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.
  • 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.
  • Does New 'The Dark Knight Rises' Poster Predict the End for Batman?
    By: Michael Arbeiter Dec 12, 2011
    Of all the material yet released for the upcoming The Dark Knight Rises, the third and final installment in Christopher Nolan's Batman series, including the new CIA bulletins, the new poster is probably the thing that provokes the greatest degree of chills. The "smashed mask" imagery is a comic book hero staple, foreboding the possible demise of our unstoppable hero. Usually, things work out just fine for these caped crime fighters. But...this is Christopher Nolan. So...I'm actually not too sure that Bruce Wayne is going to survive this movie. It's kind of shocking to think about a Batman movie wherein Batman dies, but if anyone's going to make one, it's Nolan and Christian Bale. Hovering over the remains of what is plausibly a deceased Wayne is the third movie's central villain, Bane (Tom Hardy). Now, it might all be just a clever scheme to hook the three people out there who aren't already obsessed with The Dark Knight Rises. But we can't rule anything out, here. Nothing is a given. No one is safe. Batman.  The Dark Knight Rises
  • 'Boardwalk Empire' Season Finale Recap: To the Lost
    By: Michael Arbeiter Dec 11, 2011
    S2E12: There is something especially unique about Boardwalk Empire’s story structure that I don’t know if I could have really pinpointed before having watched the second season finale. In fact, I’m not certain I can articulate it with a desired accuracy still—but to attempt: Boardwalk is a show that seems to actively reject its own narrative elements. What I mean by that is, some shows invest you in well-devised storylines, constructed and foreshadowed with impressive pretense, and other shows sort of see what comes as they go along—waiting to see what develops naturally, or basing their plot devices on external factors (audience reactions, actors’ attachments and detachments). While I do not think for a second that Boardwalk falls in the latter category, I do think that it has a very unusual way of laying down its stories. Some might call it a particularly lifelike way: nothing mandates anything else in this show. A character might be intensified and examined, imbued with promise for rich developments, only to be killed off not long after. A pair of characters might be attached to a hefty arc wherein they betray their longtime boss, vie to start their own business in the drug trade (which would produce quite a dramatic rivalry between they and the man they betrayed), only to return to his employ without much theatrics afforded to the matter. This all might be attributed to shock value. It might be an attempt to emulate the haphazardness of their world and ours. But it makes for surprising television—and one thing I’d definitely say about Boardwalk Empire’s Season 2 finale “To the Lost,” it surprised me. “Whatever you do to try and change things, you know he’ll never forgive you.” – Richard As one might expect from a season finale, the major storylines in this week’s episode are a lot more interconnected than those in most weeks’. And, as one might expect from any episode of Boardwalk Empire, Richard is the voice of reason/spiritual advisor/audience surrogate. He might also become a father figure to Jimmy’s son Tommy from now on, considering the episode’s ending. Considering the total mind-quake and soul-tornado that was last week’s episode of Boardwalk, Jimmy is considering rearranging his life a bit. He wants to make things right with Nucky, the only parental figure that didn’t totally demolish his emotional health. Or, at least, the one who did the smallest amount of damage. Jimmy achieves this via Chalky (he finally gets Chalky those Klansmen he’s been looking to brutally kill out of revenge all season), and gets to speak to Nucky, alleging that he had nothing to do with his shooting—Jimmy places the blame on Eli. Now, it seems to me, especially later in the episode when Nucky first goes to visit Eli to discuss this, that Nucky is far more willing to believe that Jimmy is innocent of this crime than he is to believe that Eli is. We know that neither man is at all innocent, although Eli was more outspokenly adamant about the killing of his brother (even if he was speaking partially out of pain). In any event, Nucky’s meeting with Eli evolves from a curt rejection of his brother to a strategy to best handle the latter’s legal situation: Nucky advises Eli to plead guilty, accept a two year sentence (maximum…we can’t take for granted just how crooked the law is in this show), and promises that his wife and children will be cared for. Eli graciously accepts. “Your version of God asks nothing?” – Margaret “It asks that I love my family.” – Nucky Nucky’s trial. For all the buildup, all the drama surrounding it, and the length rehearsal that Esther Randolph performs in the scene introducing it, we’d expect something a bit longer than a few minutes-long scene. But, that’s AC. Nucky has a heartfelt discussion with Margaret (and parades his “doting fatherly figure” identity around the house for extra effect), to convince her to marry him so that she won’t have to testify. Nucky submits that he has been nothing short of a horrible man, but concedes to leave this all behind him. Margaret, probably wanting to believe it more than she actually truly does believe it, accepts, marries Nucky, and robs Esther Randolph of the most significant chunk of her case against him. A mistrial is pronounced, and Nucky is declared a free man. “I am not seeking forgiveness.” – Nucky But back to Jimmy. Jimmy has, over the course of the second half of this season, adopted the role of most engrossing and most complicated main character of the series, with a climactic development during last week’s haunting episode. Jimmy admits overtly this week to always having wanted to kill his father. In a more subtle scene that Jimmy shares with his son, we can see that Jimmy’s fear of his mother dates back to childhood as well—he tells his son that he used to hide out in lean-tos on the beach. Without the pretext of last week, one wouldn’t think much about anything Jimmy says in this scene. But now, we can’t hear him mention his mother without fostering a slew of horrifying connotations. Before Jimmy leaves to meet Nucky, who tempts him with the bait of Manny Horvitz (the man who killed Jimmy’s wife, and a man Nucky seems to have procured via Arnold Rothstein), he pays a severe glance to his son, who is playing with Gillian in the living room. Apprehensions about what kind of man she’ll turn him into seem to be palpable in Jimmy’s head, which is why he leaves Richard there with them—eternally. Jimmy knows what he is getting into when he leaves the house. But I’m sure I’m not the only one who wasn’t at least a little surprised by the scene, considering if only the importance of Jimmy in the Boardwalk watcher’s investment. Nucky has tricked Jimmy into coming to this remote location on this dark, rainy night. He is accompanied by Eli, among other armed men who have it in for Jimmy. But Nucky pulls the gun on the unarmed Jimmy himself, putting a period at the end of Jimmy’s reign, betrayal, and turmoil. The last shot of Jimmy shows him in a flashback, in the trenches, where he claimed to have died inside. But Jimmy is already long dead once there, having lost his soul before he enlisted, at the hands of his mother. When Nucky returns home the next morning, he greets Margaret with a peppy lie about Jimmy’s reenlistment, but she understands the truth entirely, and secretly signs away the family’s land deed to the church, unbeknownst to a happy-go-lucky Nucky, celebrating the building of a highway with his business partners. And so, we end the season on some strange notes: Nucky is free, and absolved. Margaret is still ensconced in her moral dilemma. Jimmy is dead. And Van Alden, whom we only see in one brief scene, is out in the Midwest with his baby and nanny. It seems as though the show will be needing to develop some self-contained drama for next season, as everything is pretty much wrapped up at the end of this one, which I find odd. Sure, there’s a drug trade on the rise (and logically, something big must become of Al Capone). And yeah, there exist troubles between Nucky and Margaret. But now that Nucky is a free man and Jimmy is dead, who are we supposed to worry about? And who are we supposed to fear?
  • Isn't it Ironic that Alanis Morissette Will Guest Star on 'Up All Night'?
    By: Michael Arbeiter Dec 09, 2011
    Far and beyond her notoriety as an actor is Alanis Morissette's fame as a singer/songwriter. However, one cannot ignore her impressive resume of on screen performances. She has played guest roles on shows like Curb Your Enthusiasm, Nip/Tuck and Weeds. And as far as movies go, she pretty much nailed playing a character who is none too easy to capture: God. This time around, Morissette will be venturing to NBC's funniest new sitcom, Up All Night. The series has not exactly been musically oblivious. The winning character of Ava (Maya Rudolph) has celebrated her past as a successful music artist. And we're about to meet her former bandmember in the form of Morissette. Reportedly, the artist will play a hip-hop star who toured with Ava as part of their band Sound LLC throughout the 1990s. And magical. I know Morissette is a polarizing figure in the music-loving community; I happen to be a staunch supporter. For the lot of you who are in the same camp, tune in to Up All Night on Wednesdays at 8 p.m. ET/PT on NBC. Morissette's will join Rudolph, Will Arnett and Christina Applegate on an episode set to air sometime in early 2012. Source: TVLine
  • Exclusive: Coby Bell Meets a Suspicious Stranger in Clip from 'Burn Notice' Season Finale
    By: Michael Arbeiter Dec 09, 2011
    In this new, exclusive clip from the USA series Burn Notice's fifth season finale, we see our own Jesse Porter (Coby Bell), strapped for cash and not exactly filled to the brim with job prospects, mulling over his meager financial situation. As Jesse ruminates, along comes a mysterious stranger with a promising opportunity...but, as anyone who watches Burn Notice should know, you can never really trust a stranger...or an opportunity...or pretty much anything. It's a dangerous world they've got going. Playing the shady entreprenuer is Eric Roberts (brother of an actress you might have seen in one or two movies), bringing the same gallance and watchability that served him well in The Dark Knight and The Expendables. Watch the Burn Notice Season 5 finale this Thursday at 10 p.m. ET/PT on USA.