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.
  • Emmys 2014: Billy Crystal Gets Personal in His Tribute to Robin Williams
    By: Michael Arbeiter Aug 25, 2014
    ABC  Following the Emmys' traditional In Memorium segment, honoring a collection of television greats who sadly passed away over the course of this past year, the ceremony paid individual tribute to a particularly beloved figure: Robin Williams. Billy Crystal, a friend and colleague of Williams', took the stage to speak personally about the comedic genius. Crystal spoke wistfully of Williams' great line of works, of his many successful endeavors to make the world a funnier place. But the highlight of his well-crafted speech came from his own life experience, spending time with his pal Robin at Comic Relief events and family functions. Crystal remembered attending a charity baseball game with fish-out-of-water Williams, who made up for his own lack of familiarity with the sport by inventing a Russian character and tossing jokes about professional ballplaying in his home country. Furthermore, Crystal recounted with adoration Williams' penchant for joking around with Billy's older relatives, describing our cherished star as always ready with a gag, no matter the situation. Crystal illustrated just how much fun Williams had with bits like these, citing such an example as the sort of shtick that would fill his eyes with light. Following Crystal's speech, the ceremony offered clips of Williams' work on the late night circuit, on sitcom TV, and on the live stage. Despite the odd choice that was one clip of Williams performing a comedy routine about racial stereotypes (why opt for such material when he's got legions of more admirable gold to choose from?), we can't help but remember the great contribution Williams made to comedy the world over.
  • Emmys 2014: How Was Seth Meyers' Opening Monologue?
    By: Michael Arbeiter Aug 25, 2014
    NBC With experience on Saturday Night Live's Weekend Update and NBC's Late Night, Seth Meyers wasn't going into the 2014 Emmy Awards' opening monologue as a greenhorn. Unsurprisingly, the perpetually chipper Meyers delivered a traditional, relatively tame, but consistently funny opener, cracking wise for the most part at networks... primarily his own (and the host of the Emmys ceremony) NBC. Some of Meyers' strongest jabs targeted the organization's mislabeling of certain programs ("You had comedies that made you laugh and comedies that made you cry... because they were dramas submitted as comedies."), the ending to How I Met Your Mother ("Sorry kids. Jesse Pinkman lived. Dexter lived. But your mother didn't make it."), and the notoriety afforded to the conservative-leaning Duck Dynasty ("This season, Game of Thrones was the most pirated TV show, and Duck Dynasty was the most VCR taped."). Although Meyers may never be as inflammatory as the likes of the divisive Ricky Gervais, as invigorating as his old partners in crime Amy Poehler and Tina Fey (the unofficial kingpins of today's awards show game), or as dazzling a showman as trade legend Neil Patrick Harris, he is a reliabley enjoyable performer who knows his way around a joke. An all around delightful monologue from Seth, as per expectation.
  • Miley Cyrus Uses VMAs Win to Open Talks About Homeless Teenagers
    By: Michael Arbeiter Aug 25, 2014
    MTV Miley Cyrus' public image is a particularly temperamental one. We have seen her evolve from puerile child star to an irreverent but admirable purveyor of Sammy Davis Jr's "Gotta be me!" mentality. But once she solidified herself as the sort of artist who'd perform a debacle like we saw at last year's VMAs, we didn't expect there to be much room for recovery. But Cyrus declined the spotlight this year, opting to use the opportunity of her Video of the Year Award victory (for "Wrecking Ball") as a platform to open conversation on something rather sincere. Get More: 2014 VMA, Artists.MTV, Music Accepting the award on behalf of Cyrus was a young man named Jesse who proclaimed himself to be one of the 1.6 million homeless American teenagers for whom Cyrus is angling to raise awareness and funding. At one point in his rather touching speech, Jesse directed fans to Cyrus' Facebook page, where they will find a link to the charitable organization My Friend's Place. You can donate here. MTV Considering the image perpetrated by Cyrus just one year ago, it was particularly impressive to see her use the VMAs to broadcast awareness for a subject of such gravity, and furthermore for a widespread problem that hardly gets high profile attention. Surely some cynical viewers will begrudge Cyrus for her center-stage tearful looks, calling the whole thing a ploy for attention and a PR move, but we're inclined to give the 21-year-old pop star credit. We expected her to go the routes of vain and outrageous, she instead did something benevolent and potentially quite helpful.
  • Richard Attenborough Dies at 90
    By: Michael Arbeiter Aug 24, 2014
    BBC via Getty Images When you’ve led a life that had earned you admittance into the Order of the British Empire, presidency over the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, and a handful of awards recognizing your work both in front of and behind the camera, it is safe to say that you have done pretty well for yourself. The world must bid a sad goodbye to Richard Attenborough, who has passed away Sunday, but should recall the multihyphenate’s unbounded degree of accomplishment in the world of, and beyond, cinema. Attenborough was 90 years old. Born in Cambridge, Cambridgeshire, England, to scholarly parents, Attenborough grew up in an environment that seems to have celebrated academia, creativity, and kindness. During the Holocast, Attenborough’s family welcomed into their home a pair of young Jewish refugees from Germany, eventually adopting the girls into the family. Attenborough himself joined the plight against the Third Reich by serving in the Royal Air Force during World War II. While his similarly renowned brother David went on to pursue work in the fields of nature and broadcast, Attenborough took an early shine to acting, performing at the beginning of his career in films like In Which We Serve, Brighton Rock, and Morning Departure. He also experienced some work on the stage, joining up with the production of The Mousetrap by author Agatha Christie. The late 1950s and early to mid 1960s saw Attenborough take some big name projects, notably The Great Escape and The Flight of the Phoenix, and comedic projects like I’m All Right Jack and Dr. Dolittle. Attenborough began to appear in fewer films as time went on, however — for fourteen years following 1979’s The Human Factor, he did not appear in a single film. During this time, Attenborough honed his behind-the-camera skills. The director’s most cherished accomplishment is doubtlessly his 1982 biopic Gandhi, for which he won Best Picture and Best Director Academy Awards. The film featured Ben Kingsley in a memorable, career-expanding performance as the historical activist. Attenborough created another memorable biopic ten years later: Chaplin, starring Robert Downey, Jr. as the silent film icon. But Attenborough did return to the screen, and in fantastic form: as the big-dreaming John Hammond in Steven Spielberg’s Jurassic Park movies. Some of his most recent contributions to cinema include his directorial projects Shadowlands, Grey Owl, and Closing the Ring. As an actor, Attenborough has appeared in 1998’s Elizabeth and 2002’s Puckoon. Attenborough is survived by his wife Sheila Sim, whom he married in 1945, and two children: Michael and Charlotte. Attenborough’s daughter Jane passed away in 2004.
  • Review: 'Sin City: A Dame to Kill For' Lacks in Style and Story
    By: Michael Arbeiter Aug 22, 2014
    Dimension Films via Everett Collection Sin City: A Dame to Kill For really values its volume. The movie tosses out three or four stories, twenty-odd characters, a handful of car chases, several dozen throat-slittings and skull-bludgeonings… in their return to the cinematic adaptation of Frank Miller’s graphic novel series, Miller and director Robert Rodriguez seemed bent on packing in as much as they conceivably could. The unfortunate result: not quite the intricate, inviting narrative web that the men set out to create, but a straight through-line of nonstop stuff. In the most egregious sense, too. While we remember Sin City as a relatively patient illustration of Miller’s virtue-deficient neo-noir kingdom, what we find in this year’s follow-up is a feverish race to expose the audience to every idea the directing duo has up its sleeve. Dimension Films via Everett Collection So, what we get instead of a fluid story is a whirlpool of events. Each chapter of the clumsily manufactured movie will set you up with a character — an out-of-place Joseph Gordon-Levitt as cocky gambler Johnny, Josh Brolin as a thickheaded do-gooder, and the ragtag team of a destitute Jessica Alba and her devoted muscle Mickey Rourke — only to watch the hero in question stumble upon plot contrivance after plot contrivance, never getting to do much all the while. And while the style outdoes the substance in the scope A Dame to Kill For’s strong suits, Miller and Rodriguez are not exactly displaying the utmost aesthetic panache in this latest outing. Sure, certain chase scenes are kinetic — and the film might offer the most invigorating visual design of an onscreen hot tub in the history of cinema — but sloppy choreography and a world constructed without depth or sense of place leaves us feeling completely out of touch with the film’s most important character: Sin City. 2.5/5 Follow @Michael Arbeiter | Follow @Hollywood_com
  • Review: 'If I Stay' Is a Toxic Mixture of Painful Cliches
    By: Michael Arbeiter Aug 22, 2014
    Warner Bros via Everett Collection Five minutes into If I Stay, I had already begun compiling a list of the audacious teen movie cliché lines spouted by stars Chloe Moretz and Jamie Blackley, and their supporting cast. Fifteen minutes in, I had already given up — it was too much for one man to bear. For this reason alone I left the movie impressed. Impressed at how much disingenuous angst from the cutting room floor of Dawson’s Creek they managed to fit into a 106-minute movie. It takes quite a toll on you to look past these maudlin iambs, and those braving the journey will find few rewards beneath the surface of If I Stay. Moretz’s character Mia, an overachieving cellist on the precipice of a breakup with Adam (Blackley) and wrestling with the decision to move across the country to study at Juilliard, suffers a monstrous car accident and washes back over the past year of her life — discovering her passions, her self-esteem, and her love for the obnoxious indie rock boy a grade above — in the form of flashbacks. While a couple of Mia’s more lighthearted memories manage to muster up some genuine spirit, this breed is significantly outnumbered by the drama. The sort of stuff we’ve all seen before, with the piercing reminder courtesy of the ham-fisted dialogue that it’s the sort of stuff we’ve all seen before. Warner Bros via Everett Collection Despite the general capability of Moretz, who helps to turn what could be another spineless YA heroine into a character with relative biological agency, latching onto Mia will be a difficult task. Surrounding her, we have a nearly insufferable Adam — sure, being in a band is a tried and true way to impress a desired mate, but usually one or two other redeeming personality traits are required to actually make a relationship work. As Mia’s parents, Miereille Enos and Joshua Leonard alternate scenes of enjoyable goofiness and cloying idiocy, with Enos at least coming out favorable thanks largely to her mastering of motherly affection. But the story surrounding these characters is so rumpled and misguided, itself unsure of what to prioritize and who to root for and what constitutes personal victory, that the heart of the movie feels as withered and phony as its veritable tapestry of teen drama quotables. Worse, in fact, when it reaches its audacious conclusion: one that, without spoiling anything, feels not only ineffective but earnestly harmful in its message and the stolen authority with which it proclaims it. In honesty, the way to walk away from If I Stay with anything gained is if you actually manage to complete its cliché roundup. And to anyone who does I offer my humblest admiration. .5/5 Follow @Michael Arbeiter | Follow @Hollywood_com
  • Review: 'The One I Love' Is a Good Idea That Doesn't Reach Its Full Potential
    By: Michael Arbeiter Aug 20, 2014
    Potential spoiler warning: Widespread disagreements have spawned in regards to what constitutes a “spoiler” re: The One I Love. The following review details the general premise of the film, as per what I consider to be fair game. However, some other writers (who I respect quite a bit) have insisted that revealing such information would be giving away the movie’s principal twist… which, in my defense, occurs very early on in the movie. Use your judgment and proceed with caution! RADiUS-TWC via Everett Collection You can practically hear a bright-eyed Mark Duplass shouting, “Here’s an idea!” when you latch onto the beginnings of The One I Love — the real beginning, past the nothing-out-of-the-ordinary setup that introduces Duplass and Elisabeth Moss as a married couple whose relationship has gone sour. On the insistence of their counselor (Ted Danson, who singlehandedly saves the first chapter of this film from succumbing to the doldrums, and then disappears far too soon), the pair take vacation in a remote cabin allotted for the mending of fraying love affairs. Then, the “idea!” kicks in — Duplass and Moss are thrust into a fantastical realm/psychological allegory in which each is faced with the perfect version of one another. Like, in addition to the real versions. Clones. There are clones. …But, to reiterate, strategically idealized clones, and ones that work to serve any number of the hypotheticals entertained in marriage counseling, couples arguments, or simply inside the head of somebody who considers what he or she might wish to change about the person sleeping six inches to the right. RADiUS-TWC However, The One I Love fails to make the most of its interesting, dense concept. While it should spend its time playing with the psychologically, sociologically, and philosophically rich premise that it cooks up for Duplass and Moss, the movie gets distracted by the busy work of keeping the fantastical functions in check, of paving its story with a thick layer of mystery, and begging the audience to wonder how they’re gonna get out of this pickle! Sadly, that’s not where the real meat of The One I Love lies. With the promise of a riveting examination of the mindset behind wishing your own husband or wife was different, smarter, nicer, more attractive, in better shape, a better cook, or simply like he or she used to be, we set up for the very idea that must have gotten Mark Duplass’ heart racing in the first place. But when the movie decides that it'd rather be thrilling, enigmatic, and riddled with twists than an honest human story, its appeal fades away, And far too soon... just like Ted Danson. 3/5 Follow @Michael Arbeiter | Follow @Hollywood_com
  • Review: 'Love Is Strange' Is a Soft and Sweet Portrait of Vulnerability
    By: Michael Arbeiter Aug 20, 2014
    Sony Pictures via Everett Collection As a comedic actor, John Lithgow — one of the best of the sort today — plays big. With a 6'4" stature and the vocal projection of a well-read howler monkey, Lithgow has made sitcom fare seem like a night on Broadway, invigorating small-scale material with the bravado of a live performance. To me, this has always been his utmost appeal. But in soft, somber, and sweet Love Is Strange, Lithgow plays small and close. And the victory of his talents are just as present. Lithgow’s role in Ira Sachs’ occasionally lovely, occasionally wrenching drama is one of intense vulnerability. After a long-awaited marriage to his boyfriend of 40 years, Alfred Molina, Lithgow’s Ben is forced (by the will of financial woes) from his Manhattan apartment and into the care of his nephew’s family. As a character whose neuroses are evident from minute one, Ben’s internal trauma is the principal hook for Love Is Strange: after finally winning the opportunity to commit to the man he loves, we watch the 70-year-old painter struggle to identify a “comfort zone” in a world he finds increasingly difficult to understand. Sony Pictures via Everett Collection Lining the film, we have Molina, adroitly playing the stoic (frustrated more than devastated, at least as far as he’s willing to show) in contrast to the anxiety inhabited throughout by Lithgow, and the pair’s lot of conditionally generous family and friends — a community led by Marisa Tomei, Lithgow’s primary screen partner as a budding adversary to Ben, and young Charlie Tahan, who too is at unwitting odds with his misplaced houseguest. Though the ensemble doesn’t have a weak link to speak of, the show is Lithgow’s through and through. Love Is Strange uses Lithgow in its portrait of man eroded by time and change, a team of forces that maintain volatility even when they are working for the better. Appropriately enough, Sachs’ story takes some jagged turns, failing to cement every choice in a clear intent. But as an illustration of one man’s insides in a chapter he can just barely handle — all those between hope and loss — we see something rather moving. 3.5/5 Follow @Michael Arbeiter | Follow @Hollywood_com
  • Poor Paul Rudd — Why Are You So Sad?
    By: Michael Arbeiter Aug 19, 2014
    Marvel Cheer up, Paul Rudd. Pull off your hood, put down your gym bag, and turn that frown upside down... rather, cock the extremities of that brooding horizontal bracket a few degrees north. Just because your pal Edgar Wright was booted from the director's chair on the Ant-Man set, production has restarted over in San Francisco, and the public's once fervent faith in the developing Marvel movie is now in comparable to that for Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2, that doesn't mean you have to look so bummed in the first official pic for the upcoming superhero flick. But maybe there's another reason that Rudd is down in the dumps. Though we can't exactly see what sour travesty is meeting the poor man's eyeline, we can begin to imagine a multitude of nightmares that might earn such melancholy from our dear, sweet Scott Lang. For instance... A long wait for his favorite Images The inability to post his His team losing the World Images The only new movie playing at his local theater Bros. We're with ya, Rudd. Any of these would get us in a hood-frowny mood too. And to all those out there who know of this heartache, share your own Poor Paul Rudd images with us with a #poorpaulrudd hashtag. We'll share and link to your Twitter! Follow @Michael Arbeiter | Follow @Hollywood_com
  • 6 Things Aside from 'SNL' to Remember About Don Pardo
    By: Michael Arbeiter Aug 19, 2014
    Getty Images/Jason LaVeris "It's Saturday Night Live!" will forever be the four words we associate with Don Pardo, announcer for the NBC variety show for nearly 40 years, who passed away Monday night at the age of 96 (via CBS News). Since 1975 — with only a single season-long hiatus in the early '80s — Pardo's inimitable timber introduced us to SNL’s stars, featured players, musical guests, and episode hosts, earning a permanent residence in the pop culture realm’s collective auditory cortex. But there’s more to the man than his weekly exclamations from the announcing booth at Studio 8-H. Pardo’s 75-year-long career took him to a multitude of interesting corners that we so often overlook: Let the Games BeginA staff fixture at NBC, Pardo announced the original iterations of many of its game shows, including The Price Is Right (from 1956 to ’63) and Jeopardy! (from ’64 to ’75), as well as later programs Three on a Match, Winning Streak, and Jackpot! between ’71 and ’75. Happy Turkey Day!For many years, the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade presented its army of inflatable cartoon characters with the gravitas of Pardo’s smooth baritone. Pardo announced the annual event for NBC straight up through 1999. NBC via Getty Images And That’s the NewsPardo boasted a longstanding career as a news broadcaster, both on radio and television; he started out as a World War II reporter for NBC Radio. On the date of John F. Kennedy’s assassination, Pardo announced the tragedy to NBC’s television audience, becoming one of the first parties to report on the death of the 35th president. He Also Had a Musical SidePardo proved his tastes in music to be rather esoteric when he teamed with the likes of Frank Zappa and Weird Al Yankovic for performances and recordings. Pardo first collaborated with Zappa in 1976 on a rendition of “I’m the Slime,” and then again joined forces with the innovative rock artist for his live album Zappa in New York in ’78. Five years later, Pardo would pay homage to his game show era by contributing vocally to Weird Al’s “I Lost on Jeopardy” as well as appearing in the music video. Of Course, He Had His Woody CredAn honorary New Yorker, Pardo managed to work his way into the filmography of Woody Allen, appearing in the 1987 comedy Radio Days as a host of the Name That Tune parody “Guess That Tune.” His acting career beyond the Allen picture includes Honeymoon in Vegas and the John Ritter comedy Stay Tuned. And He Could Take a JokePardo was a hard worker until the very end — flying back and forth between his home in Arizona and New York City every week to announce episodes of SNL — but was hardly a man who took himself too seriously. This is evident by his self-parodying appearances on The Simpsons and SNL vet Tina Fey’s 30 Rock. Naturally, we will always remember Pardo best for his work on Saturday Night Live, but there is clearly a lot more to celebrate about the man, his indomitable career, and his unmistakable voice.