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.
  • Kurt Sutter's Biting 'Sons of Anarchy' Renewed for a Fifth Season
    By: Michael Arbeiter Oct 17, 2011
    Kurt Sutter is a wild card, but he makes it work. A lot of people in show business know they need to walk a thin line with what they say—celebrities are often called on late night talk shows to apologize for comments they don't remember making. But Sutter is happily vocal, and rarely expletive-free, regarding any opinion he might have (including AMC's removal of Frank Darabont as The Walking Dead showrunner). But like I said, he makes it work. And that's because Sutter is responsible for Sons of Anarchy: a series so good, he can get away with saying almost anything. And I'm not the only one who thinks so; Sons of Anarchy has been picked up for a fifth season by FX. It's not a simple financial move. The network truly appreciates Sutter and his brilliant series. Said FX President John Landgraf, "Everyone at FX is very grateful to [executive producer] Kurt Sutter, his many writing, directing and producing collaborators and his masterful cast for making such a compelling and beautifully crafted show." Few who have seen Sutter's (simplistically put) motorcycle gang series can disagree. It is rife with interesting story, high-stakes, and worthwhile characters. Enough good stuff to keep everyone coming back each week and each season. Sons of Anarchy airs Tuesdays at 10 p.m. ET/PT on the FX network. The fourth season finale will air on Nov. 29. Source: TVLine
  • NYCC 2011: 'Red Tails' Panel Offers Action-Packed Footage & Stories from a Real WWII Pilot
    By: Michael Arbeiter Oct 17, 2011
    Sure, superheroes are the big sell at New York Comic-Con, but real-life heroes are none too shabby either. That’s the message to take away from the NYCC panel for Red Tails, the upcoming George Lucas-produced, Anthony Hemingway film about the Tuskegee Airmen, the first African Americans to fly for the United States military in World War II. The panel was comprised of the film’s co-writer, Aaron McGruder (who is famous for creating The Boondocks), and two cast members Michael B. Jordan (of Friday Night Lights fame) and Leslie Odom, Jr. (CSI: Miami), as well as graphic designer Craig Hammick (Star Trek). But the breakout highlight was Dr. Roscoe Brown, who himself was a real Tuskegee Airman who flew for the U.S. against the Nazis. Brown commanded a good deal of the discussion, applying a helping of severity and history to the Lucasfilms production. Brown explained that as a child in the 1920s and ‘30s, he and his peers would read pulp magazines about World War I heroes—Flying Aces—and dream to be like them. The panel offered its audience a look at the Red Tails trailer, after which Brown remarked that the footage “takes [him] back fifty, sixty years, and [he’s] young again.”   In addition to the trailer, attendees also got to see footage from the upcoming movie, in which Jordan's character goes head-to-head with a Nazi fighter plane, and becomes the first black soldier to take down an enemy flier. Dr. Brown also expressed that although the triumphs of the Tuskegee Airmen were a step for civil rights, the problem was hardly rectified immediately. In returning to society after the war, Brown sought employment as an airline pilot, only to be turned away immediately solely for his race. This drove Brown to become better, and to develop a more versatile area of expertise.  Although Brown’s words were the most fascinating, the other men shared some interesting thoughts as well. Aaron McGruder explained that in order to write the movie well, he needed to “stop trying to make a movie about black heroes…[and to] step back from the enormity of the history…[and to] focus on the fun…and good storytelling.” The actors shared stories about a boot camp they endured to prepare for the roles, with which Brown and some other Tuskegee Airmen were involved. Brown joked about the cast members: “These guys were pretty soft when they started. It was our job to toughen ‘em up.” Brown eventually laid to rest his playful mockery and admitted how proud he was to be associated with the men involved in the film, and how glad he was that the movie was being made.   Although it may not have been the flashiest presentation at NYCC this year, it was certainly among those with the most heart and sincerity. Dr. Brown's addition to the panel reminded us where many stories come from: real history, about real people. He didn't just give us a history lesson, he gave us a reason to care about this movie, and possibly a better understanding of something many of us are fortunate enough to have not experienced firsthand.
  • Our Favorite Trio Becomes Mysterious in New 'The Three Stooges' Silhouette Poster 
    By: Michael Arbeiter Oct 17, 2011
    The The Three Stooges movie is a tough one on which to form a concrete stance. On the one hand, many of us wouldn't be necessarily opposed to a Stooges "re-imagining"—although it would probably be better suited as a short, rather than a movie. It could be something quick and self-aware, landing between homage, parody and deconstruction. But what they're going for with this one seems a little...easier. The Farrelly Brothers are an accomplished duo. I, like most people, am a big fan of their early movies, which were not too complicated, but still very funny (I think every single person I know has Dumb & Dumber somewhere in their Top Ten). But placing the Stooges on a reality show (as is the premise of this movie) seems a little too simple -- the kind of choice they didn't really have to be entirely conscious to make. But that's looking at it through a negative lens. I am just as willing to believe this movie could turn out to be terrific. Some call the casting of the titular trio (Sean Hayes as Larry, Will Sasso as Curly and Chris Diamantopoulos as Moe) underwhelming, but having two relative unknowns on board might actually prove beneficial to the delivery of these very familiar characters. So really, it's a toss-up. But check out the silhouette poster, and decide for yourself whether or not this film will inspire any nyuks. Source:
  • NYCC 2011: Is The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo a Superhero?
    By: Michael Arbeiter Oct 17, 2011
    The best kind of thing that Comic-Con has to offer isn’t necessary new material from upcoming projects, but a great understanding behind the sorts of projects it does celebrate. NYCC hosted a panel on the debate over whether or not Lisbeth Salander, the main character from The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, is a superhero. Brought to discuss were psychologist/writer Robin Rosenberg, who worked on the book Is 'The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo' a Superhero?, Paul Levitz (DC comics writer), Tom De Falco (Marvel editor, creator of Spider-Girl), Danny O’Neil (writer for DC comics and Iron Man) and Danny Fingeroth (Superman on the Couch writer). In attacking the question at hand, the speakers needed to address the definition of the term ‘superhero’ itself. There are a handful of classic ‘superhero’ characteristics that Lisbeth (played by Rooney Mara in the upcoming film series) does possess. Her heightened abilities are no brainer—there are few who can match Lisbeth's photographic memory and hacking skills. Secret identity is a more debatable one; the panel argued that the persona the characters and readers see as Lisbeth is the identity she has created for herself, stemming back from her sexual abuse (origin story). What separates her from most classic superheroes is that she herself falls into the category of the type of victim Lisbeth has made it her life goal to avenge: abused women. In superhero mythology, more often than not, heroes are avenging a loved one in their quests to prevent and stop crime (Batman and Spider-Man are two big examples). After deliberating details like these, the panel spent a good deal of time focusing on the core of the issue of whether or not Lisbeth’s motivations and actions were truly ‘superheroic.’ The specific questions asked were, “Is she doing this for the greater good?” and “Can a superhero ever kill his enemies (as Lisbeth does)?” No real consensus was reached on this issue—as expected, the room was split, especially when posed with the latter question. The panel shared a scene from the Swedish Millennium Trilogy film series, wherein Lisbeth takes down a gang of bikers. They are not particularly evil men, more so just a nuisance to her at the time—although not exactly upright citizens, either. Furthermore, the panel cited Lisbeth’s embezzlement of criminals’ money in the story. The panel decided that she is not doing it as a preventative measure, to keep them from performing their malicious tasks adequately, but rather just for her own benefit. Of course, in a Machiavellian sense, this is a good act (her use of the money will be far less despicable than that of the original party), but her actions aren’t truly noble. Despite the lack of concrete conclusion, the panel was a fascinating analysis of both The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and the idea of a superhero, delivered by a group of people whose expertise are right on target for this sort of things: psychology and (more importantly) comic books.  And now the question is in your hands: Is the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo a superhero?
  • Charlie Day, Emma Stone and Jason Segel to Host 'SNL' this November
    By: Michael Arbeiter Oct 17, 2011
    So far so good, Saturday Night Live. This season has been largely a winner, opening with Alec Baldwin's stint on one of the show's funniest nights in quite a long time, and lasting through the episodes starring Melissa McCarthy, Ben Stiller and Anna Faris. But the real triumphs will take place next month, when three comic goldmines: Charlie Day, Emma Stone and Jason Segel. These will be first-time hosting gigs for Day and Segel, and Stone's second run on the SNL stage. Charlie Day is the Golden Goose of It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia and his first big movie Horrible Bosses. We all know what he's great at: a sort of desparate, borderline-psychotic hysteria that would be tragic if you were watching it happen to a real person. Day will grace Saturday Night Live on Nov. 5, likely keeping a few voice-cracking tantrums in his back pocket for the occasion. Maroon 5 will serve as musical guest. Emma Stone did well last time around on Saturday Night Live, embracing her legion of nerdy admirers and launching herself full force into the comedy. Stone's second SNL gig will air on Nov. 12, backed up by Coldplay. Finally, the man who we can't really believe hasn't already hosted: Jason Segel. Segel is a tour de force of self-deprecating comedic roles, both on television (we recall his Freaks & Geeks glory days with heartfelt sigh) and in films. Perhaps the most versatile of these three skilled performers, Segel's might be the most promising episode on the horizon for Saturday Night Live. And that's saying a lot, considering this company of talent. Segel's episode will air on Nov. 19, with the glorious Florence and the Machine as musical guest. Source: TVLine
  • 'Reel Steal' Director Shawn Levy Attached to 'Pinocchio' Prequel About Gepetto
    By: Michael Arbeiter Oct 17, 2011
    I can almost guarantee that Toy Story is a near-exact illustration of what Shawn Levy's childhood was like: his best friends were his playthings that he always sort of knew, in the back of his head, were alive. And that's what drives him to make so many movies about non-living things becoming living things. As if both Night at the Museum movies and Reel Steel weren't enough, he's now taking a stab at the original toy-come-to-life story: Pinocchio. Only, he's not really focusing on the whole Pinocchio aspect (naturally); instead, he's working on a prequel about the love life of Pinocchio's father, Gepetto. The script is titled The Three Misfortunes of Gepetto, and it is written by Michael Vukadinovich. The newest entity in the cyclone of re-imagination that has hit Hollywood will follow the lonely puppeteer through an adventure to win the heart of a girl named Julia Moon. This name alone is a departure from the more European-sounding names of the original Disney film's characters (Pinocchio, Gepetto, Figaro, Cleo, Monstro...let's call Jiminy Cricket a tourist). A minor detail, perhaps, but should this indicate other, wider liberties taken with the story and character we know and love? But back to the matter at hand: Levy has a truly strange fixation on this whole "things coming to life" theme that doesn't stop at the works listed. He's also attached to a Frankenstein project written by Max Landis. Hopefully this will satisfy his craving for now...if Levy gets involved with any of those rumored projects like Toy Story 4, Short Circuit reboot or Indian in the Cupboard IMAX Experience (okay, that last one I just made up), someone might have to call a good therapist. Source: Deadline
  • 'Boardwalk Empire' Recap: What Does the Bee Do?
    By: Michael Arbeiter Oct 16, 2011
    S02E04: Tonight's episode of Boardwalk Empire does make some headway in the realm of plot forwarding, but where it really wins is the look at three of its best characters: Gillian, Chalky and Richard. I'll quickly recount the steps the storyline took before I focus on the awesome character development. Nucky's lawyer figures out that Nucky has illegally transported prostitutes across state lines. This makes the case a federal issue, which means Nucky can seek the help of the Attorney General, who owes him many a favor.Nucky makes a deal with Rothstein for a port in Philadelphia so that he may import alcohol (Jersey is more or less closed off to him).Jimmy makes a deal with Philly indepdenent criminal Manny Horvitz, who is both lovable and threatening.Owen Slater builds a bomb for Nucky to plant beneath Mickey Doyle's storage shed; the bomb goes off when two FBI agents investigate the shed, having spied on Van Alden, who they think is a crooked cop. "You could have married me." - Gillian "I had a city to run." - The Commodore Gillian uses her exotic dancing to entertain the Commodore...and, unwittingly, to give him a stroke. The Commodore becomes immobile and unable to speak, which frustrates Eli and worries him about the retention of power. Gillian chastises Eli for his coldness, and reassures Jimmy that things will be all right. She then kisses Jimmy daintily, laying another pebble in the foundation of their strange relationship. The very end of the episode sees Gillian tending to the bedridden Commodore. She begins to reminisce about their first night together. Initially, the memory is sweet and poetic; she calmly recalls the waves crashing on the beach that morning, and the Commodore carrying her to bed. But then, the mood shifts abruptly. She begins descibing their first act of sex as a horrifying, tragic attack on her by the Commodore. She recounts the details of him holding her mouth shut and manhandling her, and then asks him if he remembers that night. When he cannot answer, she slaps him, demanding he do so. She slaps him over and over, eventually graduating to beating him violently until the episode closes. Perhaps it is his reduced power that allows Gillian to be honest (she must realize that while Eli is cold, he's is correct that the Commodore will no longer be viewed as the pinnacle of strength and power). Now that he is no longer valuable to her and her son, she can attack him with the feelings she has had all along. It is the first time we see real humanity and pain in Gillian, and it is very refreshing, although chilling. "I've been sitting tight. My ass is sore." - Chalky Chalky is out of jail, but his troubles are not over. In fact, he finds solace no place: not in his community, not in Nucky's office, not even in his own home. Chalky visits with the black community, to whom he has considered himself a hero and leader, but receives a good deal of anger from those who have lost family members to the KKK as a result of Chalky's alcohol business. He promises to take care of the issue, but no one is satisfied, and no one thinks of him as much of a hero anymore. He takes this issue to Nucky, but Nucky will hear nothing of it. He tells Chalky he needs to wait longer for justice, but Chalky and his community are frustrated by this.  But of course, the most interesting part about Chalky is the man behind the community figure. The man who holds a secret shame for his illiteracy and (suggested) humble upbringings. He's wealthy now, and his children are very educated, but this makes him feel inferior. When his daughter brings a young medical student to dinner, Chalky (drunkenly) asserts that the man thinks he is superior. His anger with the boy escalates quickly, earning tears from his daughter and scorn from his wife. Chalky heads out to his shed to carve wood, while the others stay inside enjoying music together. Last time we got a look at him, he came out the victor. In jail, he was looked at by his antagonist as a pompous, elitist man. But he then proved he was a man of the people. This situation is an interesting twist on the matter: Chalky learns he is no longer the people's man, and in turn feels "lower" and "inferior," and thinks everyone views him as such. "I'm never sure what's going on inside of [Richard]." - Jimmy Richard is far and beyond the most interesting character on Boardwalk Empire. That's sort of an easy claim: he's the mysterious, faceless man drenched in pain. He's almost literally the Phantom of the Opera. But who cares? He pulls it off well. Tonight's episode puts Richard with the only other character who is nearly as lonely as he is: Angela, Jimmy's wife. As we know, Angela is a painter. She askes Richard, who she seems to sense is on her wavelength, to pose for one of her paintings. He does. And it might be my favorite scene that I can remember in all of Boardwalk Empire. Richard professes to Angela that Jimmy loves her. I'm not even certain that he believes it as much as he just wants it to be true. He wants the idea of a perfect, loving family to exist in his presence. When she asks him if he has ever loved anyone, he recounts a happy, very close childhood with his twin sister. However, after the war, he was unable to feel any love for her, even though she treated him no different (despite his disfigurement). Richard removes his mask, prompting Angela to paint a picture of Richard's whole exposed face. He asks to buy the painting, but she gives it to him. Each of the characers' storylines are dark, sad and revealing of inner turmoil we hadn't entirely seen before. While Gillian's is the most surprising, Richard's is the most haunting and painful (it comes with the territory of his character). Not all episodes of this sort BE can be like this, but the ones that are turn out to be the real reasons to keep on watching.
  • NYCC 2011: 'Good Vibes', DC Animation, 'Robot Chicken' and 'South Park'
    By: Michael Arbeiter Oct 16, 2011
    NYCC offered a premiere of the pilot episode of MTV's Good Vibes, a “new kid in town/fish out of water” story created by David Gordon Green (Pineapple Express) about a chubby, nerdy New Jersey teenager moving to the model-ridden beaches of California. The pilot delivered a steady dose of witty dialogue (often vulgar, but usually clever) from its silly but likable characters. Although risqué, the series is never mean-spirited, and seems to value and care about its characters and their journeys to find themselves. Along with the pilot came a panel that included Green, executive producers Tom Brady, Mike Clements and Brad Ableson, and voice actors Josh Gadd, Adam Brody, Alan Tudyk, Debi Mazer, and Olivia Thirlby. Green opened the conversation by discussing his inspiration for the show: his desire was to tell a story about the “honesty of being a teenager and having a messed up social circle,” combining absurdity with heart. Brady elaborated that, in order to achieve this goal, they went on to acquire a team of writers that “had twisted, painful childhoods [and were] willing to write about them.” The presentation premiered the pilot (watch it below), which revolves around awkward New Jersey teenager Mondo Brando's (Gadd) attempts to find his place in his new town in beachside California. The panel also discussed future episodes, including one wherein Mondo and his best friend Woodie (Brody) dress in drag to sneak into a Mammogram truck. Get More: Good Vibes, MTV Shows, Full Episodes  One of Friday’s big attractions at NYCC was a panel dedicated to DC animation. The focal point of discussion at this panel—led by director Andrea Romano and animator/writer/producter Bruce Timm, with surprise appearances by Kevin Conway and Eliza Dushku—was the upcoming animated film Batman: Year One. Attendees also got to watch the short film, Catwoman, with Dushku as the titular character as she takes down a lecherous mob boss after his hired goons are caught attempting to murder a cat for mysterious reasons. Timm called this short “ten minutes of sex and violence we didn’t get to do in Batman: Year One.” Discussing their inspiration for making a film based on the Year One comic book, Timm said that it was “about [his] favorite comic book of all time,” due to its unprecedented “level of reality.” Another fun aspect of the panel was a clip from the in-development Justice League: Doom short film, adapted from the “Power of Babel” comic by Mark Waid. The story surrounds Batman’s attempts to create a dossier that would serve as a useful means of taking down the Justice League were they ever to become corrupt. However, the dossier falls into the wrong hands, and as Timm puts it, “wackiness ensues.” NYCC presented a Robot Chicken panel, hosted by creator and star Seth Green, co-creator Matt Senreich, writers Kevin Shinick, Douglas Goldstein, contributor and DC comics writer/producer Geoff Johns, and voice actors Clare Grant (Green’s wife) and—the most awesome surprise—Macaulay Culkin. The panel was expectedly informal—the group denoted it the Silly Hat Club; each member was dressed accordingly. They discussed the upcoming DVD release on Oct. 25, which will “somehow” (as Seth put it) contain episodes not yet aired—those that will comprise the fifth season, which will premiere in Jan. 2012. The audience was treated to clip of the series’ 100th episode (it's on the DVD and part of the new season), which featured the titular chicken breaking free from the clutches of the demonic mad scientist in the opening credits and wreaking deadly havoc on a mass of unfortunate characters. The panel also discussed two projects in the works: an animated Star Wars feature film, and DC comics homage episode on Robot Chicken. But the real highlights of the panel were when things went a little “off book.” Provoked by an audience member to strike a “sexy pose,” Seth and Macaulay formed a pyramid of machismo around Seth’s poor wife. It all culminated when Macaulay took things one step further and gave Seth a long, slow, sensuous lick on his face. Macaulay Culkin, people. A man who (as Seth puts it) “can spend the next three years alone, never leaving his house, and still remain more relevant than anyone in this room.” Finally, NYCC hosted a Comedy Central panel to celebrate the fifteenth season of South Park, dubbed “Year of the Fan.” The presentation was filled with a lot of South Park fun, including outtakes from the recent special documentary 6 Days to Air, which illustrates the process behind the development of a South Park episode, as well as a South Park trivia competition and a raffle. However, discussion of a feature film about the behind-the-scenes world of South Park was possibly the highlight of the event. The film will give fans insight into how creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone deal with their controversial series. Subject matter will include how they decide what to keep in and what to leave out, as well as how their decisions affect them and their show. One of the big topics that will be looked at in the film is the issue surrounding their infamous “Muhammad” episodes—audience members will recall Parker’s and Stone’s choice to include a visual representation of the Islam deity in their episode “Super Best Friends.” A later group of episodes, “Cartoon Wars,” surrounded the controversy over depicting Muhammad in a visual medium. According to the panel, all of this will be discussed by Parker and Stone in the film.
  • NYCC: 'Walking Dead' Cast and Creators Discuss Season 2, Premiere Footage
    By: Michael Arbeiter Oct 15, 2011
    NYCC’s most exciting television presentation this year was undoubtedly AMC’s The Walking Dead. Saturday night featured a panel including The Walking Dead creator Robert Kirkman, executive producer Gale Ann Hurd, co-executive producer and “special effects ninja” Greg Nicotero, and cast members Jon Bernthal, Laurie Holden, Stephen Yeun, Normand Reedus, Chandler Riggs and Lauren Cohan, who joins the cast in Season 2 as Maggie Greene. The actors and crew all expressed an incredible appreciation for the show and the opportunity they have gotten to work on it. At one point or another, everyone on stage deemed himself unbelievably fortunate and surrounded by a group of magnificent talents. But beyond this expression of general love for one another and their circumstances, the representatives for The Walking Dead also shared some interesting tidbits about the season to come. For those of you interested in avoiding spoilers, we suggest you stop here. We last left Andrea (Holden) a “sad sack who was suicidal all the time,” which Holden describes as “exhausting.” We will see a change in Season 2 which will give her a new drive to become a strong, “feisty” survivalist. We will even see Andrea get a few zombie kills under her belt. Young Carl Grimes will also come into his own this year. The amazingly sincere young Chandler Riggs was pleased to express his opportunity to “play two different characters in the same series.” Whereas Season 1’s Carl was always “scared in the background,” Season 2 will see the character “evolve to a new level” and “put himself in harm’s way.” According to Riggs, this will include “lying and stealing.” Finally, we learned a little something about fan favorite Glenn (Yeun), and where he’ll be headed this coming season. Yeun said about his character, “After the zombie apocalypse, he wants to be a hero, but he does it recklessly.” Yeun teased how this might change over the course of Season 2: “He might meet some people along the way, strike up a conversation…” (alluding to a romantic entanglement Glenn might enter with new character Maggie). Yeun charmed the audience with his sweet conclusion: “Finding something to love is a reason to live.” Of course, the highlight of the panel was the clip from Season 2. It goes without saying that unimpressive scenes in The Walking Dead are few and far between, but this was one of the rawest, most adrenaline-spiking scenes with which the show has yet to experiment. We find our heroes on a highway packed with deserted cars—Rick is the first to take notice of a swarm of walkers slowly approaching the campers. T Dogg finds himself in a bloody situation, while Andrea must fend for herself against a zombie attacker for the first time.
  • Lake Bell, Kid Cudi and Kanye West Party at Barney's Clothing Store: Late Last Night
    By: Michael Arbeiter Oct 14, 2011
    Last night, Lake Bell visited Jimmy Kimmel Live! talk about her relentless (but unsuccessful) efforts to impress Kid Cudi, as well as all the new slang he has taught her, and an after-party the two attended with Kanye West at a Barney's clothing store. Julianne Hough appeared on The Late Show to talk about her "need" to dance, her gold spandex-laden childhood endeavors in a family band called White Lightning, and the hippie-esque names for her many nieces and nephews. Again on Jimmy Kimmel Live!, John Goodman talked about getting The Big Lebowski lines shouted at him, the pornographic version of the movie that was made, and trying to stay in character at a dinner theater while people were yelling about their silverware. Finally, Bill O'Reilly visited The Late Show to discuss the only two people who refuse to come on his show, The O'Reilly Factor (Bill Clinton and Dick Cheney), and to refuse to accept David Letterman's very enthusiastic high-five offer.