Author

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.
  • 'Girls' Recap: Death.
    By: Michael Arbeiter Jan 26, 2014
    HBO This week, on a very special Girls... One of the most interesting things a television program can do to take advantage of a diverse ensemble is throw a universal theme at the bunch and observe how each character reacts differently. And there’s no theme more universal than death. Maybe Game of Thrones, but that’s out of season. So this week, Girls thrives on the disparate ideologies of its collection of Brooklynites by killing off pseudo-character David Pressler-Goings. So how does each character react, what is her or his relationship with death, and — most importantly — what does this tell us about the lot of ‘em? Let’s start with Jessa this time… …partially because she’s the first person Hannah breaks the news to (after she herself is hit with the tragedy after showing up to David’s office for a meeting), and partially because she’s the only other character who has a tangible story in this episode. Jessa’s thoughts on death tread on the grand, philosophical side:“It’s something that happens. Like jury duty or floods.” “It must have been so heavy. That moment that it was all going down.””I kind of look forward to the day I die. If you think about it, time isn’t linear. Every moment that has ever happened, or that will ever happen, is happening right now. We just choose to live in this moment to create some illusion of continuity. So, really, we have already died, and also have not yet been born. But there’s reason to believe that Jessa might not entirely buy into this quantum ideology, at least emotionally. As she reveals to Shoshanna over a subdued lute-plucking, Jessa had a friend named Season who died a long time ago. "My favorite friend," she sweetly reflects. A young woman who she cherished, suffered with, and comes to learn in this particularly eventful episode, is still alive. After thinking about Season drums up some heavy feelings, Jessa calls Season's mother to get some emotional closure (the usually stoic Jessa is so vulnerable over this situation that she has a difficult time just saying the word "grave"), learning that her deceased friend and fellow addict faked her death long ago in order to get the problematic enabler Jessa out of her life for good. Rattled, angered, and hurt, Jessa tracks Season down to her Brooklyn brownstone, where she lives with her husband and baby, losing her s**t over the revelation that somebody she loved desperately pretended to die in order to get away from her. So far this season, Jessa has been able to keep her issues of loss and loneliness in relative control, but we can't imagine she'll be recovering from such a puzzling punch to the gut so easily.  Now, Adam... Though a stranger to David, Adam's heart sinks when he hears about the death of Hannah's editor. What's more, he cannot fathom how his girlfriend is exhibiting such a dearth of emotional sensitivity to the issue (she's primarily concerned abou the fate of her eBook). Adam's thoughts on death are far more visceral, to the point where he can't even spell them out beyond unsettled groans in response to Hannah's detachment for most of the episode. Until:"If I died, would you just be like, 'Oh, I hope I can make rent"? If you died, the world would blur. I wouldn't know what a tree was." We don't get any insight into whether or not Adam has a personal experience with a close friend or family member's death, but clearly his sensitivities to the issue are especially potent. Shoshanna, for a quick sec... Shoshanna is roped into the story only via the aforementioned scene in which Jessa reveals her Season story, but she does have a lot to say. See, Shoshanna lost a friend too, back in high school, and the experience drummed up enough sadness to inspire her to write a book of poems. Of course, it also allowed her to usurp her role in their social clique, so win some lose some. Ditto Ray... He really just shows up to provide another, definitively more surprising, foil to Hannah's attitude. Ray, who intellectualizes every concept, genuinely feels over the death of David (who he only met during last week's bar tustle) and insults Hannah for own "sociopathic detachment." But he spends the rest of his screentime laughing with Colin Quinn at Marnie's music video, so maybe don't consider him such a saint just yet. Laird! "My whole life has been death," Laird says to Hannah. "Sometimes at dinner, when I am sitting at my table, I imagine I am in dialogue will all my dead ones." While Laird also tells Hannah that "you're just going to get number when it all comes like a waterfall," he also breaks down in tears during the tender, painful story of a young girl's death bequeathed unto him and Hannah by Adam's crazy, possibly psychotic sister Liney, from whom Hannah might not be too far a cry... That Liney... Hannah opens up to Liney about David's death and about the more pressing issue (in her mind) of Adam's disappointment with her reaction to it. Liney responds by instituting an ad hoc death-themed adventure, leading Hannah and Laird through a cemetary romp and challenging the depths of Hannah's detachment with a tragic story about her and Adam's young cousin who died of cerebral palsy. When she recognizes that Hannah doesn't even grow misty over the story, Liney cackles with delight, admitting that it was all made up, and celebrating Hannah's demented lack of feeling. But it's not the cemetary frolicking or crazy Liney's endorsement of Hannah's callous ways that are especially unsettling. Not compared to the grand finale... Hannah. In truth, there could be no character better used as a vehicle for this story than Hannah. Firstly, because she is our vessel into this world, and thus the character we most automatically empathize with (even when we're disapproving of her). But secondly, because Hannah's exhibition throughout and at the end of this episode is a horror story not limited to the parameters of the subject of death, but to the all encompassing reach of life. We see Hannah alter the way she introduces the news of David's death to her friends as the day goes on. First, she tells Jessa, complaining straight away about the uncertain fate of her eBook. She works up a softer approach for Adam, but still jumps into the selfishness quite abjectly. Afterwards, we see Hannah toss in phrases like "I lost a close friend" and pass off her lack of empathy as numbness, knowing full well that she couldn't possibly care less about David's passing. But the culmination of her chilling behavior comes when she, hoping to restore the favor of Adam (the person she claims to love and treasure), recounts the very same fake story that Liney told to her, provoking authentic tears from the sensitive Adam as she produces her own set of synthetic waterworks. It's a horrifying scene because of how much it does hit home, on both sides. It takes a special kind of person to pull what Hannah pulls here, but the idea of emotional manipulation is not a strange one to anybody in any kind of relationship. Really, it's scary to see how close some of us might be to the capability of this act. Saying whatever possible to get things back to the way we're comfortable with them, convincing others (and ourselves) of outright lies in order to restore order or feel better. If you don't shudder with the familiarity of the final scene of this week's Girls, then good for you for living honestly so far. But although Hannah does take a very extreme and dark measure here, it's just a smidgen too close to home, and it's not a pretty sight. Follow @Michael Arbeiter| Follow @Hollywood_com
  • 'New Girl' Vs. 'Girls': The Birthday Episodes
    By: Michael Arbeiter Jan 22, 2014
    Patrick McElhenney/FOX Maybe it’s because they premiered within six months of each other, because they each gave a starring series role to an on-the-rise voice of female comedy, or — most simply, and most plausibly — because of the similarities of their titles. But New Girl and Girls have earned, and will continue to earn, comparison. “I’m not a big fan of Girls,” someone will say, “but I do love New Girl!” And vice versa. In a lot of ways, the shows provide an antithesis of one another, and this has never been clearer than after this week’s release of episodes for the HBO and Fox programs. By coincidence, the latest episode for each show took the form of a birthday story, with each celebrating a “coming-of-age” for its main character. But of course, as anyone familiar with the diametrically opposite comedies would predict, the stories could not have been more different. Observe, and decide once and for all which camp you fall in (or, you know, cherish the disparate treasures of both, but that’s less fun)… NEW GIRL VS. GIRLS: THE BIRTHDAY EPISODE Whose Birthday Was It? New Girl: The incurably peppy protagonist Jessica Day (Zooey Deschanel). Girls: The anxious, self-satisfied Hannah Horvath (Lena Dunham). How Old Did She Turn? New Girl: 33. Girls: 25. Was She Worried About Having a Bad Birthday?New Girl: Yes. Jess admitted at the beginning of the episode that she always expects too much from her birthdays.Girls: Yes. Hannah tells her boyfriend Adam (Adam Driver) that bad birthdays are "kind of her thing." How Did She Spend the Day? New Girl: By cooking an omelet, having sex, going to a drug store, walking around a park, crying on her couch, and going to the movies (where she was met by a surprise party). Girls: By welcoming her boyfriend’s lunatic sister (Gaby Hoffmann) into her home and then attending a bar party. Where Was the Ultimate Celebration Held? New Girl: A local Chicago movie theater. Girls: Matchless, a real bar in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. HBO Who Organized the Party? New Girl: Jess’ loving but perpetually harried boyfriend Nick (Jake Johnson). Girls: Hannah’s emotionally destitute best friend Marnie (Allison Williams), funded by the Horvath parents (Becky Ann Baker and Peter Scolari). What Is the Most Telling Representation of This Person’s Feelings About the Birthday Girl? New Girl: Nick loses his mind trying to make Jess happy, rallying everyone together to create a loving video tribute to his ladyfriend — an act that she deems the nicest thing anyone has ever done for her. Girls: Marnie passive-aggressively insults Hannah’s appearance, then forces her to sing a humiliating duet from Rent as a means of accessing her own long-gone glory days. How Does the Birthday Girl React to Her Guests? New Girl: Jess is thrilled to see that Cece (Hannah Simone), Schmidt (Max Greenfield), Winston (Lamorne Morris), Coach (Damon Wayans Jr.), and others have all taken the time to show her their affections. Girls: Hannah offers disinterested greetings to just about everybody before retreating into a back room with Marnie, Jessa (Jemima Kirke), and Shoshanna (Zosia Mamet). What About Her Parents? New Girl: Although they can’t be there, Jess’ mom (Jamie Lee Curtis) and dad (Rob Reiner) showcase their boundless love for their daughter in video form. Girls: Hannah’s mom and dad travel to Brooklyn to pay for their daughter’s party, and dance embarrassingly… okay, so this one isn’t too negative! Although Hannah’s dad does (unwittingly) kiss Adam’s sister. Are There Any Stories of Post-Breakup Heartbreak Going on in the Sidelines? New Girl: Yes! Schmidt and Cece. Girls: Yes! Shoshanna and Ray (Alex Karpovsky). How Does That Go? New Girl: After months of distance between them, Schmidt and Cece finally make headway in restoring their friendship when he helps her make an Old Fashioned. Girls: Ray wallows in his misery, tells Shoshanna that he doesn’t want to be friends with her, chastises her (passive-aggressively, of course) for smoking, and then gets into a fight with Hannah’s manic editor (John Cameron Mitchell) Are There Any Cantankerous Bar Employees? New Girl: Sure! The goofy, hilarious Ben Falcone plays a bartender who hates Cece. Girls: Yep! A Matchless DJ fights with Ray after he sullenly accosts her for turning off his song (“Today” by the Smashing Pumpkins). Does the Birthday Girl Have a Moment with Her Boyfriend at the End of the Episode? New Girl: Of course. Jess thanks Nick for giving her the sweetest birthday present she might ever have asked for, and they express their love for one another. Girls: Of course. After Adam’s nutty sister crushes a glass in her hand, he and Hannah sit on their shared bed solemnly. What Note Does the Episode End On? New Girl: Heartwarming. Girls: Chilling. Unsettling. Bizarre. Oh, Does Anyone Walk Away from an Exploding Car? New Girl: Yes, Schmidt. Girls: No, sadly. Happy birthday, New Girl! And happy nihilism, Girls. Follow @Michael Arbeiter| Follow @Hollywood_com
  • 'How I Met Your Mother' Recap: Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Barney Stinson
    By: Michael Arbeiter Jan 21, 2014
    Ron P. Jaffe/Fox This week's episode of How I Met Your Mother offers up a few interesting tidbits about our pal Barney Stinson. Long swathed in mystery, Barney found himself embraced by a new level of drunk: "truth serum drunk." Desperate to unmask the pathological nutjob, Barney's best friend and fiancee took advantage of his intoxication to finally seize the honest answers to the many questions they have long held (oh, what healthy relationships). So, here's what we now know about Barney, in ascending order of intrigue value... -He split a cab once-His "Triple X-Ray" goggles do not actually work-He has especially long ear hair-He buys dehydrated doves in Chinatown-He always carries sexual stimulants with him-His genitalia measures to 6 and 3/64 inches-He has had sex in Ted's bed 14 times (this was actually an unprovoked revelation)-He slept with four women in one night-He slept with three women in the same family-He spends "a crapload" on suits, and makes 16 craploads a year-Has slept with two of the following former Secretaries of State, but not while they were in office: Madeline Albright, Condoleezza Rice, and/or Hillary Clinton-Robin's family is massively rich (she's worth about 600 craploads... not a truth about Barney, but interesting nonetheless)-Made out with Ted's mother, and tried to take things to "second base" before getting rejected-He attended the Magicians Institute of Teaneck (where he aced the Advanced Card Tricks test)-His job is to "Provide Legal Exculpation and Sign Everything" (P.L.E.A.S.E.) for his duplicitous company, which he has been doing since 1998 all the while conspiring with the federal government as a long-term plan to get revenge on his boss, the very many who stole his girlfriend so many years ago One mystery that remains: the true identity (and species) of Trevor Hudson, Barney's so-called ring bear(er). But we'll find that out soon enough. Meanwhile, on the other side of the hotel, Marshall and Lily engage in a shockingly raw, cruel, and humorless back-and-forth, in which each party bares teeth and maliciously attacks the other for accounts of selfishness. Lily castigates Marshall for his duplicity, and Marshall digs up old hostility about Lily's San Francisco bout (not healthy to hold onto this sort of thing, chief). The story concludes with Lily hopping into a dark car with an unidentified party... we're betting it's her father, finally coming through in the clutch, mostly because we can't think of anybody else who'd be interesting enough for Lily to run away with in the night. But again, we'll find out soon enough. Oh, and as for a couple more revelations, we have Ted's childrens' names: Penny (the girl, who is older), and Luke (natch). Follow @Michael Arbeiter| Follow @Hollywood_com
  • 'Girls' Recap: Meet Adam's Crazy Sister
    By: Michael Arbeiter Jan 19, 2014
    HBO Birthday episodes are a good opportunity to showcase the extremes of your characters’ emotionality. Internal stakes are always higher on birthdays. For the central figure, there’s the unwitting assignment of importance to the date — the hope and expectation that the night in question will carry some symbol of new beginnings, or that it might quell long held insecurities. For the surrounding parties, there too is heightened sensitivity, be it due to the observation of a friend ascending in contrast to one’s own stagnancy or maybe just a little too much booze. Whatever the reason, birthdays are a miserable catastrophe, both on television and in real life. And this week on Girls, we endure Hannah’s. The big 25, no less. Let’s begin with our new character: CarolineDespite the fact that the episode takes place on Hannah’s birthday, Lena Dunham’s character is really secondary to her supporting players this week. Hannah meets Adam’s manic older sister Caroline (Gaby Hoffmann) when she shows up at their apartment after being fired and dumped, much to Mr. Sackler’s chagrin — he warns Hannah that his sister is a toxic presence and is altogether evil, but Hannah insists on inviting the ostensibly vulnerable young woman to her birthday party and winds up allowing her hospice in their apartment (though not without recognizing, at least just a bit, that the girl is trouble). Caroline exhibits her dangers by kissing Hannah’s father, provoking (and biting) a downtrodden Ray, instigating a great deal of frustration from her brother Adam, and to top it all off, crushing a drinking glass in her hand in a shocking, frightening scene of mental vacancy. Although she easily warms her way back into Hannah’s heart with a sweet smile and some soft words, Caroline showcases all of the darkness inside of her in her brief time onscreen. (Her episodes to come should only up the ante.) And on we go to MarnieUgh, poor Marnie. Hannah also plays a reactive party to Marnie’s slow decline into hopelessness as we watch the desperate Miss Michaels insist upon a nostalgic duet of Rent’s “Take Me or Leave Me” (the very idea of this horrifies and humiliates Hannah, but Marnie insists). Funnily enough, it all seems like a grab at some long dissipated self-worth, but winds up being anything but. We open Marnie’s story this week in the midst of a phone call with YouTube; she begs them to recall an embarrassing music video — starring Marnie — that Charlie posted while they were dating, to no avail. Continuing with the elements planted in last week’s episode, all we see in Marnie’s future is more despair, but something about this week’s episode makes her story a bit more interesting. Maybe it is because we aren’t used to seeing television shows (comedies, especially) avail such rawness and humanity in actresses who look like the beautiful Allison Williams. Network television has long kept them from falling to personal “ugliness,” for fear of turning off viewers to the ultimate power of object attraction. And here Girls is, handling in the game of making viewers nauseatingly uncomfortable whenever Marnie is onscreen. As much as we might like shows like New Girl, it’s easy to find truth in arguments that they propagates infantilization of women (a nasty, really troubling practice). While Marnie is hardly a character of strength, she is a step toward the idea that female characters aren’t here to abet an audience’s craving for something adorable. She might be one of the least enjoyed characters on Girls, but there’s a good reason for that — her presence is not meant to be comforting, and that’s a good thing. Finally, Ray!Good ol’ Ray, who we missed out on last week, gets his moment to shine as he laments the fears of becoming a boss (Colin Quinn doles out some sage wisdom) and sobs over the idea of Shoshanna moving on from him. The two encounter one another at Hannah’s birthday, with Ray running into his ex’s date, attempting awkward conversation with the young lady, and then getting into a fight with Hannah’s lunatic editor. We also get a good taste of Ray’s ideology when he delves into his didactic devotion to song queues. Although his professionalism is on the rise, Ray is a wreck after losing his first love — as a staunch intellectual, he has no idea how to handle this ribald emotional chaos within him, which makes his upcoming story arc a terrifically exciting one for anybody who loves the character (like I do). Not much in the way of Shoshanna or Jessa this week, but we’ll be seeing more from each in episodes to come. Chime in with your thoughts below!
  • Review: 'The Nut Job' Is Not Particularly Funny, Smart, or Heartwarming
    By: Michael Arbeiter Jan 17, 2014
    Open Road Films via Everett Collection There is something about The Nut Job that will appeal to the old school cartoon lover — the Bugs Bunny aficionado who revels in the ne'er-do-well antics of scrappy anti-heroes, who appreciates the comic sensibilities of bumbling crooks, who likes watching woodland creatures and doofy humans get konked in the head time after time after time. But where Bugs Bunny cartoons always succeeded was in their wit, a department in which The Nut Job is severely lacking. Just under an hour and a half long, The Nut Job has a minute's worth of genuine laughs, favoring the ostensible charms of goofiness over actual funniness. Usually, when a children's cartoon lacks good humor, it makes up for it (or tries to) with warmth. Here, The Nut Job is also lacking... not entirely devoid, but lacking. The story follows the lazily, albeit appropriately, named Surly Squirrel (Will Arnett, affecting an occasional New York accent to drill home that his character is a jag), who is a self-serving survivalist who hordes as many nuts as he can find for his own safekeeping without concern for his fellow park-dwelling animals — all of whom subscribe to a strange socialistic society led by a solemn raccoon (Liam Neeson). The only animals who sympathize with Surly are his mute pal Buddy, a rat, and his diplomatic fellow squirrel Andie (Katherine Heigl), the latter of whom endures a constant battle to convince Surly to employ his superior food heist skills to help the other rodents. But he won't... and we're never quite sure why. Open Road Films via Everett Collection On the one hand, it could be that he's just a Darwinian individualist. On the other, he drops lines disparaging the aforementioned raccoon for never accepting him, and laments his banishment from the parkgrounds after an unfortunate incident with an inflamed tree. There isn't much work done with the Surly character, so there isn't much of a payoff for his inevitable emotional turnaround. We don't quite understand if he wants to be accepted for who he is, welcomed lovingly into the park community, or adorned with the kind of praise that thick-headed hero squirrel Grayson (Brendan Fraser, giving the funniest performance in the film as a cocky but affectionate dolt) regularly receives. When it comes to films directed at young kids, there's usually the hope that there will be something learned, or some semblance of an emotional lesson carried forth. You can pick from the usual grab bag to piece together whatever it is that The Nut Job wants you to feel: accept other people, it's better to help others than help yourself, friendship is important, never trust a raccoon. But more than any of these, the primary takeaway is screwball cartoon mania that you don't often get to see in Disney, or even DreamWorks. And yes, it'll remind you of Loony Tunes in function, but you'll wonder then just why you aren't laughing. 2.5/5 Follow @Michael Arbeiter | Follow @Hollywood_com
  • Review: Kevin Hart Tries to Be Funny in 'Ride Along,' But the Script Just Won't Let Him
    By: Michael Arbeiter Jan 17, 2014
    Disney In just about every one of Kevin Hart's scenes in Ride Along, there's a joke that is just aching to find its way out of the diminutive, rascally comic actor. Hart is a small-scale physical comedian — of the same ilk as Jack Black — who puts nuclear-degree energy into his facial contortions, anatomical outbursts, and the delivery of every gag in general. If only he had material that was crafted with the same energy. Unfortunately, nothing else about Ride Along seems at all "hard at work." Not the script, which pads a lifeless story with lazy comedy, and certainly not his screen partner Ice Cube, whose only stage direction seems to be "frown, and be taller than Kevin Hart." So lifeless is Ice Cube that even his machismo-obsessed straight man bit doesn't really work. Instead of the virile and intimidating "bad cop," he comes off as a disapproving middle aged dad without much to show for his own life. But the script pairs the wily, overzealous high school security guard and video game junkie Ben (Hart) with no-nonsense lawman James (Ice Cube) on the titular ride along, with the scrappy cop-wannabe hoping to prove to the force veteran that he's good enough to marry the latter's younger sister. In earnest, he's not. Ben never puts any respectable effort into learning the tools of the trade, insisting on employing his amateur style and controlling the radio despite his proclamations that he wants, and deserves, James' trust. And James is no saint either — he's irresponsible on crime scenes, violent with perps, and disgruntled to the point of being unable to work with anybody else on the force. These are not good police officers... of course, you'll say, this is a comedy. But where are the laughs, then? They're not absent entirely, you just have to look for them. In a movie so focused with big, broad humor, it's the smaller comedy that actually lands best. Hart's background mutterings and fumblings, his emoticon-laden texts to girlfriend Angela (Tika Sumpter, whose only stage direction seems to be "smile, and never wear a full outfit of clothing"), and a bizarre repetition of the word "weird" from supporting player John Leguizamo. All good for unexpected chuckles, while jokes like Hart facing off with a pre-teen or being blown backwards into a brick wall after firing a large gun are all lazy, familiar, and flat. Structurally, the script is a mess. Ride Along spends far too much time on set up — we get it, Hart and his soon-to-be-brother-in-law Ice Cube don't get along — and far too much time on wrap-up — there's a gigantic, dramatic warehouse shootout that, in any other movie, would be the climax, but there's plenty more to go after that — without any cohesive middle to make the movie feel like... a movie. Hart, who leaps at every comic opportunity like a kangaroo (wallaby would be more appropriate), is suited just right for a buddy cop comedy, but he needs something fresh with which to work — a real character, an interesting story, actually funny jokes. Even just one of these would be fine! 2.5/5 Follow @Michael Arbeiter | Follow @Hollywood_com
  • Review: Charismatic Chris Pine Deserves Better Than the Dull 'Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit'
    By: Michael Arbeiter Jan 17, 2014
    Paramount via Everett Collection A quarter of the way into Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit's far-too-long runtime, the titular hero takes note of a war-time portait in his adversary Viktor Cherevin's office. "Napoleon," Ryan says, proudly identifying the subject of the painting. "Ah," the nefarious Cherevin smiles. "I see you know your history." You'd think we'd get a bit more academic sophistication in a film directed by Kenneth Branagh... hell, in a line delivered by Kenneth Branagh. But this is par for the course in Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit's script. And even more problematic, it's the thing that sticks with me most only a few days after seeing the movie. Well, that and the fact that Chris Pine and Keira Knightley make for the most compatibly attractive onscreen couple I have ever seen. Aside from these standout elements, the film dissolves into a 105-minute (jeez, it feels twice that) blur of running, driving, choking, shooting, and the like. But it's not a painful jaunt all the while, and this is thanks almost entirely to Pine. An actor who we remember popping up in early Lindsay Lohan movies and thinking little of, Pine has earned his place at the center of franchises like Star Trek and, this weekend's box office intake permitting, Jack Ryan. He maintains character and personality in the movie's heightened scenes of "the first kill" and pulling the long con on Cherevin. With a better, smarter script, Pine could thrive in an action hero role like Ryan, but here he's only left to occasionally cut through a staunch layer of boredom. Paramount via Everett Collection The other winning factor of Jack Ryan is in its female lead: Knightley and her character Dr. Cathy Mullins. Another pervasive charmer, Knightley manages to inject a wealth of vitality into the movie at the points most desperate for some flavor — so much so that we're not simply thrilled, but relieved when she shows up unexpectedly to tag along with boyfriend Jack on his mission to... to... well, it's something to do with stopping terrorism. Trust me, you'll forget the specifics as soon as you leave the theater, if not sooner. But the most impressive part is that Shadow Recruit actually gives Knightley something to do as Mullins. She doesn't just wait around and lament the life choices of her danger-prone boyfriend, she gets in on the action. And we're glad for it. Without her, it'd just be Pine. And as much as we like him, he needs somebody else with a personality to play off (sorry, Kevin Costner, but you're not exactly playing your A Game here). In short, there's almost nothing to say about Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit, which in itself says a lot — it's dull, it's slow, and it's got two stars who deserve a lot better than the material they're dealt. Aw hell, maybe the sequel (yeah, we've come out of denial... it's gonna happen) will up the ante on the script, and not mistake knowing who Napoleon is for being a history expert. 2.5/5 Follow @Michael Arbeiter | Follow @Hollywood_com
  • Predicting Which Best Picture Nominee Will Win the Oscar Based on Movie Titles
    By: Michael Arbeiter Jan 16, 2014
    The Oscar nominations came out on Thursday morning, and as of now, it's anybody's race. Some say 12 Years a Slave has it in the bag, while others think American Hustle will snatch the Best Picture trophy. There's no one way to know for sure — does the Academy weigh emotional impact? Flashy performances? The film's lasting message? How about titles? Yes, you can tell a lot about a film by its title, and about its Oscar chances, too. We've compiled some handy data about each Best Picture nominee's title and what it says about the film's chances come time to hand out the awards. (You can also head over to BBC America to check out this fantastic infographic that predicts the Best Picture winner!) AMERICAN HUSTLE Columbia Pictures Movies with the word "America" in their titles......to win a Best Picture Oscar: 2 (An American in Paris; American Beauty) ...to get nominated for BP, but not win: 2 (America, America; American Graffiti) Movies whose titles refers to a crime or act of duplicity......to win a Best Picture Oscar: 2 (Mutiny on the Bounty; The Sting)...to get nominated for BP, but not win: 11 (The Racket; She Done Him Wrong; Imitation of Life; Libeled Lady; Grand Illusion; The Caine Mutiny; The Hustler; Mutiny on the Bounty; The Killing Fields; The Fugitive; Traffic) CAPTAIN PHILLIPS Columbia Pictures via Everett Collection Movies with a main character's surname in their titles......to win a Best Picture Oscar: 10 (The Great Ziegfeld; Ben-Hur; Tom Jones; Patton; Annie Hall; Kramer vs. Kramer; Gandhi; Schindler’s List; Forrest Gump; Shakespeare in Love)...to get nominated for BP, but not win: 45 (Disraeli; Trader Horn; Arrowsmith; The House of Rothschild; Alice Adams; Captain Blood; David Copperfield; Ruggles of Red Gap; Anthony Adverse; Dodsworth; Mr. Deeds Goes to Town; The Story of Louis Pasteur; The Life of Emile Zola; The Adventures of Robin Hood; Goodbye, Mr. Chips; Mr. Smith Goes to Washington; Kitty Foyle; Citizen Kane; Here Comes Mr. Jordan; Sergeant York; Mrs. Miniver; The Magnificent Ambersons; Madame Curie; Wilson; Mildred Pierce; Johnny Belinda; Julius Caesar; Mister Roberts; The Diary of Anne Frank; Elmer Gantry; Dr. Strangelove or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb; Mary Poppins; Doctor Zhivago; Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?; Doctor Dolittle; Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid; Barry Lyndon; Prizzi’s Honor; Jerry Maguire; Good Will Hunting; Saving Private Ryan; Erin Brokovich; Capote; Michael Clayton; Lincoln) Movies whose titles include a military rank......to win a Best Picture Oscar: o...to get nominated for BP, but not win: 6 (The Smiling Lieutenant; Captain Blood; Captains Courageous; Sergeant York; Saving Private Ryan; Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World) DALLAS BUYERS CLUB Focus Features via Everett Collection Movies with a city name in their titles......to win a Best Picture Oscar: 4 (Cimarron; Casablanca; An American in Paris; Chicago)...to get nominated for BP, but not win: 18 (Hollywood Revue; Shanghai Express; San Francisco; In Old Chicago; The Philadelphia Story; Mr. Smith Goes to Washington; Casablanca; Roman Holiday; Peyton Place; Judgment and Nuremberg; Chinatown; Nashville; Fargo; L.A. Confidential; Gangs of New York; Munich; Letters from Iwo Jima; Midnight in Paris) Movies whose titles seem like they should probably have a possessive apostrophe, but don't......to win a Best Picture Oscar: 0...to get nominated for BP, but not win: 4 (Boys Town; Kings Row; Dead Poets Society; Howards End) GRAVITY Warner Bros via Everett Collection Movies whose titles are a single intangible noun......to win a Best Picture Oscar: 1 (Crash)...to get nominated for BP, but not win: 8 (Alibi; Suspicion; Crossfire; Deliverance; Traffic; Atonement; Inception; Moneyball) Movies whose titles end in "ity"......to win a Best Picture Oscar: 1 (From Here to Eternity)...to get nominated for BP, but not win: 3 (Double Indemnity; Atlantic City; Sense and Sensibility) HER Warner Bros via Everett Collection Movies whose titles are made up three letters or fewer......to win a Best Picture Oscar: 0...to get nominated for BP, but not win: 4 (Z; JFK; Ray; Up) Movies that have the word "her" in their titles......to win a Best Picture Oscar: 1 (Ben-Hur)...to get nominated for BP, but not win: 1 (Hannah and Her Sisters) NEBRASKA Paramount via Everett Collection Movies with U.S. state names in their titles......to win a Best Picture Oscar: 0...to get nominated for BP, but not win: 2 (In Old Arizona; Mississippi Burning) *Note: Mr. Smith Goes to Washington and Gangs of New York both refer to cities, not states, and the "Virginia" in Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf is a human woman. We loved Nebraska, but this is really the only one we could think of for it. Sorry, Alexander Payne. Sorry, everybody. PHILOMENA Weinstein Company via Everett Collection Movies whose titles are just a main character's first name......to win a Best Picture Oscar: 5 (Rebecca; Hamlet; Marty; Gigi; Oliver!)...to get nominated for BP, but not win: 20 (Skippy; Cleopatra; Ivanhoe; Shane; Fanny; Cleopatra; Alfie; Lenny; Rocky; Julia; Norma Rae; Tess; Bugsy; Babe; Elizabeth; Seabiscuit; Ray; Juno; Precious; Hugo) Movies whose titles were mispronounced by Leonardo DiCaprio on live television......to win a Best Picture Oscar: 0...to get nominated for BP, but not win: 0 (There can be only one Philomania.) 12 YEARS A SLAVE Fox Searchlight Movies with numbers in their titles......to win a Best Picture Oscar: 6 (It Happened One Night; Around the World in 80 Days; The Godfather Part II; One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest; Million Dollar Baby; Slumdog Millionaire)...to get nominated for BP, but not win: 36 (Seventh Heaven; Five Star Final; One Hour with You; 42nd Street; The Private Life of Henry VIII; One Night of Love; Broadway Melody of 1936; A Tale of Two Cities; Three Smart Girls; One Hundred Men and a Girl; Four Daughters; One Foot in Heaven; 49th Parallel; Henry V; Miracle on 34th Street; A Letter to Three Wives; Twelve O’Clock High; Seven Brides for Seven Brothers; Three Coins in the Fountain; The Ten Commandments; 12 Angry Men; The Defiant Ones; A Thousand Clowns; Anne of the Thousand Days; Five Easy Pieces; Born on the Fourth of July; The Godfather Part III; Four Weddings and a Funeral; Apollo 13; The Sixth Sense; The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers; District 9; 127 Hours; Toy Story 3; Zero Dark Thirty) Movies that refer to a unit of time in their titles......to win a Best Picture Oscar: 2 (The Best Years of Our Lives; Around the World in 80 Days) ...to get nominated for BP, but not win: 9 (One Hour with You; Lady for a Day; The Yearling; The Longest Day; Anne of the Thousand Days; Dog Day Afternoon; Remains of the Day; The Hours; 127 Hours) THE WOLF OF WALL STREET Paramount via Everett Collection Movies whose titles include mention of an animal......to win a Best Picture Oscar: 3 (The Deer Hunter; Dances with Wolves; The Silence of the Lambs)...to get nominated for BP, but not win: 17 (Of Mice and Men; The Little Foxes; The Maltese Falcon; The Ox-Bow Incident; The Snake Pit; Cat on a Hot Tin Roof; To Kill a Mockingbird; The Lion in Winter; One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest; Dog Day Afternoon; The Elephant Man; Raging Bull; Kiss of the Spider Woman; Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon; Black Swan; War Horse) Movies whose titles include the name of a street......to win a Best Picture Oscar: 1 (The Broadway Melody) ...to get nominated for BP, but not win: 5 (42nd Street; The Barretts of Wimpole Street; Broadway Melody of 1936; Miracle on 34th Street; Sunset Boulevard) Cast your bets, folks. Captain Phillips looks like it has this one locked down. *Special thanks to Hollywood.com writers Julia Emmanuele and Jordan Smith for helping to compile data and entertaining the madness of this post, and to our CTO Greg Zimerman for recovering hours of work after my Word Doc crashed. You're a hero, Greg. Follow @Michael Arbeiter // | Follow @Hollywood_com //
  • The Absolute Worst, Most Despicable Snubs of the 2014 Oscar Nominations
    By: Michael Arbeiter Jan 16, 2014
    Studio Canal Let's start off with something positive...Leonardo DiCaprio earned a Best Actor nod. Not a shocker, although with the wealth of strong male lead performances this year, a few of us were betting that the Wolf of Wall Street star would be edged out of the running. Smile, folks. It'll be the last time you do today.  And now onto the bad news...There are a wealth of deserving performers recognized in the Best Supporting Actor category this year, but Rush's Daniel Bruhl remains unjustly omitted, leaving room for the far more flashy albeit one-note turn by Jonah Hill in Wolf of Wall Street. And the really bad news...That "edging out" that we were worried would inflict Leo? It actually happened to Tom Hanks. In Captain Phillips, Hanks gave one of the year's most terrific lead performances, turning what could have been a colorless thriller into a humane, engaging, and really eviscerating movie. And the even worse news...What the hell is up with that Best Original Score category? In lieu of truly artful orchestration, like that in Stoker, Prince Avalanche, The Wind Rises, and (we know this would never earn a nomination, but it's still magnificent) Spring Breakers, we see lifeless fare like the scores from Saving Mr. Banks and The Book Thief take nominations. F**k that noise. I'm starting to feel ill here...The omission of Sarah Polley's Stories We Tell from the Best Documentary Feature category. After the past two years of celebrating filmmaking and storytelling in movies like Argo and The Artist, the Academy overlooks the most wholly invested tribute to the idea of story in years. Oh, and this is just bulls**t...The inscrutable absence of Inside Llewyn Davis in the Best Picture, Best Director, Best Original Screenplay, and (most shockingly) Best Original Song categories.Our Best Picture Gripe: With only nine films nominated for BP, Llewyn Davis can't even be accused as falling victim to a full slate of superior projects — although to claim said superiority in half of the films on this list would be criminal (in the rest, it'd be simply laughable).Our Best Director Gripe: Admittedly, the Coen Brothers were dark horses in the Director category this year with Steve McQueen, Martin Scorsese, David O. Russell, and Alfonso Cuaron being sure things. We're not at all displeased that the final position going to Alexander Payne for Nebraska, but we are sad to see the brilliantly constructed New York tragedy earn no recognition.Our Best Original Screenplay Gripe: Things are getting even more outrageous with these snubs. The brilliant, lyrical character piece that is Llewyn should, at the very least, taken one major category this year, that being for writing. The clunky Dallas Buyers Club and the cartoonish American Hustle both got notice for scripting, while this deft and dense study of human misery and toxicity gets squat.Our Best Original Song Gripe: But NONE of these snubs is more offensive than this one. To not even nominate Inside Llewyn Davis' signature song "Fare Thee Well," which is at once beautiful as an individual piece of music and unbelievable powerful as an anchor to the Coens' spectacular story is... well, it's really just kind of weird. But we guess Despicable Me 2 needed that nod for "Happy," right? Follow @Hollywood_com
  • And the 2014 Oscar Nominees Are...
    By: Michael Arbeiter Jan 16, 2014
    Warner Bros / Columbia Pictures / FOX Searchlight And the nominees for the 86th Annual Academy Awards, celebrating the fantastic cinematic year of 2013, are... Best PictureAmerican HustleCaptain PhillipsDallas Buyers ClubGravityHerNebraskaPhilomena12 Years a SlaveThe Wolf of Wall Street  Best DirectorDavid O. Russell, American HustleAlfonso Cuaron, GravityAlexander Payne, NebraskaSteve McQueen, 12 Years a SlaveMartin Scorsese, The Wolf of Wall Street Best ActressAmy Adams, American HustleCate Blanchett, Blue JasmineSandra Bullock, GravityJudi Dench, PhilomenaMeryl Streep, August: Osage County Best ActorChristian Bale, American HustleBruce Dern, NebraskaLeonardo DiCaprio, The Wolf of Wall StreetChiwetel Ejiofor, 12 Years a SlaveMatthew McConaughey, Dallas Buyers Club Best Adapted ScreenplayBefore MidnightCaptain PhillipsPhilomena12 Years a SlaveThe Wolf of Wall Street Best Original ScreenplayAmerican HustleBlue JasmineDallas Buyers ClubHerNebraska Best Supporting ActorBarkhad Abdi, Captain PhillipsBradley Cooper, American HustleMichael Fassbender, 12 Years a SlaveJonah Hill, The Wolf of Wall StreetJared Leto, Dallas Buyers Club Best Supporting ActressSally Hawkins, Blue JasmineJennifer Lawrence, American HustleLupita Nyong'o, 12 Years a SlaveJulia Roberts, August: Osage CountyJune Squibb, Nebraska Best Animated FeatureThe CroodsDespicable Me 2Ernest & CelestineFrozenThe Wind Rises Best Documentary FeatureThe Act of KillingCutie and the BoxerDirty WarsThe Square20 Feet from Stardom Best Foreign Language FilmThe Broken Circle BreakdownThe Great BeautyThe HuntThe Missing PictureOmar Best Original Song"Alone Yet Not Alone" from Alone Yet Not Alone"Happy" from Despicable Me 2"Let It Go" from Frozen"The Moon Song" from Her"Ordinary Love" from Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom Best Original ScoreThe Book ThiefGravityHerPhilomenaSaving Mr. Banks Best CinematographyThe GrandmasterGravityInside Llewyn DavisNebraskaPrisoners Best EditingAmerican HustleCaptain PhillipsDallas Buyers ClubGravity12 Years a Slave Best Animated Short Film"Feral""Get a Horse!""Mr. Hublot""Possessions""Room on the Broom" Best Documentary Short"CaveDigger""Facing Fear""Karama Has No Walls""The Lady in Number 6: Music Saved My Life""Prison Terminal: The Last Days of Private Jack Hall" Best Production DesignAmerican HustleGravityThe Great GatsbyHer12 Years a Slave Best Costume DesignAmerican HustleThe GrandmasterThe Great GatsbyThe Invisible Woman12 Years a Slave Best Makeup and HairstylingDallas Buyers ClubJackass Presents: Bad GrandpaThe Lone Ranger Best Sound EditingAll Is LostCaptain PhillipsGravityThe Hobbit: Desolation of SmaugLone Survivor Best Sound MixingCaptain PhillipsGravityThe Hobbit: Desolation of SmaugInside Llewyn DavisLone Survivor