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.
  • The Great Greta Getwig Twitter Debate
    By: Michael Arbeiter Feb 12, 2014
    IFC Films Tuesday night was a dangerous time to log onto Twitter. Innocent passersby would have caught flying mortar from both sides of a fresh, rapidly heating debate: a phenomenon that will be deemed by the history books Greta Grip! or How I Learned to Stop Gerwigging Out and Meet Your Dad. See, 30-year-old writer, actor, dancer, Barnard graduate, Noah Baumbach dater, Barack Obama birthday sharer, and effectual embodiment of the contemporary dreamer's existential quest Greta Gerwig was cast as the lead of CBS' groan-worthy developing spin-off series How I Met Your Dad. The shot heard 'round the world. Just shy of nobody has been looking forward to How I Met Your Dad, obviously born from the network's mainstay How I Met Your Mother (coming to an end this March), since it was announced in the fall of 2013. On the one hand, Gerwig's involvement as its star — playing Sally, a womanchild stuck in a dead-end marriage — and possible writer, as revealed by The Hollywood Reporter, does make How I Met Your Dad inherently more appealing. On the other, many are disappointed to learn that Gerwig's future will be driven primarily by a network television sitcom that we were all ready to write off before any of this news broke. And there are plenty other hands in this fistfight. Here's a stab at a breakdown (organization-wise) of the breakdown (emotional chaos-wise) that ensued after Gerwig was announced to be CBS' new leading lady. "We're disappointed, Greta."Greta Gerwig in a network sitcom? A network sitcom spin-off? A network sitcom spin-off that sounds basically like the same exact show as the network sitcom off of which it is spinning?  "We support you, Greta."Gerwig has a right to choose whatever projects she finds interesting. "But we want you to do other things, Greta."This isn't coming from a place of malice, but love. We love Frances Ha, and want to see you spend your time making more movies like that, as opposed to shackled to the network machine. "But we want you to save television, Greta."Now that someone interesting is involved as a star and writer, maybe How I Met Your Dad won't be so bad! "But we think you're selling out, Greta!"(Here's where it started to get ugly.) "But we think there's nothing wrong with making a little dough, Greta!"With a long career ahead of you and aspirations to make creatively daring films, getting a little funding might be the best move right about now. "But WE think the only way to maintain an output of creative integrity is to say no to the machine, Greta."Or, if you're like Andy Kaufman, to just f**k with the network from the inside. But Greta Gerwig seems nice. "But WE don't even think any of these people saw your movies in theaters, Greta."Netflixing The Dish & the Spoon doesn't do her any good! "But WE blame that on the studios' unwillingness to rely on you as a brand, Greta!"And also, we were just really swamped cramming for finals when your last six movies were playing in theaters. "But WE think that the public familiarity that comes with a starring role on a network sitcom is the exact way to establish yourself as a brand, Greta!"Now our parents will know who Greta Gerwig is, and that's a good thing. "BUT WE ARE WORRIED ABOUT YOU SUCCUMBING TO THE WHIMS OF THE SYSTEM, GRETA."Don't be a cog! "BUT WE RECALL A TIME WHEN YOU WERE IN MOVIES LIKE ARTHUR AND NO STRINGS ATTACHED, GRETA."How come nobody was b**ching and moaning about that? "BECAUSE WE DIDN'T REALLY KNOW WHO YOU WERE THEN, GRETA!"I mean, we knew, we just didn't know. "NEITHER DID WE. BUT TO BE HONEST, NO STRINGS ATTACHED WASN'T AS BAD AS EVERYONE SAID IT WAS, GRETA!"It had its moments. "WELL... WHY ARE YOU GETTING SO MAD AT US!?!"Isn't chastising actors for disappointing choices what we do? Isn't that our thing?! Isn't open discussion about artistic pursuits the whole idea?! Isn't it a good thing that we're this passionate about someone like Greta Gerwig in the first place?!  "ZOOEY DESCHANEL!!!"Case in point. Things kind of hit a wall around here, without either side giving way to the other's ideas. But in the cold light of day, we can profess: we love Greta Gerwig. We think she's talented and creative and will likely breathe new life into what could have been a very stale spin-off. But we also hope this doesn't hold her back from more interesting pursuits, preferably on the big screen. So here's waiting for the next bit of Greta Gerwig news — may it be one that we can all get behind. Or at least that she's passionate about. Follow @Michael Arbeiter // | Follow @Hollywood_com //
  • Review: 'RoboCop' Ain't Bad, Except for the RoboCop Part
    By: Michael Arbeiter Feb 11, 2014
    Columbia Pictures via Everett Collection Treading water at the very surface of RoboCop, there is an idea. A dense concept, ready and willing to provide no dearth of dissection for any eager student of philosophy, psychology, political science, physics — hell, any of the Ps. To simplify the idea on hand: What separates man from machine? It's a question that is not just teased by the basic premise of José Padilha's remake of the 1987 sci-fi staple, but asked outright by many of its main characters. And then never really worried about again. We have principal parties on both sides of the ethical quandary that would place the security of our crime-ridden cities in the hands of automatons. Samuel L. Jackson plays a spitfire Bill O'Reilly who wonders why America hasn't lined its streets with high-efficiency officer droids. Zach Grenier, as a moralistic senator, gobbles his way through an opposition to the Pro-boCop movement. We hear lecture after lecture from pundits, politicians, business moguls (a money-hungry Michael Keaton heads the nefarious OmniCorp...) and scientists (...while his top doc Gary Oldman questions the nature of his assignments while poking at patients' brains and spouting diatribes about "free will"), all working their hardest to lay thematic groundwork. Each character insists that we're watching a movie about the distinction between human and artificial intelligence. That even with an active brain, no robot can understand what it means to have a heart. But when Prof. Oldman tempers his hysterical squawking and Samuel L. Hannity rolls his closing credits, we don't see these ideas taking life.  In earnest, the struggle of rehabilitated police officer Alex Murphy (Joel Kinnaman) — nearly killed in the line of duty and turned thereafter into OmniCorp's prototype RoboCop — doesn't seem to enlist any of the questions that his aggravated peers have been asking. Murphy is transformed not just physically, but mentally — robbed of his decision-making ability and depleted of emotional brain chemicals — effectively losing himself in the process. But the journey we see take hold of Murphy is not one to reclaim his soul, although the movie touts it as such. It's really just one to become a better robot. Columbia Pictures via Everett Collection Meanwhile, RoboCop lays down its motives, and hard: Murphy's wife and son (Abbie Cornish and a puckish young John Paul Ruttan) lament the loss of Alex, condemning his dehumanization at the hands of Raymond Sellars' (Keaton) capitalistic experiments, and sobbing out some torrential pathos so you know just how deep this company is digging. Weaselly stooges (Jay Baruchel, Jennifer Ehle, and Jackie Earl Haley) line the OmniCorp roster with comical wickedness. Overseas, killer combat bots take down peaceful villages, unable to work empathetic judgment into their decision to destroy all deemed as "threats." And at the top, figures of power and money like Sellars and Pat Novak (Jackson) speak the loudest and harshest, literally justifying their agenda with a call for all naysayers to "stop whining." Clearly, RoboCop has something to say. And when it's devoted to its outrage, RoboCop is terrifically charming. The buzzing political world is just a tiny step closer to ridiculous than our own; the pitch meetings at OmniCorp are fun enough to provoke a ditching of all the material outside of the company walls. And one particular reference to The Wizard of Oz shows that the movie isn't above having fun with its admittedly silly premise. But it loses its magic when it steps away from goofy gimmicks and satirical monologues and heads back into the story. We don't see enough of Murphy grappling with the complicated balance between his conflicting organic and synthetic selves. In fact, we don't see enough "story" in Murphy at all. First, he's a dad and a cop. Then, he's a RoboCop. But can he also be a RoboDad? With all of its ranting and raving about the question, the film doesn't seem to concerned with actually figuring out the answer. 2.5/5 Follow @Michael Arbeiter | Follow @Hollywood_com
  • 'Girls' Recap: Ray and Marnie Are Actually Interesting!
    By: Michael Arbeiter Feb 09, 2014
    HBO Hannah: Art vs. Work It’s the struggle to which every aspiring artist can relate: devote yourself altogether to the craft or take the “sell-out route” and compromise your creative integrity with a paying gig in the corporate world. At least that’s one way to look at it — the perspective Hannah adopts when she signs on for an advertorial position at GQ magazine, realizing quickly that she might have just cemented herself in a lifelong position of artistic bankruptcy. Two weeks prior, Girls had us rattled over the discovery that Hannah was capable of some dark behavior (and, the really rattling thing, that we might be too). This week’s episode retreads this territory, but in much more comfortable waters. Instead of horrifying duplicity, we’re treated to a taste of Hannah’s self-involved immaturity. To reiterate, anyone in Hannah’s position this week is likely to entertain the same questions — “Is working for corporate America tantamount to abandoning my dreams? And if so, can I live with that?” — but the difference between us and Hannah (hopefully!) is our ability to ruminate logically on an idea before thrusting ourselves full force into the most destructive “solution.” Hannah insults her coworkers by insinuating that she, unlike they, is a real writer… only to learn that they have each made far more impressive creative accomplishments than she has, but work in advertorial writing because it pays the bills. Afraid of being stuck in the machine, Hannah hastily quits her new job… only to recoil moments later and beg for it once more. This is where we can (again, hopefully) separate ourselves from Hannah. Although we have all dreamt of throwing caution to the wind and delving into our passion projects full force at the expense of responsible living, we don’t. Season 3 seems like it’s trying to push Hannah as the living id — everything we would do, say, think, and feel were not for our overwhelming sense of shame… serving almost the same function as another HBO great, Larry David on Curb Your Enthusiasm. But audiences seem to have very different degrees of appreciation for the two. Ultimately, Hannah decides to stay at her gig, and Adam’s parallel storyline of giving up his own anti-establishment convictions to take an acting gig (yes, that’s how anti-establishment he was) is likely to breed some kind of conflict between the two down the line. Ray and Marnie: A "Love" Story I’ll be honest. After last week introduced the Ray/Marnie tryst, I thought this was going to be the weakest storyline we’ve yet to see on Girls. But in pitting the diametrically oppositional characters together in this episode, Girls shows us something interesting about each. Ray is the only person in the show’s central circle who has never bought into Marnie. And although Shoshanna did a pretty good job of invoking his vulnerable side, she wasn’t a rigid enough person to really challenge him on a visceral level. Marnie, representing everything Ray hates but doing so with the conviction Shoshanna never had, seems to be making him reconsider his values and motives — admitting defeat and watching Real Housewives. Meanwhile, the icy and judgmental Marnie is herself challenged by the proverbially uncool Ray, brought down from a pedestal of standoffishness to provoke him into proving his interest in her and agreeing to have lunch with him despite her hostile insistence that he’s the antithesis of someone she’d want to spend time with. It’s interesting to see the pair attempt civility, since they are approaching one another from two incredibly distant points on the spectrum of the human value system. Ray and Shoshanna were different, sure, but it’s more interesting when the second party in a relationship is also from the planet Earth. Shoshanna... Poor Shoshanna... And now, with Ray creeping back into her mind and heart, Shoshanna is losing it — questioning her new life choices and taking up with a painfully stupid boy in the interest of getting her “serious relationship” phase on track. It probably won’t work out too well.
  • Ray Romano Breaks Bad in 'Rob the Mob' Exclusive Pics
    By: Michael Arbeiter Feb 07, 2014
    Millennium Entertainment It's a crying shame that we haven't seen much of Michael Pitt since his untimely dismissal from Boardwalk Empire. Although the baby-faced power player's name has bubbled up in the entertainment waters regarding Hannibal casting and the Sundance flick I Origins, the general public still longs for his return. Rob the Mob delivers just that, placing Pitt alongside other recently elusive favorites like Ray Romano and Andy Garcia, as well as Nina Arianda, in a crime drama about a young couple turning its own guns on the Mafia. These exclusive pics feature snapshots from the Queen-set film, based on a true story and directed by native New Yorker Raymond De Felitta. Pitt feels right at home in a crime drama, ditto Garcia, though we never thought we'd see the day that Ray Romano headlined a Mafia picture... it's an exciting maneuver for the former sitcom star, who already began turning in more substantial fare with his recurring role on Parenthood and will up the ante yet again in this new film. Millennium Entertainment You can check out the Rob the Mob trailer below, and catch the film on Mar. 21. Phillip Caruso/Millennium Entertainment Millennium Entertainment Follow @Michael Arbeiter | Follow @Hollywood_com
  • Review: It's Like They Weren't Even Trying to Make 'The Monuments Men' Good
    By: Michael Arbeiter Feb 07, 2014
    Sony Pictures via Everett Collection There is a certain level of enjoyment you are guaranteed when signing on for a movie that boasts a cast of George Clooney, Matt Damon, John Goodman, and Bill Murray. And that's the precise level of enjoyment you'll get from The Monuments Men — that bare minimum smirk factor inherent the idea that your favorite stars are getting to play together. In FDR-era army helmets, no less. But what we also get from the film is an aura of smug self-confidence from project captain Clooney, who seems all too ready to take for granted that we're perfectly satisfied peering into his backyard clubhouse. So assured is the director/co-writer that we're happy to be in on the game that there doesn't seem to be any effort taken to refine the product for the benefit of a viewing audience. An introductory speech from art historian Frank Stokes (Clooney) sets up the premise straight away: the Nazis are stealing and destroying all of Europe's paintings and sculptures, and by gum we need to stop them! The concept doesn't complicate from there, save for a batting back and forth of the throughline question about whether the preservation of these pieces is "really worth it." Stokes rallies his own Ocean's Seven on a fine arts rescue mission, instigating an old fashioned go-get-'em-boys montage where we learn everything we need to know about the band mates in question: Damon has a wife, Goodman has gumption, Murray doesn't smile, Bob Balaban is uppity, and Jean Dujardin is French. The closest thing to a character in The Monuments Men comes in the form of Hugh Bonneville, a recovering alcoholic whose motivation to take on the dangerous mission is planted in a festering desire to absolve himself of a lifetime of f**king up. When we're away from Bonneville, the weight disspears, as does most of the joy. Without identifiable characters, even master funnymen like Goodman, Murray, and Balaban don't have much to offer... especially since the movie's jokes feel like first draft placeholders born on a tired night. Sony Pictures via Everett Collection But wait a minute, is this even supposed to be a comedy? After all, it's about World War II. And no matter what Alexandre Desplat's impossibly merry score would have you believe (coupled with The Lego Movie, this opening weekend might be responsible for more musical jubilance than any other since the days of "Make 'Em Laugh!"), warfare, genocide, and desecration of international culture all make for some pretty heavy material. But The Monuments Men's drama is just as fatigued as its humor, clumsily piecing together a collection of mini missions wherein the stakes, somehow, never seem to jump. We're dragged through military bases, battered towns, and salt mines by Clooney and the gang — occasionally jumping over to France to watch Damon work his least effective magic in years on an uptight Cate Blanchett, who holds the key to the scruffy American's mission but doesn't quite trust him... until, for no apparent reason, she suddenly does. We never feel like any of these people matter, not even to each other, so we never really feel like their adventures do. The Monuments Men doesn't have much of a challenge ahead of it. Its heroes are movie stars, its bad guys are Nazis, and its message is one that nobody's going to refute: art is important — a maxim it pounds home with the subtlety of a sledgehammer, through countless scenes of men staring in awe at the works of Michelangelo and Rembrandt. And in this easy endeavor, Clooney decides to coast. How could it possibly go wrong? Just grab hold of the fellas, toss 'em in the trenches, and let the laughs and danger write themselves. "This is what they came to see," Monuments Men insists. "Just us guys havin' a ball." But we never feel in on the game, and it isn't one that looks like that much fun anyhow. 2.5/5 Follow @Michael Arbeiter | Follow @Hollywood_com
  • Would 'Star Wars: Episode VII' Be a Waste of Gary Oldman's Talent?
    By: Michael Arbeiter Feb 06, 2014
    Weinstein Company via Everett Collection Not this time, champ. Fool us once. See, back in the last trimester of the Prequels era, George Lucas decided to bump up the gravitas of the impending Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith by roping in a bona fide actor: one Gary Oldman, known best for his turns in Sid and Nancy, JFK, and Air Force One — this was before Oldman had embodied either Sirius Black or Commissioner Gordon, so it would have marked his first turn with franchise fare. Lucas had pegged Oldman to play General Grievous, nefarious ruler of the Droid Army, before Oldman opted to pull out of production to comply with the fine print of his Screen Actors Guild membership — in absence of a SAG stamp on the Revenge of the Sith production, Oldman favored his organization loyalties and pulled out, leaving him independent from all things Lucas until this morning's rumblings that he's been asked to take a role in Star Wars: Episode VII. But we're not too excited, and neither is he. "They've called ... The deal isn't done, but yeah, they've inquired," Oldman tells Sky Movies, qualifying the news by adding, "I'm more cynical about it now. I'll believe it when I'm on a plane home." It's not just the tenuous nature of early rumors that leave us underwhelmed, but the prospect of Oldman taking on a Star Wars role at all. When he left the production, the character of Grievous went to Matthew Wood, a Lucasfilms sound engineer, who, though not an actor by trade, did just as well as anyone could have expected someone to do with the Kaleesh/cyborg hybrid. In earnest, it's not as though a master thespian like Oldman would have had much dramatic stretching to do with Grievous anyhow. While he gave some extra weight to Nolan's Batman films and the Harry Potter movies, we'd dare to say that an actor like Oldman might be wasted in the Star Wars universe. That said, this is the old Star Wars universe we've got blocking up our optimism. Under new direction, Oldman could have room to get creative and humane with whichever character he'd be offered here — although J.J. Abrams' track record has eroded in the past couple of years, he's still not totally out of his element matching high concept adventures with human sincerity. Plus, as a teen in the 1970s, we couldn't blame Oldman if playing a Star Wars character would be a longtime dream of his. Although we'd peg him as more of a Middle Earth guy. That's some casting we could endorse. Follow @Michael Arbeiter // | Follow @Hollywood_com //
  • 'New Girl' Recap: I AM FRANK SKAPOBOLIS!
    By: Michael Arbeiter Feb 05, 2014
    Ray Mickshaw/FOX Week after week, it gets tougher to drum up something to say about New Girl. It's not because the episodes have been overwhelmingly bad; they are simply far less interesting than they used to be. At the show's onset, New Girl was a subtle (relatively) play on gender politics. Somewhere in the second half of the first season, we became surprisingly adhered to the characters and got deeper, heavier episodes about the likes of Nick and Schmidt (we've yet to see Winston's transformative episode, and I don't think we ever will). But themes have waned, stories have tempered, and Season 3 on the whole has been a good deal less insightful than its preceding years. But the biggest crime is that the jokes just aren't working anymore. You can see where New Girl is trying to pack its funny: there's a quick scene in this week's episode, "Exes," that shows a lonely Schmidt shouting playfully into his cavernous refrigerator at a bowl of elusive grapes, breaking down in tears moments later as he eats them. The joke is not very dissimilar from a Season 2 beauty that saw Nick giving life to a dish of nuts before he too erupted into hysterics. Maybe it's because we saw a near identical gag enacted by the superior comedian Jake Johnson, but something about the Schmidt/grapes routine (which should, for all intents and purposes, be the episode's best laugh) just feels forced. The plot of the episode isn't much better: Nick's ex-girlfriend Caroline (Mary Elizabeth Ellis, from days of New Girl past) has gone bananas over the idea that Nick and Jess are now dating, accusing their relationship of spawning from an act of infidelity on Nick's part and losing all sense of logical control. If we remember correctly, Caroline was never... psychotic. The show did hint that she might have been on the selfish side, but we didn't understand her to be the sort of character who'd stalk and attack her ex-boyfriend years after the conclusion of their relationship over the presumption that he might have cheated. What gives, New Girl? So, to resolve the issue, Jess phones her own ex Berkley (Adam Brody), with whom she has maintained a close friendship... a friendship that Nick insists is fueled by Berkley's lasting desire to sleep with Jess. Of course he is proven right in the sort of cartoonish twist that sitcoms like this love to pull with ostensibly earnest characters like Berkley. But without many a laugh throughout the story (Brody does deliver a couple of good jokes, his send-off line being my favorite) it is all quite predictable, and all to very little end. That little end of which I speak involves Nick's revelation that he has been in love with Jess since the day he met her. He admits this to Jess and Caroline in order to clear the air and woo the viewing audience. Sure, it's sweet, but doesn't pack the same oomph that New Girl always used to. Maybe it's because Nick, as we've known him, has been a character defined by his failure. His driving force was his desperation, and we watched him so vigorously to see if he might grab at a scrap of happiness or self-worth one of these days. Now that things are working out peachy for him, we don't really know what to do. We're glad for Nick and all, but the show suffers. Across the hall, the gags are multiplied, in the Three's Companiest way possible. Schmidt, Coach, and Winston all aim to use Schmidt's loft to seduce strange women (in two cases that "strange" means "unfamiliar to them," in Winston's it just means "weird" — Bertie's back!), going by false names, mixing up their bedrooms, and enacting as many other screwball playboy highjinks as you can imagine. It has its moments, though a New Girl in its prime could have done wonders with this idiotic plot. Still, it is a good showcase of the occasionally overshadowed talents of Damon Wayans Jr. (who is so funny that he earns a hearty chuckle with the throwaway line, "Don't drink the water by the bed, it's got my contacts in it") and Lamorne Morris ("I am Frank Skabopolis! ... Is this helping?"). While New Girl hasn't entirely lost its charms, we aren't seeing the old magic that made it occasionally uproarious and occasionally quite sensitive. Falling in the realm of "passable" in both sections, we get an episode like "Exes." Not bad, but not the best New Girl can do... we hope. Follow @Michael Arbeiter| Follow @Hollywood_com
  • Something Wonderful Has Happened to 'How I Met Your Mother'
    By: Michael Arbeiter Feb 04, 2014
    CBS It was just over a year ago when How I Met Your Mother pulled what I consider its most offensive move to date: the Barney-Patrice gambit that ultimately hooked Robin into realizing her feelings for the duplicitous suitor. It was in this experiment, one that advertised the impossibility of a fit central character drumming up feelings for a full bodied woman, that the CBS sitcom showed off a peak in immaturity — a long-gestating immaturity that had taken form in the hearts of Barney, Robin, and, most of all, our hero Ted. Ted's vantage point has always celebrated a very specific idea of romantic love. The kind that you'd find in a decade-long Meg Ryan movie. In universe, Ted has endured some treacherous punishment for his pursuit of this singular manifestation of love — not even in pursuit of a return of that love, but of the love itself. Ted needs to love the way he understands love to take form. The restrictive, illogical, selfish, immature way that he (and, let's be honest, we) defines this all-consuming phenomenon. And although it's more enchanting to view love this way, it isn't fair. It isn't fair to the people we love — to Robin, in Ted's case — or to the people doing the loving. To dismiss your feelings is deemed cynical by films and television shows like How I Met Your Mother. To get over someone after years of desperate, agonizing passion would render these years illegitimate. There is only one kind of love, the show has affirmed, and it doesn't change. A third party to whom this mentality isn't fair: everyone else. Everyone who hasn't been loved like this, or who hasn't felt this specific kind of love. Anyone who didn't meet his or her soul mate on the first day of college (Marshall and Lily), who wasn't saved from a lifetime of destructive behavior by the only person "as messed up" as him (Barney), or who didn't spend nine years stealing blue French horns, setting up elaborate Christmas decorations, retrieving lockets, and destroying himself over the one (Ted). To everyone who hasn't experienced this kind of love and who has been made to feel like he or she is not experiencing real life because of it, this whole maxim isn't fair. And it's more or less a lie, too. But for 199 straight episodes, How I Met Your Mother seemed bent on upholding the idea of love that it inherited from everything in between Casablanca and When Harry Met Sally, laying waste to the toxicity it instills in the lover and the lovee, a party reduced to an idealized end-goal who is robbed of her own industries, passions, and feelings of organic love as they are devalued as little more than roadblocks in this sprawling romantic quest (Robin). In universe, Ted was punished for his journeys, but we all knew that How I Met Your Mother was rewarding him for his "uniquely pure heart" by repeatedly crowning him a tragic hero. And to all those who've endured Ted's path before, the tragic hero title is a nice compensation prize, ain't it? Just enough to keep you going, to keep you adhered to the journey. And then came the big 2-0-0, last week's episode, when we were treated to the backstory of the still nameless Mother. The episode, titled "How Your Mother Met Me," gave us the first big surprise of the season: Ted would not be her first love. Years before taking up with Mr. Mosby, The Mother was deeply and devotedly involved with another, Max, whose untimely death was the only cause for their relationship's end. No, he wasn't proven to be "not quite the one" (although a subsequent pre-Ted beau would). This Max, for all we know, would have made The Mother the happiest woman on Earth. But we were surprised to hear our old, traditionally immature friend How I Met Your Mother assure us that this doesn't mean Ted can't do the same. For the first time in its nine year span, the show admitted that there might not only be one kind of love. A week later and our surprise is doubled. We find Ted on Central Park's Bow Bridge (the most romantic place in New York City, you know), begging his nutty ex Jeanette (Abby Elliott) to return the locket that he has been dying — really, killing himself! Contacting old girlfriends like Stella and Victoria and flying across country just to figure out where he stored the thing — to retrieve as Robin's wedding gift. In a rare moment of earnestness, the kooky Jeanette challenges Ted's judgment, insisting that he needs to get over Robin and that he's better off without the locket. But Ted disagrees. He can't stomach the idea of getting over Robin, as it would mean that his years of devotion to her meant nothing. And, as said love is what he used to define himself altogether, it would mean that he meant nothing. And for the first time, after so many romantic diatribes in which Ted has spelled out his aching, ceaseless, unwavering obsession with his own love, we see How I Met Your Mother take a different stance. "I'm in love with her. If you're looking for the word that means caring about someone beyond all rationality and wanting them to have everything they want no matter how much it destroys you, it's love," Ted cries. "And when you love someone, you don't stop. Ever. Even when people roll their eyes or call you crazy. Even then. Especially then. You just — you don't give up. Because if I could give up, if I could just take the who world's advice and move on and find someone else, THAT WOULDN'T BE LOVE. That would be some other disposable thing that is not worth fighting for." And then, Ted manages one desperate, "That is not what this is," almost too worn out to convince Abby or himself. For the first time, the show seems to understand that this isn't right. That this isn't how someone should feel about love. That it shouldn't be something that destroys you, or that you adhere to obsessively in an effort to become what you wish you were. And that if this is the sort of "love" you are experiencing, then you might be better off tossing your locket into The Ramble and Lake... which, of course, is what Jeanette does next. An act of malice on her part, but one that sets him free. And so, we flash forward to the wedding weekend, with Ted sitting beside Robin on the beach as the sun comes up, waiting for Barney to stumble back from his drunken night of tutoring two young schmoes in the art of wooing women (the passing of the torch, you could call it), finally deciding that everything in his cold, concrete definition of love needed to change. And so, he decides to let her go. Forever. And more importantly, to let go of his belief that his love for Robin is not just the only thing worth fighting for, but worth living for. Because love doesn't have to be defined by Casablanca or When Harry Met Sally or Marshall and Lily. Some people find it in Paris, some people in road trips, some people in college hallways, some people in New York City pubs, some people on dating websites, some people through set-ups, and the list goes on. Some people find it once, some people find it over and over. It's different for every one who experiences it — any two cases are incomparable. Every case has its own, unique, honest story. And after trying to capitalize on everything he thought it should be for so many years, the fellow telling his story via Bob Saget voiceover to the two kids on his living room couch is finally ready to begin it. Follow @Michael Arbeiter // | Follow @Hollywood_com //
  • Review: 'The Lego Movie' Is a Wonderful, Hilarious Tribute to Imagination
    By: Michael Arbeiter Feb 03, 2014
    Warner Bros. It's been 65 years, 560 billion bricks, 83 set themes, 90 retail stores, 53 video games, a clothing line, a theme park, and something called BrickCon since the dawn of the LEGO, and only now are we getting our first big screen incarnation of the omnipresent children's toy. And though you'd think among the various extracurricular incarnations of what started out as a simple amendment of the building block that we'd have seen a Lego movie by now, the right Lego movie wouldn't have come along sooner. Spiting  expectations, The Lego Movie doesn't shoot for the gimmick. This isn't capitalization on a familiar property for no discernible reason beyond the frugality of name brand entertainment. We're hit with the surprising realization early on in the movie that this is a story about Legos. About the tacit struggle that plagued all young builders — the war between following the instructions and letting your imagination run wild — and just how much value there is in each. In fact, The Lego Movie steps well beyond the confines of its 32-square-peg green mat to tell a subtextual story about children who play with, and find themselves through, this incredible toy. Centering on the fantastical quest of a plain-faced everyman named Emmet (Chris Pratt, whose Parks and Rec enthusiasm is not bridled by his plastic form) who is whisked out of his cozy lifestyle by prophecies, secret societies, inter-world missions, and nefarious plans to destroy the entire Lego universe, the film hammers in the simple conceit that being yourself is not only okay, but abundantly important. But a profound sensitivity to its message does not mean that The Lego Movie holds back on the fun. On the contrary, this might be the silliest animated movie to hit theaters in ages. From scene one, The Lego Movie is maniacal in its comic delivery. Sharp gags from writer/director team Phil Lord and Christopher Miller (responsible for the Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs films and the 21 Jump Street movie alike) get fair treatment from a capable band of voice actors — Elizabeth Banks, Morgan Freeman, Will Ferrell, and so many others. Liam Neeson as a menacing policeman is the surprise MVP of the bunch, although supporting players Nick Offerman and Charlie Day contribute some memorable laughs. The comedy is fresh, rarely if ever pandering, and in such rapid supply that any failed joke is immediately overshadowed by a real doozy. Warner Bros. In fact, with such clever material at bay, it's the film's insistence on shoving its action sequences to the forefront that have us a bit frustrated. As an adventure movie, and one set in a land where a child's imagination would be the word of god, the inclination is not surprising. But beyond a chuckle or two at the initial gambit, there's not much favor to be found in the movie's long supply of large shoot-'em-ups and grappling scenes. But soon enough, we get back to the jokes, the message, the characters. Although second banana Wildstyle (Banks, playing a hyper-competent secret agent whose primary goal is to get Emmet to the finish line) is a disappointing turn for what is otherwise an intelligent, progressive movie, the film's heart is where it really wins. The throughline message of channeling the creative machinations that make you you only builds as the film plucks onward, offering surprising turns that help to really strike a chord with any youngster battling a fear of individuality, or any adult who ever has. As deeply as Toy Story understands what dolls can do for a lonely young kid, The Lego Movie knows what it means to create whole worlds, the people within them, and the adventures they take. While the movie doesn't discount the merit in learning and deriving inspiration from "the instructions" (oh yes, it's quite indubitably a metaphor), it knows that the far more valuable path comes from our own minds and hearts, and asks viewers young and old to realize that the best things you can give this world come wholly from you. 4/5 Follow @Michael Arbeiter| Follow @Hollywood_com
  • The Super Bowl 'Seinfeld' Reunion Was Absolutely (Mumble...)
    By: Michael Arbeiter Feb 02, 2014
    NBC In the 16 years since Seinfeld went off the air, we've seen parody web series, Twitter accounts, comic strips, and even a self-satirizing reunion on the seventh season of Curb Your Enthusiasm. The latest piece of show-about-nothing candy to which we're treated comes in the form of a Super Bowl commercial, combining Jerry Seinfeld's active web series Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee with the iconic characters from the 1990s sitcom. Seinfeld and Jason Alexander, in character as Jerry and George Costanza, take to their old coffee shop haunt (which, apparently, has been renovated just a touch since '98) during the Super Bowl halftime show to grab a bite, trade insults, and quibble about the minutiae of daily life. It's a delightful bundle of laughs for anyone who loved Seinfeld... a community to which all sane adults subscribe. You can watch the full 6-and-a-half-minute episode over at Seinfeld's Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee website. It might be just a taste of our old favorite show, but it'll tide us over until that play Seinfeld and Larry David are working on. You can also check out Seinfeld's CICGC episode with Seinfeld costar Michael Richards on the site.