Michael Arbeiter
Staff editor Michael Arbeiter’s natural state of being can best be described as “mild panic attack.” His earliest memories of growing up in Queens, New York, involve nighttime conversations with a voice from his bedroom wall (the jury’s still out on what that was all about) and a love for classic television that spawned from the very first time he was allowed to watch “The Munsters.” Attending college at SUNY Binghamton, a 20-year-old Michael learned two things: that he could center his future on this love for TV and movies, and that dragons never actually existed — he was kind of late in the game on that one.
  • Review: 'Saving Mr. Banks' Would Rather Be a Disney Cartoon Than a True, Meaningful Story
    By: Michael Arbeiter Dec 13, 2013
    Disney You expect a bit of schmaltz from a movie about the making of Mary Poppins. But schmaltz doesn't entail a sentiment lathered so thickly that it's feels like an anti-depressant commercial, or material so broad that it's insulting to believe that audiences above the age of five can relate to the emotionality onscreen. Saving Mr. Banks takes for granted that its viewers are fans of traditional Disney, seeming to confuse Disney fans for Disney characters, and insinuating that we bear the intellectual sophistication thereof. The real victim, of course, is the character of P.L. Travers (Emma Roberts, charming as she can be with this material), who incurs a fraction of a storyline about overcoming (or learning to live with?) her latent childhood traumas. As a young girl in Australia (as we learn in intermittent flashbacks — by and large the dullest part of the movie, but such a hefty piece of it), young Travers adored her merry, whimsical alcoholic father (Colin Farrell, playing a character that feels as grounded in reality as Dick Van Dyke's penguin-trotting screever Bert), enchanting in his Neverland mannerisms while her chronically depressed mother watched the family crumble into squalor. Forty-odd years later, the themes of Travers' childhood inform (sometimes directly, right down to presciently repeated phrases) her resistence to allow her novel Mary Poppins to take form as a Disney movie. In the absence of a reason for why she might have a sudden change of heart about a feeling to which she has apparently held so strongly for two decades, Travers opts to fly out to California to meet Walt Disney (Tom Hanks, wading through the script without any of the energy we know he has in his back pocket) and discuss the adaptation process. Disney When it's not insisting upon clunky "melting the ice queen" devices — like nuzzling Travers up to an oversized stuffed Mickey Mouse to show that, hey, she's starting to like this place! — the stubborn author's time in the Disney writer's room is the best part of the movie. Working with (or against) an increasingly agitated creative team made up of Bradley Whitford, Jason Schwartzman, and B.J. Novak, Travers protests minor details about setting and character, driving her colleagues mad in the process. It is to the credit of the comic talents of Whitford and Schwartzman (who play reserved agitation well beside Novak's outright hostility — he's doing mid-series Ryan in this movie, FYI) that these scenes offer a scoop of charm. But Travers' gradual defrosting poses a consistent problem, as it is experienced over the slow reveal of her disjointed backstories in a fashion that suggests the two are connected... but we have no reason to believe that they are. The implications of the characters' stories — depression, child abuse, alcoholism, handicaps, and PTSD — are big, and worthy of monumental material. But the characters are so thin that the assignment of such issues to them does a disservice to the emotionality and pain inherent therein. A good story might have been found in the making of Mary Poppins, and in the life and work of P.L. Travers. Unfortunately, Saving Mr. Banks is too compelled to turn that arc into a Disney cartoon. And much like Travers herself, we simply cannot abide that. Follow @Michael Arbeiter // | Follow @Hollywood_com //
  • Review: Not Enough Bilbo, But Just Enough Adventure in 'The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug'
    By: Michael Arbeiter Dec 13, 2013
    Warner Bros. Give Martin Freeman an empty room and he'll give you comedy. The best parts of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey — an admittedly mishandled movie in large — involved his subdued grimaces, his Chaplinian waddling, and the way he carried himself with equal parts neurosis and snark in every scene. If there is one primary misstep of An Unexpected Journey's terrifically improved sequel, The Desolation of Smaug, it is the spiritual absence of Bilbo Baggins. Freeman's good-natured but disgruntled Hobbit takes a backseat to the Dwarf team in this chapter of Peter Jackon's three-part saga, distributing the heavy lifting among the front lines of the bearded mooks. Thankfully, we're not shafted with too much "Thorin's destiny" backstory, instead focusing on the trek forward, through far more interesting terrain than we got last time around. The Dwarves voyage through a trippy woodland that'll conjur fond memories of The Legend of Zelda's unnavigable forest levels and inside the borders of Lake-town, a man-occupied working class monarchy that is more vivid and living than any place we have seen yet in the series. And while Unexpected Journey's goblin caverns might have been cool to look at, none of the quests in Desolation feel nearly as close to a tangential detour. Every step the Dwarves take is one that beckons us closer to the central, increasingly engaging story. Desolation is not entirely without its curiosities. While Gandalf's mission to meet the Necromancer serves to connect the Hobbit trilogy to the Lord of the Rings movies, the occasional cuts over to the wizard's pursuits are primarily distracting and just a bit dull. Although we're happy to welcome the Elf race back into our Middle-earth adventures, it's easy to imagine a version of this story that didn't involve side characters like Legolas and Kate... I mean, Tauriel... and still felt whole (perhaps even more cohesive). The latter's love affair with hot Dwarf Kili seems like a last minute addition to the canon, and one not built on anything beyond the cinematic rule that two sexually compatible attractive people should probably have something brewing alongside all the action. Warner Bros. But the most egregious of crimes committed by Desolation is, unquestionably, the shafting of Bilbo Baggins to secondary status. Yes, he proves himself a savior to his fellow travelers four times in the film, but long stretches of action go by without so much as a word from the wide-eyed burglar. When he finally takes center stage in his theatrical face-off with Smaug — an exercise in double-talk reminiscent of Oedipus outsmarting the Sphinx — the film picks up with a new, cool energy, with a chilling fun laced around the impending doom of their back-and-forth. We've been waiting since the first frames of Unexpected to see how the dragon material will pay off, and it does in spades... albeit in the final third of Desolation, but with equal parts gravitas and fun, to reunite us with our Tolkien passions once more. Benedict Cumberbatch's dragon doesn't do much to subvert expectation — he's slithering, sadistic, vain, manipulative, and vaguely Londonian. But tradition feels good here. Smaug's half hour spent toying with the mousey Bilbo (who does get a chance to showcase his aptitude at small-scale physical comedy here) is terrific in every way. Its Hobbit problem aside, Desolation proves itself worthy of Bilbo's past proclamation. "I'm going on an adventure!" more than pays off here, in the form of mystifying boat rides, edge-of-your-seat efforts in dragon slaying, and the most joyful action set piece we've seen in years. Twelve Dwarves, twelve barrels, and one roaring river amounts for enough fun to warrant your trip to the theater for this latest outing into Middle-earth. 3.5/5 Follow @Michael Arbeiter // | Follow @Hollywood_com //
  • Golden Globes 2014: See the Full List of Nominees!
    By: Michael Arbeiter Dec 12, 2013
    NBC Best Motion Picture, Drama12 Years a SlaveGravityCaptain PhillipsRushPhilomena Best Motion Picture, Musical or ComedyNebraskaAmerican HustleThe Wolf of Wall StreetInside Llewyn DavisHer Best Actor in a Motion Picture, DramaChiwetel Ejiofor, 12 Years a SlaveMatthew McConaughey, Dallas Buyers Club Tom Hanks, Captain Phillips Robert Redford, All Is Lost Idris Elba, Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom  Best Actor in a Motion Picture, Musical or ComedyBruce Dern, NerbaskaLeonardo DiCaprio, The Wolf of Wall StreetChristian Bale, American HustleOscar Isaac, Inside Llewyn DavisJoaquin Phoenix, Her Best Actress in a Motion Picture, DramaCate Blanchett, Blue JasmineSandra Bullock, GravityEmma Thompson, Saving Mr. BanksJudi Dench, PhilomenaKate Winslet, Labor Day Best Actress in a Motion Picture, Musical or ComedyMeryl Streep, August: Osage CountyJulia Louis-Dreyfus, Enough SaidAmy Adams, American HustleJulie Delpy, Before MidnightGreta Gerwig, Frances Ha Best Director - Motion PictureAlfonso Cuaron, GravitySteve McQueen, 12 Years a SlaveDavid O. Russell, American HustlePaul Greengrass, Captain PhillipsAlexander Payne, Nebraska Best Screenplay - Motion PictureJohn Ridley, 12 Years a SlaveBob Nelson, NebraskaEric Warren Singer and David O. Russell, American HustleJeff Pope and Steve Coogan, PhilomenaSpike Jonze, Her Best Supporting Actor in a Motion PictureMichael Fassbender, 12 Years a SlaveJared Leto, Dallas Buyers ClubBradley Cooper, American HustleDaniel Bruhl, RushBarkhad Abdi, Captain Phillips Best Supporting Actress in a Motion PictureLupita Nyong'o, 12 Years a SlaveJennifer Lawrence, American HustleJulia Roberts, August: Osage CountyJune Squibb, NebraskaSally Hawkins, Blue Jasmine Best TV Series, DramaBreaking BadDownton AbbeyHouse CardsMasters of SexThe Good Wife Best TV Series, ComedyThe Big Bang TheoryModern FamilyGirlsBrooklyn Nine-NineParks and Recreation Best Actor in a TV Series, DramaBryan Cranston, Breaking BadMichael Sheen, Masters of SexKevin Spacey, House of CardsJames Spader, The BlacklistLiev Schreiber, Ray Donovan Best Actor in a TV Series, ComedyJason Bateman, Arrested DevelopmentDon Cheadle, House of LiesMichael J. Fox, The Michael J. FoxJim Parsons, The Big Bang TheoryAndy Samberg, Brooklyn Nine-Nine Best Actress in a TV Series, DramaJulianne Margulies, The Good WifeKerry Washington, ScandalTatiana Maslany, Orphan BlackRobin Wright, House of CardsTaylor Schilling, Orange Is the New Black  Best Actress in a TV Series, Comedy Zooey Deschanel, New Girl Lena Dunham, Girls Julia Louis-Dreyfus, VeepAmy Poehler, Parks and Recreation Edie Falco, Nurse Jackie  Best Mini-Series or TV Movie American Horror Story: CovenBehind the CandelabraDancing on the EdgeTop of LakeWhite Queen Best Actor in a Mini-Series or TV MovieMatt Damon, Behind the CandelabraChiwetel Ejiofor, Dancing on the EdgeIdris Elba, LutherAl Pacino, Phil SpectorMichael Douglas, Behind the Candelabra Best Actress in a Mini-Series or TV MovieHelena Bonham Carter, Burton and TaylorRebecca Ferguson, White QueenJessica Lange, American Horror Story: CovenHelen Mirren, Phil SpectorElisabeth Moss, Top of the Lake Best Supporting Actor in a Series, Mini-Series or TV MovieRob Lowe, Behind the Candelabra Josh Charles, The Good WifeAaron Paul, Breaking BadCorey Stoll, House of CardsJohn Voight, Ray Donovan Best Supporting Actress in a Series, Mini-Series or TV MovieHayden Panetierre, NashvilleJacqueline Bisset, Dancing on the EdgeJanet McTeer, White QueenMonica Potter, ParenthoodSofia Vergara, Modern Family Best Animated Feature FilmFrozenThe CroodsDespicable Me 2 Best Foreign Language FilmBlue Is the Warmest ColorThe PastThe HuntThe Wind RisesThe Great Beauty Best Original Score - Motion PictureGravityThe Book Thief12 Years a SlaveAll Is LostMandela: Long Walk to Freedom Follow @Michael Arbeiter // | Follow @Hollywood_com //
  • Review: 'American Hustle' Is a Riotous, Character-Driven Twist on the Heist Genre
    By: Michael Arbeiter Dec 11, 2013
    Columbia Pictures The opening scene of American Hustle — a loud, loquacious, upper-fueled romp through the avenues of high stakes swindling — plays somewhat like a Buster Keaton short. We watch a schlubby Christian Bale fumble (with as much delicacy as someone can, in fact, fumble) with a greasy combover and a dime store toupee, laughing at the small scale physical comedy and learning more than you'd expect about Bale's con man character Irving Rosenfeld before we even meet him or hear him speak. But there is nary a silent moment in the two-and-half hours to follow. Its people speak in explosions. The passions are dialed all the way up between Irv, his accomplice and girlfriend Sydney Prosser (Amy Adams), and the venemous FBI agent (Bradley Cooper) who rangles the pair into the biggest heist of their career. There's no tranquility in the waters of their high-stakes operation to take down a New Jersey mayor, the Italian mob, and quite possibly a few of the dirtier suits in Congress. When things proceed like clockwork, we're talking diving pendulums and cuckoo birds darting from every crevice. Naturally, it's all the more fun when things go awry. And, of course they do. It wouldn't be a heist movie without a few cogs springing loose. But the beauty of American Hustle is in its undoing. From start to finish, Irv and Sydney are pros at the game. They leave no stone unturned in pulling the wool over the eyes of every deadbeat, mafioso, and active senator that finds his unlucky way into their eyeline. Even the misguided improvisations of Cooper's control freak lawman don't serve to uproot the plans from their course. We don't suffer through a dropping of their guard or an overlooking of important details. Everything that goes wrong in this movie is embedded in character. The follies, screw-ups, and mutinies are all emotionally charged, inspired by romantic rivalry, ego, flights of affection, and the ribald distate that so many of these people have for each other. Everything in this big, flashy, high-stakes movie is personal. It's a toxic, burning love/hate/envy/longing/attraction/friendship/enmity between every conceivable pairing in this dynamic cast of rich, strong, uproarious characters that fuels the movie and drags down the scheme at its center. Columbia Pictures And just about everyone we meet is dragged into the maniacal nucleus by the arms of anxious passion. Irv's spitfire wife Rosalyn (Jennifer Lawrence) outranks the lot of her company in the screws-loose department, stirring the pot of her unfaithful husband's business dealings as soon as she crosses the threshold into his world. The psychopathically dutiful Richie (Cooper) sees anyone who tries to temper his occupational obsessions as the enemy, even his pragmatic Midwesterner boss (Louis C.K.). And at the head of the race is Carmine Polito (Jeremy Renner), unaware of his place in this tremendous game but coursing at top speeds on an engine of his democratic heart nonetheless. The characters are all operating at 11, and most of the actors are able to keep up. As Irv, a uniquely undesirable Bale is a laugh every minute. We enter this world through him — a world of accessible lies, of rough-and-tumble New York streets, of Long Island parties, of Duke Ellington, of hairpieces, of dry cleaners, of only conning the men you can stomach the idea of laying to waste — and have a terrific time walking in his footsteps. Always just out of reach is Adams as Sydney, who cons herself just as often as she does Richie, Irv, and the poor saps who fall for her seductive act. Bale and Adams are the standouts of the cast — playing their hearts on their sleeves and tucked away tightly, respectively — so it's good fortune that most of our time is spent with one or the other. The power players from director David O. Russell's last effort, Cooper and Lawrence, shine a bit dimmer here — Cooper plays Richie as petulant, misguided, and teetering on the edge, but he's undercooked beside the far meatier material presented by Bale and Adams. Lawrence, while not without her moments, never seems to commit altogether to the loon that is Rosalyn, alternating between too reserved and too outlandish to really make the character feel like somebody. But the biggest surprise of the lot might be Renner, who has more fun as his Jersey boy Carmine than he ever has onscreen. But in earnest, some credit goes to the hair. It's the electricity of American Hustle that keeps its long narrative from dragging. We have fun with the characters, the performances, and the colorful world itself. The movie never insists that we feel anything beyond that, but offers a few bites of some authentic empathy for Irv and his kind nonetheless. So we can dip into the bustling character work that Bale and Adams are mastering, Cooper is handling, and Lawrence is just falling shy of delivering on, but we're free to latch onto the life preserver of this movie's output of comedy. There's so much to laugh at in American Hustle, and some wonderfully molded characters to do all your laughing with.  4/5 Follow @Michael Arbeiter // | Follow @Hollywood_com //
  • Mitch Hurwitz Is Directing a Non-'Arrested Development' Movie? COME ON!
    By: Michael Arbeiter Dec 11, 2013
    FOX Mitch Hurwitz gave us Arrested Development, one of the greatest comedy series in the history of television. But the writer/producer, gifted though he may be, has also given us a lot of... lesser material. He was the mind behind Will Arnett's short-lived sitcom Running Wilde, and the chief creative force on the dreadful animated show Sit Down, Shut Up. So we're not especially thrilled to hear that Hurwitz's next picture is not his long awaited Bluth family film, but instead a new independent idea titled Guinea Pigging, as reported by The Hollywood Reporter. But the premise is at least interesting. Hurwitz is directing, and The State and Reno 911! vets Thomas Lennon and Robert Ben Garant are writing the script. The story will derive from a 2008 New Yorker article that highlighted a community of people who make livings as test subjects for various experimental pharmaceuticals. Side effects follow. On the side of skepticism, Hurwitz has just a small number of directing credits to his name; the only Arrested episodes he ever helmed belonged to the qualitatively controversial fourth season, which was castigated for odd (admittedly self-aware) long pauses and bizarre cuts. Additionally, while we are happy to focus on Lennon and Garant's more celebrated accomplishments, they are also responsible for features like Taxi, The Pacifier, Herbie Fully Loaded, and Balls of Fury. As such, while we love some of what each of the creative parties involved has done, we can't help but anticipate a groaner here. Let's just forge through this and hope it earns enough cash to give Hurwitz free reign on his Arrested movie. Follow @Michael Arbeiter // | Follow @Hollywood_com //
  • Does 'Jupiter Ascending' Trailer Look Good Ridiculous or Bad Ridiculous?
    By: Michael Arbeiter Dec 10, 2013
    The best player in the World for movie trailers, Hollywood interviews and movie clips. We've been waiting a long time for this one — the first original Wachowski project since the termination of the Matrix trilogy. We've heard only nebulous synopses and contextual tidbits since the project was announced, knowing only (thanks to the Wachowski stamp) that it would be BIG. The Matrix was big. Cloud Atlas was big. V for Vendetta, which the pair helped to pen, was pretty big. And though it spans galaxies and envelops the fate of existence altogether, the first trailer for Jupiter Ascending makes it look surprisingly personal and intimate. But those aren't the only adjectives that come to mind. It also looks a little bit ridiculous. When embraced, this can work. The imagery of the trailer brings to mind flashy, ornate sci-fi/fantasies, notably the effusively goofy The Fifth Element. But is this what the Wachowskis want? Fans of The Matrix movies alone might be shocked at the zaniness inherent in the frames of the Jupiter Ascending trailer. The dark and stern story of Neo rarely, if ever, dripped into a state of levity. But Cloud Atlas was imbued with a great deal of merriment — the epic film's lighter segments ranged from sappy sentimentality to outright wacky humor. And since stars Channing Tatum and Mila Kunis are both known as skilled comedic actors, we're inclined to believe that the brow-raising character of the new trailer is wholly intended. At least, we hope. Follow @Michael Arbeiter // | Follow @Hollywood_com //
  • Director Sergio Castellitto Talks the Literal and Personal Wars in His New Film 'Twice Born'
    By: Michael Arbeiter Dec 09, 2013
    eOne Films The Bosnian War is not frequently tackled by major motion pictures in Hollywood. It takes a director with an intimate relationship with such a tragedy to really bring its history and implications to life onscreen. Sergio Castellitto, director of the new film Twice Born, strives for a vivid illustration of the hardships intrinsic of this conflict — on locals and visitors alike — all the while telling a tremendously personal story of a mother and the son she fought so hard to have. We got a chance to ask Castellito a few questions about his drama, which stars Penelope Cruz and Emile Hirsch as a couple struggling with the conflicts of love, family, and war all at once. One would assume, from watching this film, that the Bosnian War has some degree of personal or historical significance to you. Can you talk a little bit about why you felt impelled to tell a story about this specific era?After the dissolution of former Jugoslavia, the last great European war exploded, and this same war we europeans somehow ignored. It’s enough to think that while we Italians went to spend summer holidays on the beaches of Rimini and the Adriatic coast, on the opposite coast something terrible was just starting to occur. In the frame of this last war of Europe, there is the extraordinary story of this girl who carries out this personal little war: maternity.  On that token, what sort of relationship did you have with this book?I have the chance and the privilege to be married to a great Italian writer, Margaret Mazzantini, author of Twice Born and also of Don’t Move, my first film as director. It would have been a pity not to take advantage of that. I have always followed Margaret’s writing process since the very first drafts of her books, I give her editing suggestions and in the meanwhile I start to unbury the images that are concealed behind the words she writes. That’s a very thrilling process. You accomplish the impressive task of making Penelope Cruz actually look aged and worn in the present day scenes. Did you ever consider using different sets of actors in fear of not being able to achieve this effect (as some films do when depicting two different eras), or were you always set on using the same actors playing older and younger?Playing a character who crosses many years is always a challenge that actors use to like very much. Penelope was just in the right age to embrace a character who had to represent both youth and maturity. This is a finely, deeply human drama, but you can't say that there are not a fair amount of "twists" in the movie. At various points, you learn different clues about the parentage of Pietro: that he's not his father's son, that he's Diego's son, that he's not Gemma's son, that he's not Diego's son! Are you at all a fan of the sorts of films that live and breathe on twists and reveals? Can you talk a little bit about intertwining these notes with your story as to balance the information with the substantial drama?This movie is first of all an extraordinary love story between Gemma and Diego and just like every love story it is passionate, exciting, even wicked and foolish. This love story becomes adult when Gemma finds out she is sterile and she lives this condition as a dramatic disablement, even though she is a progressive woman. She will find that child in the less predictable puddle and she’ll succeed taking light out of that. As my wife uses to say “artists are the inventors and the unveilers of secrets”. This movie invents and unveils secrets, it tries to frame secrets in order to unveil the truth at the end. Every single character has a secret and holds it tight. Every single character is pursuing a dream and in that dream, there is the secret. I have heard that Nirvana songs are notoriously difficult to get the rights to, because the band has so much artistic integrity. Was it difficult for you to obtain the rights to the music you used? Did you earn their favor due to the content of your movie?Actually we just let Nirvana have the screenplay, they read it and they found the project ethically worthwhile and – as much as they can be strict – Twice Born was granted the copyright. It’s a great honor for me and for the whole project.  Beyond Nirvana, music plays a tremendous role in this movie, what with Bruce Springsteen peppered throughout and characters playing their own assortment of instruments. Can you speak a little on the role of music in your life, or what role you might think it would play in the lives of characters working through circumstances like these?One of the scalpels that’s always been used in cinema is melodrama. It’s a way to cut wounds and let sounds and lights bleed out. I used different kinds of music, from classical to pop/rock that fitted better to frame the historical era, though always trying to compose a balanced musical score of sounds, lights and words. As a matter of fact I think that the emotionally epic part has to be sustained also on the soundtrack level. The overall tone of this film, especially in the latter half, is quite somber. Yet there are moments of merriment, especially from your character of Gemma's father and his relationship with Diego. Is there a reason you opted to take on one of the film's primary sources of pep and light? Do you find that your stories need this kind of "relief," and do you enjoy (as a director and an actor) being the one to relay it into the films?I just wanted to describe characters and their dreams through their humanity that can be sometimes tragic, sometimes funny. Besides [the fact that] I believe in happy endings, I think directors have to represent happy endings, because life is so painful and punishing, at least in cinema we deserve to find relief. Twice Born is available in theaters and On Demand now. Follow @Michael Arbeiter // | Follow @Hollywood_com //
  • Drones Have Graduated from Amazon Delivery and Are Making Movies Now
    By: Michael Arbeiter Dec 09, 2013
    Omelet Last week, we all caught wind of's new scheme to use drones in a terrifying means of instantaneous package delivery. But we've learned a slightly less Asimovian use for this technology takes place in the world of cinema, as independent filmmakers are beginning to utilize the airborne robots to shoot their movies. One upcoming feature that has opted to induct drones into production is the documentary License to Operate, which looks to open viewers' eyes to the eponymous Los Angeles-based program that sees reformed criminals and gang members working with the police force to put an end to local crime and violence. "When you watch the film, not only do you have straight face-to-face interviews with the LTO members, you have time-lapsed shots from a mile above the city, you have shots that show the difference between the violent neighborhoods in comparison with the larger metropolitan areas," says Devin Desjarlais, a representative of Omelet — the company behind the production of License to Operate. Needless to say, when discussing the film and the weight of the issues within, we were surprised to land on the topic of drones. Bearing such controversial connotations, we didn't imagine that drones could be (much less are being) utilized in the craft of moviemaking. Omelet But apparently, they're not only capable, they might even be technically superior to some traditional methods: "The reason we chose to use drones is because we were able to get those shots for a relatively reasonable amount of money. Of course we didn’t have a huge budget for this, but we wanted to be able to show those comparisons, the bird’s eye view shots, all of the shots that somebody would be able to do if they had a crane or plane, for instance. But we needed a way to do it. So we found these drones." Knowing little about the technology itself, we asked Desjarlais to elaborate. "They’re essentially hover cameras," she says. "They have six legs, and there’s a Canon DSLR that attaches underneath it. These drones are able to lift off the ground and slowly move around in a very fluid manner, and go up to a mile above the city. It’s incredible; it’s so cool to watch. And course, we’re able to do these incredible crane shots, where the LTO members are walking down the train tracks and walking towards the camera. You go from shooting at their feet to going 500 feet above their head, which the drones allowed us to do for a much more reasonable cost than a crane would."  Omelet Omelet Beyond price, Desjarlais sang the praises of the drones' ability to capture a moving shot. "In terms of the advantages to using a drone — in comparison even to a comparably scaled helicopter — is that drones actually have four rotors, sometimes more, that rotate in a much smaller diameter. So a drone offers less kinetic energy, which means that you get a smoother shot and you can actually get closer to the subjects you want to film if necessary. These drones can maneuver through a crowd of people and not touch anybody because they move so fluidly. It’s cool to watch." Abetting both a tight production budget and the want for more fluid cinematography, drones appear to be an unexpected gem for independent filmmakers like the men and women behind License to Operate. Click over to the project's Kickstarter page and keep watch for further coverage here at to learn more about the upcoming movie. In the meantime, check out some of the footage captured by License to Operate's team of drones here and here. Omelet Follow @Michael Arbeiter // | Follow @Hollywood_com //
  • 'X-Men: Apocalypse' Is Coming in 2016
    By: Michael Arbeiter Dec 05, 2013
    20th Century Fox Among the legion of superhero films coming out in 2014, X-Men: Days of Future Past stands tall as the most exciting. With a budget far surpassing that of nearly every movie ever made, a story drawn from a highly celebrated and highly complex comic book arc, and a reunion of Bryan Singer and his rightful seat in the director's chair for the mutant franchise, the movie has promise. So it's hard not to be doubly excited for announcement of a follow-up feature to Days of Future Past. Six months before the film is set to release, Singer has taken to Twitter to announce his next project from the world of Charles Xavier and company: X-Men: Apocalypse. A concise tweet on Thursday bequeathed the news unto the public. Singer announced that Apocalypse, potentially derived from the X-Men comics "Age of Apocalypse" storyline, will release in 2016. #Xmen #Apocalypse 2016! — Bryan Singer (@BryanSinger) December 5, 2013 Though there are no confirmed details about the storyline just yet, the presumed source material "Age of Apocalypse" involves (much like Days of Future Past will) time travel and alternate histories, with Xavier's son Legion (yet to make an appearance in any of the X-Men movies) facing off with Magneto. According to Box Office Mojo (via Cinemablend), the film's official release is set for May 27, 2016. Follow @Michael Arbeiter // | Follow @Hollywood_com //
  • Review: The Coen Brothers Pay Beautiful Tribute to Misery in 'Inside Llewyn Davis,' Their Best Film Yet
    By: Michael Arbeiter Dec 05, 2013
    Studio Canal Much like the somber melodies that float throughout its 105-minute runtime, Inside Llewyn Davis will remain lodged in your head weeks after you and the film first meet. With Oscar Isaac's "Fare thee we-e-ell..." ringing daintily in your ears, you'll shuffle out from the grasp of the Coen Brothers' wonderland of gray, but you won't soon be able to relieve yourself of what is arguable the pair's best film yet. Llewyn's is a story so outstandingly simple — he's a man who's s**t out of luck, and not especially deserving of any. He wakes up, loses his friend's cat, plays some music, and wishes things were better. And yet his is the Coens' most invigorating and deftly human tale yet. Llewyn Davis makes the bold, but practical, choice of never insisting that we love its hero. He's effectively a jackass, justifying all the waste he has incurred with the rudeness he showers on the majority of those in his acquaintance. But Llewyn Davis isn't the villain here, either. The villain is the industry, and all the uphill battles inherent to its machinations. The villain isn't Llewyn's substantially more successful contacts — an old pal Jim (Justin Timberlake) and new fellow couch-surfer Troy (Stark Sands), but the listening public that prefers their saccharine pop to his dreary drips of misery. The villain isn't Llewyn's resentful old flame Jean (Carey Mulligan), no matter how many volatile admonitions she might shoot his way, but the act of God surrounding their unwitting adherence to one another. And it's not even the cantankerous and foul Roland Turner (a delightfully hammy John Goodman), but the endless, frigid open road of which each man is a prisoner (if the film has one flaw, it's that this segment carries on just a bit too long, but that might very well be the point). The villain is the cold. Call it all a raw deal. But the real dynamism isn't in the challenges that happen outside Llewyn Davis, but in the determined toxicity brewing inside as he meets each and every one. But this isn't the Coen Brothers' Murphy's Law comedy A Serious Man — we don't watch a chaotic pileup of every imaginable trick that the devil can manage to pull. Llewyn is steady throughout, not burying Llewyn deeper but keeping him on the ground, with the fruit-bearing branches forever out of his reach. In its narrative, Llewyn Davis is as close to natural life as any of the filmmakers' works to date. Perfectly exhibited in a late scene involving a trip to Akron, Llewyn isn't a cinematic construct, but the sort of person we know, so painfully, that we are very likely to be... on our bad days. Still, working in such a terrific harmony with the grounded feel of Llewyn himself, we have that Coen whimsy in their delivery of 1960s New York City — rather, a magic kingdom painted in the stellar form of a 1960s New York City. And not the New York City we're given by the likes of Martin Scorsese or Woody Allen. Closer, maybe, to Spike Lee or Sydney Lumet, but still a terrain unique to moviegoers. A New York that's always recovering from a hostile rain, and always promising another 'round the bend. One that flickers like a dying bulb, with its million odd beleaguered moths buzzing around it against the pull of logic. There is something so incredibly alive about the Coens' crying city; this hazy dream world's partnership with half-dead, anchored-to-earth portrait like Llewyn is the product of such sophisticated imagination at play. The best player in the World for movie trailers, Hollywood interviews and movie clips. And to cap this review of one of the best features 2013 has given us, it's only appropriate to return to the element in which its identity is really cemented: the music. Without the tunes bobbing through the story, we'd still likely find something terrific in Llewyn Davis. But the music, as beautiful as it is, is the reason for the story. As we watch Isaac's hopeless sad sack drag himself through Manhattan's winter, past the helping hands of friends and into the grimaces of strangers, as we struggle with our own handfuls of nihilistic skepticism that any of this yarn is worth the agony (or that our attention to its meandering nature is worth the price of a ticket), we are given the rare treat of an answer. Of course it's all for something. Of course it's all about something. It's about that beautiful, beautiful music. 5/5 Follow @Michael Arbeiter // | Follow @Hollywood_com //