 24) Woodland dancing (1:15) 23) A neat camera trick that indicates the True Detective lady is playing the same character as tree-reading teen girl! (:47) 22) Teen dude proposing pseudo-hypothetical about the never being able to see his teen girlfriend again, passively demanding an impromptu declaration of her love (:36) 21) Adult human beings lifting each other up in broad daylight (1:00) 20) Dramatic head turn! (:46) 19) Rural/suburban Atlantic Coast town (:07) 18) Sad driving (:39) 17) James Marsden in an undershirt (:44) 16) Teens talking about flirting... not actually flirting, talking about flirting (:15) 15) Teens sitting in a tree, legs intertwined chastely, reading (:27) 14) Lake kissing (:58) 13) Insinuation of prejudices relating to socioeconomic class differences between characters, even though everybody seems pretty much the same level of well off (:33) 12) A barn (:43) 11) Charmless interaction that establishes the thematic premise of the film outright (:50) 10) Horizontal silhouettes kissing, which means sex (1:02) 9) He says the name of the movie! (1:16) 8) Teens lying nude in the presence of an active fireplace (:35) 7) Teens exchanging silent, meaningful glances upon first sight of one another that will determine the course of their entire lives (:10) 6) "From Nicholas Sparks" title card (:13) 5) Male shirtlessness (:56) 4) A Southern fella who just wants what's best for his daughter, and he's not afraid to tell that to the impossibly non-threatening young buck who likes her (:30) 3) Headlining actors smiling vacantly at nothing (1:04) 2) Hollow proclamation that sounds romantic on paper, maybe (1:11) 1) Rain kiss (:29) This movie comes out eventually, I guess. You can see it then. Follow @Michael Arbeiter| Follow @Hollywood_com
  • A Quick Look at the New TV Projects of Darren Aronofsky, Robert Downey Jr., and Bryan Cranston
    By: Michael Arbeiter Jun 05, 2014
    Getty Images/Neilson Barnard Long emancipated from its reputation as the place where has-beens go for one last snag at the limelight, television is attracting big screen folks at the top of their games. A new league of blockbuster movie stars, admired thespians, and Oscar-nominated filmmakers alike are flocking to the comforts of premium cable, all with intriguing projects in tow. Here are a few big name figures taking to the TV game with promising prospects. DARREN ARONOFSKY Who's that again? The guy who directed Black Swan, Requiem for a Dream, The Wrestler, The Fountain, and NoahWhat's he working on? MaddAddam, an adaptation of Margaret Atwood's speculative sci-fi novel trilogy (Oryx and Crake, Year Of The Flood, and MaddAddam).For whom? HBO.What's the deal? The story depicts a dystopian future in which genetic engineering has swept the human race. Aronofsky might direct, and is executive producing with his fiancée Brandi-Ann Milbradt and regular collaborator Ari Handel.[Deadline] ROBERT DOWNEY JR. Who's that again? Iron Man.What's he working on? An untitled drama about a drug rehab community set in 1980s Venice Beach.For whom? Showtime.What's the deal? Downey obviously has personal ties to the project considering his history with drug abuse; he and his wife Susan are producing, and Orange Is the New Black writer Gary Lennon is handling the script (so we can expect some wit).[Deadline] WENN/Adriana M. Barraza BRYAN CRANSTON Who's that again? Walter White from Breaking Bad, Hal from Malcolm in the Middle, or Tim Whatley from Seinfeld, and President Lyndon Johnson on ol' Broadway.What's he working on? A narrative adaptation of the Conn and Hal Iggulden book Dangerous Book for Boys.For whom? No word just yet.What's the deal? Although the Igguldens' book takes form as a "how to" manual of sorts, Cranston's television series will draw a narrative out of the variety of rituals established as recommended rites of passage for American youngsters.[Variety] Follow @Michael Arbeiter| Follow @Hollywood_com
  • Review: 'Edge of Tomorrow' Gives Us the Most Fun (and Douchey) Tom Cruise Performance in Years
    By: Michael Arbeiter Jun 04, 2014
    Warner Bros. Pictures via Everett Collection The reincarnative powers acquired by Tom Cruise in Edge of Tomorrow have their limits — after death, he is always "reborn" on the same day, in the same place, surrounded by the same oblivious galoots, forced over and over to make it past the same obstacles in order to do whatever it is the movie never really gets around to explaining he's supposed to do. Save the world, yeah, but the specifics are muddled beyond that. We get the feeling, though, that if Cruise himself could choose his point of rebirth, it'd be smack dab back in the middle of the '80s. And we're right along with him. Because one of Edge of Tomorrow's great victories is its ability to remind us of the Cruise we fell in love with way back when. The Cruise that could get away with being funny, kooky, smarmy, and kind of a douchebag. In this latest outing, that's exactly what he's going for. Edge of Tomorrow is more than happy to return to the Cruise we met and loved in the era of Risky Business and Top Gun, accessing the sort of colossal camp that he, as a good-looking charmer, could sell as high grade entertainment. Well before Rain Man established him as an actor of true merit and the decade to follow slowly expelled him of this very reputation. As soldier-in-name-only William Cage, Cruise masters the art of playing too big for his britches. His swagger is unfounded, his double talk ineffective. Finally, that Tom Cruise smile (you know the one) is used for its rightful purpose: to highlight just how much of a cocky son of a bitch this guy can be. But this version of Cruise might stumble to a point of utter detestability if Edge of Tomorrow wasn't so eager to laugh at the classic Hollywood-caliber blowhard he puts on display. Warner Bros. Pictures via Everett Collection The film's sense of humor and personability are what cart us through the science fiction premise with such grace: Cage is thrust into his first go at warfare against a race of malicious alien invaders, taunted and ostracized by his disapproving fellow grunts, killed almost instantly in the field of battle, and then reborn moments later (make that a day and a half earlier) right back at the military base where this whole mixup began. Never mind why — the movie does its share of explaining the science fiction behind Cruise's character's newfound abilities... with no dearth of logic holes, but you shouldn't get too strung up on that either — or even the specifics of the ultimate mission that he and a soldier sympathetic to his cause (Emily Blunt, who is sharp enough as an impatient war hero) adopt in order to save the human race from their extraterrestrial assailants. The only element to really strap into here is the fun: Cage struggling with the confusion, terror, monotony, psychological trauma, existential quandaries, and humors of living the same few days and scenes over and over and over, with the added bonus of an alien war comprising the backdrop to keep things quirky.   When the novelty of both the idea and all the plausible avenues of exploring it wear away, we're left with a far less riveting third act... not one entirely devoid of life, though one notably lacking in the spark and color that ignited Cruise's initial forays into this strange set of circumstances. The movie trades its earlier brand of innovation for the tropes of your standard action/sci-fi, though never entirely devolves all the way down to standard summer fare. In the end, Edge of Tomorrow doesn't wind up proving itself to be as tremendous a leap from the norm of today, but it's at least a few big steps. And that's largely because it seems to know what we've all been forgetting since 1985: science fiction can be funny, blockbusters can be kooky, and Tom Cruise can, and should, be a jackass. 3.5/5 Follow @Michael Arbeiter| Follow @Hollywood_com
  • If You Think About It, 'Chronicle' Is Pretty Much a 'Star Wars' Movie Already
    By: Michael Arbeiter Jun 04, 2014
    20th Century Fox Film via Everett Collection Chronicle hit unexpectedly at the dawn of 2012 (and the dawn of the superhero "movement"), impressing critics and fans as Josh Trank's feature debut. The found footage picture served both as an impressive science-fiction flick and a dutiful character piece, telling the story of three teenage boys who transform mentally and emotionally after becoming suddenly imbued with superpowers. Chronicle led Trank to land one big name picture, the developing Fantastic Four reboot, and now has earned him another: one of Disney's long list of standalone Star Wars films (Godzilla director Gareth Edwards is also handling one of these features). And if you've seen Chronicle, you know that the 29-year-old Trank is perfectly tailored for the George Lucas universe. In truth, Chronicle is pretty much a Star Wars film already... [Warning: Major Chronicle spoilers to follow... Star Wars spoilers, too, but I feel less inclined to warn people about that] Hero Becomes VillainAdmittedly, this is a pretty common trope throughout the vast cosmos of fiction... and human history. But Dane DeHaan's tortured introvert Andrew embarks upon a path markedly similar to that of one Anakin Skywalker. Neither one is able to contain his thirst for power once he discovers new, supernatural abilities. The ForceAnd those abilities? They are nearly identical. George Lucas' Force and the result of contact with whatever it is the Chronicle boys happened upon in that pit are both defined primarily by large-scale telekinesis and a mastery of aerodynamics. Flying... Through Storms!Granted, one is a meteor storm and the other is simply lightning. But the danger is the same. Hero Is Defeated by Beloved RelativeAndrew's cousin Matt (Alex Russell) is called upon to save his town from the former's wrath; it is son Luke who managed, in the end, to defeat Darth Vader, although Emperor Palpatine's d-bag electroshock powers sure didn't help matters. Neither Matt nor Luke was particularly overjoyed at having to kill someone he once loved, but c'est la vie. Daddy IssuesAnd how. Luke is overcome by his angst in finding out that he's got the mother of all bad fathers, and Andrew deals with an abusive dad as one of his many grievances throughout the film. Yub NubA course-changing scene in Chronicle sees Andrew and Matt having too much fun at a high school party, one not unlike the traditional Ewok celebration at the end of Return of the Jedi.  Follow @Michael Arbeiter| Follow @Hollywood_com
  • Is 'Doctor Strange' Director a Sign That Marvel Is Moving Away from Comedy?
    By: Michael Arbeiter Jun 04, 2014
    Marvel Studios "Dying is easy; comedy is hard." It might have been a DC Comics character who revived these final words of 19th century thespian Edmund Kean, but it is Marvel that seems to be taking the maxim to heart, perhaps having at last stumbled upon the dark side of comedy direction. Since the latter half of its first phase of movies, Marvel Studios has prioritized a comic hue over intensity or grit, hiring unlikely folk like Joe Johnston, Shane Black, the Russo Brothers, and James Gunn (whose upcoming Guardians of the Galaxy looks like a riot) to turn what might have been adrenal actioners into wry character pieces. But the latest filmmaker to take up with the company is of a different breed. Still wading through the muck of a post-Edgar Wright production of Ant-Man, unable to find a director of note to take the reins from the manic brain behind the Cornetto Trilogy, Marvel has announced a partnership with horror director Scott Derrickson for its upcoming Doctor Strange feature. Variety reports that the man behind Sinister, The Exorcism of Emily Rose, and sci-fi/thriller The Day the Earth Stood Still will handle the long gestating feature, a particular passion of super producer Kevin Feige. Getty Images/Araya Diaz It is interesting both that Derrickson arises as a stark contrast to the Marvel helmers of Phases 1 and 2 — genre subverters, sitcom folk, the Honey I Shrunk the Kids dude — as well as smack dab in the middle of the company's high profile Ant-Man mess. Having lost Wright over a disharmony in desired tone of the film, Marvel might only now be realizing just how ribald a comedic vision can be. The difficulty Marvel faces in replacing Wright — Adam McKay (director of various Will Ferrell movies) and Rawson Thurber (of Dodgeball and We're the Millers) have already turned down the prospect, per The Wrap — seems to be no unlikely contributor to its realization that the comedy game is a lot tougher than anticipated back in the inceptive Winter Soldier days. Marvel Studios So now we have Doctor Strange, a character that is far from exempt of the same brand of personality and farce that we saw in The Avengers, both Captain Americas, Thor 2, and (perhaps most of all) Iron Man 3. And we're worried. Not so much about Doctor Strange in particular — the property is steeped in supernatural elements worthy of a great horror director's touch (and Derrickson is, indeed, a great horror director) — but about the future of Marvel on the whole. The company has built such a strong, satisfying franchise thanks not simply to its devotion to its characters but principally to its devotion to joy, personality, humanity... all the inherent facets of comedy. A Marvel that is afraid to have fun — resultant of its dissolution with Edgar Wright (the "funnest" guy it has ever hired) and inability to find a director to peter down his wily voice — is not a Marvel of promise. Follow @Michael Arbeiter| Follow @Hollywood_com
  • Harrison Ford Shares Some Whip-Smart Advice on 'Indiana Jones' with Robert Pattinson
    By: Michael Arbeiter Jun 03, 2014
    We live in an age of possibility. An age that would accept Robert Pattinson, 28-year-old vampirious Briton with a heft of tween fandom and a stark deficit in melanin, as the next Indiana Jones. Some very tentative rumors over at Daily Star are connecting Pattinson to the role for the next feature in the franchise, which would inject quite a new style into the classic American character. Although we won't write off Pattinson's potential take on Indy, we can't help but hope he takes a few wise words from the professor himself, one Harrison Ford. We're sure he's got a lot to teach his rumored successor about the whip-cracking game... let's just hope Pattinson listens to reason: Entertainment/Paramount Pictures Images/Paramount Pictures Entertainment/Paramount Pictures Entertainment/Paramount Pictures Images/Paramount Pictures Images/Paramount Pictures Follow @Michael Arbeiter| Follow @Hollywood_com
  • Edward Snowden Might Be Too Perfect a Subject for Oliver Stone
    By: Michael Arbeiter Jun 02, 2014
    Getty Images/ChinaFotoPress Although JFK might not be Oliver Stone's most celebrated film (that superlative belongs to Platoon or Born on the Fourth of July, though for my money Natural Born Killers is his finest work), the conspiracy theory-laden account of the assassination of our 35th president is certainly the movie we most directly associate with his cinematic ideologies. As a filmmaker, Stone lands someplace between artist and muckraker, eagerly sinking his teeth into ideas steeped in sociopolitical commentary and events fertile in opportunity for "alternative readings." Post-JFK films like Nixon, World Trade Center, and W. all fit this bill. And whatever he does with Edward Snowden, former CIA employee who publicized agency secrets in the name of government transparency. Stone, as reported by Variety, will be adapting the biography The Snowden Files, The Inside Story of the World’s Most Wanted Man by Luke Harding, journalist for The Guardian. With his usual production partner Moritz Borman in tow, the writer/director plans to begin work on the Snowden picture before the end of 2014. Getty Images/Barton Gellman The story of the 30-year-old Snowden — North Carolina upbringing, government leaks, and Russian asylum all — seems to be exactly the sort of thing that Stone has been building up his repertoire to take on. Stone says about Snowden's life and work, "This is one of the greatest stories of our time. A real challenge." A challenge that sits happily within the parameters of his usual routine, sure, but a challenge nonetheless. Follow @Michael Arbeiter| Follow @Hollywood_com
  • Meeting the Newest 'Star Wars VII' Stars: Lupita Nyong'o, Brienne of Tarth, and a Giant Rhino
    By: Michael Arbeiter Jun 02, 2014
    Fox Searchlight via Everett Collection Back when Star Wars VII announced its first rally of official players, we tackled each name on the list with a brief bit of professional history and our hopes and expectations for that with which he or she might be tasked for the upcoming film. You can check out our rundown here, which enveloped the Star Wars vets as well as franchise newcomers Oscar Isaac, Adam Driver, Andy Serkis, Max von Sydow, Domhnall Gleeson, John Boyega, and Daisy Ridley. But today's news, via, about Lupita Nyong'o and Gwendoline Christie (oh yeah, and a leaked set photo, via TMZ, revealing a practical monster) calls for another round of introductions. Lupita Nyong'oBest known as: Patsey, the tortured slave of psychopathic plantation owner Edwin Epps (Michael Fassbender) in 12 Years a Slave. The role won her an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress.Age: 31.In the new movie: Nyong'o's Star Wars character is anyone's guess at this point, but her tremendous command of scene-stealing gravity should land her a pretty meaty role. Perhaps a tad too old (even with the practice of actors playing years below their age) to portray a classmate of presumed central characters, the offspring of Han and Leia, and we'd guess too high profile a figure to take on a tertiary role like teacher or soldier. So we're leaning towards high-ranking officer in the plight against... whatever they're dealing with this time. As long as she has plenty of convicted diatribes and steady close-ups. HBO Gwendoline ChristieBest known as: Brienne of Tarth, swordsmith and Stark loyalist on Game of Thrones.Age: 35 or 36.In the new movie: Lightsabers. It's practically a given. Knowing how handy she is with a weapon on Game of Thrones, J.J. Abrams couldn't pass up the opportunity to give Christie Star Wars' answer to the sword. As such, this would land her in the Jedi Knight camp, though be she one of pure motive or corrupted soul is another question yet unanswered. This ThingBest known as: The weird picture you saw a bunch of people sharing on Twitter on Monday morning, worrying that another experiment from Long Island's animal testing facility had washed up on shore.Age: Mid 40s?In the new movie: The suggestion that Star Wars VII will be heavy with practical effects is an encouraging one. Our friend here will probably be relegated to transporting a hero or two (or maybe just cargo), but he likely won't be the film's lone hand-crafted creature. Keep watch for more additions to the cast! Follow @Michael Arbeiter| Follow @Hollywood_com
  • Review: 'Maleficent' Is a Metaphor for Human Life, So It's Pretty Dull and Meaningless
    By: Michael Arbeiter May 29, 2014
    Walt Disney Studios via Everett Collection As I watched Maleficent toggle between magic woodlands filled with trembling mushroom people and grim battle scenes steeped in markedly misanthropic revenge tales, I had to ask myself the question: who is this movie for? Too shallow for adults, too dark and dull for kids, yet still too cutesy for teens... I left the theater certain that Angelina Jolie's perplexing Disney twist wasn't for anyone, but in assessing the aforementioned elements as pieces of a puzzle rather than conflicting forces, I've come to realize just the opposite: Maleficent is for all people, because Maleficent is about all people. To be more precise, the film's structure is modeled after the lifespan of a human being. Like all people, Maleficent starts out simple, unbearably bright, and cloyingly enchanted with everything around it — as a lass, fairy princess Maleficent (played by a preteen Isobelle Molloy) scrambles through her fairy-laden home, giggling like a Care Bear with the variety of natural abominations she calls friends (elephant-frogs, tree-skeletons, troll-rabbits). It's sweet enough to invite anaphylaxis. Walt Disney Studios via Everett Collection It then grows into its teen years: brooding and self-serious — an older Maleficent (now Ella Purnell) falls horns-over-wingtips for some dope named Stefan, who vows his true love to her but is totes just being a selfish d-bag — followed by the violent hostility of its young adulthood — Stefon (Sharlto Copley, affecting a bad guy in an Animaniacs period sketch) betrays Maleficent (finally Jolie, who cuts through the thick, musty sheaths of aimless convolution with her incredible screen charisma... or maybe just those diabolical cheekbones) by stealing her wings, earning his place as king and setting her off on a course of bitter revenge. For a long while thereafter, Maleficent settles into adulthood: cynical, mechanical, apparently bored with its life altogether (this after Maleficent dooms King Stefon's baby daughter Aurora to the curse of eventual eternal sleep) ... that is, until a change in direction affords it a short-lived whimsy that perks up the energy just enough to keep it (and us) trucking to the end. If we can work our way past Imelda Staunton, Leslie Manville, and Juno Temple as the insufferable and incompetent fairies charged with caring over young Aurora (Elle Fanning, but without the usual moxy). Of course, before it gets there, it endures the ever faithful mid-life crisis, ushers in a resurgence of misguided passion that never had much place in the formula to begin with and certainly doesn't seem at all at home this time around — this is an era of ghost-fish, dragon-fights, and plot contrivances out the wazoo. But finally, the film settles on the tranquility of willful disregard, knowing that there's nothing it can now do about its lifetime of shortcomings, happily committing to memories of the things it loved most: reptile-pachyderm hybrids, diabolical cheekbones, and the narration of Janet McTeer. Like any human, Maleficent leaves the world with more questions than answers, and ones we're all better off relegating to a few short words upon its passing and then forgetting altogether. And, much like all people, it's not very good. Fine. Not altogether bad. But mostly just brazenly unimportant.  2.5/5 Follow @Michael Arbeiter| Follow @Hollywood_com
  • Review: 'A Million Ways to Die in the West' Is Mostly Dead Air and Sheep Penises
    By: Michael Arbeiter May 28, 2014
    Universal Pictures via Everett Collection If you have any pre-existing familiarity with Seth MacFarlane, you'll find yourself utterly baffled after spending no more than 10 minutes withA Million Ways to Die in the West. Half that time will be spent on the opening titles, a shockingly earnest homage to Western classics (oh, that's nice! ... but where are the jokes?), a piece on sheep farmer MacFarlane's stammering break-up with his turned-off ladyfriend Amanda Seyfried (relatable! ... but where are the jokes?), and one scene on Liam Neeson's snarling bandit shooting an old prospector dead over a chunk of gold (menacing! ... but where are the jokes?). When the allotted time is up, you'll be angling to challenge the marketing behind MacFarlane's film, as well as the reputation of the man on which A Million Ways to Die was sold. It's hardly a comedy at all, and he, at least in this case, not a comedian. MacFarlane's movie toggles between scenes devoid of humorous intent altogether and those that simply miss the mark (and hard) in the joke department. Independently, these elements are painful; together, they're fatal. The material paving the agonizingly naturalistic romantic incline involving MacFarlane and Charlize Theron would feel more at home on the cutting room floor of a mumblecore reject than in the sort of comedy that banks on the gastrointestinal system for its principal supply of laughter. Universal Pictures via Everett Collection The common factor here is a lack of effort. Instead of opting for creativity, writer/director MacFarlane plays cheap, opening the film with a fellatio gag, topping it with human flatulence (and its ugly cousin) and livestock urination, and peppering in the occasional pop culture reference. "Ah, so that's where MacFarlane has been hiding!" you might say. After all, Family Guy is full of pop culture gags, spoofs, and send-ups. But A Million Ways holds true to its maxim of expending absolutely no energy or imagination, vying for unabashed theft of catchphrases (Neil Patrick Harris is the purveyor of the most heinous example) without so much as a wink at, comment about, or spin on the source material in question. Perhaps the biggest shame is seeing deft comic actors like Harris, Neeson, and Sarah Silverman squandered in scenes that give them no opportunity to be funny. Neeson doesn't get a single joke to play with, Harris (a master of facial contortion) manages a few chuckles despite C- material. One-note jokes like Silverman and Giovanni Ribisi — a lovestruck prostitute and her virgin boyfriend — or Christopher Hagen as MacFarlane's cranky dad are the most active sources of comedy that Ways has to offer. But bald-faced jokes about sex and s**t can only occupy so much of this thing's diabolical 116-minute runtime.   Occasionally, MacFarlane's comic tenacity — the type you might never have cared for but at least knew to be an existent force — does rear its reluctant head. Townspeople clamoring over a dollar, MacFarlane and Ribisi exhibiting their own take on the saloon brawl, and an admittedly fun song about the glories of having a mustache. If this kind of imagination — or, hell, even attitude — could have been exercised over the other 85 percent of AMW, we might have had something recognizable as comedy. But instead, we have mostly dead air and sheep dicks. 2/5 Follow @Michael Arbeiter| Follow @Hollywood_com