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 to Make Directorial Debut with Capote's 'Summer Crossing'
    By: Michael Arbeiter Nov 18, 2011
    Sometimes, the story behind a story is more interesting than the story itself. Truman Capote is a revered name in the modern history of American literature, whose classics include Breakfast at Tiffany's and In Cold Blood. The writer's life and work were celebrated in the 2005 biopic Capote, which starred Philip Seymour Hoffman. One piece of Capote's work has long been attached to a special air of intrigue: his first novel, Summer Crossing, which went unpublished until 2005, over two decades after the author's death. The novel is now being adapted into a film, and some of the most interesting aspects of this new development surround the evasive source material as well as the director assigned to the project: Scarlett Johansson. Johansson has established herself as a major screen presence since beginning her acting career in the mid-1990s. She has worked with a wide variety of directors who far exceed "noteworthy": Woody Allen, Michael Bay, Sofia Coppola, Brian De Palma, Jon Favreau, Christopher Nolan, Robert Redford, and will work under Cameron Crowe in the upcoming We Bought a Zoo. So, perhaps she picked up a thing or two along the way from this cavalcade of filmmakers. At the very least, she picked up the itch. Summer Crossing will be an interesting debut project for Johansson. The plot revolves around the daughter of an elite socialite Protestant couple who, when left on her own in New York City for the summer, begins dating a working-class Jewish man. Source: Variety
  • 'Person of Interest' Recap: Foe
    By: Michael Arbeiter Nov 17, 2011
    S1E8: Who’d have thought that a high-concept spy procedural about government surveillance would offer some of the most palpable human drama stories I get to see in television these days? Okay, maybe that’s a little bit of a stretch—as a matter of fact, the real meaty and emotional stuff seems to only happen in the last ten minutes of Person of Interest’s episodes. Maybe they’re just pulling easy punches—this week, the plot revolves around a Cold War-era German secret agent who seeks out his estranged wife whom he thought to be over twenty years dead. And yes, I’ve been known to be an easy mark for television tear jerkers. But somehow, when Person of Interest really lays out these characters—the killers, the ones we’re generally supposed to despise—for in a way that makes them seem anything but monstrous (rather, tortured), I can’t help but feel something. And when they actually draw parallels for one of the two leading men (four times out of five it’s Reese), and remind us that somewhere inside, they too are human, that really drives it all home. This is what makes the show work: it reminds us that it’s a show about living, bleeding, suffering people. Not just numbers a machine spits out. “Nagle hasn’t made a single electronic transaction in his own name since 1987.” – Finch “Where has he been for twenty-four years?” – Reese “And why is he back?” – Finch I may have mentioned once or twice my fondness for Person of Interest’s guest casting habits. I may have also brought up an irrevocable obsession with LOST. Well, today is my lucky day, and that of about 90% of the people who started watching this show based on its producer and leading man: this week’s guest star is Alan Dale, known better to LOST fans as the dastardly Charles Widmore. So…rockin’. Dale plays a former spy who resurfaces after an extended “presumed death.” He is on a mission to track down and kill three former partners who betrayed him to the American government in favor of fresh starts and new lives in New York. Dale’s character manages to successfully execute two of these three men—not before attracting the attention of a German government agent, who is on a mission to stop Dale’s character from committing these murders. When Dale comes face to face with his final foe, once his closest friend, the man admits that his wife is still alive—Dale learns that she faked her own death with the help of the U.S. in order to escape her husband once she learned of the horrible things he had been doing for his government (all the murders, and whatnot). So, this tears up his psyche something awful. And it doesn’t help much when he finds out that all this time, she and he have had a daughter he never knew about. The strength of this week’s episode doesn’t lie much in the plot. Its greatest achievement is making us actually feel for Dale’s murderous character. At the end of the episode, Dale confronts his wife and daughter, learning the truth behind his wife’s leaving of him: she admits that she was afraid that he was dangerous, and she wanted to raise their child in a world free of these evils. Dale not only understands, but agrees with her, and raises an unloaded gun toward her in order to get Reese to shoot him, putting him out of his misery. “She has my mother’s eyes.” – Nagle A lot of parallels are drawn between Dale’s character and Reese in the episode. The main theme is Dale’s willingness to do “bad” things for his government, and his willingness to justify these things in his own mind. We get a flashback of Reese’s early days with the force, being broken in by a woman who kills two men without so much as a question. Reese is shown to have a moral dilemma with her actions, but she insists that what their agency is doing is “right,” just before giving him the handle “Reese.” If it weren’t powerful enough to see Dale go through this torrential existential crisis, we also see the same sort of thing applied to Reese. Seeing Reese when he was detached from society, from the world, from his lost love makes us ache for him all the more. The episode is colossal in its humanization of this mysterious character. Although it isn’t as “big” and “promising” as the last Person of Interest episode, “Witness,” “Foe” has some genuine humanity to spare, and does wonders for our attachment to the show and to its characters—both main and guest.
  • 'Parks and Recreation' Recap: Smallest Park
    By: Michael Arbeiter Nov 17, 2011
    S4E8: Every episode of Parks and Recreation—even the very worst episode of Parks and Recreation—is still a chuckle-worthy, syrup-slathered delight that is the rare combination of both clever and life-affirming and sweet. That’s the worst case scenario for this show: a few laughs and some smiles. So how, pray tell, would I describe this show at its best? Much like what is buried in Ron Swanson’s backyard: gold. This week’s episode of Parks and Recreation is such a magical delivery after last week’s meager-for-the-show/terrific-by-all-other-standards episode. It’s not a particularly complicated episode, but it’s an episode that embraces everything that is just right about each of its major characters: Leslie’s unwillingness to accept anything but perfection, Tom’s sky-high ambition to be the greatest businessman who ever lived (which I worried was dead after his return to the Parks department), Andy’s wide-eyed misunderstanding/love of pretty much everything on Earth, and Ron Swanson’s ability to coexist perfectly with while completely rejecting altogether the world entirely. Any problems there? Of course not. "Anne, your quiet support means the world to me. As well as your tacit endorsement of all my behaviors." - Leslie Leslie has taken on the conquest of creating the smallest park in all of Indiana for Pawnee, which is literally just a few feet large. A project so insignificant (to anyone but Leslie) seems capable of breezing by without conflict, which means it will be over in a jiffy. The only problem here: Ben explains to Leslie that due to the emotional difficult of working with her, after the Smallest Park project is over, he will be requesting to Chris that he no longer work with her or the Parks Dept. So how does Leslie handle this? Draw out the Smallest Park project as long as humanly Lesliely possible. It is things like this—these incredibly innocent yet somehow decidedly ingeniously crafted schemes that make Leslie Knope the most unbelievably likable character in modern fiction. Obviously, her plan goes awry and ends up making Ben even more upset with her. He calls her a steamroller for neglecting his feelings in favor of her own, which Anne confirms (in the most supportive way possible). After deliberating the matter, Leslie apologizes to Ben and offers him complete freedom from her…or, and here’s where your eyes might start welling up, the two can put it all on the line, come clean and try for a real relationship. Sure, it might sabotage Leslie’s lifelong goal of running for office. But Leslie is willing to take that chance. As I said, she’s clever, ingenious and terrifically strong, but Leslie is nothing if not a romantic whose heart is oh so prone to melting. Their quiet, slow-paced final scene has real kick to it. It’s not sappy, it’s serious and heartfelt, much like many of the sweet moments on this show. I don’t know what will happen from here on out, but I’ve never been more invested (and believe me, I’ve been quite invested). One final thought about this storyline: Leslie trying unsuccessfully to provoke conflict in a public forum filled with the regular nut jobs who always cause her department grief—this is the sort of thing that fans of the show can’t help but feel rewarded watching. Thank you, show. "This is our current community center...and this is our new community center! That's right—it looks like an Apple store!" - Tom I was very afraid of what might happen to Tom once he returned to the Parks Department. Sure, he’s funny here. But are we going to be expected to cast away his dreams and allow him to return to his sardonic slacker role? Graciously, apparently not. Although Tom is back in his old position, he applies a new zest and flare to the job now, realizing he can utilize his creativity and business sense right here in the Parks Dept. Jerry plays the foil, recommending complacency and telling Tom kindly that the government is no place for his flashy, stylized antics. However, Jerry inadvertently inspires Tom to reinvent the department’s logo, channeling a limited-time retro style from Jerry’s early days in the department. Tom and Jerry have never had a rapport beyond mockey, and although Jerry didn’t do much in the way of actively trying to help Tom achieve his goal, and Tom’s acknowledgement of Jerry’s contribution was backhandedly complimentary at best, it is still kind of a nice moment for the two of them. They both seem pleased, anyhow. I guess that’s how things role at Tommy’s Place. "Of all of my coworkers, Andy is one of a small number whom I do not actively root against." - Ron Andy Dwyer, April Ludgate and Ron Swanson take the day off to go to college. I would pay inordinate sums of money to see that three-hour movie. But I’ll gladly settle for rewatching this episode’s B-story, in which Andy, on a quest for self-betterment, decides to enroll in one class at the local college. April wants Andy to choose something he’s already excellent at (i.e., guitar—by the way, it’s kind of warming to see Andy as the best in the room at something; the scene wherein he casually shows off his knowledge of and talent at the guitar really makes me feel good for the character, and proves that he has more value than just goofy one-liners), while Ron suggests that he find something new in order to genuinely learn. Ron recounts a story when his own father insisted that Ron work at the steel mill instead of pursuing a college education, but that he neglected his father’s wishes and paid his own way through college. Ron is adamantly averse to just about everything on Earth, so to watch him genuinely proclaim his steadfast value of a good education is really intriguing to me. It’s easy to take a character like Ron, a hypermasculine, old-fashioned woodsy type and lock him into a thoughtless, backwards-thinking stereotype. Instead, Ron is regularly one of the wisest, most progressive figures on the show. Instilling these traits into such an easily admirable character is a terrific choice. After a slew of hilarious, laser-centric academic hijinks, Andy/April/Ron all mutually agree that Women’s Studies is the most fascinating class offered, and that Andy will be taking said class. And yes, his heart is definitely in the right place. But no…it doesn’t mean he’s immune to some highly embarrassing comments in the lecture. The episode is chockfull of all of the things that make Parks such a treat for its viewers. The show loves its characters so much, and celebrates them wholeheartedly in this episode. The Leslie/Ben story is both hilarious and heartbreaking. The Tom/Jerry story is highly encouraging. And Andy/April/Ron…that’s about as good as television gets.
  • Sink Your Teeth into Our Collection of 'The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn' Clips
    By: Michael Arbeiter Nov 17, 2011
    Chances are, you or someone you know is afflicted with the pandemic disease known as Twi-berculosis: a chronic fixation on all things Twilight. Thus, tomorrow's release of The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 1 is likely to have your head spinning and heart racing. And although you only have one day left to wait, we understand that withdrawal symptoms are getting pretty unbearable. So, we've compiled a few Breaking Dawn clips, leading off with a brand new clip courtesy of Yahoo, to tide you over until dawn breaks on Friday. In Yahoo's newest Breaking Dawn clip, Edward (Robert Pattinson) fends off attacking werewolves in the interest of protecting his family.  Jacob (Taylor Lautner), Carlisle (Peter Facinelli) and Esme (Elizabeth Reaser) consider the dangers involved in getting the much-needed blood to the pregnant Bella (Kristen Stewart). Although they understand that their own lives are in peril, both of the Cullens promise to help Bella. Edward and Bella share their wedding vows as the star-crossed couple marches hauntingly down the aisle of matrimony. Jacob tries to rally the vampires to fight back against the approaching Sam (Chaske Spencer) and his army. The vampires insist on keeping the peace, but Jacob knows the consequences of this passiveness. The honeymoon stage has barely begun, and Bella is already pregnant. This is a big deal for two humans...think of how much of a stressor it would be if you had to wonder if your embryonic child was actually the monstrous spawn of a vampire?
  • Casting Roundup: Greg Kinnear on 'Modern Family,' NBC Throws Betty White a Birthday Party
    By: Michael Arbeiter Nov 17, 2011
    Modern Family has done fun things with some pretty great guest stars—Ed Norton's Season One appearance comes to mind. Another actor known best for his big screen activity will be heading onto the set of ABC's top sitcom: Greg Kinnear. Hardly an amatuer at playing the suave but somewhat seedy individual, Kinnear will bring his talents to Modern Family as Phil's new business partner. Last night, we saw Phil venture into a new, exciting but risky professional opportunity with two fellow real estate agents. It seems that Kinnear will play one of them: Tad, a man who Phil idolizes and Claire secretly disdains. We're not exactly sure what rubs Claire the wrong way about Tad, but Kinnear can pull off sleazy with the best of 'em. Modern Family airs on Wednesday nights at 9 p.m. ET/PT on ABC. -EW Betty White has made it perfectly clear that there is no place she'd rather be than in the spotlight, and her upcoming 90th birthday is proof of that. NBC is putting together a televised birthday celebration special in honor of the to-be nonagenarian; it will film before the end of 2011 and to air close to White's 90th birthday, which is Jan. 17, 2012. The special will include tributes from some of White's former and current collaborators, including the casts of The Mary Tyler Moore Show and Hot in Cleveland (the latter series is also planning a "birthday episode" for White's character Elka). -TVGuide When 30 Rock returns to NBC this spring, it will bring with it a very welcome guest star: Kristen Schaal, the quirky comic actress who is likely best know for her regular role on the HBO series Flight of the Conchords, on which she played the hopelessly devoted Mel. Schaal's role on 30 Rock has yet to be revealed, but we do know that she will be gifting us with a multi-episode arc. -Vulture
  • 'The Avengers' Are Back in Two New Slick Banners
    By: Michael Arbeiter Nov 17, 2011
    So, it's been a while since we've seen or heard anything about The Avengers. For a while, we were getting image after image depicting our favorite Marvel heroes united as one unstoppable team. But then, and it's hard to say why, it all just sort of stopped. Maybe the world didn't want to wear out its Avengers energy (Avenergy?) all at once. Maybe it needed time to compile a new heap of imagery so that we could again be receptive of a steady flow of wonderful Marvel pics. Maybe we all just got caught up in The Walking Dead. Whatever the reason, it is all null and void now. The Avengers are back, in a pair of new, flashy banners. Below, we see a pair of new banners celebrating the upcoming Marvel epic. The top banner depicts Captain America (Chris Evans), Dr. Bruce Banner/The Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), Iron Man (Robert Downey, Jr.) and Thor (Chris Hemsworth). The bottom banner shows Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson), Loki (Tom Hiddleston), Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) and Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson). Want to compare this to the first outburst out Avengers artwork? Click these links to see the team banding together, ravaging a city, or posing for EW. Source: Yahoo
  • Mysterious New Clip  from Martin Scorsese's 'Hugo' Will Dazzle You
    By: Michael Arbeiter Nov 17, 2011
    To me, Hugo is like a box. A special, magical box, filled with papers that fly about a room when the box is disturbed, producing gripping yet a bit unnerving animations of pixie women and moons being eye-poked. Of course, box magic cannot last forever. Eventually, a stern Uncle Ben Kingsley will waltz in, stifling the whimsy produced by the miraculous display. Don't ask me where I got this imagery, by the way. Just came to me. In the below scene from Martin Scorsese's Hugo, the young, sprightly duo of Hugo Cabret (Asa Butterfield) and Isabelle (Chloë Moretz) come across a magical box, much like the one that I made up all on my own without having watched this clip first. Although as a standalone clip from the movie, we are left craving more information, the scene is visually and creatively dazzling, as we see the imagination of an artist come to life mid-air. Literally. It's also a metaphor, probably.  Hugo comes to theaters Friday, Nov. 23.   Source: Cinemablend
  • Kirsten Dunst Joins 'Red Light Winter,' Starring Mark Ruffalo and Billy Crudup
    By: Michael Arbeiter Nov 17, 2011
    Another in a great mass of "old friends reuniting" movies is underway, and this one has a cast that will thrill anyone who loved Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind's B-Story. Mark Ruffalo and Billy Crudup have been signed onto Red Light Winter for some time, and news is that Kirsten Dunst is joining the duo to star in the film. Red Light Winter is the story of two old friends (presumably Ruffalo and Crudup) who have chaotic run-in with an Amsterdam promstitude (presumably Dunst) after heading to the notorious Dutch capital attempting to reconnect and distance themselves from the miseries of their mid-thirties. It seems pretty indie, considering the plot, cast and source material—a play by Adam Rapp—which is to say that it sounds interesting and intropective. Plus, the exploration of Amsterdam in a way not entirely ensconced by goofy marijuana jokes is rare for Hollywood. We should be excited to see some of the darker, more severe and artistic vantage points of the rich but haunting city. Note: Red Light Winter has absolutely nothing to do with Spike Lee's developing Red Hook Summer. But it should. Source: Indiewire
  • NBC Officially Picks Up Bryan Fuller's 'The Munsters' Reboot
    By: Michael Arbeiter Nov 17, 2011
    About a year back, NBC showed interest in developing a pilot for a reboot of the classic sitcom The Munsters, and established TV writer and producer Bryan Fuller was reportedly working on the project. Now, the project is officially underway. The Munsters has a special place in my heart: it was the first show that brought me into the world of live-action television. When I was around six or seven, and addiction exclusively to cartoons, I remember The Munsters being the show that opened the Nick at Nite lineup, effectively terminating my animation intake for the evening. Ordinarily, I'd turn off the TV and head upstairs, but one night, based on my father's recommendation, I actually decided to give The Munsters a chance. And it was a good show to start with: it was silly, filled with funny-looking people doing simple, goofy things. It made the transition easy. From there, I gave other Nick at Nite shows a chance: I Love Lucy, The Mary Tyler Moore Show, The Odd Couple...long story short, The Munsters is heartily responsible for my love of television, and in turn, my current employ as a TV blogger. And although this story is a personal, specific one, there are likely countless others who hold this classic sitcom in the same regard. So needless to say, we're skeptical that Fuller, master of the craft that he is, can really reproduce the whimsy of The Munsters. But this is not because he is untalented—Fuller has given us some fantastic television, including Dead Like Me, Wonderfalls, Pushing Daisies and the first season of Heroes. It is not because of Fuller at all. I presume, instead, that it is because of the audience. People always gripe at the idea of remakes, "It'll never be as good as the original." Well, that's in part because we aren't capable of accepting that it can be as good as the original. Those of us, of my generation, who grew up with The Munsters as a Nick at Nite show aren't really capable of being that fascinated and enamored by something fresh, new and imaginative as we were as young children, watching the judge from My Cousin Vinny stomp around dressed as Frankenstein with a smile. The Munsters was brilliant because of its simplicity. But now that we're older, we're averse to simplicity. And everyone young enough to still appreciate simplicity probably hasn't ever heard of, let alone seen, the original The Munsters. In short, I'm pessimistic about the success of The Munsters. Not about the quality—as I said, Fuller is brilliant and has it in him to create a great show. But it won't be The Munsters we once loved. Too simple, and we'll be bored by it. Too complex, and it'll be called a defamation and a different show entirely. I do truly hope that Fuller finds the middle-ground to please audiences. Kids today deserve to be brought into the underappreciated artform that is television with the same grace and magnitude that we were. And if this does end up being the show to do that for them, well...that's just poetry. Source: TVLine
  • Jerry Seinfeld Thinks Cell Phones Control Our Brains: Late Last Night
    By: Michael Arbeiter Nov 17, 2011
    Last night, Jerry Seinfeld graced the world with the standup talents that we miss so much, performing a routine on The Late Show. Seinfeld gave a very Seinfeldian take on everything revolving cell phones, and how they have completely changed society. Snooki showed up on Conan to dub Conan a "Guido in-the-making," to talk about using cat litter as an exfoliate, and to debut her "Snookify Me" app, and to shower Conan in her new perfume. The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 1 star Jackson Rathbone showed up on Jimmy Kimmel Live! to incite a surplus of high-pitched cheering, and to discuss living out a real-life version of The Hangover when he did fourteen shots of whiskey in a half an hour in order to win a shirt, woke up the next day in a rainy alleyway, and had no idea where his friend was. Finally, back on Conan, Rob Riggle appeared to ask the military not to call him back into action, to recall a very "romantic" love letter he wrote to his wife while fighting in Afghanistan, to talk about being terrorized by a female "drugger" when he was a child, and to give us one of his patented "POW"s.