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.
  • Director David Mackenzie Talks His Tribeca Film 'Starred Up'
    By: Michael Arbeiter Apr 24, 2014
    Tribeca Film One of the most interesting films to premiere at Tribeca Film Festival 2014 is director David Mackenzie's movie Starred Up, a drama about a young man who is committed to a London prison where he reunites with his convict father for the first time in years. Aside from subverting expectations about the idea of the "prison movie," Starred Up also treats viewers to a new kind of father/son story, and a far more realistic portrayal of therapy than cinematic audiences are accustomed to. Written by a Jonathan Asser, a therapist who pioneered a form of counseling for violent inmates, the film depicts group sessions that cut to the heart of the emotionality behind the prison experience for those serving time. Speaking to Mackenzie, we got to discuss how Starred Up offers something new in each of the subjects that it brings to the table. As someone who is a little bit skeptical about prison movies in general, personally, I was wondering if you approached the film wanting to take on the genre for any specific reasons? No, I responded to the material. The script seemed to be an interesting opportunity to make a film that was very detailed and had a bit of truth to it, and a vine of authenticity to it about, particularly, London prisons. But it wasn’t my intention to kind of make a kind of critique of the genre. It’s actually the first genre film I’ve ever done. I’ve made many movies, and I’ve always been trying to slip in between these things, but this is actually inescapably just a prison movie. But I hope that we did it in a way that avoids stereotypes, in a way that allows other elements to sort of enter into the genre. And that we made something that stands up in its own right, irrespective of the genre, really. That’s my desire. I thought there was an opportunity to make a film that somehow had smuggled in some emotion and tenderness and sort of things into a genre that you weren’t expecting them to be in. That felt like an interesting challenge. There are definitely many points in the movie where I expected it to go in one way more traditional of the genre, and I was surprised to see it take another direction. That was kind of interesting. By taking on something like this, it struck me that my sensibility... I’m not the genre person in general. I’m looking for the truth and the humanity and sometimes the kind of poetic beauty in the subjects that I’m dealing with. And it’s quite nice to have something that’s hard, and that there are expectations with. Just by being a bit more honest with the material, you can end up avoiding [that]. Did you do a lot of research about prisons? Well, Jonathan [Asser], the writer, was a major resource. We needed to be below the radar, because I didn't want to be closed down. I couldn’t really get into open prisons, existing prisons, very much. But just a combination of the research with [the fact that] we found a jail that had been closed down for 10 years, but was completely in tact. And prison officers who worked in it when it was there, and they were helpful in terms of the rhythms of what the officers would have to go through. We encouraged them to sort of push the prisoners around a bit, so that they’re less in control of themselves. And we had a few ex-prisoners who were advisors, and one or two actually had small parts in the movie. Did anything come organically from their experiences? There's a lot of improvisation in the movie. You know, respecting the script, coming in and out of the lens of the script, but I tried to encourage a sense of freedom among the actors. Particularly in the group [therapy] scenes, just to feel like it was lively. So there’s stuff that’s allowed to breathe... But always, Jonathon, the writer, was on set the whole time, and so were kind of. The script was like our lens that we passed through all the time. Since you bring up group, one thing that I'm even more wary about in cinema is movies about therapy. You see a lot of movies that just ham it up. Was there anything specific that you wanted to make sure you avoided, or that you wanted to make sure you got right? Well we had a great asset, again, with Jonathan, the writer. [He] is a prison therapist who has evolved the system quite weirdly by taking the most violent prisoners, for whom there is no official therapy apart from what he was doing. Because there's this weird contradiction: you have to prove yourself to be violence-free before you can get official treatment for your violence. It’s bizarre. And part of his method is to take guys who clearly had a problem with anger and encourage them to get angry. And then encourage them to learn how to deal with that and learn how to de-escalate. One of the scenes we actually shot, which is a scene where it nearly, nearly gets very dangerous, and then it de-escalates, it was actually a late addition to the script, and it came form an experience in the rehearsals that we had with a couple of ex-prisoners and the actors and Jonathan. And things got very heated. And it de-escalated. And just to watch the de-escalation... it’s not like it’s a slow deflation, it’s jagged. It goes up and down and up and down — felt so dramatic to me that I asked him, “Can we write a scene like that?” It’s one of my favorite scenes in the movie. You see escalation all the time, but we hadn’t sort of tuned in to de-escalation. And his therapy is fresh. In the four or five years of doing that, there were no contact violence issues with any of the people he was working with, either in the group or on the wing afterwards. So he pioneered the technique and it was very successful. So you’re just tuning into that, and letting that breathe and letting the actors go with that and also improvise around it. I felt like my cliché alarm wasn’t going off at any point in the therapy scenes. So I felt we avoided that problem. Getty Images That is far and away my favorite scene in the movie, too. Was it this approach to the inmates' emotionality that specifically attracted you to the script? When I found the script, it was underdeveloped, but there was something that felt like an interesting thing to me. Obviously criminality often runs in families. There must be plenty of people who meet their father in jail, but there doesn't seem to be a movie specifically about that. Actually, Jonathan has strong feelings about his father and his relationship with his father, so it was probably not that tuned into tenderness, all those sorts of things. But I thought there were opportunities there to have these two sort of awkward characters, both emotionally locked down and very hard on themselves as well as other people around them, try to kind of reach out and connect with each other. And that felt there was something in that that was really, really strong. It was there in its nascent form in the very first draft, and we sort of evolved that together. One of the things I learned in the process was to try and create lines of tension. If you set up something and you don’t let go of it, it becomes kind of relentless until you’re allowed to breathe... The consequences of one thing keep it going, a chain of consequences, until it’s almost unbearable, and then it’s resolved and then you move on. Actually, the film has not that many of those beats, but they last quite a long time. It’s a really interesting approach because it’s a hostile environment. You know that something’s gonna kick off, there’s a constant tension. For me, when I was editing it — which was very short edit — I knew the material, I’d still find myself tense. Which is great! It enabled the slightly Hitchcockian filmmaking that came from it, which is really interesting for me. Definitely! There's not a lot of relief sustained. There's always that fear. But there are moments where it’s light. There are moments where it’s funny. I agree, the actors are very charming, and the material is very charming. On the father and son relationship, so much of this movie is about the idea of masculinity. You have very interesting representations of masculinity. The father is in a homosexual relationship, which is not typically how movies depict masculinity. The intellectual chess player is the prison kingpin. The intimidating inmates in group are really sensitive and thoughtful. So I was wondering what you were hoping to say about masculinity with this film. Those kinds of questions I find quite hard to answer. It’s a very masculine environment, and it’s the sort of crucible of masculine tension. But what it’s actually saying about it? I don’t really know how to answer it. The whole film is kind of about that, so this specific point is... everything about the film is sort of moving in the direction of trying to answeri that question, and so I can’t really articulate it in a quick way. That's fair. But honing in on the father and son relationship, we talked about how the father and son were used to show this prison story, but the prison is also used to tell a father and son story. Do you think there was something unique in the relationship between the two characters here that you haven't seen in films about fathers and sons? What was interesting about it, in a normal kind of father and son relationship, they’re usually better equipped and more able to deal with concepts of love. Their characters' name is Love, and that was very conscious from Jonathan. These are people who know very little about love and their names are ironically that. And so it’s some kind of base instinct there, but they don’t really know how to deal with it. And I don’t think I’ve seen that before. I don’t think I’ve seen two such disconnected characters having to reach out together, in a father and son kind of thing. And I think that’s interesting. With those two actors are both sort of powerhouse actors in their own way, [they’re] very different: Ben [Mendelsohn] is very precise. Jack [O'Connell] is young, he’s go so much energy, and he’s just everywhere. And I mean that in very much the best way. It’s just incredible to see an almost a sort of animalistic thing. There were times when we were almost trying to cut the thing like a nature film, just to go with the gestures, the physicality, which is interesting. I like that you say "like a nature film." The way the film is shot feels like that, when you follow the characters going up and down the stairs of the prison, watching these guys interacting. Was that the aesthetic you were trying to evoke? We shot it beautifully in widescreen and off of lenses and it was nicely lit, and the environment was very cinematic: long corridors, and frames within frames. There’s plenty of opportunities for some quite strong imagery, but I said to Michael [McDonough, cinematographer] I wanted the performance to dictate the camera rather than the camera dictating the performance. The actors didn’t have any marks, they just did what they wanted to do, and we have to follow them. And that was the first time I had ever done that, and I think the combination of the good instincts of Michael, and hopefully of myself, and the environment gave us enough of the visual style. And then just being able to follow in a much more — I had to use the word — much more "documentary" kind of way, just letting it happen and where people move is where you follow the camera to. It helped with A) the performance, and B) with it just being what it was and so there’s not that kind of reserve of a framed and stylized image. There's one line that really stuck out to me. In a group scene, the inmates were talking about different prisons in different parts of the world, and they were arguing over which country had the worst prisons. There was a line, "American prisons are the worst prisons" ... That was a riff. There is a sense that you have an awful lot of people in jail in America, a very, very high prison population, and a lot more people in solitary confinement. I read a New York Times article last year or the year before, people likened solitary confinement to a form of torture. And yet, you’re building super mass jails where people are deliberately in solitary confinement. But that’s me applying that. The line is a sort of throwaway line about Morocco, or... I didn’t want it to be, and I don’t think Jonathan wanted it to be either, two developing country prisons. I just felt it was a like banter. Not particularly aimed to criticize the American thing. But it is extraordinary how many people are in jail at the moment. Follow @Michael Arbeiter| Follow @Hollywood_com
  • 'Mad Men' Recap: Don Draper and His Daughter
    By: Michael Arbeiter Apr 21, 2014
    AMC Mad Men might be at its best when it drives bleak, but there's something to be said for the cheeky side of the series too — the side willing, just a week after showcasing the visceral breakdown of its two main characters, to treat them both to the traditions of Three's Company. The second episode of Season 7 forces Don and Peggy deeper into the marshlands of misery, with one succumbing to the weight of the swamp after a decade of casual treading, the other flailing in panic and grabbing for any semblance of a stable root... like that of a rose, for example. The first Jack-and-Crissyan wacky misunderstanding of  that Mad Men borrows from sitcom lore this week is Peggy's identification of an unmarked bouquet of roses to be a gift to her from Ted. Although she responds with a delivery of hot bile to her undoubtedly confused colleague, Peggy is grasping desperately for the possibility that on this Valentine's Day in 1969 she has been considered. Unlucky Shirley, Peggy's secretary, is the secondary victim of this mixup, as the flowers were hers, sent from a loving fiancé — the primary victim, of course, is Peggy. As confidently as Mad Men seems to be handling Peggy's ascension toward a Draper-level isolation, her sudden bout of insolence (notably when she explodes at Shirley for revealing the true origin of the roses) comes off a few leagues less interesting than the fashion in which we've seen the series handle emotional self-sabotage before. Granted we're expected to follow Peggy to, toward, or (hopefully) around a platform in just one season that took the show six to reach for Don... and, admittedly, maybe it's just the additional unpleasantness that comes with watching a favorite character like Ms. Olson decay. But we can hope that Peggy's turn this week is just a glimmer of a rock bottom that we can watch her work to avoid in the episodes to come. And if she must hit, then at least let the trigger not be a bouquet of roses. Wacky mixup number 2 is of the "overheard phone call" variety, with Roger dismissing L.A.-based Pete over a wonky cross-country conference call as the troops led by Harry Hamlin (I'm not sure I'll ever be able to learn his character's name) determine that Campbell's latest account would be best laid in the hands of Bob Benson. Pete is up in arms, and the Roger/Hamlin dichotomy is fissuring violently as the latter takes the advantage of a Donless, Peteless office to seize control and rally all available parties (for instance, the long unappreciated Joan, who gets bumped up a league this week) to climb aboard his silver-tongued ship. And the final trope ripped straight from the Regal Beagle: the Draper family's pyramid of secrecy. Sally, on a trip into the city to A) attend the funeral of her prep school roommate's mother, and B) ditch said sob-fest with her far out pals to go shopping in Manhattan, stops into her dad's office to get money for bus fare after misplacing her purse. Naturally, the sights of lovable ol' Lou Avery sitting pretty at the Draper desk rattles Sally, who (along with everyone else in his personal life) has no idea that Don has been saddled with a leave of absence from the company. Sally meets up with her father at his apartment, keeping it a secret that she knows of his unemployment status, while he keeps that very unemployment status a secret... until, after receiving a phone call from Dawn, he learns that she stopped by SC&P earlier in the day. Naturally, he keeps this new information a secret... until Sally gets a call from Joan alerting her to the call from Dawn but keeps it a secret from Don who gets a call from Roger telling him about the call from Joan which he too keeps a secret not knowing that Sally knows that he knows that she knows that he knows until it all erupts in a scene where Phoebe kisses Chandler. Sorry, now I'm mixing up my sitcom references. In truth, the mountain of secrets stops at Dawn's phone call.  AMC Quick diversion — Shirley and Dawn are tossed into chaos this week when their bosses (a lunatic Peggy and an asshat Lou Avery) take issue with the ladies' inability to predict Peggy/Lou's own incompetence. As such, they are jostled around the office in a subplot that plays both like a screwball comedy of errors that warrants Benny Hill music, but also like an tearfully unfuriating window into the "everyday racism," as well as class and gender bigotry, of 1969... and on. Only Mad Men can do a tertiary story this good and dense. After the unprecedently humane ending to Season 6, which saw Don connecting with Sally in a new way over the revelation of his life story (at least pieces of it), it's a little disconcerting to see father and daughter having reverted back to the status quo, instilling the fear that, even after all of the strides taken in this episode, the same might amount at the head of the next week that we see Don and Sally together. But this concern aside, Don and Sally's road trip back up to prep school is some of the show's most favorable material in years. Don can soften at the behest of his daughter in a way that he can't for anyone else — even his sullen admission of pride for Bobby in last season's "The Flood" arrived solely thanks to a few too many drinks and the assassination of Martin Luther King. Having craved a genuine all throughout his younger years, adhered his securities to his beloved Anna Draper (whose memory was evoked this week by a scene of Pete and his real estate agent ladyfriend canoodling in an unfurnished, mid-paint job L.A. house) as some kind of a maternal figure, and "cared over" every woman he has since dated more than actually caring for them, Don has only known how to love from a safe, manufactured distance. But his bond with Sally, which we see more vividly than ever in this episode, is something he can no longer divide from. Truths surface, from all directions, as Don drives Sally back up to school. She learns that her dad has been given the boot, he learns that she skipped out after the funeral to go shopping with her callous friends, we learn that Sally already knows the colorful tale of Richard Whitman, she learns (thanks to Don) that she might not be as cold and cut-off as she might have thought — those Drapers, always priding themselves on unclaimed emotional distance! — and he learns, in the final seconds of the episode, that Sally loves him. With all the work done between Don and Sally in the past few seasons, this episode marking a masterful climax to the arc, I'd be satisfied if Don's final chapter is based entirely in his relationship with his daughter. Hell, her evolution past the point of his grasp and into something that is far more frightening but potentially far more rewarding mirrors the Don/Peggy rapport, although promises (now) to branch off in a more positive direction, so we wouldn't even have to sacrifice the series' favorite relationship were we to devote the majority of Season 7 to the Drapers. Whatever we see of the pair from hereon out, "A Day's Work" does very well to access the brimming pains in each party through its unique counterpart. Nobody can possibly understand how Sally Draper feels all the time but her likewise rotting dad. And — as he now learns over a patty melt and a plate of cold fries, cracking dine-and-ditch jokes , out of the job to which he pinned himself at the expense of a series of bad marriages and meaningless affairs... all, in their own right, distractions from the family he never really learned how to love — he has this same unmatched opportunity in his daughter. Funny. But not Three's Company funny. Episode grade: A-, with bonus points for Dawn and Shirley's lyrical lambasting of their blockhead superiors. Follow @Michael Arbeiter| Follow @Hollywood_com
  • Dr. Jane Goodall and Disneynature's 'Bears' Directors Teach Us About Saving the Planet
    By: Michael Arbeiter Apr 18, 2014
    Disney Generally speaking, a nature documentary can go one of two routes: it can celebrate the dynamism of an animal, educating viewers on the lifestyle, paramount importance, and ecological strifes of the species at hand... or it can go for the cute factor. Disneynature's latest film Bears does not disappoint in either area. The beautiful, clever, and warm film from returning directors Alastair Fothergill and Keith Scholey has a mission to engage America with an animal that often gets a bad rap in the media, and which has faced the brunt of human cruelty for too long. Having renowned ethologist Dr. Jane Goodall on board with production bodes pretty well for the movie, too. Now in theaters, Bears is not only aiming to help the cause of its titular creatures by spreading the good word, but it is also donating a portion of its box office intake to the National Park Foundation. If you attend a showing of the Disneynature movie during its first week in theaters (Friday, April 18 through Friday, April 25) part of your ticket proceeds will go toward the all-important cause of making this world a safer place for animals. We got a chance to talk with directors Fothergill and Scholey, as well as Dr. Goodall, on the importance of the Disneynature films, the state of the natural world, and the majestic creatures of bears themselves. Ever since watching the film, I've been thinking about the way that the media has depicted bears. I'm kind of unsure on this — do you think the media has been unfair or irresponsible in the portrayal of bears? Alastair Fothergill: I think it depends which. There is a scattering and certainly some, I’d say almost notorious films, have been very anti-bear, and you can probably name a few. So I think this portrayal of bears as these big sort of dangerous animals... there’s no doubt bears can be dangerous. The issue with bears is that if you find bears in the wild, where they’ve had no bad experiences with people, and the relationship between people and bears has been managed well, which is exactly the place we filmed, in Katmai National Park, you don’t have a problem with bears. And I think the film, well, we’re not interested in depicting in our story the relationship of people. In the end credits section, in the end, we do tacitly to deal with that issue, because we wanted to make sure that people knew our film was genuinely filmed in the wild, and when you actually see images of cameramen really close to bears and having a subtle relationship, I hope it sends a message out that absolutely, that’s all right. We have to be clear though, that bears, in some places, you know, have had bad experiences with people and the wrong relationships are dangerous. There’s no two ways about it. But it’s not the bear’s fault. It’s nearly always the circumstances. Offering this more positive viewpoint of bears — in a light we don't often see, that they can be peaceful if they have been unharmed by people — I'm wondering what the larger benefits of that are? In an ecological or just psychological way. Dr. Jane Goodall: Well, hopefully, these films, movies, they create for people a sort of intimate connection with animals that they’re unlikely, most of them, ever to find for themselves. Because most people don’t have the luxury of going for weeks and weeks out into wild places. Hopefully young people might then be persuaded to go and spend more time outside, because there really is such a terrifying disconnect between young people and nature today, with all of the electronical gadgets. Living in virtual reality is so different, and the big screen gives you the feeling of being out in a big, wide space. Hopefully it will stir some young people to want to do that themselves. What do you guys think are the actual benefits that come with spending so much time with nature, or interacting with animals? I'm sure there are countless. AS: Oh, golly, that’s a very big question. Obviously for us, who have grown up with a passion for nature, it’s sort of our life blood. But actually, I think it extends towards humanity. I think that even the most urban people need proximity to the natural world. You see, here in New York, people plant grass on rooftops, you know, the High Line is a place to go and see some plants. And I think it’s absolutely rooted in our psyche. One of the things I’ve found working in the wildlife business, whether they’re scientists or filmmakers or conservationists, I think they’re better people for it. They’re nicer people. It’s one of the things I love about my job. I genuinely think people who are fortunate enough to have a lot of exposure to nature... it’s part of our soul. It’s oxygen, I think, and a lot of people are cut off from that natural oxygen. And if we can give them an artificial shot of natural oxygen right in the cinema, then I think it’s very, very precious. And as Jane says, “How can people care if they know?” Keith and I don’t make environmentally – overtly environmental films, but I’m absolutely certain that films that we have made are important in raising people’s awareness. Certainly. Especially children, I think. JG: They’ve actually studies to show that children benefit psychologically from experience with nature. I think it was Chicago, they took two areas of high crime in the inner city, and one of them they greened — in other words, they put plants in vacant lots, window boxes and so forth — and the crime rate just dropped. Disney That kind of leads into something I was thinking about while watching the movie: what can these animals teach us about ourselves? We see the hierarchy of the bears' social structure — the dominant male, the pariah.  KS: I don’t think what we’re trying to do so much is try to tell people what to think about ourselves. I hope that the film is trying to say, “Look, this is how bears live, so understand the life of the bear and respect the life of the bear.” I think we’ve been very true to what it’s like being a bear, you know, some bears do things that we would consider bad, even on biological terms and there is no bad — JG: I’m not so sure about that. [Laughs] KS: [Laughs] It’s a tricky area. But anyway, there’s a sense of being true to what that story is and how they live. But I think fundamentally, what we’re always trying to do is to show – now, you look at this mother bear, you look at what she has to go through to raise those cubs. Look at what those cubs have to go through to become adult bears. So, whenever you see adult bears, you’re looking at a superhero. You’re looking at an animal with a huge history, who’s been through all sorts of amazing things. And wow, isn’t it important, then, to protect that superhero? I can’t believe personally, that someone could get a high-velocity rifle and shoot a superhero. If they knew that story, and what that animal had been through, I don’t think anyone would contemplate doing it. And part and parcel of the film is to try and say all these animals are really special because of what their lives — understand their natural lives. I don’t think it necessarily tells us about ourselves, but it does say, “Wow, those are special.” I have to say, it’s like a piece of art. Would anyone rip up the Mona Lisa? Well, if you didn’t know what it was, you might.  JG: Somebody did. KS: Somebody would, if they didn’t understand it. But if you do understand it, you go, “No, I won’t do that.” JG: Somebody stabbed the Mona Lisa. I think they did. To destroy it — AF: That’s why it’s got glass in front... KS: Oh, okay. AF: There are idiots in the world. [Laughs] JG: Sports hunting. That only furthers your point, I think. KS: But I think if you understand bears, I think you’d have a different view. Hopefully the film will do that.  For me, having not studied bears in any significant way, the movie definitely gives them an empathy. I know that in a lot of your work, Dr. Goodall, a lot of people have found reasons to question whether or not we should empathize with animals. But I think that, clearly, you are all on the side that it is beneficial to. JG: Yeah. There’s been a big danger with science saying that we should be wholly objective and not have any empathy. That’s lead to some very, very nasty happening. And I think we need to work with left and right brain in harmony. And that’s what we have to learn to do. Nature helps you to do that. Animal Planet via Everett Collection I know you said earlier that it wasn't a purpose of the film to teach us about ourselves, but I noticed that there was a little bit of a feminist message at the end. Scout realizes that the "tough bear role model" that he was looking for was actually his mother... AF: I think, it’s quite interesting none of our Disney nature films have made — one called African Cats, I believe — females do tend to turn out to be the good guys... KS: Girls. The good girls.  AF: The good girls, yes. [Laughs] Yes. I think the biological facts are raising cubs, it is females who have complete responsibility for this, and ultimately, if you look at their struggle or the struggle of any female animal raising a youngster to adulthood, it’s the greatest struggle on Earth. You’re always going to end up feeling, empathizing with her. And often males have their own biological agendas that do not fit with the cubs and youngsters’ agenda, in terms of raising them. [Laughs] So I think there’s a natural. We had no... KS: We weren’t trying to make a feminist... It’s just reality of the situation. JG: That's America for you. AF: It’s just organic. And I think the other thing is, so far all the movies we’ve made — African Cats, Chimpanzee — have centered around a young animal growing up. Actually, we regularly discuss “Is there another story we can tell?” The problem is that the babies tend to be very, very cute, and the first few years in the life of the babies tend to be one of the greatest danger and drama. That means, though, they tend to be centered around female heroes, because in lots of animals, in nature, the male tends to do very little other than contribute his genes. One of these days, we need to make a pro-male movie, because in all honesty... KS:  Chimpanzee! AF: Actually, males in chimpanzee certainly have a fantastic role in protecting the other females. Male bears, you know, once they’ve done the deed, they’re gone. KS: Nothing on the horizon about the seahorse, then. AF: My next movie’s about penguins, actually... KS: That’s a 50/50. AF: Yeah, that’s a 50/50, actually. JG: Birds are 50/50. AF: So we’re trying to – we don’t want the men to come out too badly. But a lot of women really love that line, the line you mention. That’s really rung bells with them. And you, know, that's good. And I'd just like to know what you think is the responsibility of the average person to make this a better world for animals and for people. JG: If we think each day about the consequences of our actions we make more ethical choices. And I know that’s true because so many people have told me. What do you buy? Where did it come from? Where do you eat? How did it affect the environment and animals? What do you wear? Was it child slave labor? When it comes to bringing it home to bears, it’s a little bit more difficult. It comes to the general thing of bears, they’re part of a beautiful ecosystem, they’re part of the planet, and we should respect them as such and try to work to ensure that the places where they live are saved. And through our youth program — we already have programs teaching people how to behave. If they have pushed into bear habitats, mainly black bears — and so the bear is trying to get, they raid trash cans. So if people have absolutely bear-proof places for their trash, the bears are much less likely to get into it. AF: I think the thing that’s changed in our lifetime is that when we started in this business, conservation was very about saving pandas, saving chimps — and it still is and so it should be — but actually, it’s reached another level of recognition that even if you don’t care about animals, the planet is in such a state... this is our only planet. And that’s the good news. David Attenborough said to us, when he started the word green meant naïve. The word green means something totally different now. And I think there’s an awareness of the need to protect chimps, bears, the wilderness, forests for us to breathe. It’s no longer down the bottom of political agenda. It’s almost at the top of the political agenda, really. JG: In some countries. AF: Yeah, in some countries. I agree with you, Jane. There’s a lot where finance and money still rules, but we have to be optimistic. And I think you have to get out of bed and say, "We’re saving a planet." You’re not saving the Serengeti, you’re saving a planet. And of course, the Serengeti is a very important part of that planet, but I think it’s reached a completely high level. It’s not fluffy bunnies anymore. Not that there’s anything wrong with fluffy bunnies. [Laughs] JG: When I started back in 1960, there was no need to conserve chimps. Their forests stretched right across. There were a million chimps. KS: I know. I think this is what’s so shocking is how fast the situation’s changed. For a biologist it’s ridiculously fast. One understands evolution, biology, it’s almost like a meteorite hit the planet, it’s so rapid, and it’s just kind of trying to contain the situation, for want of anything else to try. I think for all of us now, time hasn’t quite run out, but it’s getting very, very close. JG: And the thing which nobody will talk about, because it’s politically insensitive, and that’s human population, which underlies everything. We’re not supposed to talk about it. Tanzania’s been congratulated by the government for taking the lead on family planning in that part of Tanzania. Because governments are starting to get it. Because there ain’t 'nuff space. Get your tickets to Disneynature's Bears now (while you can still contribute to the cause!) Follow @Michael Arbeiter| Follow @Hollywood_com
  • 'X-Men: Days of Future Past' Joins the Ranks of the Best Uses of Led Zeppelin in Movies
    By: Michael Arbeiter Apr 16, 2014
    X-Men Movies/YouTube With the band's reputation for selectivity in mind, it's a special treat whenever we get to hear a Led Zeppelin tune in the backdrop of a film, television show, or — perhaps even most effectively — movie trailer. The genius of any Zep symphony, doubled in impact by its exclusivity, can make any scene or montage land with paramount vigor. Without the inimitable ditty that is "Kashmir" playing behind the action, the time-traveling, troops-rallying, silver-quickening third and final trailer for X-Men: Days of Future Past might not have been as invigorating as it is today. In fact, Bryan Singer actually released the trailer without "Kashmir," realized it was lacking something essential, and then traveled back to 1975 to incur an alternate universe in with Jimmy Page would ultimately agree to its inclusion in the video... now if only I can apply that same technology toward producing a timeline in which I didn't make that joke. But I can't, and he did, and the world we live in now has an excellent final teaser for the upcoming flick:   I'll be a fool in the rain if that ain't a pretty acceptable use of Zep in the cinematic form. But we're inclined to course back through the rows of the lucky elite that have been granted access to the harmonies of Page, Robert Plant, John Bonham, and John Paul Jones and determine which movie can lay claim to the very best use of Led Zeppelin on the big screen. X-Men Movies/YouTube 8) Shrek the Third: Snow White conjures woodland creatures to do her nefarious bidding via "The Immigrant Song." 7) Argo: A diagetic recording of "When the Levee Breaks" plays as CIA Agent Ben Affleck is told his mission is a failure.  6) Fast Times at Ridgemont High: When it comes down to "makin' out," there's nothing better than "Kashmir." 5) School of Rock: Jack Black giddily rocks out to "The Immigrant Song" while driving his misfit students to Battle of the Bands. (Note: the below clip is in German, which makes Jack Black even funnier.) 4) Cemetery Junction: Zep's somber "The Rain Song" introduces the opening titles of this little known indie drama. 3) La Crabe-Tambour: Uh, something about a war? Anyway, "Kashmir" is playing.  2) Almost Famous gets bonus points for using "That's the Way," "Misty Mountain Hop," "The Rain Song," "Bron-Y-Aur," and "Tangerine" (plus "Stairway to Heaven" in a deleted scene). 1) Silver Linings Playbook: Bradley Cooper breaks down to "What It Is and What Should Never Be." There were a handful of other instances of Zep used in film, including The Fighter, Small Soldiers, and a ton of "adult" movies, but we stuck to the ones with available videos (and yes, we're included ripped clips from German bootlegs in the parameters of "available videos"). Anyway, catch X-Men: Days of Future Past in theaters May 23. Follow @Michael Arbeiter| Follow @Hollywood_com
  • Who Had the Best Insults on This Week's 'Veep'? ('The Choice')
    By: Michael Arbeiter Apr 13, 2014
    HBO Quickly enough, the varied rage-aholics comprising Vice President Selena Meyer's immediate staff have eased back into their insult- and obscenity-spouting M.O.s, churning out a whole bunch of hostility in the second episode of the stellar comedy's Season 3. This week, Selena faces the stresses of having to choose a new stance on abortion in light of her POTUS' quick shift toward the pro-life side. Naturally, the high-tension situation brings out a lot of colorful language in her crew. But who topped the lot with the harshest one-liners? 7. Secretary of the In-terror: JONAH "Old Media like the Washington Toast better run and hide in the bathroom and join the Poo York Times."Oh Jonah... "F**k HuffPo. They should be called 'PuffHo,' because Ariana Huffington is a straight-up ho and all they do is puff pieces."...you horrible idiot. 6. Abhor-ney General: SUE "[Selena] is on the Coast Guard boat. Meeting and greeting fish."Self-explanatory. Somehow a much funnier line than it sounds like it would be.  "I don't need an enhanced roll to know my worth, Gary."After Gary explodes with giddiness over his being asked to handle a task over Sue. 5. Secretary of Offense: BEN Responding to Selena's sarcastic quip about the existence of an "I don't give a s**t" lobby:"You're looking at him. I've got posters, buttons... not really. Because I don't give a s**t." "I can't get POTUS to wave his transvaginal wand and make it go away." What do you even make of this? "It would take a brain about this sizeMocking Gary's display of fruits representing the sizes of fetuses at different stages of gestation. "I'm going home. If anybody needs me, I don't care."A classic, always. HBO 4. Secretary of Treachery: MIKE "Walt, Randal, this is Sasquatch. The edible garbage is out back."Introducing his new stepsons to Jonah. "'Copy Cat Selena,' that's what they'll say. 'Me Too Meyer.' 'S**t for Brains.'"Predicting the public's antagonism for Selena's decision to mimic the abortion cut-off of another candidate. 3. Secretary of Hate: SELENA "It begins here. In this Polish dungeon."Selena's grinning dismissal of her Maryland campaign office. "I can’t identify myself as a woman. People can’t know that. Men hate that. And women who hate women hate that… which, I believe, is most women."Regrettable bonus points for putting down her gender as a whole. "You let that unstable piece of human scaffolding into your house?"To Mike, about Jonah. "I can't listen to that Joan Crawford b**ch about Bette Davis anymore."In the parameters of this insult, Ben is Joan Crawford and Kent is Bette Davis. "I accept your apology while retaining the right to fire the f**k out of you. Should I print that up on a t-shirt that I can give to you?"Said to Dan, following his outburst over her inability to make a decision on the abortion issue. It's at once horrifying, condescending, and hilarious. 2. Vicious Vice-President: AMY "You just gonna sit there, SpongeBob?"Mocking Dan for his seasickness. It's not so much the insult itself, but Amy's ability to make such a banal joke so pointedly mean that wins her points here. "Tell Mike to climb off his wife and get on speakerphone now."I'm picking up on a very subtle undercurrent that everybody hates Mike's new wife. Or at least the idea of another human being entering their lives in a personal capacity. "Jesus, what a talking gas giant. It's like listening to Jupiter."About Maddox. "Moving on, and Dan may be quite soon..."Immediately following Selena's threats to oust Dan from his job. The callousness of her noting that Dan might actually get fired is what makes this such a gem. "Go home. Take an ambien. Take 50."Said to Dan. Jeez, Amy really hates Dan. "'Twenty-two-and-a-half Weeks' sounds like an erotic thriller."Putting down Gary's suggestion for an abortion cut-off. She could have just said 'no' ... but she's an artist. 1. The President of Put-Downs: DAN "You don't announce your candidacy while the incumbent is still warm. That's like trying to bang the widow at the funeral."Putting down Gary's suggestion that Selena tell the world she's running for president. He could have just said 'no' ... but he's a wizard. "That s**t-shoveled-faced-f**kin' Jonah."I don't even know what this means. "I am going to rip your guts out of your tiny, shriveled little Chihuahua c**k."To Jonah. "Hey, Ugly Betty, give me that burrito."To Jonah's friend. "If you say anything about the Veep, I will break your legs so severely you will end up normal height."To Jonah. But Dan's real genius comes in the nonverbal form this week, blowing up at Selena to the point of physical tremors and shoving aforementioned burrito into Jonah's face as a symbol of his menace. Both are sights to behold from the usually stoic-to-the-point-of-soulless Dan. NICE THINGS GARY SAID "Every angel needs an archangel!"In this scenario, he's the angel and Selena is the archangel. Gary... you weirdo. Follow @Michael Arbeiter| Follow @Hollywood_com
  • 'Mad Men' Season 7 Premiere Recap: Don Draper Goes Hollywood (But Leaves Because He Hates It)
    By: Michael Arbeiter Apr 13, 2014
    AMC Is he talking to us? That’s the first of many questions that Mad Men provokes of us with its final season premiere. The episode opens with ol’ Freddy Rumsen delivering a doozy of an ad campaign pitch to the fourth wall — Acutron watches: not timepieces, but conversation pieces! — and laying down some metaphorical lingo in pretty thick globs: “Are you ready? Because I want you to pay attention. This is the beginning of something.” An interesting, if not cheeky way to kick off the very last season of a show whose M.O. is the waiting game for the other shoe to drop. The first reveal is that Freddy is pitching to Peggy, making ends meet as a freelance ad man since he can’t land a steady gig. The next reveal about the pitch comes much later on in the episode: it was Don’s, not Freddy’s. Yes, Don can still write one heck of a sales pitch. He doesn’t have a job, can’t conflate his past and present selves, finds no solace in his decaying marriage, doesn’t seem to fit in well in the backwards world of Los Angeles (nor his own New York), isn’t keeping up with his contemporaries, and might be all but a phantom in the eyes of his daughter. But he can still pitch. AMC We pick up with Don midway through a flight out to L.A. to meet Megan, taking new steps professionally but still strained to find her own happiness or comfort in her relationship with her husband. The difference: Megan is otherwise flourishing, and seems resentfully anchored down by the marriage whereas Don is desperate to define himself by its success…albeit hardly able to work toward that. No longer able to identify as an industry fixture, Don courses through L.A. in hopes of discovering new soils to plan himself. He is unnerved by Megan’s silent (save for the coyotes) mountaintop home — he purchases the biggest, most obnoxious TV imaginable to stave off the very idea of idle thought. He meets up with former Big Apple purist Pete Campbell, now a resident of La La Land and in a big way: Pete’s tan and crisp, knots a sweater around his chest, and talks about his new home like it’s some kind of new medical advancement that the Neanderthals back East can’t seem to give way to. But this isn’t where Don belongs. Though nor is New York, not any longer. The most significant scene in the episode comes during Don’s flight back to the city, when a widowed Neve Campbell offers her own sad stories before suggesting a romantic union back at her Manhattan pad. But Don, perhaps sure (for now, anyway… Neve Campbell can’t possibly be a one-time guest, can she?) that he’ll find no self-worth in this affair and afraid to face that vacant reflection once more, instead heads back to his own place, where he shares a sandwich with Freddy Rumsen and admits (to the audience) to being the true author of Freddy’s pitch to Peggy. From his throne atop the apex of the Madison Avenue world of the 1960s, Don has fallen to a depth where he might find himself sharing sausage heroes with Freddy Rumsen on a weekday afternoon, delighting in his likewise unemployable company and offering him pitch material because it’s the only way he knows how to keep his pulse running. In Freddy, he who was once known by his kingdom as the epitome of failure, Don now grasps for equity. Or superiority. He aims to weigh Freddy down to his own level of duplicity by affording him campaigns too good to pass over. But even this poor sap, a nice fellow who has kicked the sauce and is simply doing what he can to bring home the bacon, isn’t anchored to Don’s valleys. Upon a visit to Don’s apartment, Freddy bemoans the cocked balcony door: it’s freezing in here. Even Freddy Rumsen can see that you’re living in a grave, empty, toxic state, Don. And one that, much like his jammed door, doesn’t seem like it can be mended. Big Question No. 2: Why is Peggy crying? This one isn’t so much a mystery — Peggy breaks down at the end of the hour following a long line of heavy, heartbreaking frustrations — as much as it is something to reflect on. We see her at sticky odds with Don’s replacement, the folksy Lou Avery, who deems himself “immune to her charms” when Peggy tries to work him over on Freddy/Don’s magnificent pitch… to no avail. We see her, the super of her own building, dealing with agitated tenants and plumbing faux pas. We see her disgruntled over her at work relationships: with former lover Ted and affectionate buddy Stan. We see her practically begging her brother-in-law to spend the night on her couch so that she won’t have to 'fess up to her cloying loneliness. And then we see her break down in tears. So, yeah, somewhat of an easy question, but still one to ponder on: what, really, does Peggy need? Considering the fact that we thought she might be traveling skyward by now (the last shot of Season 6 was a positive hint), it’s a little flummoxing to see Peggy at such a low. This is Don’s low point, but we expected her to be finding new avenues by now. Will we have to wait until the tail end of the series to see Peggy ascend, or will the weeks to come rip her from this melancholy and pin her with something in the vein of hope? Next: Is Roger’s daughter in a cult? Hypothesis: Yes. Roger’s daughter — who shows up unexpectedly to tell him that she “forgives him,” explaining that she has found a spiritual enlightenment that he would never understand — is in a cult. And I hope whatever is going on there comes back into play, because it’s quite chilling. Finally, we get to Joan, who battles with a Doogie Howser of a shoe company executive (Dan Byrd, from Cougar Town) to fend off his company’s decision to create an in-house ad team, proud to be on the (more or less) successful end of the sort of battle for which she’s been vying for quite a while, but certainly not yet free of the shackles that have plagued her for so long: in one episode, Joan accuses the exec of not taking her seriously and accuses a business professor of insinuating that he wants to sleep with her in exchange for information. Considering her history, both fair. Although both did wind up surprising her, pleasantly. It was only back home, at Sterling Cooper & Partners, that Joan did find herself unsurprisingly disrespected: by Ken Cosgrove, who gave her lip for the whole ordeal even after she had done her part in keeping Cougar Town from abandoning SC&P. The world outside of the company where she has spent (said with a sigh) the past 16 years might be ready for Joan, but that company surely is not. One final question: which is better, a New York sausage hero or a Los Angeles “Brooklyn Avenue” sandwich? Episode Grade: A-, with special bonus points for Ken Cosgrove’s diminished hand-eye coordination and Pete’s majestically douchey L.A. attire. Follow @Michael Arbeiter| Follow @Hollywood_com
  • Review: 'Oculus' Digs Deep Into Its Ideas to Offer an Interesting and Scary Horror Movie
    By: Michael Arbeiter Apr 11, 2014
    Relativity Media via Everett Collection It seems only fair to mention that growing up, I was terrified of mirrors. Couldn't look at them, couldn't sleep with them in the room, could barely even think about them for fear of conjuring up the darkest conceivable images of what might be living on the other side of their nefarious glass faces. So, yes, I might have been an easy mark when it came to Oculus. But even without lingering childhood phobias, you won't walk away from the film free of tremors. Even more impressively, those looking for something meatier than a few jump scares won't be disappointed either. Oculus paints itself with a long, coarse, hyperactive mythology, granting us a "history" of the demonic mirror in question that dates back to centuries and abounds many questions. But really, the conceit is simple: it's a mirror that f**ks with people. It makes you see things, makes you think things, and makes you do things you wouldn't ordinarily. It ruined the lives of two children when it corrupted and killed their parents (Katee Sackhoff and Rory Cochrane), and threatens to finish the deed when the estranged siblings reunite in adulthood to enact revenge. Tim (Brenton Thwaites) has spent the past decade in a mental hospital, chalking up the supernatural nightmares of his childhood to psychiatric delusions. His sister Kaylie (Karen Gillan), the "together one" with a job and a fiancé, has spent her time tracking down the haunted antique to do away with it once and for all. Back in their old house with the mirror in her possession, Kaylie sets her meticulously constructed plan into action, with a reluctant Tim in tow.  And yes, obviously, everything goes awry. Relativity Media via Everett Collection The mirror's grasp on the minds of its victims exhibits an impressive imagination in writer/director Mike Flanagan. Oculus doesn't hit us with a long supply of ghoulish figures, opting instead for haunting mind games that really land in the construction of an unsettling aura: because of the nature of the mirror's powers, we never know if and when what we're seeing is real. It's not a particularly new conceit for horror or thriller, but it's one that works well. Especially when you're engaged with the people suffering through this tormenting reality. And we are. The horror of the movie isn't relegated to the mirror's demonic trickery. The far more interesting material exists between the emotionally distant siblings. While Kaylie clings to the only companion she has in the trauma that tore her family apart, Tim wants to leave his nightmares behind him, and perhaps his sister as well. Jumping between flashbacks and the current timeline, Oculus plays with relationships in a terrific way: those between parent and child, husband and wife, brother and sister, and — most importantly — past and present selves.   Oculus is far from a "fun" movie, but it does seem to be playing a few games with its ideas — the ideas inherent in the malleability of perception, or the delicateness of relationships. Although it doesn't quite deliver in its conclusion, Oculus works through its premise with aplomb. While it might well have gotten away with the concept of a "spooky mirror" just fine, it opts instead to tackle many of the concepts that horror was invented to explore. And the result isn't just interesting, it's genuinely scary. 3.5/5 Follow @Michael Arbeiter| Follow @Hollywood_com
  • Review: 'Draft Day' Is an Aggressively Dull Film That Substitutes Stats for Story
    By: Michael Arbeiter Apr 11, 2014
    Summit Entertainment via Everett Collection When a movie opts to play inside baseball with a particular industry, it runs two risks: alienating the people outside looking in ("What the hell is all this mumbo jumbo?"), or alienating the people tightly connected to the underworld on display ("They got it all wrong!"). On special occasions, you have a film like Draft Day, which strikes out in both areas, somehow feigning expertise with such vigor as to befuddle strangers to behind-the-scenes football and frustrate those with an inborn knowledge of the underworld. As a member of the former community, I was bored stiff by the nonstop industry jabber. I was surprised to find, after our viewing of the movie, that a sports-savvy friend was even more aggravated with the film for everything they got so very, very wrong. But really, neither of these is the true crime of Draft Day. Even on the promise of delivering a bona fide curtain pull on the NFL, all the film really owes us is a good story. Instead, Draft Day banks on the appeal of its would-be authenticity — this is how football people talk, act, eat, do business, grimace, throw laptops on draft day! — as a stand-in for any material we might otherwise be able to care about. The film slaps Kevin Costner's Sonny Weaver Jr., beleaguered general manager of the Cleveland Browns, with just about every go-to leading man conflict in the book (problems at work, problems with his girlfriend, problems with his family) in hopes that something will land in the neighborhood of emotional legitimacy... or, more plausibly, in hopes that it'll play enough like an attempt at a screenplay to warrant all the stats talk he's really there to spout. His supporting cast has even less to do — Jennifer Garner is his all smiles romantic partner whose vehement love for football is supposed to make her interesting to us (What?! But she's a girl!). Ellen Burstyn is Sonny's disapproving mother, who has a penchant for wistful staring. Denis Leary is a coach who yells a lot. Summit Entertainment via Everett Collection The one vein of character work that stands out as a near success comes attached to the line of potential drafts. Josh Pence plays draft frontrunner Bo Callahan who Sonny has a bad feeling about. Chadwick Boseman is the underdog linebacker who we know we're supposed to like because he takes his nephews to gymnastics. In a post-Moneyball world, Sonny is accessing the humanity in the boys he's considering for a career on his field. Hell, he's even willing to overlook the troubled past of Arian Foster because he trusts the boy's dad (I think Terry Crews is contractually obligated to appear in any movie about football). It's thin material that amounts to a disjointed explosion, but it rings as the movie's most interesting stuff. Unfortunately, it's couriered through Sonny, a character who we're barely allowed to meet. The tragedy of this conclusion is that most of the cast members, Costner included, are giving moreover enjoyable performances — accolades in particular to 25-year-old Griffin Newman as fish-out-of-water intern Rick, suffering through the worst first day of work imaginable. The small comedy offered by Newman and a few others (bullpen fixtures like Wade Williams and Veep's Timothy Simons) is treated like an occasional garnish, but amounts to much-craved sustenance when it pervades the tasteless and stale football blather.   Blather that will detract anybody just hoping to catch a fun sports movie, and blather that will turn off the most high-minded of football fans craving some degree of industrial accuracy. In either case, the blather exists in absence of much otherwise. Without any real characters operating in this dense, hectic, ostensibly colorful world of the NFL, it feels as vacant as Sun Life Stadium on opening weekend. (Right?) 2/5 Follow @Michael Arbeiter| Follow @Hollywood_com
  • How Can The Real Stephen Colbert Make His Character Work on 'The Late Show'?
    By: Michael Arbeiter Apr 10, 2014
    Comedy Central We’ve been watching Stephen Colbert for years now — for eight years on The Daily Show and the past nine on The Report. We’ve seen him mold the jingoistic dork who bears his name into an icon of modern satire, skewering current events and lampooning punditry five nights a week for just shy of a decade. We’ve seen Colbert degrade the English language, vie for immortality in the form of a Hungarian bridge, forward the movement against wrist violence, run for president, wrestle Jon Stewart at the 2012 Emmys, and inspire a delightful grouchiness in childhood author Maurice Sendak. We’ve seen lots of Stephen Colbert. But we really have no idea what he’s like. But this man that we’ve yet to meet, save for rare candid interviews or pre-shtick recordings we might be lucky enough to have found on the web, seems to be the one we'll be spending the rest of our days with. Naturally, Colbert’s new residence on The Late Show, announced on Thursday via The New York Times, won’t foster this degree of caricature. As such, it’s natural for fans of the Colbert Report, even (or perhaps especially) the most diehard of the bunch, to approach the news of the comedian’s ascension to network TV with apprehension. We don’t know what he can do without the good graces of his O’Reilly-inspired alter ego. We’re not sure what a genuine Stephen Colbert interview will carry — when he’s not belittling, accosting, or deliberately misunderstanding his guests, can he still be funny? We'll have to wait until 2015 for a proper answer to this first question, although we're comfortable with a resounding "probably." But in mourning the impending loss of The Colbert Report's main character, we have to take a look at his fellow late night players, and the game itself. In earnest, Colbert is the only one of the lot who has been working from the soils of true fiction, but the industry entails some degree of trimming and hedging. The cameras add 10 pounds of performative composure and well-rehearsed shtick, and the good ones keep their elements as vivid as Colbert has his Bill O'Reilly sendup. So the second question is: which of these greats will show Colbert how to handle the balance of his Comedy Central icon and the South Carolinian who pronounces his last name with an audible "T"?  Gone by the wayside since Johnny Carson's retirement is the viewing audience's adherence to the "familial" in its crowning of a replacement late night king. With a long line from which to choose, we want characters. Maybe Jay Leno held good ratings thanks to his ability to play accessible and nonthreatening, but in the days of Internet criticism, professional and public alike, that translates to amorphous. There's no Jay Leno identity beyond the high-voiced bobblehead you'll find in too many stand-up comedy routines. Leno and his ilk have fallen to the new. We want the opportunity to dig through a collection of oddballs each night, satisfying whatever cravings the preceding hours have inspired. We have that opportunity in David Letterman's crotchety cynic (who has always been, as a cultural fixture, far ahead of his time). In Jimmy Fallon's wide-eyed cherub. In Jon Stewart's put-upon nebbish. These are the characters these men have built, accessing something between relatability — face it, angrier people like Letterman and happier people like Fallon — and the special, distanced elation you get from watching a skilled actor work his comedic magic. With so many balancing acts of varying aptitude — Chelsea Handler plays on sauciness, Jimmy Kimmel on boyish impetulance, Craig Ferguson on the residual mania of his dark past — Colbert has no shortage of professors to guide him through his early semesters in the CBS gig. But the best teacher of the lot to help Colbert tailor his character to the network form might very well be Conan O'Brien, who has managed from Late Night on to manufacture a most meticulous exaggeration of his gawky, psuedo-psychotic personality to maintain through bits, interviews, man-on-the-street routines, and even appearances in other media. It's really a shame he didn't get tenure. It's natural to bemoan the loss of a character as important as Colbert's, or to fear that his greatness might not carry over to a new style of performance. But we have to remember that even in taking the stage as himself, performance is the most essential part of his new job. He might not bluster about as the right-wing blowhard we've come to love, but he sure as hell won't let his penchant for character craft and self-parody go untapped. He'll need it now more than ever. Follow @Michael Arbeiter| Follow @Hollywood_com
  • Who Had the Best Insults in the 'Veep' Season Premiere?
    By: Michael Arbeiter Apr 06, 2014
    HBO You haven't been able to explain why, but for some reason the past few months have felt... nicer. Friendlier. More humane. Like the world's cynical edge has faded into a general aura of good intentions and widespread compassion. Well, hopefully you haven't gotten to used to it, because the mean streak you used to know is back — Veep has returned for its third season on HBO, coming back in full force with the very best insult comedy on contemporary television. This season, we're going to hone in on which of the series' characters is leading the pack in general misanthropy by ranking the best barbs of every episode. We start off with the season premiere, which sees Vice President Selena Meyer (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) on a book tour through Iowa as the rest of her staff is back home in D.C. for Mike's (Matt Walsh) wedding to a reporter named Wendy. Due to Mike's unprecedented giddiness, he sat the week out in the insults game, but his colleagues were on point in terms of disses, put-downs, hostile barbs, biting reproaches, and your run of the mill bullying. Who won the race with the coldest zingers? 6. Abhor-ney General: JONAH "I'm leaving here with my head held high and my nuts hanging low on your mom's chin, Martin."Jonah's unimpressive, infantile sign-off after he's been fired from the White House for running a gossiptainment blog. 5. Secretary of Offense: AMY "Look at you, Dan. You have more nervous tics than a shoe bomber."There's something about Amy's subdued, even-tempered jabs that feel even more hurtful than her cohorts' heated ones. "Jonah, what's the point? You don't show up in photographs."Said, again calmly, when Jonah is trying to worm his way into a group photo at Mike's wedding. Good for a chuckle, but this episode isn't Amy's best. 4. Secretary of Treachery: SUE "Would you like me to mold the cake into a pair of testicles for you, Gary?"To be perfectly honest, neither of Sue's jokes this week (her only two lines in the episode, I might add) are Veep-caliber insults. But Sufe Bradshaw's delivery is impeccable. "I hate how he learned English from pornography."Markedly better; said in response to Jonah's excessive use of phrases like "money shot" in non-sexual context. HBO 3. Secretary of Hate: BEN "Get out of the way or I'll f**king inhale you."Ben yells this at Selena's obscenely incompetent Iowa right-hand man. The believability of the threat makes it so funny. [On the title of Selena's book, New Beginnings: The Next American Dream] "You’re so full of s**t, there’s a colon right smack dab in the middle."Now that's just terrific wordplay. 2. Viscious Vice-President: DAN "I would hate the be the local Iowa guy that’s got to take care of [Selena]. Trying to source Gazpacho in a city that thinks soup is for f**s."An insult to Iowa, Selena, the gay community, and, somehow, Gazpacho. Points for versatility. "What the f**k are you doing here? You weren't invited. Unless you're the Worst Man."This clumsy and obvious clunker docks the usually clever Dan a few points. "Hey, Hepatitis J."Classy, elegant, hilarious. Jonah: "What's Google's number?"Dan: "I don't know, ask Jeeves."Not so much an insult as it is just taunting and aggressively unhelpful. But one of the biggest laughs of the night regardless. 1. The President of Put-Downs: SELENA "Hey, Richard. No offense... you're a catastrophe."Julia Louis-Dreyfus is one of the few comedians who can deliver a line as blunt and unimaginative as this and make it feel sharp. [To Ben] "Good to see your friendly-ish face-ish."In sharp contrast to the former, the beauty of this excellent jab at her friend's personality and appearance is its majestic subtlety. "That bag of wrist-slits got the nomination? With that face and personality?"Boom. Easily the meanest thing said all episode. And she delivers it with that demonic smile. Oh, woe is the world in which she occupies the Oval Office. And since we love Gary so much, we'll also be running this little addition to our weekly insult-off: NICE THINGS GARY SAID "[To Wendy] You look gorgeous! Is that lipstick coral blush? Nicely applied!"Oh, Gary. You sweet soul. Follow @Michael Arbeiter| Follow @Hollywood_com