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 Gotham Awards Honors Some of the Year's Actual Best Movies
    By: Michael Arbeiter Dec 03, 2013
    Studio Canal/CBS Films If you're part of the Oscar conversation, you've already heard proclamations about this year's "shoe-ins" for the big awards. 12 Years a Slave is said to have Best Picture down pat, Cate Blanchett is being heralded as the year's Best Actress for Blue Jasmine, Gravity's Alfonso Cuaron is a leading contender in the Best Director category. All likely winners, and all deserving of this sort of praise. But there are a number of movies and performances that we might feel to be stronger, films that we worry won't get the Oscar attention they warrant. That's what some of the smaller circuits are for — specifically the Gotham Awards, which announced its big winners on Monday night. The Gotham's picks included the Coen Bros' terrific folk music exploit Inside Llewyn Davis, a poignant movie about failure of all kinds, and the big talking point that was this summer's Fruitvale Station. In terms of performances, we might be seeing Gotham's Best Actor Matthew McConaughey snag an Academy win for his Dallas Buyers Club role, but we're less likely to witness the stellar Brie Larson earn her due come March, despite her monumentally heartrending turn in Short Term 12. Check out the list of winners below, and make sure you catch each and every title ASAP... whether the Oscars tell you to or not. Best FeatureInside Llewyn Davis Best DocumentaryThe Act of Killing Bingham Ray Breakthrough Director AwardRyan Coogler, Fruitvale Station Best ActorMatthew McConaughey, Dallas Buyers Club Best ActressBrie Larson, Short Term 12 Breakthrough ActorMichael B. Jordan, Fruitvale Station Film Audience AwardJake Shimabukuro: Life on Four Strings Spotlight on Women Filmmakers 'Live the Dream' GrantGita Pullapilly, director of Beneath the Harvest Sky Follow @Michael Arbeiter // | Follow @Hollywood_com //
  • 'How I Met Your Mother' Really Needs to Take a Long Hard Look at Barney and Robin's Relationship
    By: Michael Arbeiter Dec 03, 2013
    CBS For every toxic, unstable, will-they-won't-they sitcom relationship, there is a simpler, sweeter, invariably less interesting counterpart. Ross/Rachel had the comfortably tepid Monica/Chandler. The Office balanced the chaos of Dwight/Angela, Michael/Holly, and Andy/Erin with the post-Season 4 doldrums of Jim/Pam. And through all the difficulty of fixing together Leslie and Ben, Ann and Chris, and Tom and anyone, we've had the unlikely rock-solid staple of April and Andy. On How I Met Your Mother, this pinnacle of psycho-romantic health is the Marshall/Lily combination — having endured only one trifle early on in the series run prior to this new arc's revelation that Marshall accepted a judgeship in New York that directly conflicted with Lily's plans to movie to Italy. And on the other side of the fence on the long-running CBS sitcom, we've seen Barney and Robin flounder through various mental problems to hold fast to the love that blooms (and often rots) between them. Those two are loons, not capable of a mature, healthy, giving relationship. But, like many people who fit that bill, they're getting married now. Many viewers have surmised that the Stinson-Scherbatsky union might never come to be, and that How I Met Your Mother will conclude with the revelation that Barney and Robin realize that they aren't quite right for one another (or maybe for marriage at all) and opt to part ways amicably. If this were real life, we might root for this twist of fate. As much as we might enjoy their harebrained antics, we see evidence far too often that Barney and Robin are not part of what one might call a "good" relationship. Sometimes, the pair champions this, using it to bolster their definition of passionate, non-traditional love. This week's episode, "The Rehearsal Dinner," is a primarily fun and sweet example of this kind of antic — Barney tricks Robin into believing one of his many long, elaborate, diagnostically insane lies in order to lead her to a surprise rehearsal dinner themed after her native home of Canada. It doesn't quite make up for the fact that she, despite her professed wishes, does not actually get to be married in Canada... but Robin Thicke shows up, so everybody wins. But although "The Rehearsal Dinner" is a particularly enjoyable episode, there is one element of it that rubs me the wrong way: the Robin of it all. Throughout, she strains to contain Barney as he lies, manipulates, ignores, and mocks her, all in the name of giving her a great surprise. The relationship doesn't seem to be about two emotionally frayed people finding a common ground, but about one reasonably stable woman dealing relentlessly with her emotionally frayed fiancé. We can argue, in favor of the pair, that Robin too is a nut. And she is, historically. But her time with Barney seems to have made her out to be the sane one. Lord knows that "Rehearsal Dinner" exhibits more angst on Robin's part than voluntary lunacy. She commits to the ideas of rehearsal dinners and regimens, worrying about things we've never seen the abjectly offbeat Robin worry about... all in contrast to her maniacal beau. Being around Barney's crazy has actually made Robin seem less crazy (and more boring, we might add), and we're not too fond of this shift. What makes the Michael/Hollys and April/Andys of the TV world ultimately work? Their compatibility. Barney and Robin advertise this, and occasionally show us a good time and some heartwarming (and funny) moments. But are they compatible? "The Rehearsal Dinner" makes us skeptical. Follow @Michael Arbeiter // | Follow @Hollywood_com //
  • Our Guide to the Many Top Ten Lists of 2013
    By: Michael Arbeiter Dec 02, 2013
    Warner Bros via Everett Collection The onset of December always ushers in Top 10 lists from every corner of the movie-loving community. But with such a variety of lists, it can be difficult for many — on a quest to determine what flicks are worthiest of their catch-up time — to figure out which ones are best suited to their particular tastes. On Monday, we saw three esteemed figures in the cinematic world grace the public with their picks for '13: the Sight & Sound organization, Empire Magazine, and film vet John Waters, following in the footsteps of the French film publication Cahiers Du Cinéma just last week and filmmaker Quentin Tarantino in October.  Sight & Sound Top 10 of 20131) The Act of Killing2) Gravity 3) Blue Is the Warmest Color4) The Great Beauty5) Frances HaTied for 6) A Touch of Sin Tied for 6) Upstream Color8) The Selfish GiantTied for 9) Norte, The End of History Tied for 9) Stranger by the Lake Empire Magazine Top 10 of 20131) Gravity2) Captain Phillips3) Rush4) Mud5) Lincoln6) Stoker7) Iron Man 38) Before Midnight9) The Great Beauty10) Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa John Waters' Top 10 Films of 20131) Spring Breakers2) Camille Claudel 19153) Abuse of Weakness4) Hors Satan5) After Tiller6) Hannah Arendt7) Beyond the Hills8) Blue Jasmine9) Blackfish10) I'm So Excited The benefits of having an onslaught of "Top 10s" is twofold. On the one hand, those ingratiating themselves into cinema can look back at the history of Sight & Sound or Empire Magazine's big winners, aligning their own old faves with those of the publications. If we look at Sight & Sound's Top 10 lists from the past five years, we find The Master, Tree of Life, The Social Network, and Un Prophète. And the same treatment for Empire: The Avengers, Drive, Inception, Let the Right One In. Which of these lists look more appealing to you — the heady, slow-paced thinkers of Sight & Sound, or the fun-loving, kinetic thrillers of Empire? On the other hand, we can also spot commonalities among the lot, assuming that films earning spots on multiple Top 10 lists to be the most likely candidates for an enjoyable go at the theater. Here, we have the previously released Cahiers du Cinéma Top 10 and Quentin Tarantino's personal picks (not ordered) for 2013. Cahiers du Cinéma Top 10 of 20131) Stranger by the Lake2) Spring Breakers3) Blue Is the Warmest Color 4) Gravity5) A Touch of Sin6) Lincoln7) La Jalousie8) Nobody's Daughter Haewon9) You and the Night10) La bataille de Solférino Quentin Tarantino's Top 10 of 2013 (not ranked)Afternoon DelightBefore MidnightBlue JasmineThe ConjuringDrinking BuddiesFrances HaGravityKick Ass 2The Lone RangerThis Is the End  As luck would have it, we get our own organic Top 10 list from these five separate groupings, as there are 10 titles that repeat among the publications' picks: Gravity, Blue Is the Warmest Color, Stranger by the Lake, A Touch of Sin, Blue Jasmine, Before Midnight, Spring Breakers, Frances Ha, The Great Beauty, and Lincoln. But, as just about each title is shared by a distinct pair of publications, we have to take some time to figure out which Venn diagram caters best to our tastes. So here's a stab at that. Sight & Sound/Empire/Cahiers/Tarantino - The All-Purpose PleasersGravity Sight & Sound/Cahiers - The Class ActsBlue Is the Warmest ColorStranger by the LakeA Touch of Sin Waters/Tarantino - The Directors' PicksBlue Jasmine Empire/Tarantino - The "Accessibles"Before Midnight Waters/Cahiers - The "Avant Gardes"Spring Breakers Sight & Sound/Tarantino - The HumanitiesFrances Ha Sight & Sound/Empire - The InstitutionsThe Great Beauty Empire/Cahiers - The Late-to-the-GamersLincoln Ultimately, Top 10s should not be treated with the be-all-end-all attitude that they often are. They're suggestions, a means to help you find new features that you like but might not have caught just yet. Follow @Michael Arbeiter // | Follow @Hollywood_com //
  • 'The Walking Dead' Mid-Season Finale: Well What the Hell Is Going to Happen Now?
    By: Michael Arbeiter Dec 02, 2013
    Well, there goes the neighborhood. For the past year or so, we've nestled to the warm, damp, blood-soaked concrete of the prison walls as The Walking Dead's central troupe maintained hospice inside the relatively zombie-proof grounds. Things weren't good, but they were as good as they might be for this band of humanoid toxins — everywhere they go, be it farm or suburban dystopia, winds up worse off for it. It was only a matter of time before this sour fate befell the prison. And that's where Season 4 leaves us upon entry into winter hiatus: homeless, scattered, the beneficiary of numerous casualties. Things went bad in this week's episode. And we're wondering now, in light of the biggest stroke of chaos we've yet to see on The Walking Dead, where they'll go from here. The best we can do to predict is to recap just what went down in the last 10 minutes of "Too Far Gone," named for the season's running theme: DEATHS -The first to go this week was young Meghan, prior entirely to the climactic fight scene. -The Governor killed Hershel in a maniacal act of nihilistic ambition. Of COURSE Hershel was going to die at the end of this league of episodes. He got his own standalone episode, complete with dramatic music, devoted to his heroism. -Shortly after this, Michonne drove her sword through the Governor's chest, leaving him for dead. He was ultimately shot and killed by Lily, who finally saw the man for the monster he is. It is curious that The Walking Dead would off the Governor after giving him SO much new, interesting material and evolution just two weeks back. But them's the breaks for zombie dramas. -Judith... maybe. SURVIVORS ... are scattered. -Rick and Carl found one another following the blitzkreig, and began hobbling heartbroken through the woods as the credits rolled. -A bus of inmates took off for better locale, with an ailing Glenn on board... but not Maggie or Beth. -Carol's troupe of preteen kids is AWOL after shooting some Tara's girlfriend dead. Damn. -Daryl used a zombie as a shield and blew up a tank with a grenade. Nothing to do with his fate, but it was pretty cool. -Tyreese, also busless, has no idea that Carol killed Karen. That seems important. UNEXPECTED MOMENT OF COMEDY Maybe it's just me, but I found the following instance (mid-warfare) to be quite laughable. -Tara, shaken to the core, assesses how far beyond reason her team has come: "He [the Governor] just killed some guy... with a sword!" We'll pick up in 2014, meeting up with Rick and Carl (on their lonesome), Glenn separated from the newly orphaned Maggie and Beth, and the children fending for themselves... that last bit might make for some interesting (or potentially cloying) television. But are we going to see more of Lily and Tara? Hopefully; I've warmed to them. Follow @Michael Arbeiter // | Follow @Hollywood_com //
  • Quentin Tarantino Is Making Another Western, But He Shouldn't
    By: Michael Arbeiter Nov 27, 2013
    Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Django Unchained is one of those films that I can't help resenting for the fact that I enjoyed it just fine. Since falling in love with the director's work in the late 1990s, every Quentin Tarantino feature excepting Death Proof has blown me away in one way or another, with Inglourious Basterds shocking me in its ability to challenge Pulp Fiction as my favorite of the filmmaker's resume. As such, it was disarming to leave Django with no strong feelings either way — I laughed, I gasped, I checked my mental watch. It was fine. And that's the last thing I could ever want from a director who prides himself on being explosive. So maybe it is this ambivalence that makes me hesitant to accept another Western from the director, as he announced on Tuesday night's episode of The Tonight Show. But I'm not so sure that I can blame my feelings on Django entirely for wanting Tarantino to shy away from the Western genre, at least for now. I'd be just as ill at ease to hear that Tarantino was taking on another World War II epic, or another war film in general. Just as I want his pictures to be shocking and stirring, I want them to be new. I want to go into every Tarantino movie wondering, "What on Earth is he going to do with this one?" And then finding out, in a whimsical blaze of glory. Part of what makes the experience of his films so great is the innate worry that comes along with them. A movie about Uma Thurman slicing hundreds of people to bits after some crime kingpin destroyed her unborn child? And more jarring yet, one about World War II and the seizure and murder of innocent Jews in Europe? Apprehensions about Tarantino's ability to handle WWII with tact were set to rest in such a spectacular way within the first few scenes of Basterds. I don't want to enter a Tarantino flick knowing that he can do it, I want to enter one hoping that he can. That's why a Western to follow Django can be seen as a little bit of a letdown. Although I wasn't thrilled with Django, I admired the world that Tarantino built. He created a story and its universe adequately. And maybe it's this "adequacy" that he can prove to conquer with another Western; maybe his challenge this time around isn't the threat of a horrible (or offensive) product, but one that is in no real way provocative. But this, inherently, is a less exciting quest, and as a lifelong Tarantino devotee, all I want is that excitement — and dread — when approaching his new projects. I'm not worried that he won't be able to make another perfectly watchable Western. But I want to be. Follow @Michael Arbeiter // | Follow @Hollywood_com //
  • 'New Girl': A Show That Used to Be About Gender
    By: Michael Arbeiter Nov 27, 2013
    FOX The humor in New Girl has been waning all season, so we won't even tackle the general unfunniness of this week's chapter, "Thanksgiving III." Instead, we're inclined to focus on an even stranger calamity incited by the episode — one about which we have mixed feelings. In some ways, "Thanksgiving III" is an accomplishment for latter day New Girl, allowing the show to get back in touch with its thematic roots. It wasn't just a grab at quirky affability that led Elizabeth Meriwether to her program's title. When Jessica Day entered the lives of Nick, Schmidt, and Coach, it was as a fresh, unprecedented representation of the feminine perspective. She was there to leaven the stronghold that masculinity had on each of the boys (not men) in question. Coach's was the most on-the-nose of the conflicts in question — he was anchored down by the age-old tropes of manliness: competitive, abrasive, consumed by strength and athleticism. Schmidt's was a more modern masculinity, but a deafening one nonetheless: his affinity for grooming and cleanliness were tools pointed toward the craft of winning over as many women as possible — a triumph that would define him as a man. And, of course, we had Nick. Averse to vulnerability, growth, and change of any kind. Vices all intrinsically buried in the fears of "man," a forever weakening figure hanging tight to his grasp on a power once untethered. So who could be better than Jess to reform this trio? She's a beacon of feminine value, exhibiting emotionality, open-mindedness, understanding. The pilot planted seeds of how she might bring each of these fellows to a platform of liberation from the constrictions of gender. But then came Winston. Damon Wayans Jr. retreated to Happy Endings (where his comic talents were better utilized than they seem to be on this show, so far) and Lamorne Morris entered the picture without the parameters of character. The biggest victim of Winston's ambiguity was the show's central conceit — the disfigurement of the toxic gender boundaries. It's not as though the themes died out straight away. Halfway through the first season, we saw Jess come to blows with Lizzy Caplan, playing a recurring love interest for Nick, over their conflicting ideas about femininity. But somewhere along the line, New Girl effectively stopped being about these pulsing, interesting ideas. It kept on being funny for a while, and built up its characters affectionately, but lost a good deal of what made it a story in the first place. Until "Thanksgiving III," arguably the first episode to really tackle gender since Season 1. Nick, feeling undone by his relationship with Jess, demands that the whole gang go camping for Thanksgiving to assert himself as a man. The conclusion, as anyone who has been watching these past several weeks of New Girl might predict, is Jess convincing Nick that he's the sort of man she wants, and Nick taking one more step up the staircase of maturity. Meanwhile, these themes course through a story involving Coach, Schmidt, and Cece — modern man Schmidt feels threatened by former Eagle Scout Coach's traditional masculinity when he proves himself adept at handling the dangers of the California wilderness, and Cece proves her own gender-relevant experiences of making clothing ropes to sneak out of her bedroom window as the true source of heroism when things get heated in the third act. But none of that really matters. On the one hand, we're excited to see New Girl get back to the themes that birthed it (although we can't imagine that, even with Coach's return to the program, we'll be seeing this become a throughline element). On the other, we can't help but call "Thanksgiving III" a regression. This is a plotline New Girl should have given us two seasons ago — after living with Jess for two-and-a-half years and dating her for however many months (undergoing a series of personal changes in the meantime), if Nick is still the same thick-headed dumb bell who thinks he needs to go on an ad-hoc hunting trip in order to feel comfortable as a male specimen, then it's as if nothing was introduced into the canon of New Girl when Jess Day showed up at the loft that fateful day in 2011. By now, had New Girl kept to its inceptive identity, the show should be tackling issues of greater complexity than the most surface value of all gender restrictions. Nick shouldn't be dismissing his ill-conceived desires to go hunting (that's Step 1 of the reformation process), he should be figuring out how to tell people he loves them (Step 6, give or take). But there's that old saying about having cake and eating it too. We took one step forward with the themes of gender as fuel for "Thanksgiving III," and two steps back with the execution. And then another step back for Winston's leggings. Follow @Michael Arbeiter // | Follow @Hollywood_com //
  • The Independent Spirit Awards Nominate 'Frances Ha' and 'Inside Llewyn Davis'
    By: Michael Arbeiter Nov 26, 2013
    IFC Films As the winds of award show nominations pick up, you won't be surprised to find 12 Years a Slave at the top of every list. But the Academy, the Golden Globes, and the various other captains of the circuit are inclined to overlook some of our smaller, more personal favorites in lieu of the big, grand, and wholly unavoidable awardable pictures like Steven McQueen's American slavery epic. That is not to rob 12 Years of Slave of its due credit — the film absolutely deserves as much awards attention as it is getting. It's simply the sort of movie that you know will get awards attention right out of the gate... whereas pictures just as pristine such as Noah Baumbach and Greta Gerwig's Frances Ha, likely won't be the center of attention come Oscar night. But that's what the Independent Spirit Awards are for: to recognize the movies that we cherish with intimacy rather than with grandeur. Among them are Frances Ha, new release Nebraska, Robert Redford's nearly wordless All Is Lost (also a viable candidate for the Academy, due to its own dezzling veneer), the Coen Bros' upcoming Inside Llewyn Davis, and, yes, of course, 12 Years a Slave. Check out the full list of nods below. BEST FEATURE 12 Years A Slave All Is Lost Frances Ha Inside Llewyn Davis Nebraska BEST LEAD FEMALE Cate Blanchett, Blue Jasmine Julie Delpy, Before Midnight Gaby Hoffman, Crystal Fairy Brie Larson, Short Term 12 Shailene Woodley, The Spectacular Now BEST LEAD MALE Bruce Dern, Nebraska Chiwetel Ejiofor, 12 Years A Slave Oscar Isaac, Inside Llewyn Davis Michael B. Jordan, Fruitvale Station Matthew McConaughey, Dallas Buyers Club Robert Redford, All Is Lost BEST SUPPORTING FEMALE Melonie Diaz, Fruitvale StationSally Hawkins, Blue Jasmine Lupita Nyong'o, 12 Years A Slave Yolanda Ross, Go For Sisters June Squibb, Nebraska BEST SUPPORTING MALE Michael Fassbender, 12 Years A Slave  Will Forte, Nebraska James Gandolfini, Enough Said Jared Leto, Dallas Buyers Club Keith Stanfield, Short Term 12 BEST DIRECTOR Shane Carruth, Upstream Color J.C. Chandor, All Is Lost Steve McQueen, 12 Years A Slave  Jeff Nichols, Mud Alexander Payne, Nebraska BEST FIRST FEATUREBlue Caprice Concussion Fruitvale Station Una Noche Wadjda JOHN CASSAVETES AWARD Computer Chess Crystal Fairy Museum Hours Pit Stop This Is Martin Bonner BEST SCREENPLAY Woody Allen, Blue Jasmine Julie Delpy, Ethan Hawke, Richard Linklater, Before Midnight Nicole Holofcener, Enough Said Scott Neustadter & Michael H. Weber, The Spectacular Now John Ridley, 12 Years A Slave  BEST FIRST SCREENPLAY Lake Bell, In A World Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Don Jon Bob Nelson, Nebraska Jill Soloway, Afternoon Delight Michael Starburry, The Inevitable Defeat Of Mister & Pete BEST CINEMATOGRAPHYSean Bobbitt, 12 Years A Slave Benoit Debie, Spring Breakers Bruno Delbonnel, Inside Llewyn Davis Frank G. Demarco, All Is Lost Matthias Grunsky, Computer Chess BEST EDITING Shane Carruth & David Lowery, Upstream Color Jem Cohen & Marc Vives, Museum Hours Jennifer Lame, Frances Ha Cindy Lee, Una Noche Nat Sanders, Short Term 12 BEST INTERNATIONAL FILM A Touch Of Sin Blue Is The Warmest ColorGloriaThe Great Beauty The Hunt BEST DOCUMENTARYThe Act Of Killing After Tiller Gideon's ArmyThe Square Twenty Feet From Stardom PIAGET PRODUCERS AWARDToby Halbrooks & James M. JohnsonJacob JaffkeAndrea RoaFerderick Thornton TRUER THAN FICTION AWARDS Kalyanee Mam, A River Changes Course Jason Osder, Let The Fire Burn Stephanie Spray & Pancho Valez, Manakamana SOMEONE TO WATCH AWARDS Aaron Douglas Johnston, My Sisters' Quinceanera Shaka King, Newlyweeds Madeleine Olnek, The Foxy Merkins ROBERT ALTMAN AWARDMud 
  • Is the 'Hunger Games: Catching Fire' Cliffhanger a Cop-out?
    By: Michael Arbeiter Nov 25, 2013
    Lions Gate via Everett Collection Warning: The following contains major spoilers about the ending of Catching Fire. We fans of American cinema are no strangers to the dreaded cliffhanger. Whether we are most ardently affixed to YA franchises that suggest more adventures yet to come next time around, or the comic book films that cap their features with mid-credit scenes that introduce entirely new narrative branches into the canon, we know what it's like to be teased. But in the vast majority of these cases, we're not left entirely without satisfaction. Movies from the Marvel Universe, the Tolkien collection, or the Harry Potter world will whet appetites for future movies, but will still wrap up their individual tales in self-contained stories. This is a task — no, a requirement of honest storytelling — that The Hunger Games: Catching Fire seems to have overlooked. Following a very strong body of action and surprisingly substantial emotionality, Catching Fire closes its final scene mid-conversation, revealing to Katniss and the audience that she is at the center of a vast conspiracy to rise up and take down the Capitol — in on the antic are her mentor Haymitch Abernathy, her ally/rival Finnick Odair, and the Games master Plutarch Heavensbee, among others (a number of unspecified tributes included). The final minutes of the movie see Katniss injured and knocked unconscious in her electric defiance of the institution of the Hunger Games, picked up by helicopter, and revived in a rehabilitation center far outside of the arena's walls, only to be informed of the coup brewing around her. In book form, the Catching Fire story closes on the down note of Katniss reflecting on the treachery that has overtaken her home, and gearing up for her mission to take on the Capitol. But in the movie, there is no reflection. There is no gearing. There's an outburst of expositional information, following by a wordless gasp by Jennifer Lawrence and an abrupt cut to black. It wasn't until the credits began to roll that I even realized the movie was over. It certainly didn't feel over. Even when a piece of a series, a movie is a standalone work of art — much like a novel in an anthology. There should be an independent beginning and an independent end. You can set up for future stories all you want, but ideas and themes must come to a close (for better or worse) with the last fade to black, or else you've got yourself an unfinished product. It speaks to the quality of the rest of Catching Fire that the movie doesn't leave us feeling entirely unsatisfied. For the most part, Francis Lawrence's first turn with the Hunger Games series delivers a lot of good will to fans and newcomers. But his (or the studio's) decision to cap the feature with a cliffhanger so blatant that it feels like it warrants a "Next week, on Lost..." isn't necessary to ensure that all those fans and newcomers will be back for more. We were already planning on seeing Mockingjay. You don't need to dangle the conclusion of this movie to make the beginning of the next one appealing. But more worrisome than its affront to a single movie's story structure is what the Catching Fire ending indicates about the form we might find our movies taking. We're already tacking on teasers to every superhero flick in theaters; now are we going to be upping the ante with compulsory follow-up viewing if we want complete stories? If we want episodic narratives, we have television — a different kind of art form that is far better suited for the cliffhanger game (you don't have to wait a year to find out what happens next, just a week — maybe a summer — and you're guaranteed a ticket on opening night so long as you pay your cable bill). The experience of designating a night out for a few hours at the theater is, inherently, just that. An experience. Something you devote to and engage with, hoping for a complete journey. While there is no reason that one journey cannot propose our entry into another, that first one really should give you the very basic tenets of what you signed up for: a story. Follow @Michael Arbeiter // | Follow @Hollywood_com //
  • Do We Even Want to Go Back to the Prison on 'The Walking Dead'?
    By: Michael Arbeiter Nov 25, 2013
    AMC Our past two weeks with The Walking Dead have been spent away from the prison, reuniting with a post-Woodbury Governor (now going a bit more amicably by "Brian") and the surrogate family he has accumulated along his trek for rehabilitation. Finding a new life in the affection he has for Lily, her daughter Meghan, and that surly ol' Aunt Tara, the survivalist formerly known as Philip Blake has committed to protecting these people at all costs. Even if that means he might revert to some of his pre-post-Woodburian philosophies of Machiavellian bloodlust. It was a pretty brief hiatus between murders, we have to say. So, this week, we find Govsy and the good-time gang holed up in the military camp of his former associate Martinez, living in relative peace but for the occasional zombie, a unit of decapitated corpses not far down the road, and the ocean of demons that haunt our one-eyed hero. The latter dilemma is what takes down the Governor, who kills Martinez violently in an effort to preserve his place as the pinnacle of masculinity and security in the eyes of his new adoptive wife and child. When Lily remarks that she has never felt safer than under Martinez's reign and little Meghan revels in his kindness and fortitude, we see Blake flip — his actions are no longer Machiavellian, they're simply sociopathic. And after Martinez, the Governor graduates to a few other crimes against humanity. He kills the good fellow Pete, who threatened to take command of the camp in Martinez's absence, and strongholds Pete's grieving brother Mitch into following his orders all the way through. And so, Govsy has his new Woodbury. But he's none too satisfied with their stomping grounds. He wants somewhere with walls. Cue: the Governor finding the prison. But the shot of him glaring at Rick and Carl, then over to Michonne and Hershel, only serves us one real threat: the threat that we have to head back into that bleak, infected graveyard. To be honest, these past two episodes have proved to be a refreshing respite from the show's devotion to the prison. We haven't missed the central characters quite yet, especially with Carol no longer a part of the community. In earnest, a bit more time out in the sun with the Governor, getting to know his new family, understanding the bounds (or lack thereof) of his blossoming toxic attachment to them, might have served we fans of the show a little better than an immediate return to the jail... a turn we seem to be on the verge of taking, considering the closing moments of this week's ep. While these past several weeks are leagues beyond the quality of The Walking Dead's preceding season, there is an ever-present fear of growing irreparably sick of Rick and his troupe. Every moment spent with them is one of intense severity, and every (in)decision made in the camp is one that incurs groans and aches from begrudging viewers. In truth, we didn't mind getting to know a new bunch of folks just a few miles down the road... they were chipper, at least! Why can't we stick it out with them, for a while? We don't have Dale anymore to keep things light back home, so we need to find that good cheer someplace. Or else we'll all just lose it. Follow @Michael Arbeiter // | Follow @Hollywood_com //
  • There Are Three 'Arrested Development' References in 'Frozen' (Four, If You're Being Generous)
    By: Michael Arbeiter Nov 22, 2013
    Disney And now, the story of a wealthy queen who frost everything. And her one sister who had no choice but to save them all from weather. It's Frozen. (Warning: Frozen spoilers to follow) We expect every contemporary animated movie to sport a layer of comedy just for the adults in the audience. While the kids are mesmerized by the magic and kept giddy over the screwball sight gags, the parents, older siblings, and babysitters are kept from dozing off by double entendres, relationship humor, and — most of all — sly pop culture references. The Shrek films upped the ante on this trade, and many a big screen cartoon has followed suit since. But Frozen gives us something unprecedented: numerous direct references to Arrested Development. Admittedly, they're subtle. So subtle that I wondered, leaving the theater after my dazzling experience with Frozen (these instances aside, I absolutely loved it, as did our reviewer Hans Morgenstern), if I was just reading too deeply into a few innocent gags. But right behind me out of the auditorium were two men about my age dicussing the very topic that was haunting me. "Did you notice all the Arrested Development jokes?" one said to the other. That's proof enough for me. So here they are. The Chicken DanceEarly on in the story, the Scandinavian town of Arendelle is invited inside the new queen Elsa's (Idina Menzel) palace walls to attend her coronation party. This is when we meet Alan Tudyk's obnoxious autocrat, the Duke of Weselton — the character responsible for a good supply of Frozen's villainy as well as the first and third Arrested Development references. The Duke insists upon a dance with Elsa's sister, Princess Anna (Kristen Bell, the hero of the piece), bouncing around her in an animalistic fashion... one of which he is well aware. The Duke boasts openly about his feral rhythm, likening his movements (with pride) to the graceful chicken. But as he delivers this line, the Duke takes a posture that doesn't quite resemble that of any ordinary chicken... with his fingers fanned out atop his head and his legs jutting to either side, the Duke's chicken is almost identical to that dreamt up by one Lindsay Fünke in her rendition of the Bluth family Chicken Dance. Finish Each Other's...Okay, maybe it was just a coincidence. Maybe the animators were simply opting for the funniest way in which the squirmy Duke might contort his body. That's what I figured... until just a few minutes later, when Anna and her newfound love Prince Hans (Santino Fontana) break into their romantic duet, singing enthusiastically about just how compatible they are. The true measure of compatibility is exhibited in this couplet: Hans: It's like we finish each other's...Anna: Sandwiches! Okay, wait a minute, now that's a joke torn directly from an episode of Arrested Development. When Michael Bluth rattles on about the inspired connection he has found in a woman he believes to be his estranged sister, reveling in this fact that he and this relative stranger Nellie "finish each other's...", Michael's non-estranged sister chimes in with the conclusive "sandwiches?" Buster's MantraCould it be that a pattern is amounting, or is this just wishful thinking? Maybe I didn't catch the Duke's chicken dance quite right, allowing my AD fandom to inform how I interpreted his quick movements. And sure, that sandwich gag might have originated on Arrested, but I seem to recall its subsequent adoption by other comedic entities (Community, for one, subbing out "sandwiches" in favor of "pie"). I was teetering on the edge of believing that Frozen could, in fact, be fostering a running gag for Arrested Development devotees. At this point in the film, all I needed was one minor gust of wind to force me over. And then it came. "She's a mooonsteeer!" Yes. Once recognizing the powers of creating snow that lived within Elsa, the nefarious Duke belted this condemnation in a tone a little too reminiscent of one self-loathing, hook-handed Buster Bluth. And it was so. It couldn't all have been an accident. The last AD nod I noticed was, admittedly, the flimsiest. Fleeing the wrath of the frightened and enraged townspeople, Elsa sprints away over a liquid lake that freezes upon her contact with it. If it weren't for the three preceding gags, I wouldn't have entertained the thought that this might be a reference to Rita Leeds' (Charlize Theron) illusionary stroll across the surface of a swimming pool and her cinematic brainchild The Ocean Walker (itself all a reference to the '79 film Being There). I'll give you that this one is quite a stretch... but the other three? All in such rapid succession? You're gonna tell me that those aren't Arrested Development references? COME ON! Follow @Michael Arbeiter // | Follow @Hollywood_com //