Author

Michael Arbeiter
Staff editor Michael Arbeiter’s natural state of being can best be described as “mild panic attack.” His earliest memories of growing up in Queens, New York, involve nighttime conversations with a voice from his bedroom wall (the jury’s still out on what that was all about) and a love for classic television that spawned from the very first time he was allowed to watch “The Munsters.” Attending college at SUNY Binghamton, a 20-year-old Michael learned two things: that he could center his future on this love for TV and movies, and that dragons never actually existed — he was kind of late in the game on that one.
  • Review: 'Blended' Is Not Just Bad, It's Uninterestingly Bad
    By: Michael Arbeiter May 23, 2014
    Warner Bros. Pictures via Everett Collection Blended is not the worst thing Adam Sandler has ever done. For my money, that superlative goes to Grown Ups 2, though I've heard dutiful cases for Jack & Jill and That's My Boy as well. But beyond any of these travesties is Blended utterly unworthy of anybody's time. A morbid fascination with what might pass for outsider art in the form of uniquely bad movies like the ones listed above could be enough driving force to check them out. As much as I hated Grown Ups 2, I have to give it credit for at least sending me careening down a valley of explosive ideas. But Blended is wholly uninteresting in its badness. Nothing about it boasts originality, imagination, weirdness, or even the hint that anybody thought about what they were making. It's dumb, it's thick, it's careless. It's bad in all the most useless of ways. If you must know, the "story" sees Sandler and Drew Barrymore, a widower and a divorcee who shared a catastrophic blind date (thanks entirely to the follies of the "lovable" male character), bumping into each other on an African vacation with their respective litters. I won't bother getting into the contrivance that led them to such a profound coincidence, since I'm already agitated over having relived the basic premise. Although they are indelibly incompatible, Sandler and Barrymore gradually bond over a mutual love for their children, and begin to fill the roles of absent parent for each other's kids. Barrymore has two boys, so naturally Sandler needs to teach them how to box and swing a bat. That's what boys do, right? And Sandler's oldest daughter needs Barrymore to teach her how to be girly. Because up until now, she's been into sports, and that just won't do. Warner Bros. Pictures via Everett Collection Seriously, that's a lesson that Sandler learns in this debacle: his daughter, a 15-year-old girl, shouldn't be filling her flighty head with pipe dreams about athletic prowess. She should be dressing up and chasing boys. That's what Barrymore insists, anyway. And never mind what the daughter herself, played by Bella Thorne, has to say about it. The movie doesn't ever bother to get her opinion on the matter. Throughout all its misguided aggressive heteronormativity, Blended forgets that comedy exists in a realm beyond middle-aged men getting hit by parachutes and ostriches. Its only laughs come from fellow vacationer Kevin Nealon — not because his material is any good, just because Kevin Nealon is a naturally funny dude — and Terry Crews as the head of a functional Greek chorus. Admittedly offensive in its depiction of Africans (as is the movie on the whole), the device does manage a few chuckles thanks largely to Crews' physical moxy. But four or five smirks aside, Blended is a wholly humorless, witless, charmless dullard. Something too forgettable to truly hate, but too misguided to shrug off. And even with that logical paradox, it remains bafflingly uninteresting. 1/5 Follow @Michael Arbeiter| Follow @Hollywood_com
  • Review: 'X-Men: Days of Future Past' Is a Perfectly Enjoyable, Meaningless Romp
    By: Michael Arbeiter May 23, 2014
    20th Century Fox Film via Everett Collection Get a good look at the destitute world presented in the very first scenes of X-Men: Days of Future Past, because you won't be spending much time there. In a swift few moments, the movie introduces the stakes (mutant-killing robots called Sentinels have wiped out the majority of the superpowered race and any sympathetic humans), the surviving players — Wolverine (Hugh Jackman), Prof. X (Patrick Stewart), Magneto (Ian McKellen), and a few other marginally present regulars — and the one plan that's just crazy enough to fix everything: send Wolverine back in time to the 1970s, courtesy of Kitty Pryde's (Ellen Page) nifty new sending-people-back-in-time power, so he can prevent the impetus for this colossal nightmare from ever happening. Quicker than Peter Maximoff can divert a league of military bullets while rocking out to Jim Croce, we're out of the black hole of grim turmoil and frolicking about the groovy tunes and alabaster hues of 1973. And from there on out, it's all fun. Wolverine's mission is simple: stop Mystique (Jennifer Bluerence) from killing government scientist Bolivar Trask (Peter Dinklage), the very man who invented the Sentinels... turns out the act of vigilance was a bit counterproductive. But even simpler than Days of Future Past's hero's journey is its quick fix on the time travel problem — you know, the web of logical paradoxes present in every piece of time travel fiction from H.G. Welles to Marty McFly to Looper that draws ire from sci-fi adherents the world over. Kitty spells out the rules from the getgo: Go to sleep in '14Wake up in '73Do stuffWhen you wake back up in '14, that stuff will have been doneThe stuff that everyone did before you went to sleep in '14 will have been undone Bing bang boom. As upfront and easy as high-concept time travel gets. In fact, the guidelines of Days of Future Past's space-time continuum could stand in as the film's general maxim to all viewers: Don't think too much. About any of it. Don't hang too tight to the old stuff, don't worry about the stuff to come, don't even get particularly hung up on the stuff that's happening now. Just enjoy yourself. 20th Century Fox Film via Everett Collection Although framed around a time-bending journey to preempt the inception of a mutant genocide spanning decades, Days of Future Past isn't as much about the legacy of mutants as its premise might have you believe. All of its stories take place within and between '70s-era Charles (James McAvoy), Erik (Michael Fassbender), and Raven (Bluenifer Lawrence), battling their respective Cold War demons — drugs, political unrest, racial inequity — and shared personal discord. As a young Xavier riddled with pain and depression, McAvoy is a tremendous hoot, stealing scenes from all but one of his screen companions: the fast guy. Even more of a testament to Days of Future Past's true nature than its "get in, get out, what happens happens" mentality on time travel is its breakout character, Peter Maximoff, a.k.a. Quicksilver (Evan Peters). Wrangled in as a deus ex machina midway through the picture and offering nothing more than hearty chuckles and flashy action sequences, Quicksilver stands far and beyond the more substantive characters and devices as Days of Future Past's foremost highlight. Not because the laugh-a-minute performance has got much running under the hood, but because DOFP is far more interested in having fun (which he does) than in saying anything (which the others do). Peters is merely the beacon of the movie's joy, not the sole supplier of it. Wolverine's jaunts about the '73 Atlantic coast are deliciously merry. The grab bag of mutants popping out of the movie's seams is a delight. McAvoy's maudlin decadance as a rock bottom Charles is the stuff on which British comedy was founded. Future Past gets its gravity out of the way in the opening sequence; after that, it's all good times. And that's why it gets away with what might otherwise be frustratingly clandestine references to X-Men film history. As lax as Days of Future Past is in its adherence to "the old stuff," picking and choosing what material from the previous films it wishes to deem canon, it seems to bank on the fact that all watching have every one of the franchise's cinematic contrivances fresh on their minds when they arrive for the new chapter. Stingy allowances to the backstories of characters and concepts — William Stryker (played here by Joshua Helman), the memories of Jean Grey (Famke Janssen), and even Raven/Mystique (Bluenibler Bluebluence) — land inches from agonizing obstruction. But even if you're weighted down by your confusion over the nature of elements like these, you're likely to let the joy take hold, because the movie makes it terribly clear that the cool stuff is its top priority.   Although it might lack in the flare of some of its big screen comic book competitors, Days of Future Past does have plenty of "cool stuff" in its arsenal. At the expense, perhaps, of a story that feels perfectly woven, characters that come off as grounded, or a universe that's altogether cohesive, series pioneer Bryan Singer's return to the mutant world is plain ol' enjoyable enough to warrant the scope that it seems like it should have. 3.5/5 Follow @Michael Arbeiter| Follow @Hollywood_com
  • Assessing the Coolness of Everything That Happens in the 'Guardians of the Galaxy' Trailer
    By: Michael Arbeiter May 19, 2014
    This new trailer for Guardians of the Galaxy has hit the web and it, as one might have expected or hoped, is cool. Cool in entirety. Cool incarnate. Every single thing about it is cool. Want proof? Watch it. Want further proof, you maniac? Check out our rundown of every single thing that happens in the trailer and linked assessment of whether each element is, in fact, cool. Establishing shot of a gloomy, destitute temple: That is cool. Peter Quill's (Chris Pratt) disappearing electronic mask-helmet: That is cool. Peter Quill's jet-powered boots flying him out of danger through a hole in the wall: That is cool. Norman Greenbaum's "Spirit in the Sky": That is cool. A giant spaceship: That is cool. A Mos Eisley-like hub for alien menaces: That is cool. Hovering robots staring down a shirtless Peter Quill: That is cool. Peter Quill juggling what is likely some kind of spherical robotic entity or explosive devise: That is cool. Rocket Raccoon (Bradley Cooper) and Groot (Vin Diesel), doing their thing (thang?): That is cool (kewl?). Gamora (Zoe Saldana) slicing and dicing: That is cool. Drax the Destroyer (Dave Bautista) head-butting somebody: That is cool. The personification of evil taking form in a dark, stoically seated figure: That is cool. An ominous hand crushing an orb of power: That is cool. Marvel Studios Peter Quill's rallying underdog speech: That is cool. "This August" title card: That is cool. Aerial shot of a futuristic military base: That is cool. Everybody walking around on a stone circle reminiscent of something out of Legend of Zelda: That is cool. Glenn Close's haircut: That is cool. The expositional establishment of the stakes in this movie: That is cool. Explosive debris raining down from a gigantic ship: That is cool. A door shaped like a circle: That is cool. Bradley Cooper's Will Arnett impression: That is cool. Rocket Raccoon and Groot losing their s**t: That is cool. Gamora losing her s**t: That is cool. A shot of the gang in prison jump suits: That is cool. Peter Serafinowicz cowering: That is cool. Peter Quill losing his s**t: That is cool. A giant skull: That is cool. Marvel Studios Peter Quill's awed gasp syncing up with the rhythm of "Spirit in the Sky": That is cool. Body slam!: That is cool. Explosion: That is cool. Drax the Destroyer's knife-wielding shot: That is cool. A haze of fire droplets that resemble Navi from Legend of Zelda: That is cool. Ships zooming through an electric field: That is cool. Peter Quill's speech continues: That is cool. Groot giving a little girl a flower: That is cool. Peter Quill and Gamora watching each other undress: That is cool as long as they're both okay with it. Rocket Raccoon's quip about his species' lifespan: That is cool. Drax the Destroyer losing his s**t: That is cool. Gamora screaming into the face of a creature that resembles a Na'vi... not from Legend of Zelda, from Avatar, in which Saldana actually played a Na'vi, which is maybe why I'm making such a gratuitous jump to that connotation when, really, the creature doesn't look all that much like a Na'vi: That is cool. Robot laser: That is cool. Various explosions, shots of anthropomorphic neighborhood pests yelling: That is cool. Strangling: That is cool. Marvel Studios Benicio Del Toro doing that thing that Ross and Monica did to discretely flip off their parents: That is cool. Gamora and Peter Quill near-kissing while she wears his headphones: That is cool. Drax the Destroyer conducting an orchestra of mayhem: That is cool. Groot: That is cool. A windstorm of peril: That is cool. Zoe Saldana's hand: That is cool. The hulking device into which Peter Quill's audio cassette tape is hooked: That is cool. "Hooked on a Feeling" by Blue Swede: That is cool, but I was enjoying "Spirit in the Sky." Peter Quill's solo march: That is cool. Gamora's semi-solo march: That is cool. Drax the Destroyer cocking his head a little, as if to insinuate himself a bit more subtly than did his peers, which is ironic since he is perhaps the least subtle in physical form and personal nature of the gang: That is cool. Groot's nifty shoulder trick: That is cool. Groot saying, "I am Groot": That is cool. I really like Groot. Rocket Raccoon showcasing his self-esteem in a maxim of circular logic: That is cool. Rocket Raccoon adjusting his crotch: That is cool, I guess. The gang's prideful march: That is cool. John C. Reilly introducing the name of the movie: That is cool. John C. Reilly lamenting his lot in life, and the fate of the universe altogether: That is cool. More prideful marching: That is cool. Rocket Raccoon yelling: That is cool. This movie looks cool. Follow @Michael Arbeiter| Follow @Hollywood_com
  • 'Mad Men' Recap: I'm Drinking Rum and Dancing to Sinatra
    By: Michael Arbeiter May 19, 2014
    AMC This weekend was a kind one to Don — it saw him win the lead in a Burger Chef pitch and entertain an unprecedentedly agreeable visit from Megan. But Mad Men has no interest in this brand of kindness, using the façade of the perfect weekend to showcase just how vacant everything in the man’s life seems to be. Well, almost everything. The real victory, beyond occupational leaps or oases of marital harmony, is that long-awaited smile from Peggy: the establishment that once again, these two are in this wicked run together. Coming to form at the head of such a (deceptively) smooth episode after a seasonal throughline of potent animosity, the ultimate achievement at first feels like a bit of a forced utility, rushed into production in order to satisfy Mad Men’s seven-episode semi-season. But a well-placed scene from Joan exemplifies just what Peggy’s smile truly means, to Don and to us. Back in New York after a successful stay in Detroit, Bob Benson awakens to the callous face of homophobia — his Chevy rep, likewise a gay man struggling to hide his identity from friends and colleagues, winds up in at the courthouse after an attempted sexual encounter with an undercover cop. Bob retreats further into his own folds of secrecy after seeing just how unforgiving the world (or maybe just New York) is to men like them and springs a marriage proposal on his beloved pal Joan. Sharper than he, and just about everybody on this planet, has given her credit for being, Joan rejects the arrangement, identifies Bob’s true desires, and spells out the fact that they should both wait for true, organic happiness instead of forcing the fates in their favor. Again, her diatribe comes off a little heavy-handed for the likes of Mad Men, at least on first viewing. But the sequence is masterfully situated between Peggy’s initial smile at Don, who has joined her in the otherwise empty office on a Sunday afternoon — him lamenting his dead-from-the-neck-up marriage to Megan and her writhing in the inadequacy of her Burger Chef pitch and, more so, the fact that she has nothing else to care about — and their devolution into eye-welling, throat-quavering admissions of desperation for one another, at least at this point in time. AMC Just as we might have felt at the forefront, Peggy’s grin is rather forced. And that’s because as uninterested as Mad Men is in giving its characters perfect lives, it is even less interested in giving them perfect moments. We have been waiting for Peggy to hinge herself to Don once more; Don has been aching for this emancipation from her contempt. But nobody has suffered more from this period than Peggy herself, manufacturing a connection to Don over his espousal of lessons that seem like they should have come at the very beginning of her career (“Here’s what you do when you have writer’s block…”). Unlike Joan, Peggy is willing to push her way into the embrace of a hand-crafted happiness. She is willing to redefine what “family” means — both for herself and her Burger Chef clients, centering her revised pitch around the reappropriation of the word — in order to make her days a little more livable. But unlike Joan, Peggy has something in the man kneeling before her. The man who insists on a dance to the radio’s broadcast of Frank Sinatra’s “My Way.” Both victims of the job who have seen everything else in their lives suffer its merciless bite, they are reminded this week that neither one is on this course alone. They just happen to be traveling in opposite directions. In the Benjamin Button story of Don’s corrosive decline and Peggy’s bumpy ascent, this week might well mark their “meeting in the middle” moment. A stark reversal to the series favorite “The Suitcase,” we see Don returning in part a heavy favor owed to Peggy: validation. Validation of the idea that all this time spent huddled over a desk, spilling guts into the work, relegating oneself to the parameters of a business card might very well have meant something to somebody. He could instead be teaching her that a life might be better off spent anyplace else, but in Peggy Don has somebody else that could never comprehend such a fallacy. The episode is arranged in such a way as to excel on two levels. At first, we see everything play out perfectly: Don reclaims his position in Peggy’s heart, she snags her ingenious pitch, and the both of them, and Pete Campbell (having scared his daughter, accosted his ex-wife, and disappointed his Angelino girlfriend), form their own brand of family over a Burger Chef meal. But Mad Men, and this episode about would-be perfect moments, is better than perfect: it’s human, knowing that the turn of true value isn’t Don, Peggy, and Pete finding “the family they were seeking all along” in one another, it’s the admission that what they’ve been seeking all along might no longer exist, if it ever did. But, unlike Joan, they’re willing to put up the front if it means not having to dine alone. Episode grade: A, with bonus points for Pete Cambell merrily shouting "I'm drinking rum!" Follow @Michael Arbeiter| Follow @Hollywood_com
  • All the Shots of People Staring in Wistful Silence in the New 'Interstellar' Trailer
    By: Michael Arbeiter May 16, 2014
    In 2011, cinematic scholar and prolific movies writer Matt Patches pioneered a special appreciation for the Spielberg Face. For those yet untouched by the phenomenon, the Spielberg Face is that look of childlike awe and wonder you're guaranteed to find on the mug of any of the enchanting filmmaker's big screen heroes. It's a staple of the artist's filmography — while Steve certainly has the market cornered on whimsy, a few other directors seem to have adopted the silent stare to exemplify their own psychological brand. In the trailer for his new film Interstellar, the nihilistic Christopher Nolan appears to be doing just that: directing every one of his actors to stare off into a vacant distance in a fugue state of wistful, hapless sorrow. Take a look! YouTube/Warner Bros. UK Trailers At the :24 mark, Casey Affleck looks out upon the wasteland that has become of his beloved Earth, saying nothing, as his beard constricts his jaw from moving properly. YouTube/Warner Bros. UK Trailers At :43, a field of baseball players call a TO on what must not be that important of a game to begin with (they don't even have numbers, or logos, or anything) to quiety stare down a dust cloud. YouTube/Warner Bros. UK Trailers And here we find our hero Matthew McConaughey, dipping into his long untouched vault of emotional expressiveness to glare out his Deep South screen door without so much as a word for the cornless fields before him. [:55] YouTube/Warner Bros. UK Trailers Michael Caine usually has a helping of wisdom for the plucky young gents that hobble to his doorstep, but here he treats McConaughey only to a sullen, closed-mouthed glare. Back up, at least, Mike. You're in his bubble. [1:00] YouTube/Warner Bros. UK Trailers You think things look bleak and muted sitting down... [1:03] YouTube/Warner Bros. UK Trailers ...look at how much bleaker and muter they are standing up! [1:05] YouTube/Warner Bros. UK Trailers Hey look, the kid's doing it now, too. Cheer up, kid. [1:17] YouTube/Warner Bros. UK Trailers Oh, oh jeez... things just got way more wistful and silent than we could have anticipated. How are you gonna stare out into the distance and mull over your laundry list of regrets through all them tears, McConaughey? [1:21] YouTube/Warner Bros. UK Trailers Academy Award-nominated actress Jessica Chastain will not be deterred by the fields of flaming wheat that surround and ultimately threaten to kill her. She's got some defeatist, squinty-eyed profile gawking to do. [1:41] YouTube/Warner Bros. UK Trailers "All we've got left," these kids think (not say, think), "is a trunk full of clutter, hearts full of destitution, and eyes full of whatever the unforgiving horizon can offer up." [1:46] YouTube/Warner Bros. UK Trailers Exclusive word from the set is that Anne Hathaway had to be instructed several times not to break into song during her scenes of silent staring. [1:53] YouTube/Warner Bros. UK Trailers And there it is, at 2:04. The longest stare of them all — that into the endless vaccuum of space, perhaps the most lonely, wistful, hopeless place conceivable. Family, friends, and any semblance of a home left literally lightyears away, with nothing standing ahead but black, cold face of emptiness... staring right back at us. Should be a fun movie! Follow @Michael Arbeiter| Follow @Hollywood_com
  • All the Shows That CBS Canceled While 'Two and a Half Men' Was on the Air
    By: Michael Arbeiter May 14, 2014
    CBS Broadcasting On Wednesday, CBS bellowed the very announcement that so many of us high-minded television viewers had been waiting years to hear: Two and a Half Men would finally be coming to an end, following its upcoming twelfth season (via Deadline). For more than a decade now, the Chuck Lorre sitcom has represented to our fair, noble, completely infallible community a ravenous black hole that was eating up time slots, viewership, and funding that might otherwise go to sitcoms of wit and emotional merit. In fact, throughout Two and a Half Men's dozen-year run, CBS has given the axe to a legion of comedies that were indisputably far better to the Sheen/Cryer/Kutcher phenomenon. All of them more worthy of the network's love than Two and a Half Men, we're running through the ill-fated half-hour series that suffered cancelation while Duckie and his revolving door of brother figures reigned supreme. Check out the list of undeniably superior series below, and join in our outrage that these gems didn't get their fair chance. $#*! My Dad Says Canceled after how long? 18 episodes.Was it good? Well, no.Was it better than Two and a Half Men, though? Sure! Probably. A little. Accidentally on Purpose Canceled after how long? 18 episodes.Was it good? Eh, no.Was it better than Two and a Half Men, though? Yeah! Baby Bob Canceled after how long? 11 episodes.Was it good? No...Was it better than Two and a Half Men, though? I mean, you know. It's a baby. Babies are cute. Becker Canceled after how long? Six seasons.Was it good? Yes!Great! So, better than Two and a Half Men? You'd becker believe it.What? Nothing. The Class Canceled after how long? 19 episodes.Was it good? It was fine.Better than Two and a Half Men? You get an A+ for that assessment!Stop. Okay. Center of the Universe Canceled after how long? 10 episodes.Was it good? Not really, but you know what was good? Andy Richter Controls the Universe. That's what I first thought this was when I read the title.Well, was it better than Two and a Half Men? Which one, Andy Richter? Absolutely. Oh, you mean this one? Yeah, sure. Charlie Lawrence Canceled after how long? Two episodes.Was it good? See above.Okay, but was it better than Two and a Half Men? I mean... at least it was about something (it was a satire about homophobia in the political sphere).So yes? Let's go with yes. Courting Alex Canceled after how long? Eight episodes.Was it good? Well, if you liked Dharma & Greg, but you... oh, you didn't like Dharma & Greg? Well... if you liked that one scene in Can't Hardly Wait...So wait, was it better than Two and a Half Men? It was. The Crazy Ones Canceled after how long? 22 episodes.Was it good? It wasn't terrible.So it was better than Two and a Half Men? Yes. Gary Unmarried Canceled after how long? Two seasons.Was it good? Watchable!Better than Two and a Half Men, I take it? Indeed. How to Be a Gentleman Canceled after how long? Two episodes.Was it good? God no.Was it better than Two and a Half Men, though? Okay, I'm really, really trying to prove a point here... Listen Up! Canceled after how long? 22 episodes.Was it good? Not quite.Was it better than Two and a Half Men, though? At the very least, it wins for the Jason Alexander factor. Love Monkey Canceled after how long? Eight episodes.Was it good? Yes!Better than Two and a Half Men, then? Sincerely! Mad Love Canceled after how long? 13 episodes.Was it good? It was okay!Better than Two and a Half Men, I assume? Yeah! My Big Fat Greek Life Canceled after how long? Seven episodes.Was it good? It was very much not.Was it better than Two and a Half Men, though? Objectively speaking, yes. The New Adventures of Old Christine Canceled after how long? Four seasons.Was it good? Yes! I mean, not great... but you know, good. It was good.Better than Two and a Half Men? It was better than Two and a Half Men, yes. Out of Practice Canceled after how long? 22 episodes.Was it good? We'll give it this: it had some funny people in it.So, better than Two and a Half Men, then? You're gonna tell me that a show with Henry Winkler, Ty Burrell, and Stockard Channing isn't better than Two and a Half Men? You're gonna stand here and tell me that? Partners Canceled after how long? 13 episodes.Was it good? Try "regrettable."Wow! But was it better than Two and a Half Men? ...yes. Rob Canceled after how long? Eight episodes.Was it good? Don't....Um, so, was it better than Two and a Half Men? Please, seriously, don't....But we really need — JUST DON'T. Rules of Engagement Canceled after how long? Seven seasons.Was it good? It was run-of-the-mill. Potently run-of-the-mill.Better than Two and a Half Men? Leagues. Still Standing Canceled after how long? Four seasons.Was it good? I remember laughing!Better than Two and a Half Men? For sure. The Stones Canceled after how long? Three episodes.Was it good? I've got to be honest with you, I have no memory of this existing.Hm, okay. So do you think it might have been better than Two and a Half Men? I'd bet my soul on it. We Are Men Canceled after how long? Three episodes.Was it good? You know, "good" is such a relative term...Any chance it was better than Two and a Half Men? Really, who are we to say what's "better" or "worse" than anything else in this world? Welcome to the Captain Canceled after how long? Five episodes.Was it good? Was it ever!You didn't answer the question. It was not.Better than Two and a Half Men? You know what? I'm going to let you decide this one. Worst Week Canceled after how long? 16 episodes.Was it good? It should have been called Best Week! Because this show was the best!Are you lying? I might be.Was this show better than Two and a Half Men? Some schools of thought would deem it so, yes. Yes, Dear Canceled after how long? Six seasons.Was it good? You know what, it was totally acceptable!Ah, good. So definitely better than Two and a Half Men? DEFINITELY. Can we end here?Yes, we're out of shows. Oh thank God. Follow @Michael Arbeiter| Follow @Hollywood_com
  • Review: 'Million Dollar Arm' Is a Strangely Likable Movie with So Many Problems
    By: Michael Arbeiter May 13, 2014
    Walt Disney Studios via Everett Collection Million Dollar Arm takes a lot for granted when it comes to its audience. It assumes that anyone paying to see this film must care about baseball. Odds are it's right — you've got to have some motivating factor beyond Jon Hamm's jawline. But it assumes you care enough that it doesn't matter how little its characters seem to. We see so few instances involving any carnal appreciation for the game throughout the bulk of the picture, least of all from cranky and materialistic sports agent J.B. Bernstein (Hamm), that when the final act treats us to its coup de grâce tearjerkers we can't help but feel like we're being thrown one hell of a curveball. But that isn't the worst of the film's assumptions. As a last ditch effort to find a ringer both talented and bankable enough to save his career, J.B. throws caution to the wind and high tails it to India on a scouting mission for strong-armed cricket bowlers. So casually racist that you'd think this film takes place long before 2008, J.B. hates everything about cricket (...why?) and India on the whole, submitting immediately to the idea that he's in a third-rate wasteland where nothing can get done, nobody knows anything, and any young boy would be elated to get out of dodge. And Million Dollar Arm has no interest in proving him wrong: The film never second-guesses (and assumes we won't either) the notion that Big Leagues hopefuls Dinesh (Madhur Mittal) and Rinku (Suraj Sharma) would be happier and better off in America. It assumes we won't take any issue with the idea that two boys from India must have never seen an elevator, a television, or a moment of good fortune. Sure, they might not have... but it's as if Million Dollar Arm expects us to believe there is no other option when a wide-eyed Sharma wanders through a Californian hotel like Wall-E exploring the starliner. Walt Disney Studios via Everett Collection The film gives itself so much regrettable leeway while carting through the necessary points of its true story, jumping from the laughable inception of J.B.'s plan to move his search overseas to the languid introduction of the two boys (neither of whom is given any backstory) and their entry into the MLB's consideration. But scattered throughout are beats and scenes that seem ripped from a different script entirely — J.B.'s gradual appreciation of Dinesh, Rinku, and much bemoaned translator, documentarian, and aspiring baseball coach Amit (Pitobash Tripathy) as his surrogate family. Of course the vast majority of his emotional realizations come at the behest of his beautiful, kooky tenant Brenda (Lake Bell), but the kids are usually at least nearby. It's shocking how much the personal material does to salvage Million Dollar Arm, though. J.B.'s relationship with Dinesh, Rinku, and Amit, and — perhaps more importantly — the relationships between Dinesh, Rinku, and Amit themselves are funny, warm, and flavorful enough to give this otherwise faceless movie some real character. Secondary players Bill Paxton and Alan Arkin do little to surprise, playing disgruntled and unconscious respectively, but there's a reason these guys are always called on to do the same thing. And if that's not enough for you, Aasif Mandvi's kids keep throwing up. It plays both like an extended metaphor about the hidden joys in family life and a non sequitur gag from Tomcats. Take your pick.   Million Dollar Arm's charming points are strong enough to distract at times from its boisterous misgivings, but they peer through in the end. Not every baseball movie needs hair-tustling and eye-welling. Not every baseball movie warrants a Pride of the Yankees elegy about the glories of the diamond. But Million Dollar Arm wishes it was one of these movies (so much so that it actually rips the Lou Gehrig speech right out of Gary Cooper's mouth). Still, instead of building a story about the love of baseball or even about the magic of this story, Million Dollar Arm keeps all its genuine energy on a bunt: the story of some jackass who warms up to a couple of kids after a while. Not a bad play, but hardly the grand slam it was going for. 2.5/5 Follow @Michael Arbeiter| Follow @Hollywood_com
  • The Evolution of the Batsuit from Adam West to Ben Affleck
    By: Michael Arbeiter May 13, 2014
    ZackSnyder/Twitter Zack Snyder, director of enough obtuse mediocrity to justify suspicion of blackmail behind his landing the gig directing a movie about the two most beloved comic book characters in American history, has given the world its first glimpse of his take on the Dark Knight. Two shots from the set of Batman vs. Superman hit the web today via Snyder's Twitter account, showing off the latest version of the superhero's famed uniform and trusty ride. ZackSnyder/Twitter Though we can only guess how star Ben Affleck, depicted here with a glower for the ages, will treat the long familiar Bruce Wayne, we are offered a healthy glance at the Batsuit we'll be spending time with in this film. Just a costume, you might claim, but perhaps just as lively and vivacious as the man it cloaks (in Kilmer's case, even more so). In fact, if you look back through the history of the Batsuit — with our scientific breakdown — you'll find it has evolved quite a bit... Batman: The Movie (1966)Starring Adam West, directed by Leslie H. MartinsonSUITIS ORIGINALIS 20th Century Fox Film via Everett Collection Back when people wore things made of fabric and cloth, the Batsuit was a simple entity.  Batman (1989)Starring Michael Keaton, directed by Tim BurtonSUITIS SHIFTICUS Warner Bros. Pictures The 1970s must have seen a nuclear power plant lay waste to the waters of Gotham, because the genetic code of the Batsuit shifted dramatically between its first and second big screen incarnations. Here we see an all-black (save for the yellow pelvic logo) suit comprised ostensibly of galvanized rubber, armed with defensive wristular fins, and topped with a substantually more constricting headpiece. Because the '80s weren't about silly things like comfort or functionability. Batman Returns (1992)Starring Michael Keaton, directed by Tim BurtonSUITIS CONSISTICUS Warner Bros. Pictures via Everett Collection Keaton and Burton's second go saw few changes to the Batsuit... though that mask does seem a little angrier this time... Batman Forever (1995)Starring Val Kilmer, directed by Joel SchumacherSUITIS NIPLICUS Warner Bros. Pictures via Everett Collection Doing away with any semblance of subtlety, the '95 tin-plated model was mostly about intimidation: Abs. Pecs. Nipples.  Batman and Robin (1997)Starring George Clooney, directed by Joel SchumacherSUITIS REGRETIBLUS Warner Bros. Pictures Um. Hm. Batman Begins (2005)Starring Christian Bale, directed by Christopher NolanSUITIS SERIUS Warner Bros. Pictures via Everett Collection Now things are getting serious. With a mask that allows not even for the occasional smile, the suit that reared its upsetting head in the Nolan era did away with any hint of color (be it yellow, silver, or gray), kept its contours angular, and found a fair balance between statuesque and athletic. The Dark Knight (2008)Starring Christian Bale, directed by Christopher NolanSUITIS ANGRICUS Warner Bros. Pictures via Everett Collection Taking a page from the Kilmer book, The Dark Knight slapped Bale's sophomore uniform with a bit more pizzazz in the torso area — not showing off human muscles, per se, but an exoskeletal design reminiscent of weaponry. Dark times, those aughts. The Dark Knight Rises (2012)Starring Christian Bale, directed by Christopher NolanSUITIS CROSFITUS Warner Bros. Pictures via Everett Collection Sleeker, slighter, and stocked with arm straps and shoulder pads. The most extreme species of Batsuit we've yet to see. Batman vs. Superman (2016)Starring Ben Affleck, directed by Zack SnyderSUITIS AFLECUS ZackSnyder/Twitter The diminutive ears of the original, the light feel of the Keatons, the abdominal audacity of the Kilmer era, and the colorless palate of the Bale/Nolans... plus, inscrutably, so many veins. Affleck's Batsuit has taken a few traits from each of its ancestors (except the Clooney one) to become a species all its own. Follow @Michael Arbeiter| Follow @Hollywood_com
  • Review: 'Godzilla' Is a New, Fresh, Exciting Adventure for the Classic Monster
    By: Michael Arbeiter May 12, 2014
    Warner Bros. Pictures via Everett Collection With only a week and change having passed since the release of The Amazing Spider-Man 2, we no doubt feel the question living fresh in our minds: can we ever judge a remake without considering its predecessors? The conversation about the stark contrast in critical favor between Marc Webb's release and Sam Raimi's trilogy (the second installment of his franchise in particular) buzzed loudly, and we imagine the volume will keep in regards to Gareth Edwards' Godzilla. But it'll be a different sound altogether. The original Godzilla, a Japanese film released in 1954, reinvented the identity of the monster movie, launched a 30-film legacy, and spoke legions about the political climate of its era. The most recent of these films — Roland Emmerich's 1998 American production — is universally bemoaned as a bigger disaster than anything to befall Tokyo at the hands of the giant reptile. With these two entries likely standing out as the most prominent in the minds of contemporary audiences, Edwards' Godzilla has some long shadows cast before it. And in approaching the new movie, one might not be able to avoid comparisons to either. It's fair — by taking on an existing property, a filmmaker knowingly takes on the connotations of that property. But the 2014 installment's great success is that it isn't much like any Godzilla movie we've seen before. In a great, great way. This isn't 1954's Godzilla, a dire and occasionally dreary allegory that uses the supernatural to tell an important story about nuclear holocaust. A complete reversal, in fact, first and foremost Edwards' Godzilla is about its monsters. Any grand themes strewn throughout — the perseverence of nature, the follies of mankind, fatherhood, madness, faith — are all in service to the very simple mission to give us some cool, weighty, articulate sci-fi disaster. Elements of gravity are plotted all over the film's surface, with scientists, military men (kudos to Edwards for not going the typical "scientists = good/smart, military = bad/dumb" route in this film — everybody here is at least open to suggestion), doctors, police officers, and a compassionate bus driver all wrestling with options in the face of behemoth danger. The humanity is everpresent, but never especially intrusive. To reiterate, this isn't a film about any of these people, or what they do.  Warner Bros. Pictures via Everett Collection The closest thing to a helping of thematic (or human) significance comes with Ken Watanabe's Dr. Serizawa, who spouts awe-stricken maxims about cryptozoology, the Earth, and the inevitable powerlessness of man. He might not be supplying anything more substantial than our central heroes (soft-hearted soldier Aaron Taylor-Johnson, dutiful medic and mom Elizabeth Olsen, right-all-along conspiracy theorist Bryan Cranston), but Watanabe's bonkers performance as the harried scientist is so bizarrely good that you might actually believe, for a scene or two, that it all does mean something. Ultimately, the beauty of our latest taste of Godzilla lies not in the commitment to a message that made the original so important nor in the commitment to levity that made Emmerich's so pointless, but in its commitment to imagination. Edwards' creature design is dazzling, his deus ex machina are riveting, and the ultimate payoff to which he treats his audience is the sort of gangbusters crowd-pleaser that your average contemporary monster movie is too afraid to consider.   In fairness, this year's Godzilla might not be considered an adequate remake, not quite reciprocating the ideals, tone, or importance of the original. Sure, anyone looking for a 2014 answer to 1954's game-changing paragon will find sincere philosophy traded for pulsing adventure... but they'd have a hard time ignoring the emphatic charm of this new lens for the 60-year-old lizard, both a highly original composition and a tribute in its way to the very history of monster movies (a history that owes so much to the creature in question). So does Godzilla '14 successfully fill the shoes of Godzilla '54? No — it rips them apart and dons a totally new pair... though it still has a lot of nice things to say about the first kicks. Oh, and the '98 Godzilla? Yeah, it's better than that. 4/5 Follow @Michael Arbeiter| Follow @Hollywood_com
  • 'Mad Men' Recap: The Weirdest Episode of 'Mad Men' Ever
    By: Michael Arbeiter May 12, 2014
    AMC A quick run-through of everything this week's episode of Mad Men has to offer: threesomes, cartoon monkeys, hippie parties, evil computers, and a guy who cuts off his own nipple. But if you want to get to the heart of the strangeness of "The Runaways," you have to appreciate the peculiar choices episode director/series cinematographer Christopher Manley made in shooting it. The ep poses a stark contrast to Mad Men's usual structure (a few patient, meaty scenes many minutes in length, flowing seamlessly into one another) with a collection of jagged 15-second clips that lob off mid-conversation or immediately after someone picks up the phone; twice this latter technique is used, once with Betty and once with Megan. We can chalk this up to the throughline of people not getting what they want in this episode — Don wants to see Stephanie (the niece of the late Ana Draper, who phones him in hopes of getting a little support for her fatherless baby-on-the-way), Megan wants to save her marriage, Ginsberg wants to defeat the nefarious machine wreaking havoc on Sterling Cooper & Partners (and woo Peggy), Lou Avery wants a little respect for his beloved comic strip creation Scout, and Betty wants... ugh, who knows — a theme that collapses when the most unpredictable desire is met: Don gets his groove back. Way back when, Don earned the ire of cigarette kingpin Philip Morris when he penned an editorial decrying the health problems caused by their product. It was the first in a string of antics that fissured Don's stellar reputation in the advertising game, particularly in the eyes of his own bosses and partners. The climax of that string, of course, cost him his place at SC&P at the end of last season, so a mending of the former might be the right touch (psychologically and thematically) to undo the latter. We can't really see Mad Men let Don taking his seat back at the head of the industry, so we're a bit perplexed as to what his apparently fruitful ad hoc chat with the Philip Morris boys this week will lead to (if not just the displeasure of Lou Avery and Harry Hamlin). But mystery aside, Don's determined play at the cigarette account is the only thing about "The Runaways" that feels cohesively put together. AMC The episode is littered with awkward gambits. Cautious reveals are shafted for abject ones (re: the initial shot of Stephanie's pregnant body), subtlety is all but foregone in thematic references (that 2001: A Space Odyssey send-up went over nobody's head), an incriminating conversation is overheard by the wrongest of persons from a bathroom stall (come on, guys, didn't something like this just happen in "A Day's Work"?). "The Runaways" strings together incredibly bizarre conceits, Michael Ginsberg's sudden schizophrenic explosion topping the lot, with such overt techniques and uncomfortably paced scenes that you can't help but wonder if what you're watching is next-level genius or a severe artistic mishap. But the material is all interesting. Even the dreadful locking of horns of Mr. and Mrs. Francis lands us some cherished time with Sally, whom we get to see adorn little brother Bobby with that same big-hearted kindness to which she treated Don a couple weeks back — it's adorable, and dripping with severity. Megan's play at a drug-induced threesome "for Don" (after growing jealous and suspicious of his concern for pregnant Stephanie) might be frustratingly ill-fated, but we get the feeling that it's the penultimate straw for the pair. And Ginsberg losing his mind over Sterling Cooper & Partners' new computer, devising homophobic conspiracy theories, jumping Peggy in her own apartment, mutilating himself (his severed nipple "for Peggy" beats Megan's ménage à trois by just a touch as the worst way to win someone's heart), and being carted off by mental health professionals is all enthusiastically stirring, if still outrageous enough to call the script's judgment into question. But, being told mostly from Peggy's point of view, it has its place. This job will kill them all. The future has no patience for (or interest in) men and women who aren't ready for it. And as Ginsberg is wheeled off screaming, Peggy begins to cry. Both for her suffering friend and for herself. Having seen her own era take down Don, she knows she might be next. Episode grade: B, with bonus points to Don for getting us away from Megan's banjo party so quickly Follow @Michael Arbeiter| Follow @Hollywood_com