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.
  • Cate Blanchett Wins Best Actress Oscar for 'Blue Jasmine'
    By: Michael Arbeiter Mar 02, 2014
    Sony Pictures Classics Anyone who saw Cate Blanchett's riveting turn in Woody Allen's Blue Jasmine was sure she'd take the Best Actress Award come Oscar season. Even after the duly talented Amy Adams took the honor at the Golden Globes, we knew that Blanchett would carry through with the Academy. Tonight, she validates our hopes and expectations, winning for her role as the titular socialite enduring a downward spiral, economically and psychologically. Blanchett, who has been nominated in the category once prior and for Best Supporting Actress thrice (winning in 2005 for The Aviator), paid honor to her competitors in the category... except Julia Roberts, whom she told to "suck it." Surprisingly enough, Blanchett did mention the newly controversial figure Woody Allen, Blue Jasmine's writer and director, for the film in a positive light. But the highlight of her speech was a call to arms for studios to realize that people do want to see movies about strong, interesting women, declaring, "The world is round!" and that people are more evolved than Hollywood gives them credit for. We wish a heartfelt congratulations to Blanchett, who offered a terrific performance in Blue Jasmine as she has so many times before.
  • 86th Annual Academy Awards — Full Winners List!
    By: Michael Arbeiter Mar 02, 2014
    AMPAS The complete winners list for the 86th Annual Academy Awards... Best Supporting ActorJared Leto, Dallas Buyers Club Best Costume DesignThe Great Gatsby Best Hair and MakeupDallas Buyers Club Best Animated Short FilmMr. Hublot Best Animated Feature FilmFrozen Best Visual EffectsGravity Best Live Action Short FilmHelium Best Documentary Short SubjectThe Lady in Number 6: Music Saved My Life Best Documentary Feature20 Feet from Stardom Best Foreign Language FilmThe Great Beauty Best Sound MixingGravity Best Sound EditingGravity Best Supporting ActressLupita Nyong'o, 12 Years a Slave Best CinematographyGravity Best EditingGravity Best Production DesignThe Great Gatsby Best Original ScoreGravity Best Original SongFrozen Best Adapted Screenplay12 Years a Slave Best Original ScreenplayHer Best DirectorGravity Best ActressCate Blanchett Best ActorMatthew McConaughey Best Picture12 Years a Slave
  • Liam Neeson and Julianne Moore Talk Fear, Prejudice, and Addiction in 'Non-Stop'
    By: Michael Arbeiter Feb 28, 2014
    Universal via Everett Collection You wouldn't take Liam Neeson for a man of many fears — he's fought Batman, Darth Maul, half of Europe, and now a mysterious terrorist hidden aboard a civilian airplane in Non-Stop. But real life Neeson is a gentler sort. In fact, it took him quite a while to board his first flight. "I was a late developer in every department," Neeson told a crowd of reporters during a press conference for the action thriller, now in theaters everywhere. "My first flight [was] at the age of 21, I believe, to fly to Amsterdam from Belfast ... It was terrifying, quite. It was a hop and skip, that’s all it was, but that was my first time. I was very, very scared. Very nervous, I should say." Neeson's Non-Stop co-star Julianne Moore is no stranger to fear herself. The esteemed performer felt that true fear is an important element to gripping movies like the pair's latest. "Whenever you’re constructing [a piece of] entertainment, all the kind of thrillers and horror movies, or anything ... with this kind of scare, they're all based on what our natural worries are," she said, delving into her personal perils. "You sort of take them and exaggerate them. Are you scared of ghosts, is it the devil? I'm very scared of the devil." Moore continued, comparing Non-Stop to some of her favorite scary films: "In this case, you take something that's sort of routine. Obviously when you enter an airplane, you're giving up some control, all of us, and you play on that fear and you take it. And what I like so much about this particular script and [director Jaume Collet-Serra's] handling of it is that he takes a rather ordinary circumstance and turns it into a sort of Hitchcokian event. You know, it’s very reminiscent of those older movies and of the disaster movies that I loved as a kid, like Poseidon Adventure and Towering Inferno, so it becomes kind of a classic entertainment." Alongside the universal notion of fear, Non-Stop delves into gigantic themes like prejudice and addiction. On the former theme, Neeson praised the movie's ability to turn the audience's preconceived notions on their heads. "I think on the first glance [the characters are all] kind of stereotypical. But I think Juame played with that in our own heads too. Of course there's the Muslim doctor. You go, 'Uh-huh, yeah, this is interesting...' But it's not gonna be him. [And] it's not going be the African-American kid that you think is 'definitely the guy.' He's got a real attitude." Neeson also touched on the topic of his character's biggest struggle in the film: addiction. "He's an alcoholic. He's an addict. That's always in charge, so his big battle is just doing a seven, six-and-a-half hour flight without having a short one. That's his goal, to do that without having alcohol, and of course all s**t breaks loose. And I love the fact that — and it was in the script, but Juame covers it without the audience being banged of the head with it — in the height of the crisis, there’s a beautiful bottle of whiskey waiting to be drunk ... It's a little human gesture, I think that resonates with people. It is human and many of us are addicts. So, I like those little human touches." Moore dived in to explain how this makes Nesson such a compelling hero, beyond the likes of your ordinary action schmoe. "I think that's why audiences respond to Liam this way. I think he does present a very humane, sensitive, complicated person — a real person — who then becomes the hero. It's not like a superhero coming in. You know that Superman's going to be able to do it, he's not even a real person. [But Liam] brings real sense of authenticity to all of these characters." But even with so many grave themes present, Neeson takes issue when people attempt to draw too much of a sociopolitical statement from films like Non-Stop. "We all know the nightmares of airports. Obviously it's playing on those fears. But it's entertainment. A lot of the journalists in Europe — quite a few, actually — were asking about September 11th [in regards to the movie]. It’s like, 'Oh please!' That being said, I don't think the film could be made a few years ago, of course. It would have been totally insensitive. But it's a backdrop to a thriller, is what it is." Getting more to the core of the story of Non-Stop, Moore and Neeson relished in the fact that the movie was far more a cerebral whodunnit than people might think. Moore was particularly intrigued by the naturalism achieved by the distribution of the characters. "I like the fact that there was a mystery about all of the characters, because I feel like in life, that's the way it is," Moore said. "In cinema, people are always walking into something and saying, 'This is who I am, this is what I want, and this is how I’m gonna get it.' And we don't [do that] in life. Particularly not in a public situation. People don’t know your name ... they don’t know what you do, and you're not going to offer it up. So, if you start there, you realize this is probably a much more normal presentation in film than what you would ordinarily have." Neeson agreed that the roles in Non-Stop were all expertly constructed: "I relied on Juame a lot, because he's a very, very prepared director. Any queries we had about the script or what the characters should do or should not do, we always tried to judge it to the Nth degree. Because he was always thinking of the overall arc, the symphony of the whole film. Just the raise of an eyebrow sometimes might be just too much." Still, the actor really seemed to connect with the intensity of the movie's mystery. "There's a great [moment involving Julianne Moore]. When I walk away, she's lying asleep and she just opens her eyes. And it's amazing. Like, 'Oh my God!' Suspicious. And she's just opening her eyes! Every little nuance we were aware could take on some significance." Finally, the stars were probed about their experiences off set with their many adoring fans. While Moore had nothing but kind words to say about the public — "People are really nice, honestly. Sometimes I really do talk to people and have a really nice conversation. I do talk to women with children a lot, because you feel for them, man. If somebody sits down next to you with a baby, I’m gonna talk to her. Because I've been there." — Neeson had a more... colorful way of dealing with "pesky fans." "I just say f**k off," the actor claimed. "Especially if it’s kids ... Like a Star Wars autograph for some little seven-year-old. F**k off." Of course, he admitted immediately after that this was only a joke, but we enjoyed the story while it lasted. Follow @Michael Arbeiter // | Follow @Hollywood_com //
  • Review: 'Non-Stop' Is Much Smarter, Tighter, and More Fun Than 'Taken' on a Plane
    By: Michael Arbeiter Feb 27, 2014
    Universal Pictures via Everett Collection  Seventeen years ago, Harrison Ford grumbled four simple words that defined a genre, a demographic, and a country: "Get off my plane." In a pre-9/11 world, there was no shortage of jingoistic glee in a movie like Air Force One, in which a man's man American president doled out justice to a militia of Russian loyalist terrorists who made the silly mistake of attempting to hijack his flight home from Moscow. In 2014, we don't have the luxury of facing a plotline like this with reckless merriment. There's a damp gravity to the premise behind movies like Non-Stop, which in another time would have been nothing more than Taken on a Plane. But rigidly conscious of the connotations that attach to a story about a hijacking of a civilian international flight into John F. Kennedy Airport in New York City, Non-Stop doesn't play too fast and loose. It still plays, and has some good fun doing so, but carefully. From the getgo, we're anchored into the grim narrative of Liam Neeson's U.S. Air Marshall Bill Marks, who settles his demons with a healthy spoonful of whiskey. A dutiful officer even when liquored up, Marks eyeballs every nameless face in London's Heathrow Airport, silently introducing the bevvy of characters who'll come into play later on. After takeoff, Marks finds himself on the unwitting prowl for the anonymous party who's attempting to take down the red-eye through a series of manipulative text messages, well-timed threats, and clandestine killings. Chatty passenger Julianne Moore and flight attendant Michelle Dockery join Marks in his efforts to identify the mysterious criminal before the entire aircraft falls to his or her whims. So less Taken, more Murder, She Wrote. Universal Pictures Our roundup of suspects challenges our (and their) preconceived notions, and quite laughably — most vocal among Neeson's fellow passengers are a white beta-male school teacher (Scoot McNairy), a black computer engineer with an attitude of entitlement (Nate Parker), a softspoken Middle Eastern surgeon whose headwear gets more than a few focal shots (Omar Metwally), a middle-aged white businessman whose latest account landed him more than your house is worth (Frank Deal), an irate black youngster draped in irreverence (Corey Hawkins), and a white, bald, machismo-howling New York cop who secretly accepts his gay brother (Corey Stoll). Just a few talking heads short of Do the Right Thing, Non-Stop manages to goof on each man's (notice that they're all men — Moore, Dockery, and a barely-in-the-movie Lupita Nyong’o are kept shy of the action for most of the film) distaste for and distrust of one another as they each try to sidle up to, or undermine the harried Marks. Non-Stop plays an interesting game with its characters and its audience, simultaneously painting the ignorance of its characters with a thick coat of comedy while pointing its finger straight out at us with accusations that we, too, thought it was whoever we just learned it wasn't, and for all the wrong reasons. "Shame on you!" Non-Stop chides, adding, "But let's keep going, this is fun!" It is fun — that's the miraculous thing. Without any "Get off my plane"s or "Yippee ki yay"s, Non-Stop keeps its action genre silliness in check (okay, there is a moment involving an airborne gun that'll institute some serious laugh-cheers), investing all of its good time in the game of claustrophobic Clue that we can't help but enjoy. It sacrifices some of its charm in a heavy-handed third act, tipping to one side of what was a pretty impressive balancing act up until that point. But its falter is not one that drags down the movie entirely. Fun and excitement are restored, sincerity is maintained, and even a few moments of sensitivity creep their way through. We might not live in a world of President Harrison Fords any longer, but Air Marshall Liam Neesons could actually be a step up. 3.5/5 Follow @Michael Arbeiter | Follow @Hollywood_com
  • 25 Bad Jokes About Adam Driver in 'Star Wars'
    By: Michael Arbeiter Feb 26, 2014
    Mark Schafer As you might have noticed from the smoking hole in your computer screen, the social media universe is all atwitter (SO THAT'S WHY THEY CALL IT THAT!) over the new announcement of Girls star Adam Driver taking the role of Star Wars: Episode VII's central villain. It is a bit of news that inspires critical deliberation, speculation over possible character arcs, and ... of course ... jokes. Lots and lots and lots of terrible, cynical, obnoxious, uninspired jokes. Like these, for instance: Adam Driver in Star Wars? I didn't know the G train stopped at Tosche Station! I didn't know they sold lightsabers on Etsy! What are they gonna call this one — Empire Strikes Baumbach? What are they gonna call this one — A New Co-Op? Adam Driver? Star Wars? Who's the princess — Leia Dunham? Who's the princess — Leia Shoshanna? Because her name is Leia Organa. That one wasn't as good as the Leia Dunham one. That Leia Dunham one was gold. Right? So, Adam Driver is gonna be in Star Wars, I hear. I hope this movie doesn't have Mason Jar Jar Binks! Gold. Oh! So, Adam Driver whatever whatever. I hope this movie doesn't have Jar Jar Banksy! What, are they gonna make him a Stormtrooper uniform without the shirt? What, are they gonna make him a Stormtrooper helmet shaped like a porkpie? He wears a porkpie in Frances Ha, right? Here. Is that a porkpie? My friend said it is a porkpie. Is he going to use the Force to carry a sofa back to his apartment from the curb? How's he gonna get in shape for this one — Boba FetBit? Something with this: Adam Driver is going to be in Star Wars? Who's directing this movie, J.J. Abratow? Get it? Gold? Eh, let's just watch this again: So, Adam Driver is going to be in Star Wars... He'd better change his name to Adam Flyer! Or Adam Imperial Walker! Or Adam Landcruiser! Okay, that's enough of that. So, Adam Driver is the bad guy in Star Wars. Is his girlfriend's name going to be Hannah-kin Skywalker? Okay, that's enough of that. Hey, who's Adam Driver gonna hire to do his bidding in this movie — Fetta Gerwig? Hey, who's Adam Driver gonna face off against in this movie — Frances Han? Did you hear the news? That guy from Lincoln is going to be in Star Wars! The joke there is that Adam Driver is "that guy from Lincoln." But on that note, did you hear the news? That guy from Lincoln is going to be in Star Wars! I guess the opening crawl is going to start with, "Four score and seven years ago, in a galaxy far, far away..." Eh... Hey, did you hear that Adam Driver is going to be in Star Wars? What's his spaceship going to be called — the Millennial Falcon? Follow @Hollywood_com //
  • '90s Comedy Gods Brendan Fraser and Parker Posey Unite in 'HairBrained' Clip
    By: Michael Arbeiter Feb 25, 2014
    Lovelane Pictures/Premier Entertainment Group If you put any stock into what social media tells you, you know that the 1990s were a better time. A more colorful, more charming time. A time at which pop culture hit its peak. Back then, folks like Brendan Fraser and Parker Posey were just breaking into show business — the former as a veritable jack of all trades, headlining dramas about anti-Semitism and goofy comedies about cryogenically preserved cavemen, and the latter a sharp leading lady hanging just far enough beneath the cuff to assure Hollywood that she was way cooler than anything else it had at its disposal (and she still is). It's a travesty that it took until 2014 to unite these gods of a like era in one film, but we're pleased to finally see the union take form: in this new exclusive clip for HairBrained, we see 41-year-old college student and world class schlub Leo (Fraser) take an immediate liking to Sheila (Posey), the frazzled mother of one of his classmates. The comedic film also stars Alex Wolff as Eli Petifogg, a 14-year-old prodigy who struggles socially after enrolling in a sub-Ivy League college, forming an unexpected bond with Fraser's over-the-hill slacker. HairBrained, directed by Billy Kent and co-written by Kent and Sarah Bird (the pair behind The Oh in Ohio, a 2006 sex comedy that starred Posey and Paul Rudd), hits theaters and iTunes on February 28. Follow @Michael Arbeiter | Follow @Hollywood_com
  • Are Barney and Robin Definitely Getting Married on 'How I Met Your Mother'?
    By: Michael Arbeiter Feb 25, 2014
    Ron P. Jaffe/Fox In the very final moments of its seventh season finale, How I Met Your Mother revealed that Barney Stinson's bride would turn out to be Robin Scherbatsky. And it was the moments immediately thereafter when a tidal wave of skepticism erupted from inside the souls of the viewing public. Critics, message boarders, and my roommate Matt (a longtime fan) all decried the possibility that Barney and Robin could really end up together. And now, just a merer few hours from their turn at the altar, some of us hold fast to that belief. And I think How I Met Your Mother knows that. This week's hangover-themed episode "Rally" introduces a handful of scenes from the post-series timeline: we see Marshall get regrettably plastered during the last legs of his judgeship race (circa 2020), Lily get remorsefully hammered moments after dropping a teenaged Marvin off at college (circa 2030), and Robin wake up dead-faced in a Buenos Aires apartment building, beside an equally waffled Barney and what turns out to be someone else's baby (circa 2016). That last one seems to insinuate that the couple is still together two years after the wedding in question, as we're meant to believe that they would be. To the skeptic, the immediate sight of Barney and Robin waking up together seems like a buzzkill — "Well, there goes that theory!" — but as How I Met Your Mother has played the misdirection game so, so, so many times before, we're prompted to look at the clues. One clue, anyway, and not a particularly subtle one: as she rises from her alcohol-induced mini-coma, Robin turns to Barney and asks, "Did last night really happen?" To which he mutters, "I think so." This is played off as a hat tip to the wild evening of hard partying the Stinson-Scherbatsky duo clearly endured... but if we're holding fast to our theory that Barney and Robin do not, in fact, get married at the end of our current Season 9, then we might be inclined to chalk this up to an un expected, perhaps regretted (and probably not unique) post-breakup drunken tryst. Hell, maybe Robin does love Barney, but she is simply chemically designed to spend her life as a lone wolf, having oddball adventures and focusing on her career as a journalist. And maybe Barney, who loves children, is meant to end up with a woman who wants them too (which he might, down the line... hopefully post-2016, if this is an indicator).  Of course, maybe it's actually not a trick, they do get married, the Buenos Aires trip is just some kind of weekend getaway, and our skepticism is all just nonsense. All possible. We just don't believe we can take anything from How I Met Your Mother at face value. Follow @Michael Arbeiter // | Follow @Hollywood_com //
  • Why Harold Ramis' 'Caddyshack' Is the Funniest Movie I Have Ever Seen
    By: Michael Arbeiter Feb 24, 2014
    Columbia Pictures via Everett Collection It didn't hit me until Sarah Holcomb's topless scene that I was probably too young to be watching Caddyshack. And the reason it didn't hit me is because it wasn't like the other grown-up movies I would routinely dismiss after catching only quick glimpses on our living room television — this one was funny. At eight years old, I found something very special in the VHS copy of Harold Ramis' directorial debut which had come into my possession that evening in the mid '90s gratis of either my Saturday Night Live-loving father, or golf-obsessed uncle. It wasn't even the first time I had seen Caddyshack — I had at least caught most of it in parts — but it was this particular nighttime viewing that would solidify my lifelong favor of the cacophony at Bushwood. It was the first time a real movie made me laugh. I would laugh at the red-faced exasperation of Ted Knight, who I knew from Mary Tyler Moore Show reruns (I had taken more quickly to adult sitcoms than movies, either because they were more conducive to my youthful attention span or because laugh tracks gave me helpful hints as to where the comedy was). I would laugh at the zany bravado of Rodney Dangerfield, who I knew primarily via impersonations by cartoon characters. But most of all, I cherished every second we spent with Bill Murray, slurring dopily out of the side of his mouth as he harassed the country club caddies and sought the pelt of a charmingly pesky gopher. I had no idea that adults could revel in this kind of silliness — these people were acting more like cartoons than human beings. And I loved it. Warner Bros. via Everett Collection Obviously, I didn't get most of the jokes. I adored Chevy Chase's deadpan swagger and rhythm, but a good deal of his dialogue flew over my head. Dangerfield's benign sexual cracks were gibberish to me. And as for the plot? To its credit or detriment (you decide), the film plays more like a series of tenuously connected hijinks than a coherent narrative. So it didn't really seem to matter that Danny Noonan's quest for a college scholarship skirted my eight-year-old attention. I was far too giddy over Al Czervik's cockeyed brass and Carl Spackler's maniacal mutterings to worry that I might be missing something carrying through. Again, it wasn't until stumbling upon a sex scene that it dawned on me that this might be considered entertainment for adults. How could I have missed so much? There was too much funny to fit anything else in! In the 18 years since, I have watched Caddyshack more times than I can say, picking up on new layers of comedy with every revisit. In middle school, I upped the ante on my appreciation for the comic value in Judge Smails' perpetually ruffled feathers. In high school, Ty Webb's playful linguistics won my nerdy heart. And in college, I returned again to my love of that big-dreaming assistant greenskeeper, trading impressions with my roommate and fellow fan of all things Bill Murray. As my two decades wading back and forth among these performances have helped me realize, the movie is a menagerie of disparate types of comedy. Deadpan, slapstick, blue, highbrow, naturalistic, wacky, farcical, surreal. And somehow, all of it lands. One movie manages to deliver a winning satirical send-up of the moneyed class, an ultra-memorable Jaws parody about human excrement, and an offbeat conversation about the benefits of breeding one's own hybrid species of Bluegrass. It works because Caddyshack seems to operate by one rule only: the rule of funny. Abiding not by genre, audience, or even its own original conceit (Caddyshack was originally only about the caddies, with Chase and Dangerfield's characters playing very minor roles), Caddyshack is able to regard humor alone in its execution. The result is something unusual. No, unprecedented. Hell, really damn weird. You can't credit a movie that features a love triangle, a pregnancy scare, a super-intelligent rodent, and an extended non sequitur chapter about a bishop losing his faith after being struck by lightning during a stormy golf game with a reverence to the rules of a specific reality. But Ramis seemed to understand that it was the cooperation of these entities that made them all so damn hilarious. Warner Bros. via Everett Collection He understood that the buttoned-up justice of the peace was hilarious because of how humorless he was, especially when at odds with a human joke book running amok on his golf course for no ostensible reason other than boredom. Another movie might have used Smails as a brick wall opposite the wiles of the bawdy Czervik, but Ramis found some of Caddyshack's best comedy in his aluminum straight man. He offered cool, collected Ty as a way to smirk knowingly at the absurdity of the goings on at Bushwood, but jumped delightedly into that same absurdity with the mentally harangued Daffy Duck that was Carl Spackler. Still, as profoundly effective as this equation might be, Caddyshack exists beyond the confines of any formula or mathematical law. Once again, there is only one rule to which Ramis seemed to have devoted himself with Caddyshack. And luckily, he understood "funny" enough to be able to pull this off. It's the reason why I can find the movie as funny at 25 as I did at eight — this full, non-discriminating commitment to laughter. The devotion to the idea that humor itself is a genre, that a single audience isn't limited to the margins of any specific style of comedy. Ramis showcased this in each of his movies, but in Caddyshack most impressively. Few movies like it were being made back in 1980, and even fewer are now. So beholden to traditional comic beats and story structure, the industry is not likely to find itself trusting an anarchical, id-friendly movie like the one Ramis delivered back at the dawn of the '80s. But the beauty of Caddyshack is its ability to refresh its sense of humor with every viewing — to deliver a new sheath of comedy that you weren't paying attention to last time, because you were too affixed on a separate string of gags altogether. We can go back to Caddyshack every year, every five years, or every decade, finding ourselves laughing the most at a different character each time. The one guarantee: each time, thanks to the brilliant sensibilities of Ramis, we will find ourselves laughing. So we've got that going for us. Which is nice. Follow @Michael Arbeiter // | Follow @Hollywood_com //
  • 'Girls' Might Be Telling the Same Story as 'Her'
    By: Michael Arbeiter Feb 23, 2014
    HBO If you found out that all this time Adam had been some kind of artificially intelligent supercomputer, you probably wouldn’t be too shocked. But that’s not quite what we mean when we say that the Hannah-Adam story arc in Girls’ third season seems to be telling the same story as Spike Jonze’s fantastic film Her. If you haven’t seen Jonze’s movie yet, you might want to avoid this recap for fear of spoilers — we’ll tread light on Her’s plot details, but there’s a major element of the film’s conclusion that it’ll be impossible to ignore in this analysis. But just a quick refresher: recent divorcee and anxious shut-in Theodore (Joaquin Phoenix) purchases the latest model of automated operating system (the voice of Scarlett Johansson), who/which advances from digital assistant to conversational comrade to intellectual equal to romantic partner to… well, that’s the rub. The technological makeup of Samantha (Johansson) is so sophisticated that she ascends from her platform as Theodore’s “perfect woman” to an entity well beyond his reach. Quickly, Samantha — once the submissive member of the relationship — outgrows Theodore and moves on to explore new folds of this awe-inspiring universe more befitting to her evolved state of being. It is this very fate that Hannah fears will sweep her and Adam once he nabs a part in the Broadway production of Major Barbara on this week’s episode. Everyone from Shoshanna to Elijah to Hannah’s bespectacled boss to Patti LuPone confront the idea of Adam landing a role on Broadway with apprehension: “This is the first step in his journey of outgrowing you,” to paraphrase Ms. LuPone, who hits Hannah with this cold hard truth during a conversation about osteoporosis medication that Hannah is repping for Condé Nast. After getting effectively LuPWNED, Hannah allows the dread of Adam’s graduation into the dazzling world of theater to fester within her, growing humbly resentful as Adam invites his charming new actor pal to the gang’s hotel party to regale everyone with folksy stories of things like Idaho. And although Adam assures Hannah that he’s not going anywhere — that he has no interest in the behind-the-scenes intrigue glamorized by Elijah, or even in “making friends” with his fellow thespians — we already see the changes taking place. Early on in the season, Adam insisted that he didn’t even really want a gig. Now, we see him nervous over auditions, offering to revise his performance for the producers, elated beyond imagination over landing the part. He’s already smitten with the idea of acting. Soon enough, we’ll see Adam fulfilling all of the fears that Hannah was granted by cranky stage legend and non-dog-owner Patti LuPone. Running parallel to the Hannah/Adam story are two other big character turns this week:Marnie’s breakup with Ray is disappointing. I really wanted to see more of these two! Let’s hope that just because their romantic union is a bust, their story together continues in some form, considering they’re both in such low places — Marnie lowers herself to hugging an old rival and eating pizza in front of a boy (the very thought), and Ray rents Bridget Jones 2 on Netflix, reads Mark Epstein’s Going to Pieces Without Falling Apart, and admits sullenly to wanting a real girlfriend. In contrast, there’s a good deal of hope in the chilling relapse that overtakes Jessa once her rehab mate Jasper (Richard E. Grant) invades her routine of substance-free boredom, reintroducing her to his brand of excitement. What makes this turn feel so fresh for Jessa is its ready desperation. Although we’ve seen her in the throes of toxicity before, this seems like the closest thing to rock bottom she’s yet to experience, which could be what it takes to rid her of her dark passenger for good. At least maybe the nightmarish Jasper’s presence in her life could wake her up to the severity of her state of being. Feel free to borrow LuPWNED, by the way.
  • Review: There Really Isn't Enough Volcano in 'Pompeii'
    By: Michael Arbeiter Feb 21, 2014
    TriStar Pictures via Everett Collection An hour and change into Pompeii, there's a volcano. You'd think there might have been a volcano throughout — you'd think that the folks inhabiting the ill-fated Italian village would have been dealing with the infamous volcano for the full 110 minutes. After all, volcano movies have worked before. Volcano, for instance. And the other one. But for some reason, Pompeii feels the need to stuff its first three quarters with coliseum battles, Ancient Rome politics, unlikely friendships, and a love story. But we don’t care. We can't care. None of it warrants our care. Where the hell is the volcano, already? To answer that: it's off to the side — rumbling. Smoking. Occasionally spiking the neighboring community with geological fissures or architectural misgivings. Pretty much executing every trick picked up in Ominous Foreshadowing 101, but never joining the story. Not until Paul W.S. Anderson shouts, "Last call," hitting us with a final 20-odd minutes of unmitigated disaster (in a good way). If you've managed to maintain a waking pulse throughout the lecture in sawdust that is Pompeii's story, then you might actually have a good time with the closing sequence. It has everything you’d expect — everything you had been expecting! — and delivers it with gusto. Torpedoes of smoke running hordes of idiot villagers out of their homes and toward whatever safety the notion of forward has to offer. Long undeveloped characters rising to the occasion to rescue hapless princesses who thought it might be a good idea to set their vacation homes at the foot of a lava-spewing mountain. The whole ordeal is actually a lot of laughs. But it amounts to a dessert just barely worth the tasteless dinner we had to force down to get there. TriStar Pictures via Everett Collection To get through the bulk of Pompeii, we recommend focusing all your attentions away from the effectively bland slave/gladiator/hero Kit Harington — sorry, Jon Snow (he's actually called a bastard at one point) — and onto his partner in crime: a scowling Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje — sorry, Mr. Eko (he and Snow actually trade valedictions by saying "I'll see you at another time, brother" at one point) — who warms up to his fellow prize fighter during their shared time in the klink, and delivers his moronic material with a sprinkle of flair. Keeping the working man down is Kiefer Sutherland — sorry, Jack Bauer — as an ostentatious Roman senator, doling out vainglory in Basil Fawlty-sized portions. When he's not spitting scowls at peasants, ol' JB is undermining the efforts of an earnest local governor Jared Harris — sorry, Lane Pryce (he actually calls someone a mad man at one point) — and his wife Carrie-Anne Moss — sorry, Katherine O'Connell from Vegas (joking! Trinity) — and finagling the douchiest marriage proposal ever toward their daughter Emily Browning — sorry, but I have no idea what she's from. But questionable television references and some enjoyably daft performances by Eko and Jack can't really make up for the heft of mindless dullness that Pompeii passes off as its narrative... until the big showstopper. In truth, the last sequence is a gem. It's fun, inviting, and energizing, and might even call into question the possibility that Pompeii is all about how futile life, love, friendship, politics, and pride are when even the most egregiously complicated of plots can be taken out in the end by a sudden volcanic eruption. But you have to wade through that egregious complication to get there, and you shouldn't expect to have too much of a good time doing so. 2/5 Follow @Michael Arbeiter | Follow @Hollywood_com