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: 'Her' Has the Special Combination of So Much Brilliance and So Much Heart
    By: Michael Arbeiter Dec 20, 2013
    Warner Bros. Spike Jonze doesn't waste any time introducing us to the technology at the center of Her. "An operating system that can mimic human sentience?" a dangerously lonely Joaquin Phoenix wonders after catching glimpse of an ad in a transit station. "Don't mind if I do!" (He doesn't actually say that, don't worry.) But by the time we're meant to believe that such a world can seamlessly integrate characters like Scarlett Johansson's automated voice Samantha into the lives of living, breathing men and women like Phoenix's Theodore, we're already established residents of this arresting, icy, quivering world the filmmaker has built. We meet Theodore midway through his recitation of a "handwritten letter" he penned on behalf of a woman to her husband of many years. That's his job — tapping into his own unique sensititivies to play ghostwriter for people hoping to adorn their spouses, boyfriends, girlfriends, parents, and children with personal notes of personal affection. Theodore is no independent contractor; he's part of a thriving company, and we almost get the feeling that the folks on the receiving end of these letters are in the know. Before we ever encounter Samantha, we're embedded in the central conceit of the movie: emotional surrogacy is an industry on the rise. What makes Jonze's world so palatable is that, beneath its marvelously eerie aesthetic, this idea is barely science-fiction. Theodore, humbled and scarred by a recent divorce from lifelong love Catherine (Rooney Mara, who contrasts Johansson by giving a performance that, for a large sum of the movie, is all body and no voice), accesses the will to go on through interractions with video game characters and phone-sex hotlines. But the ante is upped with Samantha, the self-named operating system that Theodore purchases to stave off loneliness, deeming choice a far less contorting one than spending time with old pals like Amy (Amy Adams)... at first.  Samantha evolves rather quickly from an articulate Siri into a curious companion, who is fed and engaged by Theodore just as much as she feeds and engages him. Jonze paces his construction of what, exactly, Samantha is so carefully that we won't even catch the individual steps in her change — along with Theodore, we slowly grow more and more enamored and mystified by his computer/assistant/friend/lover before we can recognize that we're dealing with a different being altogether from the one we met at that inceptive self-aware "H-hello?" But Jonze lays tremendous groundwork to let us know this story is all for something: all the while, as the attractions build and the hearts beat faster for Samantha, we foster an unmistakable sense of doom. We can't help but dread the very same perils that instituted one infamous admission: "I'm sorry, Dave. I'm afraid I can't do that." Warner Bros. But Jonze's sci-fi constructs are so cohesively intertwined with his love story that our dread doesn't exactly translate to an anticipation of HAL's hostile takeover. Her wedges us so tightly between Theodore and Samantha that our fears of the inevitable clash between man and machine apprehend a smaller, more intimate ruin. As Samantha's growth become more surprising and challenging to Theodore, to herself, and to us, the omens build for each. And although all three parties know better, we cannot help but affix ourselves to the chemistry between Theodore and Samantha, and to the possibility that we're building toward something supreme. A good faction of this is due to the unbelievable performances of Phoenix — representing the cautious excitement that we all know so painfully well — and Johansson, who twists her disembodied voice so empathetically that we find ourselves, like Theodore, forgetting that we have yet to actually meet her. The one castigation that we can attach to the casting of Johansson is that such a recognizable face will, inevitably, work its way into our heads when we're listening to her performance. It almost feels like a cheat, although we can guarantee that a performance this good would render a figure just as vivid even if delivered by an unknown. The best player in the World for movie trailers, Hollywood interviews and movie clips. In this way, Her is as effective a comment on the healthiest human relationships as it is on those that rope in third parties — be they of the living, automated, or greeting card variety. In fact, the movie has so many things to say that it occasionally steps on its own feet, opening up ideas so grand (and coloring them so brightly) that it sometimes has trouble capping them coherently. Admittedly, if Spike Jonze had an answer to some of the questions he's asking here, he'd probably be suspected of himself being a super-intelligent computer. But in telling the story of a man struggling to understand what it means to be in love, to an operating system or not, Jonze invites us to dissect all of the manic and trying and wonderful and terrifying and incomprehensible elements therein. Just like Samantha, Her doesn't always know what to do with all of its brilliance. But that might be part of why we're so crazy over the both of them. 4.5/5 Follow @Michael Arbeiter // | Follow @Hollywood_com //
  • Review: 'The Wolf of Wall Street' Might Be a Little Too Much Fun for Its Own Good
    By: Michael Arbeiter Dec 19, 2013
    Paramount It's a good hour into The Wolf of Wall Street, following a deep dive into Jordan Belfort's early days in the stock market game — that being the most appropriate word for it — and festive indulgence in the most carnal manifestations of human desire, that we're hit with the title card, "18 months later..." Here, it is solidified that the years we have spent inside Martin Scorsese's world of toxic capitalism have all been, up to this point, set-up. Fuel. This brief flash of text, the longest instance of silence in the cacophonous sewer system that is Belfort's story, is the first real sign that a fire is coming. By this time, Scorsese's willful defiance of the "show, don't tell" method has introduced us to every one of the doe-eyed crook's countless vices. He has no qualms stealing from those who can't afford it, lying to those who trust him, cheating on his wife, cramming every substance known to modern science into his bloodstream, and wholeheartedly endorsing (to his adoring audience) all of the above. All the while, we bound between delight and disgust. The delight comes not so much in the material victories of Belfort and his cronies — that has the latter effect, in fact, as every antic is so vividly laced with Sodom-level depravity — but in watching them like zoo animals. In fact, The Wolf of Wall Street's principal undoing might be that it is simply too much fun. For that, we have to thank Leonardo DiCaprio. DiCaprio had managed terrific performances all his career, but this is one of the first in years to actually surprise us. Opening his tale as an ambitious and firm-shouldered young buck, the likes of which you'd find in any Horatio Algers novel, and devolving into the Financial District's answer to Beetlejuice, the actor exhibits corners of his performing ability that we have always dreamed we'd see. In the months leading up to DiCaprio's turn as the dastardly dandy Calvin Candie in last year's Quentin Tarantino picture Django Unchained, fans anticipated an unprecedented kookiness that never seemed to show. Turns out, DiCaprio was saving that mania for Wolf of Wall Street, in which he lambasts justice and judgment in the form of an elastic child at his most tempered and a rabid kangaroo on those nights of the especially hard partying. Paramount And of course, there's that scene with the Quaaludes. Without giving too much away — although the experience is so visceral that all the contextual spoilers wouldn't rob the scene of its emphatic humor — DiCaprio manages a feat of physical comedy so extensive, demanding, and gutterally f**king hilarious that you'll wonder tearfully what might have been had the rising star shirked Titanic for a career in slapstick. But the surplus joys derived from this scene might, in fact, be Wolf's undoing. In a story that is meant to lather on the horrors inherent in the human's propensity for self-serving greed and gluttony, it can soften the blow when we're allowed to take a break from our disgust to spend a few moments in vivid, unabashed delight. Yes, the scene in question involves drug abuse, intoxicated driving, criminal activity, and a near-death experience. But it's so damn funny that we're kept from toppling down into what might have been the darkest crevasse of the film's story and enduring the pathos that might come with it. The dilution of Wolf's message comes at the hand of its comedy (with no affair a bigger culprit than the one described above) and its tendency to meander. Although Scorsese works to shove the very idea of "excess" down our throats with seemingly endless scenes of Belfort and his pals harassing flight attendants and dehumanizing little people, the ad nauseum effect doesn't always hit home as powerfully as imagined, instead allowing the viewer to fizzle out from time to time through Wolf's three-hour tour. We're drowned, slowly and steadily, in Belfort's tragic pleasures while, as the "18 months later" interstitial suggests, we keep expecting to combust with them. It's always a risky endeavor for a film or television show to indict crooked characters not through narrative penalties but through a tacit communication of their behavior or psychology as bad news. The risk comes in the form of audiences challenging artists for letting their villains get off scot-free, or even for glorifying undesirable lifestyles. Ultimately, while Belfort does get some semblance of his comeuppance, he wins in his nefarious game. The Belfort we leave at the end of our journey adheres to the tenets he spouts from the beginning, reveling in a legion of former colleagues beaming at him in collective awe and new students of his self-centric theology zealously eating up his every word in hopes of becoming the very same kind of demigod. To Scorsese, and to any an audience member willing to estrange him or herself from the bounties of wicked humor, this is just the fire we were promised. Belfort's image is ignited by the instances of theft, deceit, betrayal, substance abuse, sexual crime, and a spiralling descent into sub-human madness. But there are a few too many laughs along the way to keep the flames from reaching their full, hottest potential. But hey, when you're complaining about a movie for being too much fun, you've got a pretty good movie on your hands. 3.5/5 Follow @Michael Arbeiter // | Follow @Hollywood_com //
  • There Are 7 Possible Ways This New 'Gilligan's Island' Movie Could Go...
    By: Michael Arbeiter Dec 18, 2013
    CBS via Everett Collection/Getty They're making a Gilligan's Island movie. Josh Gad is in it. This is the news we find ourselves facing today. Gilligan's Island purists (there's a purist for everything) are probably hollering over the news of Gad at the center of this production. "The Book of Mormon kid as Gilligan? That's conflicts with my purism!" But as of yet, we're not entirely sure who Gad is set to play. The assumption: Gilligan. The official word: TBA. So, really, there are seven possible ways this movie can go... Josh Gad as GilliganThe most straightforward adaptation of the sitcom, with Gad playing the bumbling title character who consistently thwarts his friends' attempts at escaping the confines of their desert island prison. Sight gags, goofy repartee, wacky laughs, and a simplistic message about believing in yourself and the people you love. Maybe Gad's Gilligan has a romantic flight with hometown gal Mary Ann? That'd sell. We mean, foster artistic merit. Directed by Shawn Levy. Also starringThe Skipper... Kevin JamesThe Millionaire... Jason BatemanHis Wife... Allison JanneyThe Movie Star... Sofia VergaraThe Professor... Jon Hamm (in glasses!)Mary Ann... Ellie Kemper Josh Gad as The SkipperYou know, for kids! If Gad takes on the role of the Skipper, a maritime man who has quite a few years on the rest of the characters, we might be seeing something in the vein of a Disney Channel vacation flick. Gad and his nephew "Gil" operate an ocean excursion for privileged youths and wind up on a crazy island adventure! Gad must wrangle these preteens (and teach them a few lessons about growing up) in this family-friendly 90-minute TV movie (with commercials). Rally the the small nation of people that wrote and directed the Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs movies. Also starringGilligan... Rico RodriguezThe Millionaire... One of the Sprouse twins (maybe not the one with the naked pictures scandal, just to be safe)His "Wife"... iCarlyThe Movie Star... Somebody named ZendayaThe Professor... The kid from Iron Man 3Mary Ann... My cousin Kylee recommended Bridget Mendler, but, admittedly, Kylee doesn't know what Gilligan's Island is Josh Gad as The Millionaire The quirky indie! We've seen a lot of stylistic liberties taken with old television programs and books, with an extra dose of contemporary eccentricity injected into properties like Dark Shadows or Fantastic Mr. Fox. Casting Gad as the (Internet) millionaire would kick off this new Gilligan with that dry, satirical flavor we find in so many offbeat indie flicks, rendering the entire island adventure a venue for deadpan non sequiturs and (quite appropriately) ukulele solos. Is Noah Baumbach available? No? Damn. Also starringGilligan... Jason SchwartzmanThe Skipper... Mark Ruffalo (is he still doing this stuff, or is he all Hulk now?)His Wife... Charlyne YiThe Professor... Mark DuplassThe Movie Star... Zoe Kazan, or a Zoe Kazan equivalentMary Ann... Greta Gerwig, obviously Josh Gad as His WifeThe broader-than-broad cross-dressing comedy! The kind of humor you find on the cutting room floor of Yogi Bear. If there's time to work in a plot between instances of human (and animal) flatulence, so be it. Overweight Gad playing the butt of every joke as Thurston Howell III's hilariously unattractive wife? That's not just comedy, it's America! Brett Ratner is already signed on for a three-picture deal. Also starringGilligan, The Skipper, The Millionaire, The Movie Star, and The Professor... Eddie MurphyMary Ann... An actual woman that they rope in for some semblance of a romantic arc Josh Gad as The Movie Star The classy Oscar candidate! Occasionally, a TV adaptation (i.e., The Fugitive) will reach far and beyond the constraints of its source material and actually churn out awards-caliber material. Casting Gad as a subversion of what we view as the epitome of traditional "celebrity" already lends itself to a more poignant and pensive Gilligan's Island than any of us might have anticipated. We're talking Sophia Coppola territory here. A drama that really says something about what it means for a septet of disparate humans to fend for themselves on a desert island. Also starringGilligan... Michael B. JordanThe Skipper... Christian Bale (he'll gain the weight)The Millionaire... Jean DujardinHis Wife... Marion CotillardThe Professor... Sean Penn — is he still allowed to make movies?Mary Ann... Rooney Mara Josh Gad as The Professor The sci-fi adventure! Gilligan's Island, less a few anthropomorphic monkeys and some liberties taken with coconut-based technology, was rooted in the laws of our universe. But you can say the same for Scooby Doo and The Brady Bunch, and they went on to face real monsters and impending asteroids in their film incarnations. Sometimes, the step toward the big screen warrants an inclusion of fantasy. Maybe the island isn't just uncharted, but cursed! Or the home of an undiscovered breed of monsters! Or a space-and-time-jumping beacon of electromagnetic energy that stands as an extended metaphor for the plight of the human soul! We can see the Bad Robot logo now... His Costars:Gilligan... Dave FrancoThe Skipper... Dwayne JohnsonThe Millionaire... Idris Elba — now you're on boardHis Wife... Gina CaranoThe Movie Star... Zoe SaldanaMary Ann... Elizabeth Olsen Josh Gad as Mary Ann Have you ever seen Head? The strange, cerebral, explosively meta deconstruction of the 1960s musical sitcom The Monkees? Well, we're thinking that the Gilligan's Island form would slink perfectly into these margins. It's surreal, it's ripe for analysis, it even has been suggested to represent the Seven Deadly Sins with each of its characters. Gad's casting as Mary Ann already raises an eyebrow, but a progressive and artful director might well give us something worthy of some deep dives. Charlie Kaufman, make Gilligan's Island about US. His Costars:Gilligan... Jared LetoThe Skipper... Meat LoafThe Millionaire... Denis LavantHis Wife... Catherine KeenerThe Movie Star... Chloe SevignyThe Professor... Joaquin Phoenix So which version are you rooting for? Follow @Michael Arbeiter // | Follow @Hollywood_com //
  • Review: 'Anchorman 2' Is an Acceptable Sequel with Big Laughs, Dry Stretches, and Something to Say About News
    By: Michael Arbeiter Dec 17, 2013
    Paramount Pictures For the past nine years, Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy has enjoyed lasting celebration for its collection of all-purpose one liners. You'd be amazed at how frequently people manage to shout "Milk was a bad choice!" in regular conversation. But they do. Because they love it. And for my money, Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues has its own plump share of moments just as funny. Admittedly, I've never found the original Anchorman to be all that uproarious. Some were hooked straight away, others grew fond of the wacky comedy over the years. But it never rang more than occasionally amusing for me. In Anchorman 2, the laughter is even more occasional. But when it hits, it's arguably more amusing. I'm thinking, foremost, of throwaway gags like the news team cackling over their mutual distaste for workdays, or plunging headfirst into an copy of Garfield at Large. Bits and pieces like these throughout the movie showcase some terrific humor, with a few of the larger conceits — like Ron Burgundy's mid-movie relationship with a beached baby shark — also landing, and hard. Unfortunately, they are separated by long, slow, dry spells. But to be honest, even this movie's dry spells rarely lose watchability. The biggest shortcoming of Anchorman 2 can be pegged to the transformation of Steve Carell's weatherman character Brick Tamland. When we first meet Brick in the original film, he’s no more than a dimwitted weirdo, exhibiting anxiety and obliviousness in his few choice moments center stage. But such is not the case when we reunite with Brick in Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues. He's shouting hysterically, can't put a sentence together, and has no understanding of what is going on around him at any given time. And this doesn't work. It's not funny when Brick parades around the office like Godzilla, or takes full multi-minute scenes to wrap his mind around the simplest of concepts. Instead, it's grating. So it's quite the problem that this new Brick gets double the screentime and material of his old counterpart. Paired with an equally empty-headed Kristen Wiig, Brick enjoys his own romantic journey. There is no conflict keeping the two apart; their story just functions as a collection of interwoven scenes of two adults acting like moronic aliens — so it is played entirely for laughs. And, unfortunately, it deserves not a one. Paramount Pictures The outstanding negatives end there. It's not always hilarious when Ron Burgundy struggles with the racial divide between himself and his new boss/ladyfriend Linda Jackson (Meagan Good), but it's consistently affable. The rivalry between Ron and ex-wife Veronica's new beau Gary (Greg Kinnear, playing a psychologist with a ponytail — and how) churns out some hearty chuckles. And kudos to the script for handing more material to David Koechner's lovably rancid Champ Kind, although I wouldn't turn my nose up at an Anchorman 2 that had more for Paul Rudd to do. But the biggest victory of Anchorman 2 is that it actually has something to say about the news. Anchorman (likewise Will Ferrell's follow-up features Talladega Nights and the non-Adam McKay venture Blades of Glory) was primarily about gender roles and America's obsessive definition of masculinity. But Anchorman 2 looks specifically at the media, castigating the news industry for what it has devolved into. The film's message is broad, not especially constructive of a moral or solution, and not at all something we haven't seen before. But hey, it's been a while since Network, so this'll do just fine for the time being. The best player in the World for movie trailers, Hollywood interviews and movie clips. The cultural phenomenon that was born from Anchorman is a rarity, reserved for special kinds of comedies that are just weird enough at just the right time. Anchorman 2 has all that weirdness in stock — hell, its climactic scene (the very best part of the movie, hands down) has more insanity in a three-minute span than the first movie does entirely. And in truth, it's worth seeing just for that. But leading up to it, you'll get big laughs, some duller (but not quite dull!) stretches, and some unexpected commentary on how America takes its news. All in all, a good time. Just ignore the Brick parts. 3/5 Follow @Michael Arbeiter // | Follow @Hollywood_com //
  • 'How I Met Your Mother' Recap: The First Bad Episode of the Season
    By: Michael Arbeiter Dec 17, 2013
    CBS I have been head over heels for this season of How I Met Your Mother, defending the stuck-in-the-wedding-weekend conceit against detractors and championing the overall refreshed feel of the humor and performances. But "Bass Player Wanted," the episode that would bring us the long anticipated union of the Mother and Ted's best pal Marshall, is far and away the worst half-hour Season 9 has given us. Marshall meets the future Mrs. Mosby — whose name might well be hinted at by the title of the series finale — while he's struggling to walk five miles from his broken down bus to the wedding venue. (Now, this is hardly a relevant issue, but the show makes out a five-mile walk to be some sort of cross-country trek. Yes, Marshall is carrying his son and a few bags, but five miles really isn't that dreadful a hike for a healthy man of his physical prowess.) Driving away from Farhampton, The Mother recognizes Marshall from the pictures Lily showed her back on the Long Island Railroad and offers to give him and baby Marvin a ride. Here, she reveals her present conflict: her lead singer, played demonically by Andrew Rannells, is some kind of sadistic sociopath who gets off on ruining people's friendships. As T.M. divulges Rannells' penchant for interrelationship sabotage, we see him starting fights between Lily and Robin (revealing that Robin is secretly taking Marshall's side in the judgeship/Italy debate) and Ted and Barney (telling Barney of Ted's plans to move to Chicago after the wedding). But we never quite understand what the deal is with this nutjob. Why is Rannells' character such a psychotic dick? And how does he know enough info about Robin/Lily/Ted/Barney to infuse himself so effectively into their trust? And is T.M. the only one who knows of his evil follies, or are the other band members also aware of the monster that Rannells is? As T.M. continues to refer to Rannells as "the Devil," we learn that he also has optioned to replace her as bass player, after usurping her position as lead singer. It's all a bunch of wackadoo nonsense that unwinds into a convoluted conclusion to win Ted the good graces of his future wife. How? By an act of idiotic violence. See, after Ted and Barney make up (I'll come back to that, since it is my favorite part of the episode), we see Ted punch Rannells' character right in the face. Is it because he broke his $600 bottle of Scotch, or because he instigated a spat between the two friends? A little of both, maybe. Either way, 35-year-old men shouldn't be punching people. That's not really admirable, and certainly not in character for Ted. Is this bizarre one-off moment of moronic machismo really supposed to be the thing that wins him the heart of The Mother? And do we really want Ted to end up with someone who can sign off on something like that? T.M. hears that someone has punched out Rannells, which, along with encouragement from Marshall, gives her the guts to stand up to him once and for all and kick him out of the band. Bravo, golf claps, whatever. This is fair, permissable punishment for this weird non-character. A telling off and a deflating of ego is far more effective than a sock in the jaw. But back to Ted and Barney. The sensitive Barney takes it personally that Ted hadn't told him about his Chicago move, insisting that Ted sees him as just "some guy he used to know in New York." The words land, and hard — Barney has always felt as though Ted didn't care nearly as much for him as he does for Ted, and probably with good reason. But Ted pulls off a half-cocked plan (stealing a $600 bottle of Scotch) and admitting, tacitly, that he is only leaving because he needs to start over with a Robin-free life. This Barney understands. The two make up. It all works. Unfortunately, it's surrounded by a lot of stuff that's significantly less clever. Follow @Michael Arbeiter // | Follow @Hollywood_com //
  • What the Hell Would a 'Good Will Hunting' Series Even Be?
    By: Michael Arbeiter Dec 16, 2013
    Miramax via Everett Collection Monday morning saw a heap of news involving the Weinstein brothers and their former golden goose Miramax. Deadline reports that, in short, Hollywood kingpins Harvey and Bob have signed a deal that will allow them to dig up old properties and revive them in new forms. This means sequels, reboots, and reimaginings for a lot of their past Miramax hits. In ascending order of madness, we have mention of... - Rounders 2 — a follow-up to the Matt Damon poker flick that is reaching for Robert De Niro as the central villain.- A "series transfer" for Flirting with Disaster, an early David O. Russell movie that saw Ben Stiller on a quest to find his biological parents. This could easily be transformed into an episodic comedy (though we're not saying it should).- A Shakespeare in Love sequel, which, we guess, would involve the Bard's continued forays with romance as he explores the creative folds of his mind.- And finally, the most bewildering announcement that the showbiz news circuit has coughed up lately, another series adaptation: this one of the movie Good Will Hunting. ...That's pretty weird. For the three Americans who haven't seen Good Will Hunting, it tells the story of (once again) Matt Damon, as a 20-year-old orphan, impoverished Bostonian, and all-around dillhole with a genius intellect, most notably for complex mathematics. He spends most of his time causing mayhem with fellow dillholes (of the non-genius variety) Ben Affleck, Casey Affleck, and Cole Hauser, until his mental stamina is discovered by a haughty MIT professor (Stellan Skarsgaard) who insists that his old pal (Robin Williams) refurbish the troubled young Damon's psychological state of being so that he can put his intelligence to good use. In the end, everything works out rather neatly. The poor-but-smart Mr. Hunting finds an outlet for his talents, gets in touch with his latent childhood traumas, and even meets a nice lady in the process (Minnie Driver). The sort of self-contained story that made for the bread and butter of '90s cinema. So how on Earth are they going to turn this picture into a series? Some hefty bastardization is in order... The Session-by-Session Route: Each week, we'll examine the psychological progress achieved by young William Hunting as he undertakes regular therapy sessions with Dr. Robin Williams. I mean Sean. Kind of like The Sopranos, with a different (albeit similarly egregious) mistreatment of the letter "R". Potential episodes: "Will Hunting's Daddy Issues," "Will Hunting and the Naked-in-High-School Nightmare," "Will Hunting vs. the Rorshach." The On-the-Road-to-Skyler Route: At the end of the movie, we see Will take off out of Boston in the new car just bequeathed unto him by three friends who, unlike himself, actually don't have high paying jobs lined up. Without so much as a goodbye, he zooms down the road to "see about a girl" ... in other words, to reunite with Skyler, who at this point resides in California. Maybe we'll see the sequel as a series of sorts, with Will taking on a cross country journey to make amends with his lost love, getting himself mixed up in goofy adventures along the way. Potential episodes: "Will Hunting Takes Manhattan," "Will Hunting in the Bayou," "Will Hunting's Sheboygan Adventure." The Just-Hangin'-'round-with-Chuckie-and-the-Fellas Route: This is probably the worst idea of the bunch... and yet, so many a film and TV program has been made of it. In this incarnation, Will and his Southie pals would spend their time drinking, cursing, watching little league games, beating up other kids in the park, going down to the bowling alley. Think of it as an even more nihilistic Seinfeld, with less money and a good deal more maim. Potential episodes: "Will and Chuckie Rob the Shaw's," "Morgan's Get Rich Quick Scheme," "Cole Hauser's Sheboygan Adventure." The Original Thriller-esque Route: For those of you who have read up on the story behind the production of Good Will Hunting, for whatever unfounded reason, you might know that the script was originally a thriller about G-men who pursued Will for his mathematic gift. So, maybe something like that would work as a series, and we'd see Will taking on Jason Bourne-like adventures as he avoids the long arm of the American government. Potential episodes: "Will Goes Incognito," "Will Meets Carrie Mathison," "Will Finally Realizes It's Time to Serve His Country and Sells Out Entirely." Which of these Good Will Huntings would you most like to see? Follow @Michael Arbeiter // | Follow @Hollywood_com //
  • Does '22 Jump Street' Look as Clever as the Surprise Hit in Red Band Trailer?
    By: Michael Arbeiter Dec 16, 2013
    MOVIECLIPS Trailers/YouTube Nobody expected 21 Jump Street to be funny. The film was a surprise reimagining of an '80s cop drama that nobody really ever talked about anymore. It starred an Apatow regular who everyone was kind of getting sick of and a dancing hunk that nobody knew could land a joke. But lo and behold, the 2012 comedy was damn good. But will22 Jump Street, the upcoming sequel, hit the same marks? The red band trailer doesn't assure us either way. On the one hand, there is a unique gift inherent in this film series: the ability to do the same thing we loved over again but in a way that feels not only fresh, but sensible (after high school comes college, naturally). But we can't help but wonder if a movie that relied so much on one-off gags and a shocking, youthful energy can reproduce all that in a Round 2. The red band trailer has its share of self-referential jabs and goofy jokes, and will probably introduce a handful of quotable lines as did its predecessor. But in watching the video, we feel a looming sense of dread. A stale atmosphere as Nick Offerman lambasts Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum, now set to play undercover cops at a local university. Will it be funny? Very possible. Will it be a dud? A tad more possible. Check out the trailer and judge for yourself. Follow @Michael Arbeiter // | Follow @Hollywood_com //
  • Review: 'Saving Mr. Banks' Would Rather Be a Disney Cartoon Than a True, Meaningful Story
    By: Michael Arbeiter Dec 13, 2013
    Disney You expect a bit of schmaltz from a movie about the making of Mary Poppins. But schmaltz doesn't entail a sentiment lathered so thickly that it's feels like an anti-depressant commercial, or material so broad that it's insulting to believe that audiences above the age of five can relate to the emotionality onscreen. Saving Mr. Banks takes for granted that its viewers are fans of traditional Disney, seeming to confuse Disney fans for Disney characters, and insinuating that we bear the intellectual sophistication thereof. The real victim, of course, is the character of P.L. Travers (Emma Roberts, charming as she can be with this material), who incurs a fraction of a storyline about overcoming (or learning to live with?) her latent childhood traumas. As a young girl in Australia (as we learn in intermittent flashbacks — by and large the dullest part of the movie, but such a hefty piece of it), young Travers adored her merry, whimsical alcoholic father (Colin Farrell, playing a character that feels as grounded in reality as Dick Van Dyke's penguin-trotting screever Bert), enchanting in his Neverland mannerisms while her chronically depressed mother watched the family crumble into squalor. Forty-odd years later, the themes of Travers' childhood inform (sometimes directly, right down to presciently repeated phrases) her resistence to allow her novel Mary Poppins to take form as a Disney movie. In the absence of a reason for why she might have a sudden change of heart about a feeling to which she has apparently held so strongly for two decades, Travers opts to fly out to California to meet Walt Disney (Tom Hanks, wading through the script without any of the energy we know he has in his back pocket) and discuss the adaptation process. Disney When it's not insisting upon clunky "melting the ice queen" devices — like nuzzling Travers up to an oversized stuffed Mickey Mouse to show that, hey, she's starting to like this place! — the stubborn author's time in the Disney writer's room is the best part of the movie. Working with (or against) an increasingly agitated creative team made up of Bradley Whitford, Jason Schwartzman, and B.J. Novak, Travers protests minor details about setting and character, driving her colleagues mad in the process. It is to the credit of the comic talents of Whitford and Schwartzman (who play reserved agitation well beside Novak's outright hostility — he's doing mid-series Ryan in this movie, FYI) that these scenes offer a scoop of charm. But Travers' gradual defrosting poses a consistent problem, as it is experienced over the slow reveal of her disjointed backstories in a fashion that suggests the two are connected... but we have no reason to believe that they are. The implications of the characters' stories — depression, child abuse, alcoholism, handicaps, and PTSD — are big, and worthy of monumental material. But the characters are so thin that the assignment of such issues to them does a disservice to the emotionality and pain inherent therein. A good story might have been found in the making of Mary Poppins, and in the life and work of P.L. Travers. Unfortunately, Saving Mr. Banks is too compelled to turn that arc into a Disney cartoon. And much like Travers herself, we simply cannot abide that. Follow @Michael Arbeiter // | Follow @Hollywood_com //
  • Review: Not Enough Bilbo, But Just Enough Adventure in 'The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug'
    By: Michael Arbeiter Dec 13, 2013
    Warner Bros. Give Martin Freeman an empty room and he'll give you comedy. The best parts of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey — an admittedly mishandled movie in large — involved his subdued grimaces, his Chaplinian waddling, and the way he carried himself with equal parts neurosis and snark in every scene. If there is one primary misstep of An Unexpected Journey's terrifically improved sequel, The Desolation of Smaug, it is the spiritual absence of Bilbo Baggins. Freeman's good-natured but disgruntled Hobbit takes a backseat to the Dwarf team in this chapter of Peter Jackon's three-part saga, distributing the heavy lifting among the front lines of the bearded mooks. Thankfully, we're not shafted with too much "Thorin's destiny" backstory, instead focusing on the trek forward, through far more interesting terrain than we got last time around. The Dwarves voyage through a trippy woodland that'll conjur fond memories of The Legend of Zelda's unnavigable forest levels and inside the borders of Lake-town, a man-occupied working class monarchy that is more vivid and living than any place we have seen yet in the series. And while Unexpected Journey's goblin caverns might have been cool to look at, none of the quests in Desolation feel nearly as close to a tangential detour. Every step the Dwarves take is one that beckons us closer to the central, increasingly engaging story. Desolation is not entirely without its curiosities. While Gandalf's mission to meet the Necromancer serves to connect the Hobbit trilogy to the Lord of the Rings movies, the occasional cuts over to the wizard's pursuits are primarily distracting and just a bit dull. Although we're happy to welcome the Elf race back into our Middle-earth adventures, it's easy to imagine a version of this story that didn't involve side characters like Legolas and Kate... I mean, Tauriel... and still felt whole (perhaps even more cohesive). The latter's love affair with hot Dwarf Kili seems like a last minute addition to the canon, and one not built on anything beyond the cinematic rule that two sexually compatible attractive people should probably have something brewing alongside all the action. Warner Bros. But the most egregious of crimes committed by Desolation is, unquestionably, the shafting of Bilbo Baggins to secondary status. Yes, he proves himself a savior to his fellow travelers four times in the film, but long stretches of action go by without so much as a word from the wide-eyed burglar. When he finally takes center stage in his theatrical face-off with Smaug — an exercise in double-talk reminiscent of Oedipus outsmarting the Sphinx — the film picks up with a new, cool energy, with a chilling fun laced around the impending doom of their back-and-forth. We've been waiting since the first frames of Unexpected to see how the dragon material will pay off, and it does in spades... albeit in the final third of Desolation, but with equal parts gravitas and fun, to reunite us with our Tolkien passions once more. Benedict Cumberbatch's dragon doesn't do much to subvert expectation — he's slithering, sadistic, vain, manipulative, and vaguely Londonian. But tradition feels good here. Smaug's half hour spent toying with the mousey Bilbo (who does get a chance to showcase his aptitude at small-scale physical comedy here) is terrific in every way. Its Hobbit problem aside, Desolation proves itself worthy of Bilbo's past proclamation. "I'm going on an adventure!" more than pays off here, in the form of mystifying boat rides, edge-of-your-seat efforts in dragon slaying, and the most joyful action set piece we've seen in years. Twelve Dwarves, twelve barrels, and one roaring river amounts for enough fun to warrant your trip to the theater for this latest outing into Middle-earth. 3.5/5 Follow @Michael Arbeiter // | Follow @Hollywood_com //
  • Golden Globes 2014: See the Full List of Nominees!
    By: Michael Arbeiter Dec 12, 2013
    NBC Best Motion Picture, Drama12 Years a SlaveGravityCaptain PhillipsRushPhilomena Best Motion Picture, Musical or ComedyNebraskaAmerican HustleThe Wolf of Wall StreetInside Llewyn DavisHer Best Actor in a Motion Picture, DramaChiwetel Ejiofor, 12 Years a SlaveMatthew McConaughey, Dallas Buyers Club Tom Hanks, Captain Phillips Robert Redford, All Is Lost Idris Elba, Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom  Best Actor in a Motion Picture, Musical or ComedyBruce Dern, NerbaskaLeonardo DiCaprio, The Wolf of Wall StreetChristian Bale, American HustleOscar Isaac, Inside Llewyn DavisJoaquin Phoenix, Her Best Actress in a Motion Picture, DramaCate Blanchett, Blue JasmineSandra Bullock, GravityEmma Thompson, Saving Mr. BanksJudi Dench, PhilomenaKate Winslet, Labor Day Best Actress in a Motion Picture, Musical or ComedyMeryl Streep, August: Osage CountyJulia Louis-Dreyfus, Enough SaidAmy Adams, American HustleJulie Delpy, Before MidnightGreta Gerwig, Frances Ha Best Director - Motion PictureAlfonso Cuaron, GravitySteve McQueen, 12 Years a SlaveDavid O. Russell, American HustlePaul Greengrass, Captain PhillipsAlexander Payne, Nebraska Best Screenplay - Motion PictureJohn Ridley, 12 Years a SlaveBob Nelson, NebraskaEric Warren Singer and David O. Russell, American HustleJeff Pope and Steve Coogan, PhilomenaSpike Jonze, Her Best Supporting Actor in a Motion PictureMichael Fassbender, 12 Years a SlaveJared Leto, Dallas Buyers ClubBradley Cooper, American HustleDaniel Bruhl, RushBarkhad Abdi, Captain Phillips Best Supporting Actress in a Motion PictureLupita Nyong'o, 12 Years a SlaveJennifer Lawrence, American HustleJulia Roberts, August: Osage CountyJune Squibb, NebraskaSally Hawkins, Blue Jasmine Best TV Series, DramaBreaking BadDownton AbbeyHouse CardsMasters of SexThe Good Wife Best TV Series, ComedyThe Big Bang TheoryModern FamilyGirlsBrooklyn Nine-NineParks and Recreation Best Actor in a TV Series, DramaBryan Cranston, Breaking BadMichael Sheen, Masters of SexKevin Spacey, House of CardsJames Spader, The BlacklistLiev Schreiber, Ray Donovan Best Actor in a TV Series, ComedyJason Bateman, Arrested DevelopmentDon Cheadle, House of LiesMichael J. Fox, The Michael J. FoxJim Parsons, The Big Bang TheoryAndy Samberg, Brooklyn Nine-Nine Best Actress in a TV Series, DramaJulianne Margulies, The Good WifeKerry Washington, ScandalTatiana Maslany, Orphan BlackRobin Wright, House of CardsTaylor Schilling, Orange Is the New Black  Best Actress in a TV Series, Comedy Zooey Deschanel, New Girl Lena Dunham, Girls Julia Louis-Dreyfus, VeepAmy Poehler, Parks and Recreation Edie Falco, Nurse Jackie  Best Mini-Series or TV Movie American Horror Story: CovenBehind the CandelabraDancing on the EdgeTop of LakeWhite Queen Best Actor in a Mini-Series or TV MovieMatt Damon, Behind the CandelabraChiwetel Ejiofor, Dancing on the EdgeIdris Elba, LutherAl Pacino, Phil SpectorMichael Douglas, Behind the Candelabra Best Actress in a Mini-Series or TV MovieHelena Bonham Carter, Burton and TaylorRebecca Ferguson, White QueenJessica Lange, American Horror Story: CovenHelen Mirren, Phil SpectorElisabeth Moss, Top of the Lake Best Supporting Actor in a Series, Mini-Series or TV MovieRob Lowe, Behind the Candelabra Josh Charles, The Good WifeAaron Paul, Breaking BadCorey Stoll, House of CardsJohn Voight, Ray Donovan Best Supporting Actress in a Series, Mini-Series or TV MovieHayden Panetierre, NashvilleJacqueline Bisset, Dancing on the EdgeJanet McTeer, White QueenMonica Potter, ParenthoodSofia Vergara, Modern Family Best Animated Feature FilmFrozenThe CroodsDespicable Me 2 Best Foreign Language FilmBlue Is the Warmest ColorThe PastThe HuntThe Wind RisesThe Great Beauty Best Original Score - Motion PictureGravityThe Book Thief12 Years a SlaveAll Is LostMandela: Long Walk to Freedom Follow @Michael Arbeiter // | Follow @Hollywood_com //