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.
  • Casting Roundup: 'Live! with Kelly' Nabs a Jo Bro, 'True Blood' Casts Stabler?
    By: Michael Arbeiter Nov 30, 2011
    The newly Regisless Live! with Kelly is racking up guest hosts like nobody's business. Mid-December will welcome a foursome of male guest hosts to join Kelly Ripa on the stage. Real Sports host Bryant Gumbel will head off the pack, resuming his position as Live! guest host (he has done so several times over the past few years) on Dec. 12. The following day, Dec. 13, viewers will welcome Kevin Jonas, who is likely to bring in a much younger demographic than the show is used to. After Jonas, Live! will welcome star of film and stage Taye Diggs, who will appear on Dec. 14. And finishing off the pack with a two-day stint on Dec. 15 and 16 will be singer Michael Buble. It's a diverse group, but one (at least from Jonas on) that will likely be gracing daytime television with a bit of musical charm. -THR The two rules of television: you can never have enough guest stars, and you can never have enough vampires. True Blood is killing two birds with one stone by roping in a man who broke all our hearts recently by dropping out of Law & Order: SVU: Christopher Meloni. The HBO series is pursuing Meloni as a mighty member of the vampire species for its fifth season. It's not exactly the New York City detective we miss so much, but we'd be glad to have him back on the air. -TVLine Speaking of vampires, a Vampire Diaries star is heading over to Supernatural. Sara Canning, who plays Jenna Sommers on the CW series, will be stopping by another CW series, Supernatural, to provide a not-quite-romantic interest for Dean Winchester (Jensen Ackles). Canning's character, a carefree girl named Lydia, will make her debut on a January episode, after the winter hiatus. Supernatural's seventh season airs Fridays at 9 p.m. ET/PT on the CW. -TVLine Finally, Spike TV's 2011 Video Game Awards are nearing, and the network has just chosen a host for the event: Zachary Levi, known best as the star of NBC's Chuck. The incurably likeable Levi will lead a show that includes appearances by The Black Keys. The Video Game Awards will air live on Saturday, Dec. 10 at 8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT, on Spike TV, MTV2, and via -Spike Publicity
  • 'Shame' and Hollywood's Problem with On-Screen Addiction
    By: Michael Arbeiter Nov 30, 2011
    Addiction. HILARIOUS, right? Not the case. Addictions, as you may have heard, are torturous, debilitating, tragic illnesses that can wreak havoc on the lives they affect (keep reading, it gets less horrible). Though, somehow, film and television have taken to depicting the various types of addictions in farcical, belittling, often humorous ways. Think of how many movies you’ve seen that play drug abuse for laughs. How about the cartoonish portrayal of compulsive gambling in every other TV series since The Flintstones? And lest we forget the one addiction that probably gets the least credit as a legitimately painful disease: sex addiction. Sex addiction is the subject matter tackled, with a great appreciation for all turmoils attached, in the upcoming film, Shame. In some sense Shame is a pioneer in this realm. Sex addiction is rarely ostensibly touched upon in film and TV. Sure, you’ve got your standard stock characters whose identities are consumed predominantly by sex—your Sam Malones, your Vince Masukas, your Barney Stintsons, your Glenn Quagmires—but seldom is the notion of this type of behavior being representative of an agonizing addiction actually braved. And such is the case for all addictions. Drug abuse, gambling problems, alcoholism, nicotine reliance…they’re all made out to be funny, and rarely invocative of any real pain or consequence. But here’s the problem: that’s not the case. And to propagate the idea that these addictions are laughable, casual character quirks is to do a disservice to the dignity of those enduring them in real life, and to trivialize their quests to overcome them. Take a movie like Blades of Glory. Now, I know that many will roll their eyes at my hypersensitivity, proclaiming that Blades of Glory isn’t really meant to be taken with a large degree of sincerity or authenticity. But just roll with me, here. In one scene of the 2007 comedy film, Will Ferrell’s character attends a support group for people dealing with sex addiction—the whole bit, as one would expect with any issue tackled in this sort of movie, is played entirely for laughs. The opening psalm is riddled with comical imagery about what sexual compulsions will drive you to do, and the meeting concludes with all of the addicts pairing off and fleeing to privacy for what is illustrated to be an enjoyable bout of passion. But the reality of it is, this is not at all a depiction of sex addiction—it’s something else entirely. Yet, many films continue to portray the disease with a brighter spin, removing the whole “disease” factor entirely. And then there’s Shame: the powerful, dynamic drama that invites an authentic exploration of a man suffering—really suffering—from an addiction to sex. Director Steve McQueen teams with acting supercomputer Michael Fassbender to deliver the story, and it’s a story more than worth our time and contemplation.The genuine pains of sex addiction may have been skirted so long in the media due to the scarcity of public education about the issue. However, even regarding addictions about which we as a society in general are far more knowledgeable, there remains a dichotomy between the heavy, accurate and sympathetic portrayals and the destructive, farcical and insincere ones. The broad spectrum of drug abuse has its share of films on both sides of the spectrum. Further, films that attempt to authentically tackle the tragedy of drug addiction are ones with which we’re all likely quite familiar: Requiem for a Dream is the leader of this category. Darren Aronofsky (who, indicated both by this film and his recent anti-meth PSAs, is clearly a passionate crusader against drug abuse) paints a picture we’ve all tried to shake off—one of desperation, degradation, and absolute rock-bottom misery, resultant of the abuse of and addiction to heroin and pills. Some others to do the struggle justice include Trainspotting, Christiane F., and a pair of cowboys films (one Midnight, one Drugstore). But of course, there are a slew of films that either glamorize, villainize or humorize one-dimensionally drug addicts and their plights with this illness. In the 2002 comedy Orange County, Jack Black’s character—the funniest character in the movie—abuses a wide variety of substances (a good deal of his humor derives from this). Taking this a step further is a film actually applauded formidably for its glorification of drug use: Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. It may be based on true events, but Fear and Loathing takes a very celebratory point of view on drug and alcohol abuse in a story about two men—neither of whom can go a scene without smoking, snorting, huffing, drinking or in some other way infusing their body with a toxic substance—on a hedonistic trip through the Nevada deserts to the Las Vegas strip. Yes, it’s twisted. Sure, there are some dark turns. But all in all, you don’t exactly leave this movie with an aversion to the idea of drug use. Gambling addiction is a theme with a greater track record of presence in television than in movies. A multitude of sitcom characters have struggled with temporary, cartoonish, usually none-too-serious examples of gambling addictions: Kramer on Seinfeld, Dorothy on The Golden Girls, Marge on The Simpsons…and of course, there’s this. One show that actually did make a more earnest attempt at the illustration of the legitimate struggle attached to compulsive gambling was Taxi, which informed audiences of Judd Hirsch’s character’s history with the problem shortly before launching him back into his old habits. As with the nature of the series, the mood of the story was twofold: there was, indeed, a fair share of humor involved, but a thick presence of gravity and pain as well. And, of course, there’s alcoholism. I’d go out on a limb to say that the abuse of alcohol—both sincere and farcical depictions—trumps that of narcotics, gambling or sex in terms of its prevalence in film and television. Alcoholics range from being tortured, poetic souls to bumbling, word-slurring comic reliefs. We’ve seen them both riddled with agony over the call of the drink, and eagerly in pursuit of the next madcap, liquor-infused night on the town. When it comes to a reverence for struggles with alcohol addiction, Leaving Las Vegas (it's apparently an addictive city) is adorned as among the most true-to-life and captive of the experience—although it’s not without its Hollywood angles. Still, the Nicolas Cage-starrer is leagues beyond the genus of films that point at laugh at the town-drunk stumbling merrily from one bar to the next. Now, don’t take this vantage point as a complete vilification of these movies. I love Fear and Loathing. I think Jack Black is comedic dynamite. I’ve watched more Seinfeld and Simpsons than any human being healthily should. There are countless films and programs in the same company that I find perfectly entertaining, and, perhaps in other respects, perfectly valuable pieces of the medium. But the issue is as such: for every one of these depictions of an addiction, we need a film like Requiem, like Leaving Las Vegas, like Shame. Comedy can absolutely prove useful as a vehicle for dealing with and overcoming the pains and sorrows of any tragedy or illness, addiction not excluded. However, before this method can be upheld, we must have a firm understanding of the sincerity and gravity of the situations at hand. Movies like Shame are invaluable, in that they are both educational and evocative. We might come away from nine out of ten feature films laughing about the zaniness of addicted individuals—but when one makes an effort to throw us into the harrowing, tumultuous experience that real-life addicts have to deal with every day, it can make a world of difference.
  • Christian Bale Out of 'Noah', Michael Fassbender Might Take the Lead
    By: Michael Arbeiter Nov 30, 2011
    I love it when disappointing news is followed immediately by sensational news. I was one of many who was totally behind the choice of Christian Bale to play the titular Biblical hero in Darren Aronofsky's developing film Noah. First of all, anytime the man sports a beard, techtonic plates shift. Secondly, I was super pumped to see him use his gravely Batman voice to try and soothe frantic animal passengers during a seafaring apocalypse. So yes, it's a bit saddening to hear that Bale has passed on the role. But there's someone else in consideration for the Noah lead now. Someone who melds whimsy with gravity, charm with bile, relatability with superhumanity: Michael Fassbender. Dare I say, perhaps the greatest Noah that anyone could ever imagine? Let's not get ahead of ourselves (we did that with Bale, and look where it got us). Fassbender has not officially been offered the role. He has, however, made mention of the fact that he and director Aronofsky (whose Black Swan is still having aftershocks on my psyche) have discussed the possibility of him taking on Noah. And that's good enough in which to at least invest some optimism. And with this as a potential, Fassbender proves once again that he is unstoppable. This year alone, he has thrived in the worlds of Marvel Comics (X-Men: First Class), literary adaptations (Jane Eyre), human psychology and historical biopics (A Dangerous Method is a twofer), and promises nothing short of glory in Shame, the upcoming exploration of the turmoils of sex addiction. It's hard to say why Bale would pass on this doubtlessly sensational project. But our ruminating days are over. We've moved on. Sure, we grieved the loss of Bale for about a paragraph, but we're on the Fassbender train now. Or should I say...the Fassbender ark? No. I probably shouldn't.  Source: Variety
  • UPDATE: Harrison Ford Confirmed for 'Ender's Game' Role
    By: Michael Arbeiter Nov 30, 2011
    UPDATE: It was reported today that Harrison Ford is officially signed on for a part in Gavin Hood's Ender's Game. Ford will be playing Col. Hyrum Graff, the administrator at a special battle school that recruits and trains the titular Ender (Asa Butterfield of Hugo) in warfare against a hostile alien species. Ford is among a few impressive newcomers to the cast; others include Abigail Breslin (as Ender's sister), Hailee Steinfeld (as Ender's "gal Friday" of sorts). -Variety EARLIER: It was reported last night that Gavin Hood's developing film adaptation for Orson Scott Card's science fiction novel Ender's Game has cast Asa Butterfield. Aside from the humor in the fact that the adaptation of a book that won the Hugo Award is casting an actor that might very well win an award for Hugo, this is some pretty terrific news. But there's more optimism attached to this project, and it comes in the form of a classic Hollywood hero: Harrison Ford. Ford is being considered by Ender's Game producers to fill the role of Colonel Hyrum Graff (which is one of the Harrison Fordiest character names I've ever heard). In the novel, Graff is the tyrannical, strategic leader of the military camp in which the main character Ender Wiggin (Butterfield) enrolls in training to become one of a fleet of planetary saviors. Back in the old days, Ford was the ruffian renegade running amok of no-nonsense leaders and military men. But as time passes, it seems as though the latter type of role is more suitable for the actor. Ford can dole out some serious hostility, which will come in handy for Col. Graff. Although he's just a potential candidate for the role right now, the teaming of a celebrated work of science fiction with one of the greatest actors of the fantasy/adventure genre is worth getting excited about. Source: Variety
  • Lea Michele, Scarlett Johansson and Taylor Swift in Talks for 'Les Miserables'
    By: Michael Arbeiter Nov 30, 2011
    So far so good in terms of all the Les Miserables news we've gotten: Hugh Jackman as Jean Valjean, Anne Hathaway as Fantine, Russell Crowe as Inspector Javert. All classy actors, all pretty much universally lauded choices. The world has been in relative argeement over the positive casting thus far undertaken by Les Mis. But now, what with the reveal of four viable candidates for one supporting role, some serious fists are about to fly. Brace yourselves as we enter a titanic battle: who should play Eponine? We've just today caught wind of four young actresses, each with a pretty steadfast following, being considered for the role of the spoiled daughter of the Thénardiers whose fortune turns, causing her to live life as a street urchin. The names in question: Lea Michele, Scarlett Johansson, Taylor Swift and Evan Rachel Wood. And now, we examine the choices... Lea Michele: Glee's leading lady is no stranger to playing spoiled close-to-rotten. Rachel Berry, while not a malicious character, is just about the most self-absorbed human being in contemporary television. Plus, she's got pipes. I'd say she's got a fair shot at the title, and is indeed worthy of the cause. Scarlett Johansson: I can't recall ever hearing Johansson sing. As for her acting abilities, it's sort of dependent heavily on the material. She has wowed me in the past—I really appreciated her Lost in Translation and Girl with a Pearl Earring performances. Considering that we're dealing with Les Mis here, I don't doubt that the film will be strong enough to showcase the (very) good side of this actress. Taylor Swift: In sort of a reverse of the Johansson phenomenon, I know I've heard her sing...but definitely haven't seen Swift do much acting. Truth be told, her live action performance history is limited to Valentine's Day and one episode of CSI. She may be a talented singer, but Les Mis requires someone who can really tap into the essence of the character as well. Evan Rachel Wood: For some reason, I've got a strong feeling that the role will be Wood's. True, this actress doesn't have the same cult devotion that the other three enjoy, but she has done her share of acceptable work—most notably in The Wrestler. Wood is the dark horse of the bunch, but one I wouldn't put all my money against. So there it is. Four actresses, one role. Who will take it? Tom Hooper, you evil genius... Les Miserables heads to theaters Dec. 7, 2012. Source: Indiewire
  • New 'Men In Black 3' Posters Might Have Secret Powers
    By: Michael Arbeiter Nov 30, 2011
    Now, I'm just as excited for Men in Black III (and more importantly, Will Smith's first musical creation in far too long) as anybody else...but I'm not exactly willing to singe my retinae over it. Apparently, however, that's what is expected of MIB fans, as staring at the below posters for the third installment in the fun-loving sci-fi adventure series too long might just made your eyes turn to dust. Below, we can see (just take quick glances!) Mosaic-esque posters of stars Smith and Tommy Lee Jones, in character as Agents J and K, mastering their no-nonsense stares to prepare us for a raising of the stakes in  the upcoming MIB movie. My theory is that, actually focusing your eyes on these posters will have the same effect as the tiny memory-erasing mechanism from the past films...maybe they're hoping to make us forget about the relatively lackluster Men in Black II, and keep our minds fixed on the modern classic that was the original. Either way, excitement is brewing for MIB3, which comes out May 25, 2012.        
  • Exclusive: Jeffrey Donovan Asks His Enemy for Help in 'Burn Notice' Preview
    By: Michael Arbeiter Nov 30, 2011
    In this exclusive clip from this week's episode of USA's spy drama Burn Notice, renegade agent Michael Weston (Jeffrey Donovan) asks the unlikeliest of people for help on a case: Agent Fullerton (Jere Burns), the man responsible for Weston's burn, and the blackmailer of his girlfriend Fiona (Gabrielle Anwar). But as the clip proves, sometimes enemies can help each other out. Burn Notice airs Thursdays at 10 p.m. ET/PT on USA.  
  • Nathan Fillion Gets Back at Prius Drivers: Late Last Night
    By: Michael Arbeiter Nov 30, 2011
    Last night, Nathan Fillion visited Conan to display his very expensive, super-complicated Halloween costume, to show off his perfect voice, and to discuss getting revenge on arrogant Prius drivers. Jesse Eisenberg appeared on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon to talk about Asuncion—the new Broadway play he wrote and stars in—and its unexpected success, as well as the painful audition process actors have to go through, and how maddening it is trying to perfect the same show every night.  The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn star Julia Jones showed up on Jimmy Kimmel Live to talk about being the only girl in the Twilight wolf pack, and to insult Jimmy by rejecting his gift of roses. Finally, Betty White stopped by The Daily Show to discuss her new means of "romantic exploits," and the personal friendships she has formed with gorillas, whales and other animals over the years. The Daily Show with Jon Stewart Get More: Daily Show Full Episodes,Political Humor & Satire Blog,The Daily Show on Facebook
  • Has The Lizard Slimmed Down in New 'The Amazing Spider-Man' Image?
    By: Michael Arbeiter Nov 30, 2011
    Here in the world of the Internet, there is a bit of skepticism attached to's newly released concept art image of The Lizard, a central villain in the upcoming The Amazing Spider-Man, played by Rhys Ifans. Comingsoon points out that The Lizard, as depicted below, resembles a slimmed-down version of the villain first seen in a clip from the film that was screened at 2011's San Diego Comic-Con. This has led a few to surmise that the art below might be an outdated depiction of what has become a bulkier, generally larger Lizard. But that aside, basically, the Lizard will look something like the figure illustrated below. This taken into account, The Amazing Spider-Man looks to be a darker, grittier, more intense rendition of the Marvel Comics superhero story than its 2002 Tobey Maguire counterpart. The Amazing Spider-Man stars Andrew Garfield as Peter Parker/Spider-Man, Emma Stone as Gwen Stacy, Ifans as Dr. Curt Connors/The Lizard, Martin Sheen and Sally Field as Parker's Uncle Ben and Aunt May, and Denis Leary as Gwen's father, George Stacy. The film, directed by Marc Webb, opens July 3, 2012. Source: via The Lizard
  • HBO Announces Dates for 'Luck', 'Eastbound & Down' and Ricky Gervais' 'Life's Too Short'
    By: Michael Arbeiter Nov 29, 2011
    HBO has announced premiere dates for two new original series, in addition to a returning favorite. One of the most talked about new shows is Luck, the horse track drama starring Dustin Hoffman and Nick Nolte. Luck will be airing a special preview of its first season on Dec. 11 at 10 p.m. ET/PT (right after the second season finale of Boardwalk Empire), but its season will officially begin with a premiere on Sunday, Jan. 29 at 9 p.m. ET/PT. Returning to HBO is the frenzied, quirky comedy Eastbound & Down, starring Danny McBride as tactless baseball star Kenny Powers. Following the third season premiere of Eastbound & Down will be a series new to America: Life's Too Short, created by and starring Ricky Gervais, Warwick Davis and Stephen Merchant. The series will follow Davis' (playing a fictionalized version of himself) tribulations in life as a dwarf and aspiring actor.  We've already gotten a couple of glimpses at the series (including cameos by a hostile Johnny Depp and a very "comedic" Liam Neeson), which already started airing over in the U.K. If what we've seen is any indication, this should be quite a promising series. Sunday, Jan. 29 Luck (9 p.m. ET/PT) Sunday, Feb. 19 Eastbound & Down (10 p.m. ET/PT) Life's Too Short (10:30 p.m. ET/PT) Source: Deadline