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: 'The Amazing Spider-Man 2' Has Too Much Junk Going On
    By: Michael Arbeiter Apr 28, 2014
    Columbia Pictures via Everett Collection As grand as the themes of good and evil, needs and deservings, power and responsibility and such forth are, superhero movies are generally pretty straightforward in premise: hero stops villain from wreaking havoc. As off-putting as this kind of simplicity might sound, it's usually the right way to go. If you pack enough substance into your characters and adhere your plot to these linear margins, you can actually wind up saying a healthy amount (and having a lot of fun). The Amazing Spider-Man 2 gets half of this formula down pat. Although Andrew Garfield's Peter Parker is still a moreover undistinguished identity, his emotional magnitude (re: his relationship with Gwen Stacy) is enough to keep him valid through the storm of lunacy that is his second feature. And it's not even that lunacy that holds him back. The problem isn't how wild his conquests are, how silly some of the action sequences feel, or how absolutely bonkers his villains turn out to be. It's all the other stuff (and yes, if you can believe it, there's a ton more going on in this movie than what I've already mentioned — that's the issue). All the plot twists, tertiary mysteries, ominous flashbacks, abject reveals, and weightlessly sinister pawns in this brooding game that, save for its fun with the baddies, takes itself way too seriously. All that stuff that The Amazing Spider-Man 2 thinks is necessary to make Peter Parker matter? It actually does just the opposite. Peter is at his best when he's playing Tracy and Hepburn with the girlfriend he's perpetually disappointing (the eternally charming Emma Stone), or trying to win back the favor of the only remaining parental figure from whom he's rapidly slipping away (Sally Field, reminding us why she's a household name), or angling to connect with the mentally unstable engineer who just wants people to notice him (Jamie Foxx working his comic shtick with a frightening zest). We have the most fun with Peter when he's playing the simplest games, and we connect best with him on similar ground. But Peter and company, at the behest of The Amazing Spider-Man franchise's Sandman-sized aspirations, spend so much time exploring new avenues: the secrets surrounding the death and work of Richard Parker, the behind-the-curtains operations of OsCorp, the nefarious goings on in the waterside penitentiary Ravencroft. Columbia Pictures via Everett Collection As a result of the grand stab at world building, there is just so much stuff that Peter has to wade through in this movie, dragging the likes of Gwen and his boyhood friend Harry Osborn (Dane DeHaan, mastering angst, menace, and upper-class privilege all at once) into the dark crevasses of narrative waste. With so many diversions into the emotionally vacant, deliberately joyless explorations of Parker family origin stories, secret brief cases, and underground subways — The Amazing Spider-Man 2 rivals Captain America: The Winter Soldier in complexity, but forgets the necessary ingredient of fun — we barely have enough energy left when the good stuff hits. And in truth, the good stuff isn't really good enough to sustain us through all the duller periods. Garfield and Stone do have laudable chemistry. Foxx is a hoot as Peter's maniacal new foe, especially when paired with the grimacing DeHaan. And the action, while often straying from any aesthetic authenticity, is nothing shy of neat-o. It's all passable, occasionally worthy of a hearty smile, but rarely anything you'll be definitively pleased you took the time to see.   But beyond coming up short in the micro, the film's regal downfall is its scope. With so much to do, both in accomplishing its own necessary plot points and setting up for those to come in future films, The Amazing Spider-Man 2 doesn't seem to take time to make sure it's having fun with its own premise. And if it isn't having fun, we won't be either. 2.5/5 Follow @Michael Arbeiter| Follow @Hollywood_com
  • 'Mad Men' Recap: Don Says 'Okay'
    By: Michael Arbeiter Apr 28, 2014
    AMC I manage, with the same measure of denial that forced down Don Draper's marauding self-hatred for the better part of his adult life, to forget again and again that he and Peggy are no longer on very good terms. So it all but guts me entirely to watch her face his return to Sterling Cooper & Partners with a vicious affirmation that she hasn't missed him a bit. Sure, she's in denial, too, blaming everyone else for her stunted personal and professional successes, as if Shirley in fact robbed Peggy of her reception of Valentine's Day flowers, or Ginsberg of her well-deserved CLIO nomination. Don tops the list, representing to Peggy the architect who designed a glass ceiling so firmly unbreakable, never hesitating to tapdance atop in a gallant display of everything availed to those in the penthouse suite. But Don has fallen quite a few stories from his skyline view, desperate for everything from his L.A.-based wife's sustained belief that he's still gainfully employed to after-work visits from his ad hoc assistant Dawn Chambers. He swells in fierce agitation when both of these systems shatter this week, ostensibly losing that veneer of validity in the eyes of two more former secretaries: Dawn's priorities lie with her actual boss now (to think!) and Megan is up-ended by the revelation that he's been lying about his professional leave in order to keep from moving out to California to be with her. Adding to a list already occupied by Peggy, Allison, and let's count Ida Blankenship (whose Mad Men Wiki page is written with quite the comically sardonic tone, by the way), and we've got a pretty poor track record for Don re: the long line of mistresses/daughter figures he kept at his front desk. With the last pieces of his old life lost after the shifts in his relationships with Dawn and Megan, Don has no other choice but to move on... back to his old life, that is. And so we're treated to a sequence as surreal as Roger's LSD trips, as viscerally disconcerting as anything involving Glen Bishop: Don's trip back to the office. Passing over an an offer at a rival firm that would have beckoned him as a royal ambassador, Don instead shows up unannounced at Roger's apartment, barking rhetorical questions about friendship and loyalty. Roger, seizing the opportunity to reupholster his shrinking office team, tells Don to show up the next morning... something that, upon arrival, Don realizes nobody else in power has been briefed on. AMC Don's morning at SC&P shows us more of Dick Whitman than we've seen since his wartime flashbacks: the fear that Don works so hard to not only hide but divide from is expertly executed in a scene that feels nauseatingly eternal... in a good way. Even as Don collects encounters, both soothing and innocuously awkward, with the gaggle of creatives whose admiration he still holds tight, we see the battlefield terror sneak back into him — a resentful Peggy isn't the only party unnerved by his return: obsessively pragmatic Bert Cooper and Senior Partner Harry Hamlin are thinking business; Joan knows that her all too delicate grasp of power would disintegrate with a reversal of latitudes that Don's return would bring; Lou Avery is just mad as a nag in heat, confound it! And with all this bad blood, and the board's insistence on a league of belittling professional conditions, you'd think the very same Don who, at the head of the ep, was so obsessed with his image as to berate his old secretary for making him feel like a second priority and lie to his wife for months about his job, would opt out of the deal. But desperate, defeated, and longing for the only place he's ever known to be a home, Don ushers in this new chapter: "Okay." Intercutting scenes of Don's stimulating professional ascension/degradation is a far weaker storyline, if only for that we've seen it so many times before: Betty Draper, making her first appearance in Season 7, rehashing the same old Betty Draper story. Prompted by her scorn of an impressive working mother, old fashioned Betty accompanies Bobby on a field trip to a local farm, spending her time boosting her own self-image with vacant conversations about the Wolfman and Dracula, sips of fresh-from-the-cow milk, and quips about the revealing dress of the farmer's daughter. But one foul-up by doe-eyed Bobby (who trades her sandwich away because he "didn't know she was going to eat" — that should tell us something about Betty's post-weight loss dietary habits) is enough to remind Betty that she really can't stand her kids. Having seen the same territory tread with January Jones' character since Season 1, in which she treats everyone in her life to a cold hostility and victimizies herself all the while, we should expect this final season to treat us to something knew, or at least conclusive. But her misanthropy is in its usual form, her self-pity is operating at normal speeds... her trip to the farm gives us nothing new in the Betty department. Thankfully, we have gold in the Don department this week, especially in his reunion with Peggy's in the penultimate scene of episode. She waits the duration of "Field Trip" to catch the anxious Don alone in the break room in order to deliver her unforgiving salutation, which bites like the dickens: "I can't say that we've missed you." But in terrific form, the unsolicited jab finds itself sandwiched between two instances of much greater mutual favor for the longtime colleagues. With Don's barely shielded pain, we rush immediately back to his soft-eyed kissing of her hand at the close of Season 5, the moment he was forced to acknowledge that his daytime daughter figure was graduating beyond his hold. The second moment illicited by Ms. Olson's harsh proclamation is one that we haven't seen yet: the ultimate reunion — be it charged by a newly leveled playing field for the pair, a joint derision of the powers that be, a refurbished drive to make something of value of themselves, or just your plain old realization that they might be all each other has — of Don and Peggy, and their good graces. In her insistence in assuring Don just how little he means to her, Peggy shows us just how much he does. And in the childlike wince he can't work hard enough to mask, he returns that favor. So now it's only a matter of time. Episode grade: B+, with bonus points for Bobby Draper's proud proclamation: "We were having a conversation!" Follow @Michael Arbeiter| Follow @Hollywood_com
  • An Irish History Lesson, the Evolution of Masculinity, and Lots of Jokes in Our 'The Bachelor Weekend' Interview
    By: Michael Arbeiter Apr 25, 2014
    Tribeca Film One of Tribeca Film Festival 2014's more lighthearted pieces is The Bachelor Weekend — titled The Stag in Ireland, its country of origin — a comedy about a collection of "modern men" who take to the countryside for the main character Finoon's (Hugh O'Conor) bachelor party, only to clash with an unwanted tag-along oozing alpha male bravado: Finoon's future brother-in-law, known only as "the Machine" (Peter McDonald, who also co-wrote the film). Whereas many a comedy film in the "one last hoorah" genre would go for big, broad laughs and wacky antics at the expense of the plot and characters, director John Butler's Bachelor Weekend instead uses its fun premise to explore the nature of the folks at the center — a collection of guys that Butler and McDonald affirm are based on their friends. This kind of friendship is vivid from the way that they and O'Conor all riff on one another, managing to cover situations as grave as the evolution of masculinity over the course of the last 50 years and the national psyche of present day Ireland all the while cracking a few jokes about O'Conor jumping out a window. My chat with Butler, McDonald, and O'Conor does contain a few major spoilers for The Bachelor Weekend, so be warned. But those who have seen the film, and who are hankering for a quick insight into the human ego, that breed of really bad bachlor parties, and director Butler's mid-morning hallucinations, enjoy. We’ve got a whole line of bachelor party movies in America — I’m sure you guys have seen plenty of them. A lot of them are very funny, but I was pleasantly surprised by how different Bachelor Weekend is in a lot of ways. Were you trying to bring something new to the genre specifically? John Butler: Definitely. We like those films. Some of them are fantastic. One of the things that we thought we might like to try with our film was to create a real investment in the heart of the story, so that you really care for the characters and the emotional arc wasn’t tacked on to serve the jokes. We wanted to write it inside out so that you really felt for these people, while also serving up to jokes that worked. So that was important to us, I think. A comedy film with heart. The films that we might have mentioned in relation to that in the course of writing it would be things like Sideways, or… Peter McDonald: Diner. JB: … Diner, or Swingers. You know, films that don’t shortchange you emotionally but still serve up good jokes. So that was part of the inspiration. PM: It was kind of sitting there waiting for someone to make it. So many films around the event of the wedding have been made. If not the wedding itself, it’s the bridesmaids, or the guys, or whatever. And we love those films, they’re really funny. And they are bigger films. So in that marketplace, it’s a comedy film, [snaps] we need 20 gags, so that’s what they’re going to make. So that’s totally understandable. But so many people go on stags! This is something that they can relate to, so why not have a film that has the comedy but also has the investment in the characters? JB: We don’t know any of those "bros" that go on and devour stag weekends. That’s not really a familiar type to us. It’s more interesting to write about real guys who go on stags for reasons out of their control. Pushed out of their comfort zones. Not the guys who really love it, the kind of spring breaky types. PM: Lots of guys go on stags just because that’s what you do. It’s just a ritual that everyone engages in. So [we wanted] to have a look at what place that ritual has in relation to guys and masculinity. Because The Machine is so different from the other guys, that no-man’s-land there is an interesting area. JB: You show up on those stags, you’re not going to want to be drinking Jäger bombs with 20 strange men in four hours’ time. It’s such a surreal… Hugh O’Conor: When you go to the West of Ireland a bit, it’s always that kind of — which is lovely! — but you’re away from what you’re used to… PM: You get up the morning after the first night, and you’re like, “I have to hang out with these guys again?” JB: And I have to drink! HO: Yeah, the drinking… PM: Then you show up to the wedding, and you’re like, “You’re such a tool. I’ve experienced you, and you’re the worst person.” You’ve seen their true colors. [Everybody “yeah”s] JB: Have you been on many stags? No, I’m going on my first one in a couple of weeks, actually. JB: What’s the deal? What’s the setup? It’s a high school friend of mine. These guys are probably more along the lines of the Machine than the other guys. PM: Hookers and blow. [Everybody laughs] I’m more of a Finoon, so I’ll be reading in the back room. JB: Team Finoon! [More laughter] Yeah, we’re going down to the Dominican Republic. JB: Oh nice! PM: All right! DR! That sounds like fun. Yeah. I’m sure it will be. PM: That sounds a lot more fun. HO: That actually sounds good! PM: I’ve got to say, though, I’ve had some killer times on stags. Oh yeah? PM: Absolutely. I’ve had some really great times with my best friends on their stags. HO: Not yours. [Laughter] PM: So I think it’s also a celebration of that. And, if anything, [the movie] says stags are a good idea because they all get something out of the weekend. That’s the genre it’s in. It’s not going to have a downbeat ending, this story. HO: There is that line you have in the scene with the campfire where you say, “You couldn’t put a price on this.” And you kind of go, “Wow, they did get there.” PM: They did get there! HO: It’s nice that they got there. Despite everything. [“Yeah”s all around] JB: Every experience, obviously, has value. It’s just that sometimes they’re set up the wrong way. You know what I mean? Sometimes the approach is wrong. Definitely it’s great going away with some friends. There can be great stuff in it. But the bad ones are bad… Tribeca Film I like that you bring up masculinity. It’s a very clear theme in this movie. You have the wedding planner in the movie challenging Finoon’s masculinity, then the idea of his father disapproving of Finoon’s brother Kevin and his boyfriend [played by Michael Legge and Andrew Bennett, respectively]. Did you approach this movie wanting to discuss masculinity, or did it come about organically? JB: We wanted to write about people that we knew, so it started with the characters. And then, obviously, the themes start to emerge from that. In our case, if we started to write about the men that we know, and put them in the context of the story, those themes start to emerge. Because what the masculine ideal these days? Certain traits that we might consider, traditionally, to be feminine — being in touch with your emotions, and crying — that’s a form of strength! And that’s something, maybe, that modern masculinity is supposed to embody. So yeah, it was fun to play around with that stuff, but we always approached it from the point of view of the characters. [Peter receives a glass of milk] PM: Kumbaya! JB: We need milk and cookies every half an hour. PM: I’m a cookie monster! Milk, cookies… JB: [Pointing to the corner of the room] Did you see something move there? I don't think so. JB: I saw something move there, I thought I saw something move there… PM: John drinks a lot of alcohol. [Laughter] PM: By this time of the morning, he will start to see things. JB: I genuinely thought I saw something move out of the corner of my eye. I just realized… PM: He’s got the heebie-jeebies! [Laughter continues] PM: … and an epic hangover. JB: But no, we definitely don’t go, “What’s the theme?” and then try and write a film. It’s, “Who are the people?” And then we take it from there. PM: Yeah. And there’s something about [the question], “What is it to be a man?” Any rational person knows — especially now, seeing the changes in the last 50 years for masculinity and men — that question has no meaning whatsoever. It’s always changing. But it’s interesting when you have such changes in masculinity over the last 50 years but, yet, our idea of what it meant to be a man in the ‘50s and ‘60s is still present to us in our generation So when you have a bunch of modern men engaging in a ritual that they’re very halfhearted about, and on that ritual a guy turns up who is like, “I’m a f**kin’ man!” Like, “I know exactly that I’m…” It’s not even a question for him. He’s so the opposite to them. And he’s almost oblivious to how awkward he can be. He’s just one of those people. So it busts it open for the other guys in terms of their identity. They’re guys who, in their initial exchange with The Machine, if they were to rewind and replay it, they’d just go, “Look… whatever your real name is. This isn’t gonna happen!” Do you know what I mean? But we know that when you’re with somebody that’s that intense you don’t say the things that you actually want to say. You’re kind of like, “I… I guess… yeah… okay, I’ll have another drink.” Do you know what I mean? You’re ripped out of your element. PM: You’re ripped out of your own thing! And the one thing he does immediately when he arrives on the scene, he totally splits them as a group. They’re immediately infighting and backstabbing each other, and saying, “I’m going to go home,” and blah blah blah. It’s the cat amongst the pigeons of masculinity. But we didn’t know that that’s what we were sitting down to write. It was only as we explored the characters… HO: I suppose, as well, that you can still be a more modern man, like our characters are — me, [Andrew Scott's character] Davin — you can be more in touch with your feelings and be open and talk about things and still be really stupid about stuff. JB: Oh God yes! HO: It doesn’t mean that just because you’re in touch with your feelings that everything is okay. I think that was kind of fun to play. Me and Davin both have loads of issues, still. Even though we’re both comfortable, in touch with stuff, we’re still idiots about a lot of things. Which is exactly like real life. PM: And that, really, is the arc of the story — that these two modern men are engaged in a locking of horns. The same as two old school guys would be doing, in a very different way. But their cultural competitiveness is playing out a deeper unspoken argument. Their words and irony are their weapons. HO: Yeah. PM: And the deeper they go into the woods, the more they’re stripped of all their accoutrements. The more pared back the music gets, and the more naked they get, the less value their words have to them. They can’t protect themselves anymore. HO: Your contact lens falls out! PM: This guy needs to punch Davin. That’s what needs to happen in the story. That’s when he becomes connected to exactly how he feels. JB: And Davin, most importantly, needs to tell him that he was so cut up at the time when [he and Ruth, Finoon’s fiancée, played by Amy Huberman] broke up, he felt so vulnerable that the last person he could turn to was his best friend. PM: Sometimes you don’t turn to the people who are closest to you in those situations, because it reflects you so nakedly. [Hugh feigns crying, the other two laugh] JB: That window is shut! HO: It can be opened! JB: We just look over and Hugh’s gone. [Laughter continues] JB: All we see is that lavenir jacket just kind of fluttering… PM: Fluttering in the wind! And we hear from the street, very distantly, “Oh my God!” JB: It’s Finoon! PM: It’s Finoon! JB: Can he fly? No. That’s all in the sequel. [“Yeah”s all around] Arrow Film Distributors via Everett Collection But that actually reminds me — even though there’s a lot of comedy in this movie, it doesn’t get as broad, even in its funnier moments, than a lot of other comedies in this genre. When you guys destroy the memorial, no policemen come and throw you in jail. Or when you take MDMA, you go for a little run, but nobody freaks out and jumps off a bridge or anything like that. I guess I was wondering if there was a specific drive to keep the comedy grounded, or if this is just the style of humor that you guys find funny? JB: I think that’s a conscious instinct. Particularly in terms of direction, that’s a very conscious decision. At the writing stage, it’s very conscious, too — you have to root the story, and once you commit to that, you have to sacrifice the idea of a sufficiently bigger joke that might derail the tone of the film. But then when you direct the film you have to police that tone, too. Make sure it’s rooted. There is a kind of world you have to create that’s consistent. I think when you try to write characters inside out in that way, that’s always what you’re going to end up with. The films that we love that we mentioned before, the comedy films that work best are the ones that have a consistent tone. Yeah, that’s definitely the approach. PM: And also, the overriding policy all the way through is character development. What’s going to happen to these guys? What is going to happen to their relationships? That’s what the audience should be invested in. If you invest the audience in the fact that they’re going to have a laugh every three minutes, like a big laugh, and then you stop doing that, they’re going, “You started off as one film, and then you’re becoming another.” Whereas you have to do that slowly with a film like this. So you get into a place where there aren’t any laughs for like five minutes, 10 minutes, in this film at one stage. Well, maybe five minutes, whatever. For that to work, the audience has to be… you have to hook them in on the character development. If you put in gags that step outside of the character development, you might get a laugh out of them, but there’s no going back. You’ve already cheated the reality of the world that John is creating as a director. JB: And it’s an American common tradition that we’re working in. That’s the thing that we totally respect and acknowledge as people who watch films. Since it’s an American tradition, the best comedy films come from that tradition. PM: Yeah, yeah. JB: Those are the rules of the genre. I think if there’s any little reinvention or anything that’s going on in our film, I think it’s subtle. PM: I think there are English examples, like Withnail [and I], which is such a brilliant film. There are films like that in the British comedy tradition as well. And that is a shining example of British comedy at work, because it’s such a funny film but it’s about two guys going to a cottage in the middle of nowhere. Two actors who are broke, going to a cottage and having an encounter with the gay uncle. And it’s all dialogue-driven. But the whole thing about that film is that you get so invested in their relationship and their friendship that the end of the film is actually a very downbeat ending because it’s so sad. [Bruce Robinson] is a great writer. It’s a pity he hasn’t made more films in the last few years. But you can just tell when there’s a gag there that’s there for getting a gag. HO: We had some in there. PM: We did. We got rid of them. And also, when you’re working with good actors, right off the bat they’ll go, “Why is he doing this?” if that’s happening. Do you know what I mean? If they’re being rigorous in how they’re approaching the part… HO: I said that a lot. “Why is this happening?” [Laughter] I did want to ask you, Hugh, about that. Finoon is a tricky character. He’s a very serious person, but he’s a funny character. I would like to hear about making this serious, straight-laced guy fun to watch. HO: Obviously, the guys had thought about it a lot beforehand, so they knew what to do with it. Like I said before, I was pretty much just being myself. [Laughs] And let that ridiculousness come through. I could sort of see his points on all sides. I think you can never really judge… if you start judging the character you’re playing, it’s a really bad thing. You have to just go with what he’s experiencing. I think he’s right about everything. If you don’t control the flowers… I can’t trust [the wedding planner]. What has she done before, exactly? Give me a list! This is important to me. This is how it works. I’m stupidly anal about things like that myself. In terms of what you’re interested, in you’re really controlling. So he needs to get out of that a bit. PM: That’s so true. Finoon and all the characters are written from a place of absolute empathy. We’re on the ground floor with them. There’s no standing in judgment over them. They’re us. Probably the only part where there’s any judgment cast is when Brian Gleeson’s character Simon admits he doesn’t like U2. JB: Yes! You get the feeling you’re saying, “Well, you should like U2!” [Laughter] PM: But loads of Irish guys don’t like U2. Oh of course. JB: But he cries at the end [during “One Love”]. PM: So he’s a liar! [Laughter continues] Speaking of that, there are a lot of specific references to Ireland and Irish pride, mostly from the Machine. Were those just sort of ways to play with the character, or does this movie say something specific about Irish culture? JB: I think the idea in place, that’s the Machine’s expression of his national pride rather than our expression of our national pride. It all emerges through these characters. The Machine makes the decision to make that speech about the state of the nation, and to sing that song. He’s the kind of person who — Peter could probably say this better than me — if he’s given the mic at a wedding, he’s not going to not do that. And that’s a decision that the character makes. And you’re just holding the pen. That’s what he does. PM: The thing about the Machine, and we said this very early on when we started writing the film, is that he has absolutely no ego. [The others] are all totally weighed down by their egos. And that’s why there has been such a problem in their friendship, because they haven’t been able to be honest with each other. An ego in that... I’m saying something to you right now and I’ll be editing it. Sometimes you might edit: “Well, I can’t say that. He might think that I’m a bit of a dick if I say that.” Whatever. You’re protecting people’s perception of you. That’s ego. The Machine, he’s just one of those people where that doesn’t even enter into his head. He’s just raw product all the time. And it’s just coming out. The thing about that character is, while he’s incredibly overbearing, and very funny to start with — actually, when he arrives in the film, he’s a total nightmare — but it’s so liberating to be like that as a person. Because you’re not going around going, “Did he think when I said that…” or “Maybe I shouldn’t have…” He’s just moving forward in life all the time. So at the end, when he expresses national pride, it’s totally uncomplicated for him. And his view of Ireland is that the thing that matters in a country, which is probably what we all feel, is the people. And that’s obviously a very democratic notion, and all that. But because — and I can only speak for myself here — we had a lot of economic troubles recently, like a lot of the world. America is going through terrible problems at the moment. But for a small country like Ireland that doesn’t have great natural resources, our greatest product or resource is the people of the country. I think there’s a little bit of that in there, as well. JB: A young country as well. A hundred years old. PM: Yeah, yeah. I mean, it’s an ancient culture, but as a democratic state it’s a very young country. We’ve only had the reins for a hundred years. And I think because of all of our history being colonized, the power the church had — all those kinds of things — pride and shame are two of the strongest ingredients in our national psyche. But they can be very divisive. JB: We’re proud of ourselves and we’re ashamed of Hugh. PM: Exactly. We’re proud of ourselves, but then we almost don’t want each other to succeed. HO: [John] keeps staring at me. PM: But it’s so liberating for a character like the Machine. That’s irrelevant to him. It’s just a positive message that comes out of him. And it’s not weighed down by those larger psychological chains that we wear in general. Over the last hundred years. So that was unconscious on our part, but I only say that looking back on the film. Does that make sense? HO: You’re going to have an essay. PM: Yeah! I’ve just given you a big hunk of bulls**t. [Laughter] PM: And also, it’s the Machine. It’s a character talking. Well, I got the wrap up signal… JB: Did you? That s**t is subtle! …so the final question I need to ask is: Do you guys have an idea of why he is called the Machine? JB: Yes. But you won’t tell me, I take it. PM: It’s up to the viewer. JB: It goes to the grave. PM: Yeah, it goes to the grave. Absolutely. The Bachelor Weekend is available on Demand now. Follow @Michael Arbeiter| Follow @Hollywood_com
  • Tribeca Film Festival's 'Bright Days Ahead' Director and Star Discuss the Rarity of Love Stories About Marriage
    By: Michael Arbeiter Apr 24, 2014
    uniFrance Films Hollywood treats its audiences to so many love stories every year, but few quite like Bright Days Ahead: a movie, from French director Marion Vernoux, that touches on the enchanting pull of new love, but also those in a longtime marriage. Vernoux tackles the difficulties inherent in sustaining a relationship over a lifetime, bringing to light in her film just how much more valid a romance about a mature woman like her hero Caroline (played by Fanny Ardant) can be.  Speaking to Vernoux and Ardant, we tapped into what separates "authentic" love from that we often see in cinema and the true nature of love as it grows and changes over the course of one's life. I can't remember the last time that I saw a movie that approached romance so honestly, in a way that actually felt like it would happen in real life. Was the specific intention to approach romance in a way that you don't often see in the movies? Marion Vernoux: I didn’t deliberately set out to make this kind of different film. I wasn’t thinking of that as my approach. But I’m very glad you see it that way. For me, as Fanny has often said, too, I didn’t want a film that would have this layer of romanticism on top of it. I wanted it to seem believable that two people could get together and there could be this spark between them, but without having it be the usual overboard kind of reaction between them. To make it seem like it was something that could of actually happened. Was there something specific about the character that really rang true? Fanny Ardant: One part of the character of Caroline: she’s not easily bound. She likes her freedom. She’s not a conformist. I feel at ease with this character. It’s like a part of myself. The rest is cinema! MV: For me, it was almost sort of an equation. I wanted to make a film that showed that when you fall in love, you don’t always fall in love the same way all the time. It’s not always the same. I wanted to show that how you fall in love and falling in love is something that can evolve. It evolves with you as a person based on your experience, based on your age, based on the life that you’ve lived. I have this fantasy that the older you get, the more experienced you get, the better you are at loving and being loved. That, for me, was what was important. That as you mature, you can progress in love. That brings up something that I think is very interesting. I wonder why most romantic movies are about people in their 20s or their teens, not about mature women, who have had legitimate life experience. What do you think people in Hollywood are afraid of? And what value do movies about these women have that the usual products do not? FA: If you look carefully at the literature — French, Russian, English — it was a long time ago that they started to speak about love affairs with older women. At that time, when you are 40, it is like now when you are 60. Because the population is becoming older and older. It was always in the humanity. Maybe cinema, because it is a picture, the director or the cinematographic industry thinks you [need] sex appeal. So they put a beautiful face, a beautiful body, and they forget the true feelings. As you said, you can be in love like Romeo and Juliet at 20 or 15, or at 80, like Henry Miller. I think because it’s a picture, the representation of love belongs to the beauty. The perfect body, perfect face. I think from the beginning of humanity, love affairs were always at every age. MV: That's very true. Splash News I agree! Were there any other specific films or pieces of literature, like you mention, that helped to shape your ideas about how real, legitimate love stories should be handled in art? MV: One of the most important films for me was The Graduate. It is one of my favorite films because it shows things just how they should not be. What you have there, the older woman is shown as the predator, and she’s got him in her clutches. And he’s this young guy, he’s still a virgin, she deflowers him. It’s all these stereotypes. And even as a teenager — this is the kind of movie that made me want to live and made me want to make films — but it’s also to show you that Ms. Robinson is the exact antithesis of what Caroline is in the film. It’s also why I included a tiny little reference in the film, pulling out the stocking. Yes! I noticed that. FA: Do you remember this movie, an American movie, about a love affair with an older woman, Terms of Endearment? I remember this movie. That was no problem. Do you remember the lady? [Shirley MacLaine]. With Jack Nicholson. It was strong because you believed this love affair between them and in the middle of the drama — MV: Who was the director? James L. Brooks? FA: So maybe, for [those] reasons ... it succeeded. Sometimes you have that kind of movie. It's not all the rubbish things that pass. You had Romeo and Juliet once. But you try to do the same, it's very difficult. With so many love stories in film, very few of them that I've seen are actually about marriage. Usually they're about people who meet and fall in love for the first time. FA: We have this sentence in French: "Happy people have no story." It’s true. You are not going to speak about happiness. MV: But it was important for me to speak about this marriage. I thought it was really important to show in a film, what do you do when you’ve lived together as a couple for such a long time? How do you survive those moments that are difficult? The times when you come out of sync with each other, and you’re just not on the same wavelength. But then manage to bring yourselves back into sync with each other. So I thought it was important to show that. But do you both think there are so few movies about marriage because of that saying, "Happy people have no story"? FA: No, because there's [also a saying], "A comedy finishing with a wedding is a tragedy starting."  [Laughter] FA: Excuse me. That is the French mentality.  Even though this movie is very authentic and grounded in reality, it's still a very enchanting movie, and delightful, romantic love story... FA: When you are the spectator in the dark room, every time, a piece of life is caught. You never know. It’s not like the classic movie where part of the pleasure is knowing where it’s going to end. You never know. You are waiting for something, but you never know. [The viewers] don’t even know what they want. Because some people want that she stays with the lover, other people want her to go back to the husband. So, I think it's a movie made by that flash. You are in front of reality in real life. You have no time to think about reality. Reality, at the same time, for me, doesn’t exist. Reality is a vision that you have. MV: I think it’s also Fanny's presence in the film that adds to that sensation you have of it being real but enchanting. Follow @Michael Arbeiter| Follow @Hollywood_com
  • 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." 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