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: Katie Couric Nabs Regis' 'Live!' Exit Interview, Banderas Takes On Lifetime
    By: Michael Arbeiter Oct 24, 2011
    Regis Philbin will be bidding farewell to his Live! days on Nov. 18, just under a month from now. While it will be difficult and strange to see him go, we can at least be sure that his goodbye will be treated with the respect it deserves. The night before Philbin's final broadcast, he will sit down with Katie Couric to undergo his "exit interview," in a segment called Katie Couric with a Regis Philbin Biography. The interview will likely go into detail on Philbin's long and impressive career in show business, his personal life, and where he plans to go from here. As Philbin has stated, his exit from Live! does not indicate that he is retiring. He is seeking other venues. And we all wish him the best of luck. Couric's interview with the entertainer will air Nov. 17 at 8 p.m. ET/PT on ABC. -AOLTV Lifetime is expanding its big name appeal once more. First we got word of a Johnny Depp project venturing to the network, and now there is a deal surrounding American Housewive, starring Melanie Griffith, and produced by Griffith and her husband, Antonio Banderas. The pilot will confront a mother's difficulties in dealing with children growing up and leaving for college, and those that don't seem to have as promising prospects. Eclipse director David Slade is in talks to direct. -Deadline Dharma and Greg's leading woman Jenna Elfman will find herself in a rare dramatic role on the final season of Damages. Elfman will portray an investment banker who becomes discouraged by her company's illicit business practices, and brings them to the attention of a Julian Assange-type, potentially played by Ryan Philippe. Elfman's character will also have a daughter, reportedly played by Alexandra Socha (The Big C). Damages returns to DirecTV next summer for its fifth and final season. -TVLine
  • Josh Gad, 'Modern Family' Director and Obama Speechwriter Plan NBC Sitcom
    By: Michael Arbeiter Oct 24, 2011
    What do you get when you cross a White House speechwriter, a comedic star of film, stage, and television, and the director of a show about a dysfunctional family? A comedic show about a dysfunctional family that lives in the White House. Okay, that was an easy one. President Obama's speechwriter Jon Lovett, Book of Mormon star Josh Gad, and Modern Family director Jason Winer (seriously, where did these people meet?) plan to create and executive produce 1600 Penn, a sitcom about the United States' first family and the personal troubles they deal with on the day-to-day, for NBC. Although this sort of thing has been attempted before (to less than stellar results), the team behind 1600 Penn is an interesting and promising one. Gad is on the climb; in addition to this project, he's writing another series for NBC about a family on the road. He'll also be starring in the upcoming animated series Good Vibes, and the developing film Thanks for Sharing. The Modern Family director is a catch for any blossoming TV project. Winer has directed eighteen episodes of the Emmy-dominating series during its first and third seasons. And Lovett? Well, he's the most interesting aspect of this whole project. It's not unprecedented for White House speechwriters to go into showbusiness, but this will certainly be a project unlike any we've seen before. We all loved Aaron Sorkin's White House, but Lovett's might win the medal for authenticity. Source: THR
  • New Trailer for Scorsese's 'Hugo' Paints a Faithful, Magical Portrait
    By: Michael Arbeiter Oct 24, 2011
    Earlier this month, one of our editors, Matt Patches, got to watch a screening of the still-unfinished Hugo, adapted by Martin Scorsese from the novel The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick. Unfinished though it was, Mr. Patches declared a pronounced adoration for the material he saw, which you can read about here. And the same sentiment is illicited from the trailer. It's not clear what exactly the movie as a whole will offer, but I can almost promise myself that it's going to be something that I will very much like. Hugo does seem like a very sentimental tale, but despite, or in light of, this (depending on who you are), the sweet approach looks to be a pro, rather than a con. The new trailer is a hypersensory, super-dramatic and fast-paced race through a train station, against time, toward's very Disney. Friendships are formed, old passions are restored, and I can bet that the nasty old police officer (Sacha Baron Cohen) will find a song in his heart at the end. I recommend you check out the new trailer at Apple, because it does indeed look to be a very enjoyable film. Hugo stars Asa Butterfield, Chloe Moretz, Ben Kingsley, Jude Law, Christopher Lee, Michael Pitt, Emily Mortimer, Sacha Baron Cohen and a dog. Source: Apple
  • Ben Affleck to Direct Matt Damon in Gangster Biopic
    By: Michael Arbeiter Oct 24, 2011
    It is often the journalist's challenge to relay stories that are inherently personal, and as such unique in connotation to everyone who might read them, in a universally appropriate fashion. While I do not proclaim myself to be a journalist, I still understand the importance of this challenge. Beyond being an incredibly personal story, Good Will Hunting is an incredibly personal experience. Everyone has their own unique attachments to the movie. And although they vary in degree and in nature, their existence in regard to just about every one of us is a consistency. For thirteen years, we've been hunting for the cure of our Matt Damon/Ben Affleck withdrawal. And in the saga of Whitey Bulger, we shall find it. Affleck's increasing prominence behind the camera is slowly overwhelming his onscreen presence. Somewhere down the line, we might think of his as that director who started his career in acting, way back when. Still in the middling zone, Affleck is directing and costarring, beside Damon, in a film about Whitey Bulger, the Boston-area criminal/FBI informant. But the GWH reunion doesn't cap off with Will and Chuckie; we're also getting a visit from Morgan—Affleck's brother (as he seems destined to be known forever, despite being the most incredible man in the world) Casey Affleck will also have a role in this upcoming film. No one can really explain what Good Will Hunting means to them in a way that will translate effectively to someone else. Some might first watched it with their parents, and will always remember the familial warmth they all shared at the climactic "It's not your fault" scene. To others, perhaps, it's more of a love story—maybe one that reminds them of their own Skylars to whom they've had to say goodbye, for whatever painful reasons. I have my own reasons why the movie is significant to me. To anyone reading this, they are unimportant. What is important, and what is special, is that we will enjoy a reunion of three of the young men who brought our generation a special, unique film. Perhaps the Whitey Bulger saga will not be as personal, as meaningful, as whatever-adjective-applies-best-toyour-particular-case-esque. But I suspect it will stir up something when we see the fellas back on the screen, in the South of Boston, together again. Source: Deadline
  • The Best TV You're Not Watching: 'Bored to Death'
    By: Michael Arbeiter Oct 24, 2011
    While HBO is better known for its powerhouse dramas, like Boardwalk Empire and Game of Thrones, it is no slouch when it comes to comedy. Entourage, Curb Your Enthusiasm and others have garnered respectable followings over the years. However, there is one HBO comedy series that seems incapable of winning over a sizable audience: Bored to Death. It's a strange, intriguing and fun half-hour series that follows the adventures of writer-turned-detective Jonathan Ames (Jason Schwartzman) in his constant attempts to keep his life interesting. Our hero is both named after and modeled after series creator and lauded author, Jonathan Ames. Although the episodes are consistently more interesting and original than most things on television, Bored to Death remains a pretty under-the-radar show. But rest assured, this well-cast detective comedy is more than worth snooping out. Why You’re Not Watching It’s Not Exactly a Gripping Title Death is a pretty polarizing topic, but boredom is almost universally despised. So, you’re not exactly roping in the masses with a title like the one this show has curiously chosen -- its reverberation in the incurably catchy theme song does give it a more fun connotation, though. At first glance of the premise, it seems like a slew of other titles might be more applicable and effective: Head Cases (think about it), Murder He Wrote, A Brooklyn Tale (and if you think all of these are horrible, that's exactly what I was going for). But once you become ensconced in the series and its characters, you realize that Bored to Death is the only appropriate thing to call this anything-but-boring series. It’s Not Always Super Funny...Just Really Wry I can see how, for a comedy, this might be a deal-breaker. There are full episodes that you might sit through without really laughing, but that’s not due to bad jokes—it’s just because they’re not really shooting for laughs. It’s hard, actually, to pinpoint what the show is really going for, but I’d say: a clever, joyful, and fun look at unbridled insecurity. But don’t get me wrong: sometimes, it is laugh-out-loud funny. But only when it tries to be. The ‘H’ Word If those two rationales seemed a bit flimsy, it’s because this third issue is invariably the real reason some people know about this show and choose not to watch it. Bored to Death is, unapologetically, the most hipster show on television. I know that has become a lazy, all-purpose term for things that are offbeat, off-kilter, or just plain off. But in everything from the Park Slope location to the celebration of white wine addiction, the self-aggrandizing self-deprecation and the characters’ often vocalized obsession over the “in,” this show is practically a hipster parade. To some, this might be offputting. But really, it’s just a show that both appreciates and acknowledges the peculiarities and flaws in the lifestyles of three (awesome) men with too much time on their hands. What You’re Missing It’s Like Entourage for the Emotionally Damaged It has been said about Entourage that one of the big reasons people loved watching it so much was that they enjoyed living vicariously through its characters. While the lifestyles of Vincent Chase and co. were ones real people are hard-pressed to fall into themselves, it was enough to spend thirty minutes a week watching the dream unfold onscreen, and then fantasizing a bit in the moments after the ending credits about how much fun that sort of life would be. Bored to Death has a lot of the same effect, just on a different demographic. Entourage spoke to people who longed for glamour, wealth, admiration, and a few carnal pleasures. Bored to Death speaks to people who long for adventure, danger, and general lack of responsibility. The show makes you daydream a bit about your own risky rejoinders through the nicer parts of Brooklyn—spending your days drunk and high, breaking locks and solving mysteries with your incredibly interesting best friends. Sure, you’d be a little nuts to consider this your ideal lifestyle (and probably in some kind of a midlife crisis), but no judgment: Bored to Death certainly depicts a life more quirky and intriguing than that many of us are living. Ted Danson Like You (Probably) Haven't Seen Him Before I imagine the real Ted Danson to be the coolest man in the world, which would still be possible if he was even half as cool as his Bored to Death character, George Christopher. Danson is most famous for his dim but down-to-Earth lethario, Sam Malone from Cheers. Later on, he took on the cranky, misanthropic title character in Becker. And now, he has lept full-force into madness with George Christopher: the pot-addicted writer with a Robert Evans-esque personal history who, in his later years, battles his insecurities by taking on every possible opportunity at fun and excitement that graces his path. Some might assume Zach Galifianakis to be the comic goldmine in this show. While Galifianakis' character is undeniably lovable, it is Danson who steals almost every scene. Artist and Nerd Empowerment It's a show that not only revolves around, but makes heroes (and supervillains) of writers, comic book artists, sci-fi enthusiasts, literary buffs, critics, journalists, and the devoted fans thereof. From the inception of the series, we are thrust into the world of these people and their kind. We are taken to art galleries, creative writing classes, comic book stores, and sci-fi conventions. Unlike other shows that claim to celebrate nerd culture, this one actually makes us feel at home in this world. Bored to Death highlights the wonders and inspirations of the nerd world, as opposed to relying on jokes about its geekiness and peculiarities. It just might make you consider paying a visit to the next Comic-Con. The Bottom Line Genre + Genre = Whole New Genre Detective comedies have been braved before. Often, they become spoofs, i.e. the great Naked Gun movies. Sometimes, the fun is derived from the super-dark, super-stylized nature of the project, i.e. the great Sin City. But Bored to Death is something new. It doesn't spoof detective movies—incidentally, its mood and themes are more reminiscent of detective literature. It uses tropes and traditions from this genre, combines them with the like from the comedy spectrum, and and ends up with something not really definable in either genre. Bored to Death is light-hearted, even when dealing with dark material. It's mysterious, even when the characters are in between cases, enabling one another's narcotic addictions. The ingredients of Bored to Death add up to a whole new type of show, that operates on a rhythm unlike most comedies, dramas or mysteries. It is quick-witted, but very calm and smooth, even in its most exciting, high-stakes scenes. So how do we classify Bored to Death? Fun. Bored to Death airs Monday nights at 9 p.m. ET/PT on HBO.
  • New NBC Series 'The Infidel' Will Seek Comedy in Relationship Between Muslims and Jews
    By: Michael Arbeiter Oct 24, 2011
    NBC's newest prospect is a series called The Infidel: a comedy about a devout Muslim (star and executive producer Omid Djalili) who finds out as an adult that he was adopted and is, in fact, Jewish by birth. The premise alone might make you shudder, but there are a few things to consider before immediately casting this project aside. Comedy is a very good way to approach controversial subject matter. It is often the only means to look at a tense situation without the severity that the real world applies to it. As a result, one might leave a piece of comedic work with a new, more open perspective on the topic at hand. Additionally, comedy might shed light on the inherent silliness in a point of view, or an entire controversy, held with a great deal of gravity by society. All in the Family is television's poster boy for this, although many other series have attempted, and succeeded, in tackling issues in a humorous way. But there is a subtle difference between using comedy to illustrate a new or more open perspective on a controversial situation and using comedy to milk a controversial situation for easy jokes. I'm not claiming that this is the intention of The Infidel. In fact, I strongly believe that it is not. However, I wouldn't be surprised if many see it this way. Often, when people see films and TV series like these, they take the jokes as surface value insults as the individuals or groups being mocked vocally by the characters. This is akin to watching All in the Family and assuming the show is actually promoting Archie Bunker's views. Of course, it is up to people to try and understand what the series is actually doing. But it is also the responsibility of the show (if it is indeed its intention to open minds rather than close them) to actually present the material in a way that does have this type of value. The Infidel was originally a British comedy film with the same plot: Djalili's character struggles with an identity crisis after finding out he is Jewish, and immerses himself in both Muslim and Jewish lifestyles. Whether the series will attempt to use jokes to smooth the jagged edges of this subject matter, or will simply vie for surface value jokes, is yet to be seen. Either way, this is a risky move—some people will be put off by this. But hopefully it is indeed the show's motive to get a message through to someone. And hopefully, that message will get through. Source: Vulture
  • Drew Pearce Will Write 'Sherlock Holmes 3'
    By: Michael Arbeiter Oct 24, 2011
    Drew Pearce is finding his niche: threequel screenwriter. First, Iron Man 3. Now, Sherlock Holmes 3. ... Okay, I guess two movies isn't enough to really define a niche, but when Johnny English Reborn-Again earns Pearce his Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay (loosely based on Faulkner's Light in August), don't say we didn't warn you. But the real news here is the fact that Sherlock Holmes 3 is already in the works, before even the second film has reached theaters. So far, Pearce is the only individual attached to the project, although we won't likely be seeing a SH3 without stars Robert Downey, Jr., and Jude Law. The real question is: will Guy Ritchie stay on as director? Ritchie directed both Sherlock Holmes and the upcoming Game of Shadows, but that doesn't guarantee the Two Smoking Barrels and Snatch. director will be back for Holmes' and Watson's third adventure through Baker Street. I suppose much of this project depends on how well we respond to Game of Shadows. But is anyone really all that willing to hate it? It's Sherlock Holmes. It's Downey and Law. It's guys dresses as girls. It's fun, it's fast, and it all works up to a nice, "Ohhh, now I get it!" moment at the end. So bring on a third! Source: THR
  • Gary Oldman and Helena Bonham Carter Wanted for 'Akira' Remake
    By: Michael Arbeiter Oct 24, 2011
    Anime is sort of a polarizing art form. Some people are immediately deterred by the word, while others recognize the amazing storytelling this medium has exhibited. But it helps to bridge the gap when the former group hears about familiar names being involved with anime projects. You may have heard that the anime benchmark Akira is being remade by Unknown director Jaume Collet-Serra. The latest news on this project regards the two acting talents being reached for major roles: Gary Oldman and Helena Bonham Carter. Oldman would be demoted from his formidable title of Commissioner to play the Colonel, were he to accept the role in Akira. In the original film, the Colonel is the tough but principled and good-natured project head of Akira who is unique as a government figure in his aversion to corruption. Carter's role would be that of Lady Miyako, the high-priestess of a Neo-Tokyo (where the story is set) temple who becomes a prominent figure in the story's central battle. Also in talks for this project is Tron Legacy's Garrett Hedlund, slated to play one of the lead characters. Source: Twitch
  • Watch the 'Star Wars: The Phantom Menace' 3D Re-Release Trailer
    By: Michael Arbeiter Oct 24, 2011
    Let's face it. Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace wasn't exactly one of the greatest theatrical releases we've ever sat through. But that probably resulted primarily from impossibly high expectations. So maybe, this time around, it'll go a bit more smoothly. 3D doesn't hurt. As foretold by the recent poster release, Phantom Menace will be braving theaters once more, early next year. Some dub this entry the worst of the series. Some claim it actually ruined the entire Star Wars saga for them. Some were so horrified by it, they retreated to a dark cavern and haven't been seen since (we miss you, Uncle Ferguson). But I maintain: give it another chance. Maybe without those aforementioned impossibly high expectations (really, what could have impressed us?) we might enjoy a theatrical showing of this film. And pod-races in 3D? How on Earth could you not even be a little excited by that? The 3D release of Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace begins Feb. 10, 2012. (via Comingsoon)
  • 'Boardwalk Empire' Recap: Gimcrack and Bunkum
    By: Michael Arbeiter Oct 23, 2011
    S2E5: The strengths of Boardwalk Empire as a series on the whole come into play when you hold an episode like this week’s “Gimcrack and Bunkum” up to, say, anything from the first season. Your typical Boardwalk might cover six or seven storylines, each delivered via verbose, high intensity (and dimly lit) scenes filled to the brim with fast-talking characters. The latest episode is not devoid of this device—Jimmy’s scene with the business heads is straight out of Hudsucker Proxy (hairstyles especially). But this week, Boardwalk tries something very new with Richard’s storyline, and it pays off in spades. “Think I can’t play this game?” – Jimmy “I don’t think you even know the rules.” – Nucky It’s Memorial Day in Atlantic City, and Nucky is back onstage, hosting the holiday for his townspeople. The episode opens with a small illustration of the major war going on in this series: Nucky v. Jimmy. In an attempt to throw his competitor for a loop, Nucky calls an unprepared Jimmy up to the stage to make a speech for the occasion. Jimmy marshals some earnestness (surprising Nucky, Angela, and I believe himself) with a moving, if not downbeat, speech about heroism. Although Jimmy comes out the victor in this battle, the episode does not see him consistently so. A meeting with the business heads shakes him up a bit: concerned about the displacement of the Commodore, and furious about the money loss that comes along with the explosion of Mickey Doyle’s shed, the men attack Jimmy. The wheelchair bound Mr. Parkhurst—after recounting his days of slaughtering Native American tribes—even hits Jimmy with his cane to embed some respect in him. This is the last straw, and Jimmy leaves the meeting in a huff, much to the bereavement of Eli. Of course, Jimmy brings his woes to the attention of his very loving mother, and keeps them a safe distance from his poor wife, Angela. “Unless you have something to say, aside from the fact that G-d distributes his gifts unevenly, this conversation is over.” – Nucky Although things seem to move in Nucky’s favor legally this week, it doesn’t mean he’ll be spending his Memorial Day with a good deal of cheer. Nucky meets with the Attorney General, who is not as interested in discussing Nucky’s case as he is in playing a round of golf. Eventually, Harry introduces Nucky to the prosecution, who is in cahoots with the whole “Save Nucky from the Trial” game being devised by the treasurer’s henchmen. Of course, none of this will play without a little Atlantic City entertainment for the lawyers, courtesy of Mr. Thompson. A small price, but an irritating one. However, Nucky’s real trials in this episode come with a visit from his brother Eli. Now that the Commodore is out of commission (as Eli discloses to Nucky) and Jimmy is losing the faith of the businessmen, Eli is begging Nucky’s forgiveness and asking to come back to his side. Nucky, however, will not have this. He has been betrayed by his own brother, something that hurts him nearly as much (sometimes even more) than his surrogate son’s betrayal. Nucky and Eli come to blows and engage in a long, well-choreographed, violent fight that only ends when Margaret pulls a gun on Eli and demands that he leave the house. It seems as though their brotherly bond—tested by years of jealousy and resentment from Eli to Nucky—is finally severed. This takes a toll on Nucky, Maggie (who is beginning to doubt her safety), and Eli, who, in a drunken stupor later on, murders George O’Neill when he batters him about the Commodore’s health. “These woods is for hunting, fishing, seeing what the birds get up to. These woods is for living. Understand me there?” – Glenmore (or Pete) the Woodsman Two weeks in a row, Richard is the show’s shining star. As explained earlier, this episode features a storyline unlike any we’ve seen in Boardwalk Empire just yet. An actionless, primarily wordless storyline, that furthers very little in the world of crime or politics—or anything beyond the internal makings of one man, really. It is shot far from the bustling boardwalk, deep in New Jersey’s woodlands, where Richard heads on Memorial Day morning with a simple plan: he is going to kill himself. But his plan for a serene, dignified suicide go awry when a dog swipes his mask, leading Richard to the campsite of two generous, intuitive woodsmen. Long story short, with their kindness, their apparent indifference to his facial condition, and their understanding of just what he plans to do in these woods and their expression of just how they feel about that, the men talk Richard out of suicide. I deliver this point with brevity for the simple reason that no matter how detailed my explanation of any part of Richard’s storyline is, it wouldn’t do it justice. As explained, up until he meets the woodsmen, Richard spends a good deal of the episode in long, beautiful, wordless and superficially actionless scenes. Nothing I could really type out about these scenes would at all capture what really goes on in them. They are some of the most captivating scenes in the entire Boardwalk series to date. “I’m here with you. My son’s asleep in his bed. Nobody’s hungry. Nobody’s scared. What else is there?” – Jimmy “There’s gotta be something. Hasn’t there?” – Angela The Darmodys get a visit from Richard. Angela answers the door, and we can feel the tension of their forbidden connection all the way through Richard’s subsequent interaction with Jimmy. However, when Richard poses the question to Jimmy, “Would you fight for me?” Jimmy answers, “Of course I would. Right down to the last bullet.” We’re not certain if Jimmy says this because he needs Richard’s assistance this night, or if he truly means it. Call me a sap, but I’m hoping (and allowing myself to believe) it’s the latter. And so is Richard. The two break into the home of the villainous Mr. Parkhurt and send a message of power through some poetic justice by actually scalping the man. It’s one of those scenes that makes you jump up in your seat…and the exchange between a shocked Parkhurst and a collected Richard (“Who are you?” “I’m a soldier.”) is pretty chilling. Nucky loses family by the episode—Maggie is next. Meanwhile, Owen Slater is shacking up with Katie the maid, Jimmy is slipping into his father’s role, and something tells me that Nucky’s case won’t be as easily won as he thinks. But who cares about any of that? We want more Richard.