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.
  • Scarlett Johansson Laughs About Her Leaked Naked Photos: Late Last Night
    By: Michael Arbeiter Dec 13, 2011
    Last night, Scarlett Johansson appeared on The Late Show to give her take on the scandal that surrounded her earlier this year: when someone stole naked pictures of her and released them online. It was a humiliating infringement of her person privacy...that she can't seem to stop laughing about. Charlize Theron paid a visit to The Tonight Show to talk about how all women lie in waterfalls in dramatic poses, and how she got thrown from the back of a camel during a really bad modeling job. The X-Factor judges Simon Cowell, Paula Abdul, Nicole Scherzinger and L.A. Reid stopped by Jimmy Kimmel Live to undergo Jimmy's retelling of the travesty that was the kicking off of Rachel Crowe from The X-Factor. Finally, Rob Lowe found himself on the Conan set to discuss how the writers of Parks and Recreation are pretty much just trying to humiliate him in every script. Lowe also discussed his lifelong friendship with Charlie Sheen, who made it a point to tell Rowe's children about his moon-related conspiracy, and talked about his "wilder" years of picking up girls by watching television.
  • 'Terra Nova' Recap: Within
    By: Michael Arbeiter Dec 12, 2011
    S1E10: In its own way, tonight’s episode of Terra Nova is actually a pretty interesting story about the evolution of the Terra Nova governing system and the man who upholds it—Nathaniel Taylor. The two entities are one and the same; while anyone in his or her right mind understands that one man having near-absolute power over a society of dozens (hundreds? It can’t be more than a couple hundred) is wholly uncivilized and entirely idiotic. However, the only person on Terra Nova who seems to recognize this flaw is Lucas, Taylor’s banished son who is working on his own two-way portal to head back to the future…where, as we’ve seen—unfortunately—they actually still do need roads. “The two of us suffer from a Shakespearean relationship that borders on Greek tragedy.” – Lucas Taylor and Jim are on the hunt for the mole, and they’re zeroing in on Skye. We learned a few weeks back that Taylor has a special place in his heart for Skye, and that he believes her parents are dead. We also learned that Skye is providing intel to the Sixers in return for them treating her very sick (but not dead) mother with their special non-Terra Novian medicine. Developments this week: Lucas takes over the interactions with Skye, cutting out the middleman of Mira. Lucas is still working on his two-way portal, and needs Skye to use TN’s “The Eye” to pinpoint a specific coordinate or something that seemed like a whole lot of meaningless last-minute pseudo sci-fi in order to put the finishing touches on his device. And she gets him his special piece of data. And everything works out hunky dory. For the “bad guy,” that is. “He’s a man. Not a god. But don’t tell him that, you’ll hurt his feelings.” – Lucas Beneath the surface of Terra Nova, the Taylor/Taylor’s missing son storyline has been a pretty hot driving force. We never knew exactly what happened between them—although we find out this week that Lucas always blamed his father’s for his mother’s death back in Somalia—and little by little, we’d find out exactly what led up to their current state of separation. Tonight, we finally see present-day Taylor face off with present-day Lucas. Unfortunately, it’s not nearly as dramatic or emotionally amplified as we might have hoped. There are stare downs. There are dramatic speeches. But none of it rings as true as it should, considering the fact that this is the primary enmity in the series. As for Skye, Taylor and Jim find out why she has been acting as mole this whole time: the Sixers have her mother. Jim seems to instantly “forgive” Skye, understanding (or at least suggesting that he understands with his drastic change in facial expression) that the girl did what she had to in order to keep her mother alive and safe. The begrudging Taylor is less willing to forgive, although he does resist the banishment of Skye. Additionally, Taylor welcomes back the murderous soldier he expelled into the woods a few weeks back—during Taylor’s recent wilderness trek, he reconnected with the soldier, and employed him as his own mole in the Sixers operation. He managed to bring Skye’s mother to the safety of Terra Nova, where the brilliant Elisabeth so conveniently figured out how to duplicate the Sixers’ meds in order to save her. To me, this kind of seems like a huge plot hole. If this procedure was always available, then why didn’t Skye (who works in the hospital and should know about it) just alert TN to the whereabouts of her mother? If it just became available…then, well, that’s also silly. Either way, the more forgiving, less erratic side of Taylor shows a growth in both the man and a beneficial evolution of the Terra Nova law system: no more throwing people out because you’re in a bad mood. “Control the past, control the future.” – Lucas (Was it just me, or did anyone else think of “Save the cheerleader, save the world” when Lucas said that?) So, Lucas has managed to develop the two-way time traveler. And, as many of us suspected, the rationale behind it is far more sinister than just “mining for resources.” Lucas ominously tells Skye, “Control the past, control the future,” before completing his device, and shouts to his father, “The next time we meet, I won’t be alone!” right before shooting way back to the 2100s. Next week is the season finale, which means we’ll be seeing more epic showdowns, heightened stakes, and probably a team-up between rivals Jim and Malcolm. But here are the things I’m really wondering: What, beyond the mining of resources, does the future want with the past? How can changing the past effect the future in the reality of this series—if at all? They mentioned in the pilot some theory that averts the well-preserved belief (in sci-fi films) that going back in time and changing anything can be catastrophic. But this can’t be foolproof, if at all accurate. Further, will we see the Sixers team with Terra Nova, like the Mia/Taylor bond we saw a couple of episodes back might have foreshadowed? And, most importantly, will there FINALLY BE SOME DINOSAURS ON THE SHOW FOR MORE THAN, LIKE, A SECOND?
  • 'Two and a Half Men' Ashton Kutcher Scorecard: Week Twelve
    By: Michael Arbeiter Dec 12, 2011
    S9E12: Tonight's episode of Two and a Half Men takes a stab at comparing Walden Schmidt's family life and upbringing to that of the much less fortunate Alan Harper. Walden's mother (Mimi Rogers) comes to visit for the holidays, which puts him in terrific spirits. Anyone familiar with the show knows that Alan has a much less favorable relationship with his mother. Luckily, she stays out of his way this season, and Alan is left to celebrate Christmas with the Schmidts. This is Alan's first Christmas without Charlie, which is a pretty macabre bummer. But the cheerful Walden learns that he himself is not exactly an only child: his primatologist mother raised him alongside a baby gorilla for the first four years of their lives, treating the two as if they were brothers. Walden has always remembered the gorilla, but has allowed himself to believe that he was just an imaginary friend (does this remind anyone else of the beginning of Rain Man?). Once Walden realizes that he was raised alongside the gorilla, Magilla, and that his "brother" was sent to the jungle at age four, he begins to realize that that fear of being sent away to Africa has haunted him subconsciously for his entire life.   Here's the scorecard breakdown: One Charlie Sheen Head (1 - 10 Points): Ashton, you were in this episode. Two Charlie Sheen Heads (11 - 20 Points): Ashton, you landed a few jokes, but we can't stop thinking about good ol' Charlie. Three Charlie Sheen Heads (21 - 30 Points): Ashton, you earned tonight's laugh track. Solid. Four Charlie Sheen Heads (31 - 40 Points): Ashton, we're impressed. You've surpassed Sheen-level kookiness. Five Charlie Sheen Heads (41 - 50 Points): Ashton, you're scaring us with classic levels of comedy. Charlie who? That's that, now on with the Ashton Kutcher Two and a Half Men scorecard! "One False Move, Zimbabwe!" 1. "Yes, I’m seeing someone...No, you can’t meet her...Becauseit’s too soon...I don’t know what it means, it’s just what she keeps telling me." Points: 3 Admittedly, I'm not a regular watcher of Two and a Half Men like the regular reviewer, Matt Patches. That being said, I am not sure what to make of the relationship between Walden and his girlfriend. The duo don't seem to click whatsoever. Their scene makes me unsure as to whether or not the girl is at all interested in Walden in any genuine way. Her excitement to see him later on makes me second guess this theory; perhaps it is just a lack of on screen chemistry. Either way, if this relationship is what we're supposed to believe has gotten him over his love for his ex-wife Bridget (the original driving force for the character), then I think the two should really amp up the romantic aura.  2. "Check it out. I got my own ocean. Well, it’s not completelymine. I have to share the other side with Japan.?" Points:  7 The most positive scene in the episode takes place between Walden's two conflicts: his girlfriend's uneasiness to meet his mother, and his own discovery of his abandoned gorilla brother. When Walden's mother first comes to visit, he seems giddy and eager to please and impress her. This seems like a good root for Walden's issues with Bridget, and other women: his constant drive for his mother's approval. Now, they didn't directly explore this route (although the whole anxiety over being shipped off to Africa can definitely be considered relevant), but at the very least, Walden's relationship with his mother is at least a more charming place for his childlike behavior. 3. "Hold on a second. I was raised with a gorilla?" Points:  3 And back down again. Once Walden finds out that he was raised alongside a gorilla, he becomes corrosive and unpleasant. Obviously, the writers were going for angry. But the character's delivery of this demeanor doesn't really work...he's just sort of grating, and seems like a jackass, as opposed to a wounded, reasonably upset man-child.  When the hotheaded Ashton and the subdued Rogers discuss the situation, I find myself siding with her, despite the fact that she is clearly being sold as the villain of the episode (albeit a redeemable villain, unlike Alan's mother). This is not one of Ashton's stronger scenes. 4. "It's a succinct summation of my seminal years spent with a simian sibling." Points:  5 Playing drunk is something you're either great at or terrible at: Ashton is in the latter category. When he bursts in on his girlfriend Zooey's Christmas dinner with her parents, he belligerently tells the tale of his abandoned gorilla brother. The scene is saved thanks to the wonderful comic timing of the actors who play Zooey's parents (Jim Piddock and Jane Carr). The duo remains perfectly charming and bubbly throughout the entire scene, even when Walden throws a fit and climbs onto their roof. 5. "Magilla?" Points: 5The ending is poorly executed, but I have to offer credit for at least trying something fun. In an act of rage, Walden climbs onto the roof and does a whole King Kong parody, waving his arms angrily at a nearly helicopter (much to Alan's chagrin). However, Alan channels his own grief about losing his brother, and manages to convinces Walden to forgive his mother, Walden climbs down.  The next scene takes Walden, Alan and Walden's mother to a Rise of the Planet of the Apes-like wildlife preserve, where Walden is able to reunite with his long-lost brother. Through sign language, they are able to confirm that they remember each other. For a moment, the scene is actually legitimately sweet. But the moment is fleeting, and it quickly becomes silly, though humorless. Still, nothing ventured. Total Points: 23 -  Three Charlie Sheen Heads! The episode is not without its strengths. Most of them, however, have to do not with Ashton or any of the regular cast, but with the guest players, most notably Piddock and Carr (who really do make me laugh out loud a couple of times in this episode). There are some moments that are a bit sweet, then quickly turn to humor. This would be fine, but the humor is rarely a big payoff. Still, Walden got a happy ending, which is what I want out of a Christmas episode.
  • Russell Brand Is in Talks to Create an Animated Series
    By: Michael Arbeiter Dec 12, 2011
    This proves that Mindy Kaling is a clear contender for the Next Big Thing title. Mere days after The Office star announced that she would be writing and starring in an animated series, another big comic star is following suit: Russell Brand. The Arthur and Get Him to the Greek star is in discussion to create his own animated series with 20th Century Fox. There is no word yet regarding the premise of the series, or on whether or not Brand will also take voice acting responsibilities—although one would likely assume, based on his resume of animated projects including feature films like Despicable Me and Hop, that Brand will in fact also be involved on a performing level. The news is pretty much right on target. Brand is sort of a cartoon character all his own, known for his cheerfully manic demeanor both in film roles and talk show stints. A man with this frenzious sence of stimulation and love of laughter is actually someone whose animated production I would be very much eager to see. Hopefully, the arrangements regarding Brand's project make progress so that we might see this series takes form soon. The real question is, what kind of cartoon would Russell Brand make? Family-friendly? Ultra-graphic? Mind-blowingly trippy? We shouldn't rule out any of these options. The man is nothing if not unpredictable. If the deal goes through, Dan Fybel and Rich Rinaldi (The Sarah Silverman Program, Bob's Burgers) will write the pilot script for the project. Source: Vulture
  • What Will 'Boardwalk Empire' Do Now?
    By: Michael Arbeiter Dec 12, 2011
    Another year has come and gone…I’m talking of course about 1921. The second season of Boardwalk Empire concluded last night, with an especially significant ending. For those wishing to avoid SPOILERS, I suggest you travel far away from this article (and the Internet in general…you’re bound to inadvertently stumble on it somewhere out there). But for the rest of you who caught the climactic ending of the season finale, I’m sure you’re just as wrapped up in the same big question as I am: what the hell are they going to do now? If you’ve kept reading, I will assume it is safe to stop beating around the bush: Jimmy Darmody—the “prodigal son” of Nucky Thompson, the heir of the Atlantic City throne, the tortured victim of his own oedipal demons and violent internal storms, the major driving force of the narrative drama and the audience’s emotional investment in the show—is dead. Now, this wasn’t in all senses a shocker of an ending. In the weeks leading up to the finale, we had all noticed a heightened attention paid to the development and unraveling of Jimmy’s psyche. He was tortured by his betrayal of Nucky, his inability to effectively run the town, his unhappy marriage, and, most of all, his relationship with his mother. During these weeks, I would converse with fellow Boardwalk fans about the series' events. Inevitably, no matter who I spoke to, I always heard the same two comments: “Richard is awesome,” and, “They’re really building up to something with Jimmy.” I was a skeptic. I thought, "There’s no way they’d kill off such an engrossing, important character.” But my peers proved more skilled in the art of foresight. A few people I know mentioned that they thought the show might decide to kill off Jimmy by the end of the season, citing the expansive attention paid to the character’s internal and the rocky downfall as evidence. Again, I didn’t believe they could do it. Mostly because I didn’t believe the show could really go on without him. But as I was wrong about the choice, I very well might be wrong about Boardwalk’s destiny. But still, I wonder where the show might possibly go from here. Naturally, Nucky is the central character on the series. But a good deal of his troubles—both internal and external—came at the hands of Jimmy this season. Not only is Jimmy out of the picture now, but the federal case against Nucky was promptly decreed a mistrial. It seems at this time that the primary source of Nucky’s problems will come from Margaret, whose distaste with her new husband's business is resurfacing. Margaret may have squandered a big business deal for Nucky in the last moments of the season finale, but really, is this a big enough conflict to drive the show—even if it results in a personal financial meltdown for Nucky, not to mention a failed marriage (that wasn’t built on too large a promise to begin with)? Of course, Jimmy’s family (or what is left of it) will prove more directly affected by the cliffhanger. His mother, Gillian, will now likely raise Tommy—but as horrifying as that is, we can’t really expect a period drama about political corruption to rest solely on the shoulders of a story about latent child abuse. Will Gillian take a more pivotal role in the larger story? Might she incite a revenge story on behalf of her murdered son? And if she does continue to spread her evil wherever she can, is anybody other than Jimmy truly all that susceptible to her witchcraft? And can Gillian really even function without Jimmy at all? As far as I’m concerned, Gillian has existed solely as an appendage to Jimmy’s development. Now that he’s gone, I’m not sure what at all they might do with her that works. So, there seems to be a a lack of prospects for Boardwalk Empire's third season. Nucky’s future seems bland. Gillian’s seems questionable. The New Yorkers are expanding their trade to heroin, which might prove interesting—and there is the little matter of the fact that Al Capone is in the picture. But otherwise, what do we have to really look forward to now? Who will we invest our time in? What character remains that is so rich, so troubled, so enigmatic and yet so relatable that he can drive the show nearly on his own, as Jimmy did these past two years? Well…there’s always Richard. No one (no one that I know of, at least) can mention this show without bringing up just how fundamentally awesome the physically- and emotionally-damaged World War I veteran is. Richard is somewhat of a contrast to Jimmy-serving characters like Gillian, Angela and the Commodore. Whereas we see him deliver an invigorating world of his own, he sees himself solely as a function of Jimmy. This is best evidenced by the end of the October episode “Gimcrack and Bunkum,” wherein Richard—just bouncing back from a near-decision to attempt suicide—defines himself by his loyalty to Jimmy and his position in his friend’s and boss’ life: just before scalping the head of a man who has been a nuisance to Jimmy, Richard steadily identifies himself: “I’m a soldier.” So what can be done with Richard? This is uniquely fruitful territory. Richard might decide to carry on Jimmy’s legacy, either as a father to his son or the man behind Atlantic City. Richard might seek a purpose elsewhere—and unlike many characters on the show, he has a value that can harbor a storyline independent of the colorful A.C. world on which so much of our investment depends. Of course, as with Gillian, there is the possibility of revenge, although I don’t know whether I’d assign this sort of drive to Richard, who is not a man consumed by (external) hate. Richard has shown himself to be unique: he admitted affection for a Chicago prostitute, he denounced Eli’s willingness to kill his own brother. He even spoke honestly, albeit subtly, with Jimmy once or twice regarding his own questionable endeavors. Richard has the value of a soul, which will make us root for him more than we might for just about anyone else in the Boardwalk universe. But, like his friend, he is also engulfed by his demons, which will drive him to dark places during episodes to come. The series might very well rely on what it does with Richard. The writers have built up his character colossally this season, perhaps in preparation for his acceptance of Jimmy’s central role. Hopefully, we’ll see the character pointed in the right direction. Maybe he’ll grow into the villain; maybe the hero. Either one could have its place. But Richard might just be what this show needs to carry on in the era after Jimmy—so hopefully, Boardwalk will use him wisely.
  • Video Interview: Aleksa Palladino Discusses Her 'Boardwalk Empire' Character's Fate
    By: Michael Arbeiter Dec 12, 2011
    Those of you up to date on Boardwalk Empire know that Jimmy's lonely, artistic wife Angela sees some unexpected turns in the later half of the second season.  As one of the most internally-focused characters, Angela provides an interesting contrast to those around her, who are often involved in crooked dealings and chaotic shootings. Our correspondent, Mike Rothman, sat down with Aleksa Palladino, the actress who has played Angela to absolute perfection since the beginning of the series, in order to get a bit of insight into this unique role and to find out what she thinks about Boardwalk Empire's new developments involving the character, as well as to learn what other projects she'll be working on from here on out.  Warning: spoilers from Season 2 lie within. You can follow Mike Rothman on Twitter @TheRealRothman.
  • Video: 'Girl with the Dragon Tattoo' 'Immigrant Song' Music Video Doubles As Opening Titles
    By: Michael Arbeiter Dec 12, 2011
    The new film adaptation of Stieg Larsson's novel The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is directed by David Fincher, who also directed last year's cinematic triumph, The Social Network. Now, among many other great things, there is one specific quality that Fincher movies are coming to be associated with: EXCELLENT music. The Social Network revamped "Creep" with a heartbreaking, Earth-shattering glory. Fight Club injected us all with an incurable taste for The Pixies. And Dragon Tattoo looks to follow suit, especially with regard to this music video for Karen O's (frontwoman of Yeah Yeah Yeahs) cover of Led Zeppelin's "Immigrant Song" with Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross. According to Pitchfork, the video also doubles as film's title sequence. And not only does the music sound awesome, the video is a mind-twisting phenomenon. It erupts in a strange, chaotic and compelling array of artwork, which is made all the better by the excellent music behind it. We recommend highly that you check out the video in order to get you properly invigorated for The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, which comes out Dec. 21. Source: Pitchfork
  • New 'ParaNorman' Trailer Looks to Be Funny, Spooky and Sweet
    By: Michael Arbeiter Dec 12, 2011
    Around Halloween (appropriately), the new animated movie ParaNorman released a poster and first trailer to invigorate us via skull toothbrushes, 1960s counterculture songs, and the declaration of the maxim, "You don't become a hero by being normal." And it worked. The story is about a young boy who has an obsession with all things dark and ghoulish, likely derived from his ability to talk to dead people. Naturally, he's also got the ability to disperse a crowd or two. But in ParaNorman, the boy's town is attacked by savage zombies, and it is up to the young oddball, with his unique knowledge of and connection to the world of the dead, to save his family and neighbors from doom. It's dark. It's ghastly. But it looks like a lot of fun, and potentially, considering the "young outsider becomes a hero" theme, a very sweet story. Check out the second trailer below. ParaNorman stars Kodi Smit-McPhee as the starring Norman, along with Anna Kendrick, John Goodman, Leslie Mann, Casey Affleck and Elaine Stritch. Video: ParaNorman trailer (MSN Exclusive) Source: MSN
  • Video: Teasers from HBO's 'Veep' Starring Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Judd Apatow's 'Girls'
    By: Michael Arbeiter Dec 12, 2011
    HBO continues to harbor the unique ability to hook me with nothing more than a single syllable. The network is setting forth two new comedy television series—Veep, starring Julia Louis-Dreyfus, and Girls, starring Lena Dunham (Tiny Furniture) and created by Dunham and Judd Apatow. Each has released a teaser that gives us some insight into the show, although Veep's offers the absolute bare minimum (yet still engrosses). Veep stars Louis-Dreyfus as the vice president of the United States of America -- a job that clearly leaves her with ample downtime. It's a real testament to our trust in the actress and the network that a clip as uneventful as the one below makes us anticipate the show so eagerly. The preview for Dunham's/Apatow's Girls is substantially more informative. Dunham stars as a twenty-four year-old with everyday anxieties, idealistic aspirations, corrosive relationships and comical mishaps—you know, the works—and all with an apparently fresh tone. The series costars Zosia Mamet (Mad Men, The Kids Are All Right), Allison Williams and Adam Driver. Both Veep and Girls come to HBO April of 2012. Source: AOLTV
  • Alec Baldwin Apologizes to Himself on Behalf of American Airlines on 'SNL'
    By: Michael Arbeiter Dec 12, 2011
    Last week, Alec Baldwin made a pretty significant scene on an American Airlines plane parked on the LAX runway when he was kicked off the plane refused to stop playing Words with Friends on his phone. Baldwin was given the option to stop playing the game or to leave the airplane, which he did, but not before causing quite a stir, allegedly pounding on the walls of the airplane bathroom and slamming the door loudly. Now, this sort of behavior might turn off a few Baldwin fans, but this clip will remind the lot of us of why we love the man to begin with. On this weekend's Saturday Night Live, Baldwin appeared in (fleeting) character as Steve Rogers, the captain of the plane from which Baldwin was removed. As Rogers, Baldwin delivered a lengthy apology to...Alec Baldwin, stating that he was right about the whole ordeal, and that American Airlines was completely at fault. As you can see, Baldwin's costar in the scene, Seth Meyers, was not totally on board with it...but "the smart hero" Baldwin (his words) kept it going with vigor.