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.
  • All the Upcoming Movies That Wouldn't Be Possible in a Government Shutdown
    By: Michael Arbeiter October 01, 2013 2:33pm EST
    © 2013 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. You might be under the impression that because you're not a senator or a mailman, the government shutdown doesn't affect you. But if you're looking forward to just about any of the movies set to release over the next three years, you are sorely mistaken. Think about the plot summaries of the films you're so eagerly awaiting: nine out of 10 of 'em wouldn't be possible while D.C. plays the waiting game. Not convinced? Here are all of the movies scheduled for release in the foreseeable future whose plots wouldn't ever happen under a government shutdown: GravityNASA can't even operate its website, let alone send people into space. Runner, RunnerNo. The FBI would likely have to redirect its small-stakes takedown of criminal Ben Affleck in favor of focusing all energies on matters more pressing to national security. Machete KillsPresident Charlie Sheen couldn't very well make an above-the-board call in to friend Machete, a government non-essential by anyone's estimation. The Fifth EstateThere wouldn't be anything for Julian Assange to leak. "They're still just sort of... sitting there." Escape PlanDo you really think the government could fork all that money into the development of a fail safe maximum security penitentiary? Ender's GameNot to the same degree, anyway. Sure, D.C. is still forced to pump funding into the military for the nation's protection, but we're talking bare essentials. Specialized training schools for gifted would-be soldiers? Get the heck out of here. Free BirdsThat's the upcoming animated movie where turkeys, pardoned by the president on Thanksgiving Day, use the government's time traveling resources to go back to the first ever Thanksgiving feast and change the tradition of the consuming of their brethren. So... no, that would likely not happen in a government shutdown, for a number of reasons. The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (and all its sequels)Sorry, but the Capitol could not fund such a frivolous spectator sport during a shutdown. To think! HomefrontIt's about a DEA Agent who, as we might assume from the casting of Jason Statham, is wont to leave whatever territory he defends with a heap of damages in tax dollars. American HustleFBI sting operations? Methinks that getting the DMV back up and running is a higher priority than anything in the neighborhood of ABSCAM. The Monuments MenThe Allied armies' Civil Affairs and Military Governments program "Monuments, Fine Arts, and Archives" would not have seen the light of day during a shutdown. Jack Ryan: Shadow OneHow many government departments has this guy been involved in? Lone SurvivorMark Wahlberg is actually funded entirely by the U.S. government, so this one wouldn't work. Ride AlongWith funds cut to the Atlanta Police Department, it'd be an insurmountable litigious risk for an officer to bring his future brother-in-law along on a dangerous ride along.  SabotageAnother one about the DEA, also starring some dude with a proclivity for destroying things (Arnold Schwarzenegger). RoboCopPumping a whole bunch of money into transforming a cop who was shot in the line of duty into a high-tech killing machine? Did we mention it takes place in Detroit? Three Days to KillKevin Costner plays a dying Secret Service agent offered one last assignment. They're not just going to be doling out pity jobs to anyone with a sob story, here. DivergentThose head-scanners alone would never earn approval. Captain America: The Winter SoldierYou can bet all branches of S.H.I.E.L.D. are under intense scrutiny around this time. GodzillaEh, they'd probably be able to get away with this one. X-Men: Days of Future Past We're still having trouble wrapping our heads around this subversion of American history. But we know there's got to be something in one of this high-concept plot's many sociopolitical chapters that wouldn't fly under a shutdown. 22 Jump StreetThe War on Drugs, and all of its youngster officers, would be sorrowfully out of operation. Transformers: Age of ExtinctionWhatever military forces are in fact involved in Michael Bay's next turn at the franchise would likely have to settle for the old fashioned, far less expensive weapons. No robot monsters on this budget. Fast and Furious 7Sorry, DSS Agent Luke Hobbs. If you're not in the Top 5 Government Acronyms, you're going to be seeing some cutbacks. The Secret ServiceCome on. ChappieWho's paying for those robots, Blomkamp? The Avengers: Age of UltronYou heard what we said about S.H.I.E.L.D.. B.O.O.: Bureau of Otherworldly OperationsDon't even try optioning for an essential personnel badge, fellas. Independence Day 2No inspiring presidential speeches! More:Celebrate the Govt. Shutdown with a Google DoodleAlec Baldwin's New Political Talkshow Will Be InsaneNBC and CNN Drop Hilary Clinton Projects Follow @Michael Arbeiter // | Follow @Hollywood_com // From Our Partners:40 Most Revealing See-Through Red Carpet Looks (Vh1)15 Stars Share Secrets of their Sex Lives (Celebuzz)
  • 'How I Met Your Mother' React: This Show Still Has Its Heart (Season 9, Episode 3)
    By: Michael Arbeiter October 01, 2013 12:05pm EST
    CBS It's always a little disarming — and more than a little embarrassing, if you're in the company of friends — when a show like How I Met Your Mother makes you tear up. But if in the same half hour of television viewing, you witness hordes of geriatrics swarming like zombies hungry for any mention of Mandy Patinkin and tremble over a heartwarming speech delivered by a woman concerned for her longtime friend's happiness, you've got a pretty good program on your hands. Now, we're likely all in the boat that HIMYM has been running steamless for the past few years. But three episodes in, Season 9 seems to have a little more pep than we've come to expect. Not quite early era pep, but definitely enough to remind us of the show we loved way back when. It's been funnier, livelier, and — as proven by the final moments of this week's ep, "Last Time in New York," even more emotional. And as has always been the case with How I Met Your Mother, the real meaty emotional moment didn't occur between two lovers. Yes, we feel for Ted when he professes to Robin that he loves her. We're impressed when Robin and Barney showcase their mutual affection despite a ganglion of self-destructive behaviors. But the best, most tearful instances in the show's history have been entirely platonic. I particularly love when Lily, who has grown on me quite a bit since her days of hyper-manipulation, doles out some compassionate advice to her dimwitted chums. In the latest ep, the recipient is Ted, who has vowed to leave New York for good after Robin and Barney tie the knot. While its present day resonance might pale in comparison to that of days past, what How I Met Your Mother has done consistently well is keep us believing that these people are and should be friends. Ted and Marshall make sense as friends who would have hit it off in college and stayed close throughout the years. Barney is the sort of person who'd attach himself to a guy like Ted and keep his haunches embedded in the marginally cool and intelligent but ostensibly non-threatening, reliable average Joe. And it makes sense that within this beehive of nincompoops, that Lily would serve as confidant for the sadder members of the troupe. Sometimes it's Barney. Occasionally it's Robin. Most often, it's Ted. And thanks to their mutually somber vantage points (a fact that is highlighted in partnership with their tangible bond taking the form of Marshall, the most merry and humanistic of the group by far) and long history together, Ted and Lily have a realistic, meaningful relationship. One that really pays off in moments like the ending of "Last Time in New York." Lily begins by spelling out all of the reasons she doesn't think Ted should leave, but settles (seeing the misery in the eyes of her friend) on just insisting that he leave on the best terms possible, growing misty herself at the thought of her pal departing with such heartbreak in tow. It's a genuine moment, the likes of which we recall from the earlier seasons, but that is even stronger now thanks to our own extended investment in these people (and nostalgia for their better days).  So sure, How I Met Your Mother might not consistently manage the wit and oomph of its first few years, but it still has shines of the heart we fell in love with way back when we realized this was more than just a goofy show about a guy who liked a girl he met in a bar. Bravo, HIMYM. Bravo, Lily. More:How Will 'How I Met Your Mother' End?'How I Met Your Mother': The Wedding Season'HIMYM' Season Finale Recap: OH MY GOD, IT'S HER! Follow @Michael Arbeiter // | Follow @Hollywood_com // From Our PartnersStars Pose Naked for 'Allure' (Celebuzz)20 Grisliest TV Deaths of 2012-2013 (Vulture)
  • Anti-Heroes Survive in a Post-'Breaking Bad' World: Disney Is Planning a Cruella de Vil Movie
    By: Michael Arbeiter September 30, 2013 5:59pm EST
    The most fascinating thing about Cruella de Vil — and I'm talking the six-foot-tall, bloodless fashionista first delivered in the 1961 animated incarnation of One Hundred and One Dalmations — is that she was, uniquely, ordinary. She wasn't a tyrannical queen, a seafaring pirate, a sadistic tiger, or any sort of mystic or mythical character. She was just a sinister, foul socialite who torpedoed through the London streets, dragging a mammoth fur coat and a noxious cloud of smoke behind her at all times. She stands alone as one of Disney's most normal villains. And perhaps, to date, its best. Certainly worthy of further exploration, as the studio seems to understand: The Hollywood Reporter has announced that Disney is setting forth on a live action film centering on Cruella de Vil. Aline Brosh McKenna — the writer behind another Disney update, Cinderella, as well as the developing Annie remake and a healthy array of sun-kissed rom-coms (Three to Tango, 27 Dresses, Morning Glory, We Bought a Zoo) — will be handling the Cruella feature, breathing a new life into the vindictive mannequin since her last embodiment through one Glenn Close. In the face of the supernatural baddies that occupy most Disney films, we are pleased to see the dark charms of Cruella De Vil getting their due in a new project. So long as they bring back that song, we're on board. More:Winter Is Coming in 'Frozen' TrailerHelena Bonham Carter Joins 'Cinderella'Original Jafar Joins 'Aladdin' Musical Follow @Michael Arbeiter // | Follow @Hollywood_com // From Our Partners:40 Most Revealing See-Through Red Carpet Looks (Vh1)15 Stars Share Secrets of their Sex Lives (Celebuzz)
  • The 'Breaking Bad' Series Finale: The Perfect Goodbye to a Wonderful Story
    By: Michael Arbeiter September 30, 2013 3:24am EST
    AMC In the moments between that one last Executive Producer: Vince Gilligan and a frenetic phone call from my college roommate, I struggled with the uncertainty that hits some of us after experiencing anything as grand as the Breaking Bad series finale: Was that — could it possibly have been — as perfect as I thought it was? Would everybody else in the world feel the same way, or would this be the Lost finale debacle all over again? (Hey, Walt did leave us in a pose quite reminiscent of Jack Shephard's final bow.) But then I got the call. I logged onto Twitter. I caught a few moments of glee emanated by the Talking Bad panel. I knew that this wasn't all stemming from my will to leave this program on a high note. This was real. The Breaking Bad finale was, unequivocally, perfect. Perfect in its pacing. We got the big blow-out episode two weeks back, when Hank and Gomey bit the dust, Walt kidnapped baby Holly, and a border collie scampered across the New Mexican highway. While the world anticipated a Walt Vs. The Nazis showdown in this final chapter, that was really just the capper: the meat of the episode was the deliberate, somber cobblestone pathway leading up to that explosive end. The drama that booms inside of Breaking Bad, not the thriller that coats its outer shell. At first, "Felina" made some of us hesitant to believe that it would accomplish everything it needed to. After a menacing stop at the Schwartz household and a quick visit with Lydia and Todd, we might have wondered if the show was delivering its final episode in a form that felt too much like a staccato bucket list. But we were validated in our hopes that the ep would soften its edges. Once Walt hit Skyler's depressing new pad, paying a visit with the secondary intentions of leaving her with the tangible evidence capable of freeing her from the law's grasp once and for all and the primary intentions of bidding one last goodbye to his wife and infant daughter (and, through a tear-stained window, his son — so shattered by his father's villainies that he has abandoned one of their most symbolic kinships: driving), the episode evened out to a steady flow that not only proved unconditionally captivating, but also retroactively acknowledged all that came before it to have been so mechanically necessary. From that point on, we came to realize that the first half of the episode (jeez, we're already more than halfway done!) was spotted with perfection. We were sold on the grimacing opener — Walt shivering in the snowed-in car he steals up in New Hampshire, praying to a God who has no business paying him any mind and ultimately receiving the bounty for which he asks: the keys to the ride takes across country, stopping first at the Schwartz's place to put the fear of death into them in return for Elliott's boneless agreement to transfer Walt's nine million smackers to Walt Jr. upon his 18th birthday. The whole scene — a break-in that Danny Ocean would treat to an impressed nod — plays with the cinematic poise and aggressive suspension of disbelief you might find in a Hollywood heist flick. Walt, reproducing some amalgamation of Heisenberg, Mike Ehrmantraut, and the dapper leading antiheroes in whatever movies he asked Robert Forster to pick up for him during his time in the mountains, recognizes just what sort of folk he's dealing with this time around: his sort of folk. Not the hardened Salemancas or sociopathic neo-Nazis that see straight through his falsified bravado, but the kind of people he can so faintly remember being. So, he can take this one final opportunity to tout the character he has built... sans hat, but close enough. And to concede that this scene isn't at all a deviation from the Breaking Bad universe but very much just a machination of Walt's toxic drives paying off in the only sort of community they ever really might, we find out that the two "expert hit men" he hired to shine sniper rifels into the chests of his Prague-going victims are none other than Badger and Skinny Pete. Here is a sign of the depths to which present day Walt, with millions in tow, has sunk. And just as importantly, it is a sign of series creator/episode writer and director Vince Gilligan's appreciation for his fan base. There might have been plenty of ways to convey that Walt had no intention, or means, of actually harming Elliott and Gretchen. And a dozen and a half, easy, of Walt solidifying the realization that Jesse was still at large. But none would have been more crowd pleasing. More fun for the long-time viewers. Here's one for the fans, Vince Gilligan must have smiled while writing these scene. Proof that even in its darkest, bleakest attire, Breaking Bad is not intrinsically joyless. On, past quick shots of Walt parading through diners, his broken down old home on Negra Arroyo, and glaring ominously into his trunk, to his next victim: Lydia. A predictable sort (and predictably one, at that), Walt is able to determine the time and place of Lydia's next meeting with Todd as well as exactly what she'll be drinking at the time. The sort of beverage into which a cigarette's worth of ricin might find itself dumped during a frantic ad hoc meeting (a meeting that also gives Walt the opportunity to get a leg in to a reunion with Todd's dirtbag brethren. All in one stone. And although this scene isn't likely to stay with us the way that Walt's tyrannical traipse through the Schwartz home, his miserably poetic sit-down with Skyler, or any of what comes thereafter will, it is a point we needed to visit, and of which to watch the undertaking with a cautious and hungry eye. Walt is lucky, yes (very), but he's also quite good at much of what he does. In a quick break from Walt, we see the Lambert sisters taking to their pre-series dynamic: high on the leverage her noble tragedy gives her over the decrepit narrative worn by her sister, Marie phones Skyler to play a condescending (never vindictive, just inherently competitive) guardian, letting her know that Walt has been spotted back inthe neighborhood, and that she best be on the lookout — because we're lucky enough to be watching Breaking Bad, it is immediately after this phone call that we realize Walt is already in the picture. When he does finally say his goodbyes to Skyler, to baby Holly, and (tacitly) to Flynn, Walt allows us something we haven't experienced in full seasons: he impresses us. Walt comes clean to himself, using Skyler as the push, that he didn't do any of this for anybody but himself. Cooking meth, ascending to the top of the kingdom, it was all to be something he never got a chance to be. To grab at the missed opportunities that have haunted him through every car cleaning and every ungrateful high school student. He needed to feel like the man he never was. And all the decay he has come to discover, and to endure, has finally made Walt open his eyes to that. It is the first time of several in this final episode that Walt shows us something in him that we can reflect upon as sympathetic. We'll never root for him again. We'll never give him the benefit of the doubt. But we can grow wistful over shines of the man he once was. In Walt's exchange with Skyler, we see that old Walt in him again... we hold onto memories of a Walt we can remember loving. In Flynn's defeated, physically weakened trodding from bus to front door, we see an abandonment of the Walt we might ever have rooted for. And in Walt's stroking of the hairless head of a sleeping baby Holly, we see the hero, and father, he never got the chance to be. Worse even than the crumbling Skyler and altogether abdicated Flynn, we see a daughter who won't remember him at all. But he'd hang onto her, and this moment, even if he lasted another five seasons. AMC And then comes the boom. Walt's endeavor toward justice. We're not certain where he stands on objective, at this point. Is he just trying to reclaim his throne? Is he vying for the rest of his money, with which to shower a resentful Walt Jr.? Revenge for Hank? Freedom for Jesse? Some kind of principled takedown of the White Power movement? Or maybe, in the simplest and possibly most gratifying terms, a scientist driven to carry out a calculated plan? Walt is ushered through the team's gates, salivating with anticipation over his opportunity to let loose his machine gun-rigged automobile. The simplest and most foreseeable of problems takes hold immediately: they snag his car keys (the weapon is operated by the unlock plooper thing — for the life of me, I have no idea what else you'd call those gadgets, and my father always used the word "plooper"). And then, a larger problem: Uncle Jack wants Walt dead. Why, exactly? Eh, who knows? He's a menace. He's a threat. He's a jackass. Take your pick. But Uncle Jack, that same Uncle Jack who so graciously gave Walt a barrel of his own dough, will not be called a liar when Walt accuses him of partnering up with Jesse Pinkman to create the blue meth that is selling hot throughout Europe these days. So, Uncle Jack parades the shackled Jesse out into the open for Walt to gaze upon. Not a partner, but a slave. We can assume that Walt's agitation of Jack was only to bide time while he squirms for his key plooper on the fleetingly guarded pool table, and that Walt had no real intention of seeing Jesse again — at least at this particular juncture — or using him as a pawn in his plan to take down the nazi troupe. But a monkey wrench in thrown into the gears when Todd drags Jesse into the line of Mr. White's sights, and the man who just gave the wife he destroyed one last look at the good that lurks someplace inside of him surprises us yet again: he looks at Aaron Paul, but doesn't see Jesse. He doesn't see the loud-mouthed, bright-eyed, beaming idiot with a heart of gold that came under his tutilege back in the days of the desert. He sees what is left of that scrappy young pup, and feels something — call it guilt or responsibility, maybe just pity, or (if you are an idealist, like I am) a flicker of love. Corroded love. But in taking one look at the boy whose name he cried out during his painkiller soliloquy, Walt sees someone else he cares to rescue. A tackle to the ground, a quick press of the plooper (sorry if that's robbing the summary of its gravity) button, and the guns howl with fury, taking out — in a twist of fate so romantically gratifying that you're not going to call it out for being "too convenient" — every one of the low-down bastards but Todd and Uncle Jack. Todd is left to Jesse, who strangles the monster with the very shackles in which he placed him. That's elementary poetic justice. But then Walt enacts perhaps the most surprising move we get ever in the show: he cuts Jack off, with a bullet to the head, right in the midst of a threat that he'll never know how to find the rest of his millions. That unapologetic decision tells us that this whole endeavor was not for the money, nor even for the pride. It was for freedom. It was his goodbye to this world, on the part of his trembling family and — a priority that came into being as soon as he laid sad eyes onto him — Jesse. To articulate the currents that erupt between Walt and Jesse in their final moments together would be a task I'm not equipped to take. Walt allows Jesse the opportunity to kill him; hell, Walt allows himself the opportunity to be killed, to be put out of his demonic misery, by his proverbial son. But Jesse — wanting so badly for Walt to be out of the picture, refusing so resentfully to do him any last favors, and so painfully unable despite everything and anything else to take the life of someone who has (for better or much, much, MUCH worse) been so very important to him — can't. Won't. Doesn't. "Do it yourself," Jesse tells Walt. In discussing the scene to follow with a few friends post-viewing, I recognize it as that which will be called out as the finale's only weak link: Walt's phone conversation with Lydia. On the one hand, we don't need to hear him tell her that she's dying, as we already know. And she, soon enough, will know. But this call isn't for us, for Walt, or for Lydia. It's for Jesse, for whose benefit Walt speaks in hearty exposition just before the tattered young man can make his way out of the incarcerating gate. Jesse needs to know that he's free. That this world to which he has been bound so mercilessly since pre-Day 1 is under the ground. Walt has plucked every major player from the meth game, topping off the list with Lydia, thusly ending Jesse's ties to this cold, chemical, blue hell. And with Jesse taking note of Walt's abolition of him, he might even set Walt free, too: of the hate. Whether or not he still holds onto the very real anger he must feel for the latest father figure to abandon him, Jesse offers Walt one final glance of sincerity. A "thanks for the memories," or a "it's been real"? Maybe. Probably, if only just a bit. It might be asking too much to think that the find, wordless stare shared by the men is anything close to the love or fraternity we always sort of wanted to believe they shared. But it's certainly civility. And, if that's not enough to make you tear up a little, it's shared history. And then, it's a goodbye. The most wonderful goodbye we'll say to any Breaking Bad character, as Jesse speeds dynamically through the gate he tried to scale one episode and so many months before, laughing like the child he never got to be not only at his freedom from his underground cage, but from the pen in which Walter White has kept him for the past two years. Killing Walt, or seeing Walt put in jail, might never have given Jesse the ease he feels in this beautiful instance. A true understanding and trust, despite everything, that the man who has controlled his life has decided once and for all to let him go. And then once he flips on that engine, Jesse's life is, for the first time in the series, his. He belongs to himself alone. And he's off to do whatever he might wish — build boxes, draw cartoons, flee to Alaska, take care of Brock. Tying everything up so neatly, the show lets our imaginations run wild. Breaking Bad says, "Give Jesse the ending you've always wanted for him." And that's not only okay, it's perfect. Jesse, now, can have any ending he wants. And we love him. So let's all give him the one we love best. Note: And yes, in the cold light of morning, I understand the frivolity in deeming Jesse's ending a "happy" one. Sure, he is free now in a tangible sense, and ostensibly able to escape hold of the trade for his days to come, but this is the same young man of pulverized heart and spirit that we saw lifelessly opt to flee to Alaska not so long ago. Actually, it's a man worse for wear, now that Andrea has been killed right before his eyes. Jesse will never be free, not from all that has been tattooed onto his soul thanks to the legacy of Walter White. Holly might not remember him, but Jesse won't go a moment without Walt's claws piercing him so viciously. It's a given that Jesse's life won't be perfect, and might never be "good." But I do think we can latch onto that unadulterated relief we see in him in that final second. That momentary glee. The ability to feel something in the neighborhood of hope again. I think that's a happy enough ending, and that we can have fun determining for ourselves in what way it will manifest. And as for Walt... his ending is quite clear. As he steps with the chemist's awe into the nazis' meth lab, glowing over the machinery that gave him the torrential past two years, Walt is happy to hold fast to every twinge and twitter that he has know in this tour. He has come to a point to realize that his reasons for getting into the game were all sour, that his actions were all missteps, that everything he has done to his family and friends has been nothing short of satanic. But he has not forgotten any of the other side of it: having known all that, to some degree, this entire time, there was a reason he kept going. Everything he explained to Skyler — the feeling that he was finally what he wanted to be. A king, a hero, a man, a winner. At the expense of his wife and children, his in-laws, friends, coworkers, and of Jesse, Walt gave himself life. It's a sad, terrible, monstrous, tragic story. But it's a human one. And as the cops flood in and we Walt fall bloody to a Jack Shephardian death, weakened by a nick from one of his own bullets and long torn down by the disease brewing inside of him, finally ready to let go after settling everything on the outside and inside alike, we recognize the human inside of Walt. We don't forgive it. We don't entirely sympathize with it. We can't say we love or root for it whatsoever. But we see it — him. We see a man. And for all he's done to everyone around him — and to us as well — we'll sure miss his story. More:'Breaking Bad' Recap: Granite State'Breaking Bad' Recap: Ozymandias'Breaking Bad' Recap: To'hajiilee Follow @Michael Arbeiter| Follow @Hollywood_com From Our PartnersStars Pose Naked for 'Allure' (Celebuzz)20 Grisliest TV Deaths of 2012-2013 (Vulture)
  • Julianne Moore Talks Subverting the Rom-com Genre in 'Don Jon'
    By: Michael Arbeiter September 27, 2013 5:30pm EST
    Relativity Media We caught up with Julianne Moore about her new romantic comedy subversion Don Jon, in which she plays a woman named Esther who meets Joseph Gordon-Levitt's character Jon at community college. Moore discusses all the ways Gordon-Levitt's film turns the rom-com genre on its head, playing a complex, interesting, almost loony woman, and delving into the psychology behind the addiction featured in the movie. The movie has a lot to say about a lot of different things: pornography, addiction in general, gender roles, and — to put it ineloquently — bro culture. Which of these interested you to the point of getting on board with the project?I think all of them. When I first read the script, I was really touched by it. Very, very surprised. It didn't go in the direction I expected at all. Not at all! Just the fact that somebody was able to construct a script so good that it's surprising is kind of amazing. Generally, things tend to follow a certain pattern. [Joseph Gordon-Levitt] explores so many things, socially and politically, and then really ends as an exploration of intimacy. What intimacy is. I love the fact that he juxtaposed the porn culture and the romantic comedy culture, and then equated them as equal kinds of fantasy. That's fascinating. That's something that we haven't seen. And I love that he explored all these other things. [Jon] has set these definitions for himself. There's the porn. There's his friends. The bro culture, like you said. There's the religious community, and the idea that things are either right or wrong. There's what his father believes he should be, what his mother believes he should be. The gym culture. All these things that define. And do they make him happy? Has he chosen them, have they chosen him? The idea that you can find yourself buried in that, not knowing who you are or what you want, was fascinating. You mentioned that you thought the script was going to go one way, but then it didn't. I'm interested in hearing how you thought it was going to go.I don't know if there was anything specific. But when somebody handed me the script and said it was going to be about porn, I didn't think it was going to be very interesting. [Laughs] They said, "Hey, here's this movie, it's about porn," and I said, "Ugh… okay." So that's what I meant. I think my expectations were about that, not that it was going to be an exploration of how these things have managed to define people and how they broke away from them. I like when we meet your character. The movie, up until then, feels very contained in this little world. Joseph Gordon-Levitt has experienced all these things before, is very familiar with them. And then Esther is completely different from anyone he has known to any real degree. I was wondering about your take on her. She's a little loony.She seems so crazy! Isn't that great? [Laughs] But you make her a person. So how did you balance that? How much crazy did you put in, how much humanity did you put in?What I like about her is that she is somebody who, because of what she has recently experienced, is not able to be anything but one hundred percent authentic. She has to be where she is. There's a quality to her that is almost skinless. And she's extremely present because of it. There's an acute presence. What's interesting about Esther is that you think she's probably not this way all the time. You know? I think this is just a moment in time when she is this way. So what she brings, the energy that she brings, is kind of loaded. [Laughs] It's a lot! And like I said, she probably wouldn't ordinarily behave this way, but she just happens to because of her experience. So that's what I really, really liked. The way she rides on emotions, too, is very immediate. Extremely immediate. I thought that was really fresh writing. Definitely. I think that what the script and your performance do really well is keep her from becoming the manic pixie dream girl phenomenon. In another version of this movie, I could definitely see that character becoming that. That's interesting. Nobody has brought that up, but that's very interesting. It could be another version of that, yeah. That "Let me help you find yourself"… Right, totally. But to your credit and to the movie's credit, she comes across as another character who comes through Jon's life. And because of who they both are, they both benefit from it. I wanted to know what you think about that trend and the benefits of subverting it.When we were at Sundance, we talked a little bit about cinematic tropes and how tiresome they can be. I think that's what I mean about having expectations of the script. I did think there was going to be something more formulaic about the way it unfolded. And the fact that he didn't do that in the writing, and that she is an unexpected character, and that Barbara is not an expected character either. Especially to cast someone who looks like Scarlett, who is such a beautiful girl, such a bombshell. And very intelligent and very self-possessed. I think what Joe is subverting in this movie as well is that these tropes are just that: cinematic tropes. They're not truisms, just things that people resort to. Another thing that I think is indicative of that is the fact that he obsessively loves to clean. This antithesis of traditional masculinity.Right! And what's interesting is that is one of the places where the movie turns, too. He feels so connected to that. [Laughs] It feels so authentically him, so when that's challenged, he's really like, "Hey man, I like this!" It's actually really sweet and unusual that that's the moment where he really gets like, "I've had enough!" Right. With the porn, he becomes aggressive, but with the cleaning —He takes it personally! "This is mine." I kind of love that. Because what is authentic? And what do we like? And what's wrong with liking the things that we like? And you have to allow for that. You have to allow for it in your love and in other people's lives. Relativity Media And going a little bit on the idea of addiction, in at least two or three scenes you see Esther smoking marijuana.One scene. She's only smoking pot in the scene in the car, and she's smoking a cigarette in another scene. Oh. I guess that was just my Freudian interpretation… [Laughs] But she is smoking pot and smoking a cigarette, so… I do think she mentions coming to class high, at least.Right. Well, I think what we can surmise from that is that she's traumatized. So you viewed it more as sort of a coping mechanism rather than a parallel to his addiction?Maybe that's something that she's having issues with too. That's really possible. I think addictions are generally coping mechanisms. They start out as a way to mask something, and then they become something that is addictive and ongoing. There is usually some complicity there. That's certainly true. Do you think that Joe's character was attempting to mask something with his pattern of pornography?Maybe not feeling anything. I think that's what Esther is trying to do, too. That kind of stimulation… when it's that constant, yeah, there's something going on. There's some kind of sensation that you're creating to mask some kind of pain — listen, I am not an expert! [Laughs] No, totally, I just wanted to get your take on it. But getting back to Esther, is it particularly rewarding for you to play characters that have some more colorful eccentricities? Maybe as opposed to a more "traditional" female lead.Like what kind of traditional female lead? That's a good question. Just thinking of another movie you were in recently, Crazy, Stupid, Love. You definitely had scenes of emotional volatility, but you're a little bit more together there, I think.Right. Although, I really loved doing that movie. Oh, it was excellent!No, each character is kind of endemic to themselves. But it is always interesting to do something where you have interesting things to do. You want the character to have a conundrum. I hesitate to say that one is more interesting than another. It really is about the whole thing, about the narrative. But it's always kind of fun to do stuff that is different. You were talking before about how this movie takes on the rom-com genre. How it's about genuine intimacy. I wanted to hear what you think about what this movie does specifically that other movies, or the genre in general, miss the mark on?I think it doesn't assume that there's a "happily ever after." I think in a lot of romantic comedies, everyone ends up with the right person, and that's it — they're going to stay with that person and get married and walk off into the sunset. They've figured out the problem. I don't think this movie assumes that at all. I think it just says, "Let's see what happens." This is what it is for now. This is what we're paying attention to. This is what the connection is. This is just what's happening. And don't try to block it out.Yeah, don't try to block it out. Be present. Be aware. It isn't a fantasy. It's not like that. And that's what it leaves you with. More:'Don Jon' ReviewJoseph Gordon-Levitt and Scarlett Johansson Talk 'Don Jon'JGL Talks Accents and Addictions at 'Don Jon' Premiere Follow @Michael Arbeiter // | Follow @Hollywood_com // From Our Partners:40 Most Revealing See-Through Red Carpet Looks (Vh1)15 Stars Share Secrets of their Sex Lives (Celebuzz)
  • Watch Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Scarlett Johansson Channel Their Inner Jersey in 'Don Jon' Interview
    By: Michael Arbeiter September 27, 2013 12:55pm EST
    If you've never been to Jersey, pop culture has given you a pretty colorful idea of the sort of people that reside in the Garden State: walking aerosol cans of unmitigated bravado, singing tall tales of sexual escapades and social dominance through Mid-Atlantic affects. Now, some real life Jersey folk will proclaim this stereotype to be unfair, inaccurate, and offensive. But those who know and love the state best appreciate it for these vividly real eccentricities. Don Jon director, writer, and star Joseph Gordon-Levitt and his screen partner Scarlett Johansson do not hold back in their illustration of a flavorful Jersey. Having grown up in Manhattan, Johansson was hardly a stranger to the identity of the Shore folk, infusing her Don Jon character with the attitude and flair of the people she knew in her younger days. In the above interview for the film, JGL and ScarJo chat about creating the strange, frenetic world we see in the new picture, infusing it with the melodies of the Jersey they know. Relativity Media But Don Jon is more than just a love letter to ol' N.J., and is instead Gordon-Levitt's attempt at subverting the rom-com genre in entirety. The filmmaker discusses his motivations in tackling the tropes with which he has come to take issue, and how they have effected our society in a particularly troubling way. Learn about Gordon-Levitt's vision, Johansson's inspirations, and the personal "addictions" of the two stars in the above video, and catch Don Jon in theaters now. More:JGL Talks Accents and Addictions at 'Don Jon' Premiere'Orange Is the New Black' Scoop Spilled at 'Don Jon' PremiereJGL Talks Picking Up Women, Batman, and 'Don Jon' Follow @Michael Arbeiter // | Follow @Hollywood_com // From Our Partners:40 Most Revealing See-Through Red Carpet Looks (Vh1)15 Stars Share Secrets of their Sex Lives (Celebuzz)
  • 'Glee' Season 5 Premiere: How to Properly Misuse The Beatles
    By: Michael Arbeiter September 27, 2013 11:32am EST
    Jumping back into Glee after a summer-long hiatus, you expect a lot to happen. As a show that introduces a new melodramatic plot point with every new camera angle, Glee delivers episodes — season premieres especially — on the pretense of new stories, but doesn't really give much in the way of significant seedlings in Season 5's "Love, Love, Love." This is especially troublesome as the episode is attached to the music of the most iconic band of the 20th century: The Beatles. "Yesterday"Glee works the songs of The Beatles into the moreover unsubstantial issues faced by the McKinley High students and alumni. Rachel might got get a part in Funny Girl (she probably will, but she doesn't seem to know that), so she belts one of the most moving numbers in Western pop culture: "Yesterday." Certainly, we understand the connotations that extend beyond the reality of the series. But within the canon, the song hardly is hardly used to its full potential. "Drive My Car"The Rubber Soul number was chosen to represent the budding love affair between Artie and Kitty. We join the duo at a bumper car ride for the occasion, which hits a wall when Kitty is revealed to be too concerned with her image to admit to dating a dork in a wheelchair (doesn't popularity at this school hinge on being progressive by now, though?). Here, we might have liked a more substantial number to illustrate Artie's heartbreak or Kitty's vile vanity, but this episode of Glee seems to have it all backwards "Got to Get You Into My Life"Here, we have the real heart of the episode: Blaine professing his love to Kurt, apologizing for past infidelity, and pledging to be true forever more. This one kind of works, as well as any Glee Beatles cover can. FOX "A Hard Day's Night"Santana and Rachel dish out this fun, fast-paced album-header as they "slave away" in a diner run by a guy whose xenophobia hints at an apparent ignorance to the fact that he works in New York City. Not much else to say about this one. "I Saw Her Standing There"I will never be able to approach this song without thinking of Rain Man, and will never be able to appreciate a cover of this song that does not have to do with the strained but significant relationship between a depressed narcissist and his estranged autistic brother. Otherwise, the male members of the glee club's performance of the song for Tina, who herself has been feeling lonely and bitter lately, is actually quite sweet, and uniquely appropriate to the weight of the number. "All You Need Is Love"And finally, the big showstopper: Blaine proposes to Kurt using an elaborate ballroom symphony, a collection of most of his close friends and family, and a short but warm speech about how much he loves him. And Kurt accepts, reluctance notwithstanding, as his heart seems to know what it really wants. More Beatles to come next week! More:'Glee' Season 4 Finale Recap'Glee' Recap: Wonder-fulPucker(man) Up! All Of The 'Glee' Kisses — Infographic  Follow @Michael Arbeiter // | Follow @Hollywood_com // From Our PartnersStars Pose Naked for 'Allure' (Celebuzz)20 Grisliest TV Deaths of 2012-2013 (Vulture)
  • The Slow Decline of Nucky Thompson Continues as 'Boardwalk Empire' Renewed for Season 5
    By: Michael Arbeiter September 26, 2013 3:58pm EST
    HBO Despite having killed off its most compelling character back at the end of Season 2, Boardwalk Empire keeps trucking on... and not without professional celebration. The 2013 Emmys awarded the Best Supporting Actor title to Bobby Cannavale for his Season 3 turn as Gyp Rosetti. Presently in its fourth year, the program has attracted the likes of screen vet Jeffrey Wright as a new high-profile villain. And now, TVLine reports that HBO has renewed the period drama for a fifth season. Steve Buscemi trucks on as Nucky Thompson, whose slow decay is hardly as eventful or riveting as that which we see in fellow antiheroes Walter White from Breaking Bad or even Don Draper from Mad Men. With a team of adequate performers and a production value that'd put the glitz and glamor of the Royal Wedding to shame, Boardwalk does manage to keep the attention of some drama enthusiasts, and of its home network. More:Vince Gilligan and David Shore Team for 'Battle Creek''American Horror Story: Coven' Looks TerrifyingCan Commissioner Gordon Carry 'Gotham'? Follow @Michael Arbeiter // | Follow @Hollywood_com // From Our PartnersStars Pose Naked for 'Allure' (Celebuzz)20 Grisliest TV Deaths of 2012-2013 (Vulture)
  • Review: Fun Performances Make 'Don Jon' a Joy While the Film Fumbles with Its Message
    By: Michael Arbeiter September 26, 2013 3:19pm EST
    Relativity Media Somewhere between your typical rom-com and a biting subversion of your typical rom-com lies Don Jon, Joseph Gordon-Levitt's clever, well-intentioned look at everything the genre has been doing wrong for the past many years. From the get-go, we have something altogether more gutteral than what you'd find in your usual Valentine's Weekend releases. Yes, JGL's hero follows tradition by packing a deal-breaker vice, but instead of being engaged to another woman (The Wedding Planner), living with his parents (Failure to Launch), or being just not that into her (He's Just Not That Into You), Gordon-Levitt's titular "Don" Jon Martello Jr. entertains a chronic addiction to pornography. So, right out the gate, it's already more interesting than anything with Gerard Butler. In his directorial debut, Gordon-Levitt works to ground all of the tropes to which we're culturally accustomed. He subverts the picture perfect but colorless leading lady with Scarlett Johansson's crass, acerbic, ultimately abrasive Barbara Sugarman. He opts out of the traditional meet-cute in favor of a lustful exchange of glances between two people who share nothing more than a physical attraction. He replaces your standard pristine backdrop with a club-laden Jersey, injecting a snapshot of road rage every so often for good (albeit artistically clumsy) measure. At every step, as loudly as Gordon-Levitt seems to be screaming his deconstructions, we have a bit of fun. In large part, this is because the people playing along are doing so with gusto. Relativity Media The usually affable Gordon-Levitt doesn't earn, or even ask for, our affections as the decidedly dense Don Jon, but he's a hoot when he yammers on thickly to his bros and superiorly meathead father, played with a hysterical lack of tact by Tony Danza. Johansson, likewise embedded in such a thick gravy of the Dirty Jerz, carries her domineering character well past the beneficial chuckles of familiar stereotypes into areas of authentic flavor. And midway through the show, we are treated to the usual flair of Julianne Moore, sans Mid-Atlantic accent, careening through the extremes of human emotion as the sort of character she plays best: the loon. We have a great time with all of them — the stars and their back-up players (Glenne Headly is good for a handful of laughs, as is Jeremy Luke as Don Jon's perpetually agitated pal) — and are only shortchanged when it comes to the landing of Don Jon's sincerity. Having so much fun with its quirks, Don Jon forgets to lend any real weight to the central conflict of its hero's addiction (perhaps why the film dropped the word from its original title). It forgets to flesh out its central character in either direction, or to beef up the leading lady enough to provide a substantial opponent to the long line of Rachel McAdams roles it seems to think so lowly of. Placing such a heavy focus on the flimsiness of the rom-com genre, Don Jon doesn't exactly provide something with more substance underneath as much as it does provide something with a more inventive surface. But its surface does offer a good enough time to make Don Jon work. It won't change your mind about romantic comedies, offer new insight into the struggles of addiction, or least of all alter the way you look at Jersey, but as a song-and-dance, the film and its performers are charming, endearing, and fun. Oh, and there's a whole lot of porn in this movie, so keep that in mind. 3/5 More Reviews:'Rush' Has Thrilling Action and a Lot of Heart'Drinking Buddies' Is a Rom-Com Antidote'Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2' Is Mostly Stale Follow @Michael Arbeiter // | Follow @Hollywood_com // From Our Partners:40 Most Revealing See-Through Red Carpet Looks (Vh1)15 Stars Share Secrets of their Sex Lives (Celebuzz)
  • A Few Facts About Sandwiches That Prove the 300 Sandwiches Couple Is Horrible
    By: Michael Arbeiter September 25, 2013 2:36pm EST
    A few facts about sandwiches, inspired by the woman who submitted to making 300 sandwiches for her boyfriend in exchange for a marriage proposal: Sandwiches were invented by an 18th century English statesman.John Montagu served as First Lord of Admirality, Secretary of State for the Northern Department, and Postmaster General. He was principal in devising the Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle that led to peace between England and the Netherlands. If he had the time to not only make but invent the sandwich, so do you. "Sandwich" is the only word that is the same in every language.A universal concept that everyone can understand. That means just about everyone can comprehend, and as such handle, the task of making one. You fall into that category. The definition of the word "sandwich" is, unsurprisingly, pretty broad.Mirriam Webster defines a sandwich as "two pieces of bread with something (such as meat, peanut butter, etc.) between them." That "etc." allows you a lot of leeway. You can cram pretty much any edible item between two slices of bread and you've got a sandwich. If you so desperately want a sandwich, your resources, I can imagine, will accomodate this. Sandwiches became popular in America during the Great Depression.The Great Depression. The bleakest, most wanton decade in modern history. If those people could muster up the energy and time away from working in the Charlie Chaplin machines to make their own sandwiches, you also have time. You don't even need arms to make sandwiches.I say that with all sincerity and reverence. Here, find double amputee "Tisha UnArmed" demonstrating how to make a sandwich without the use of one's arms: Without at the very least this degree of physical limitation, you have very little excuse for not making your own sandwich. (Video provided by @misterpatches, a bottomless well of interesting material.) Americans eat over 300 million sandwiches a day.I'm not really sure how this fits into my argument, it's just interesting. Sandwiches always taste better when you make them yourself.Indisputable. In my life, I have eaten more sandwiches than I have eaten things that are not sandwiches. I am no esteemed culinary genius, so it is not my talent in the kitchen that supply me with a gift for the endeavor. It is simply that nobody knows your own palette — the specifics of it and what ratios it most favors — better than you do. Admit it. In opting out of making your own sandwich, you aren't vying for something better. You're just being lazy. Sandwiches aren't very good for you.This is a generalization, but the vast majority of entries in the category denoted as "sandwich" are high in fat, cholesterol, and sodium. The least you can do, if you insist on eating one of these every day, is burn off some energy by trekking into the kitchen to make it yourself. If you really need someone else to make you a sandwich, you can pay any number of professional sandwich makers in close proximity a very reasonable price to do so.Just about every single restaurant, super market, deli, fast food chain, or bodega features the option of sandwiches. Most of the time, they run fairly cheap, and are constructed by professional sandwich makers — people who voluntarily submit to making sandwiches, and benefit financially from doing so (all while our economy spikes!) — at your disposal throughout the day. It is not your responsibility to supply sandwiches for some jackass who bargains that he'll marry you if you make enough of them.In fact, you are painting a pretty poor picture of your relationship if you feel obligated to transform into a proverbial conveyer belt of sandwich meals, fueled by him dangling an engagement ring in front of your nose like a carrot*. You owe sandwiches to nobody, especially somebody who uses them as a manipulation tactic to quantify the value of his love for you. You deserve better that that. So do the sandwiches. *Carrots are a healthy alternative to sandwiches. More:Where Will Miley Cyrus' Career Go from Here?Lorde Is Everything Lana Del Ray Wants to BeHorse_ebooks Is a Human! Follow @Michael Arbeiter // | Follow @Hollywood_com // From Our Partners:40 Most Revealing See-Through Red Carpet Looks (Vh1)15 Stars Share Secrets of their Sex Lives (Celebuzz)