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.
  • Did We Know the Real Robin Williams?
    By: Michael Arbeiter Aug 12, 2014
    Getty Images/Vera Anderson I was humming a tune from Robert Altman's Popeye, a terribly underrated feat of Robin Williams' comedy (and his first cinematic role), when I read the news of the actor's passing. Hastily, I diverted attention to the public sphere, rushing through the social media posts of friends, colleagues, and strangers, hoping for a taste of which Williams roles most touched the lives of each and every individual vocalizing grief. I knew there would be no shortage of reference to Williams' dramatic work — his Good Will Huntings and Dead Poets Societys — but of course my expectation was to find the principal focus on his comedy. More than an actor was Williams a comedian, whether he be playing on stage, on television, or on the big screen. So it was an especially jarring turn to discover, when I launched back from the tributes to ingest more information, just how Williams died: authorities had begun calling the incident a suicide. Only for a moment, though, was I so rattled in surprise. Williams' endeavors with rehab for drugs and alcohol, both this summer and earlier on in the 2000s, were no secret. But more significant than this is the fact that nobody is or isn't "the type" to take his own life; nobody should be a more surprising victim of suicide than anybody else. Stigmas to the contrary are a large part of why depression is such a treacherous epidemic in our world and country. Upon learning of Williams' death, some are bound to consider the dichotomy between the man we knew — the one who'd dress in drag and howl in a Scottish accent, who'd roar through the radio waves of the Pacific Rim — and the man in earnest. Some might doubt that the Williams we met as Mork, loved as Patch Adams, played with as Alan Parrish, and wished upon as the Genie, was anything whatsoever real. Anything more than "for the cameras." It certaintly was. It was a Williams for us. From him. Upon perusing Facebook and Twitter and speaking with friends, I found something you don't often see when a beloved actor dies: variety. Every other voice had a different Williams role to celebrate, ranging from the wacky Aladdin, the sweet and schmaltzy Hook, the stern and sincere The Birdcage, the dark and severe Insomnia, and the esoteric The Fisher King. The constants were affection and familiarity. More than a few folks who grew up in the '80s and '90s likened Williams to a distant family member, or even a surrogate father. Clearly, the man had fostered an incredibly, unprecedentedly intimate presence with a generation of film and television watchers. And each of those "types" of Williams is just as valid as the next. As such, the "type" of Williams we — the public — all collectively know is as valid, as palpable, as real as anything that he might be beyond the limelight. A friend of mine expressed consternation over the proper decorum in situations like these: is it tacky to expose your grief for a passing friend whom you've never met, who never knew you? It doesn't seem to be — although it would be tacky to presume that I know anything of what Williams might or could or should want, we can rest assured that he brought his talents, his hobbies, his self into the world in the way he did in the hopes of making us laugh. Few comedians, and even fewer actors, of our generation could be deemed so potently invested in the happiness and enjoyment of their audiences. In every one of his movies, Williams was giving us a very big, powerful, important part of him. That, and all the laughter that came with it, was for us. So it doesn't seem all that off base to think that we couldn't share every feeling of love and sorrow we might have about him. Finally, we return to the question of authenticity — what about the man behind the laughter? The man so stricken with pain? The "real" Williams? That's where the danger comes in: the thought that only the morose can be depressed, that anyone so capable of earning a laugh must be riding a permanent cloud nine. That Williams' humor was the result of a chemical reaction with celluloid, and would dissipate immediately upon production wrap. Williams, like many depressed men and women, was a man who liked to, maybe even lived to, joke. A man who could command any room, nail any impression, or knock out any punchline. Granted, Williams can probably do this a lot better than the vast majority of folks out there, depressed or otherwise. But he's not a unique breed. There is no discernible breed. Depression and the turmoils that come with it can inflict anyone: the funny, the mopey, the angry, the brawny, the silly, the sensitive. From your Sean Maguires to your Daniel Hillards.  It often takes a stride to learn that the depression living within any of these people can be real. And for those who suffer with the disease, it is just as difficult, if not more so, to understand that the rest of you — the funny, the sweet, the strong, the "Seize the day!", the "Beee yourself!", the "Hellooo!" — is, too, very much real. No matter which side of the equation you might be on, you have one more lesson here to learn from John Keating: We did know the real Williams. We just didn't know every part of the real Williams. We might not have known the real pains, the tragedies that too many people face alone and don't have to. But we knew something just as real: his ability and his drive — no, his insistence — to make the world laugh. And yes, he made the world cry plenty. When he battled for a soul in Bicentennial Man or delivered special peace to a hospital of sick children in Patch Adams or dragged Matt Damon out of his own carnivorous guilt in Good Will Hunting, he made us cry. But the Williams that made us laugh... the one who splashed his face with pie frosting, babbled around Sweethaven in a feverish stupor, and doled out life lessons to a wannabe prince via obscenely anachronistic pop culture references... well, that's my real Williams. And he's just as real as anybody else's. Follow @Michael Arbeiter | Follow @Hollywood_com
  • How Michael Bay Can Make a Better 'Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles' Sequel
    By: Michael Arbeiter Aug 11, 2014
    Paramount Pictures via Everett Collection The sullen critical reaction to the latest Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie is unsurprising, but the box office intake for the Michael Bay-produced feature's opening weekend might warrant a double take: early numbers indicate that Turtles took in $65 million, a sum that allowed the flick to trounce expectations by 20 grand, top Guardians of the Galaxy by a similar figure, and — perhaps worst of all — spawn a sequel. Via the Los Angeles Times, Paramount is moving forward with a second Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie, already scheduled for 2016. Considering the fact that Turtles was hardly the worst thing we've seen this year (perhaps not even the worst thing to come from Michael Bay, in fact), we don't want to write off the newly developing follow-up just yet. There might be a way to save this '16-bound film, but it'll entail a few major changes to the process that brought us this year's Turtle movie: 1) Clean up the Turtles' lookThe choice to make the Turtle brothers look darker, grittier, and more "real" this time around is a particularly confusing one considering how broad and silly the film goes with its material. The grotesque appearance of the foursome doesn't mesh whatsoever with the tone of the movie, nor is it at all pleasant to look at. A dramatic redesign might not be necessary, but something smoother, cleaner, and altogether sillier would benefit future audiences. Splinter, on the other hand, could use a complete makeover. 2) Replace Jonathan Liebesman as directorLiebesman proved with Turtles that he is still developing his directorial skill set. A filmmaker with an established understanding of how to harmonize action and comedy would serve the second feature well. 3) More time on the shelled foursomeWith so much ground to cover in regards to Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles' nonsensical plot, too much time was spent away from the Turtles themselves. Although they might not be the work of comic genius, they were more or less endearing in the grand scheme of things. More Turtles, less everything else. Oh, and for that matter... 4) Simply, simplify, simplify!Whoever it was that demanded this movie's premise to be more tiered and complicated than A Most Wanted Man does not understand the appeal of the Ninja Turtles. Keep things light, simple, and straightforward. We don't need several dozen conspiracies, puppet regimes, and plot twists. Oh, and for THAT matter... 5) Enough with that one sci-fi contrivance that seems to be popping up in every big movie this year.If you don't know what I'm talking about (I'm being coy for fear of spoilers) check out Mike Ryan's excellent diatribe against the phenomenon. 6) Oust Will Arnett's characterWill Arnett is an adroit comic actor, but his character in Turtles is about as pointless as a pastel bandit mask on the face of a gigantic reptilian vigilante. If April O'Neil had her own car, Arnett's character's contribution would have been instantly nullified. 7) Encourage an actual performance out of Megan FoxWhile Turtles can get rid of Arnett without missing a beat, it's unlikely that Fox can be dismissed so easily (although there Bay-universe is precedent for such banishment). If we're stuck with her, then let's at least try to get her invested in the story and character this time; all she does in this latest Turtles entry is babble flat exposition and grimace in ambiguous dread. 8) Make Michelangelo less creepyAn innocent crush on April O'Neil would be fine, but Michelangelo's character was full on sexual deviant with his obsessive come-ons and offhand erection jokes. 9) Stop destroying New York CityWe've seen it. We're sick of it. It weighs hard on those of us who actually live here. Enough. 10) Krang!His big screen debut is long overdue. Follow @Michael Arbeiter | Follow @Hollywood_com
  • Matching Up the Ninja Turtles with Other Pop Culture Foursomes
    By: Michael Arbeiter Aug 08, 2014
    Nickelodeon Assuming you were born around 1983 and that your social circle in the early grammar school years consisted of a rigidly impermeable foursome, we can conclude indisputably that you spent a good deal of your time playing Ninja Turtles. Unlike other pop culture-inspired imagination games, Ninja Turtles never allowed for turn taking as far as the central roles were concerned. Maybe you’d alternate occupancy of Luke, Han, and Chewy when playing Star Wars, or switch off between Margaret and Jimmy for games of Liquid Sky. But when it came to Ninja Turtles, the margins were set before recess even began: you were either the leader, the tough one, the smart one, or the goofball. Without exception. But are such stark roles present in any other pop culture phenomena? We’d have to imagine so. As such, we sought to our favorite foursomes from the entertainment world and took a stab at assigning them their respective Ninja Turtles. SEINFELD LeonardoJerry, the leader (who, incidentally, derives all of his moral fiber from the noble Superman) RaphaelGeorge, the truly "dark and disturbed" member of the group DonatelloElaine, the intellectual — she did graduate from Tufts (her safety school), and she scored a 151 on an I.Q. test MichelangeloKramer, the hipster dufus THE HOGWARTS HOUSES LeonardoGryffindor, house of the daring and noble RaphaelSlytherin, house of the severe and ambitious DonatelloRavenclaw, house of the wry and intellectual MichelangeloHufflepuff, house of the spirited and kind SEX AND THE CITY LeonardoCarrie, the glue, the narrator and the center of everyone's attention  RaphaelMiranda, stubborn and cynical enough to walk away from the love of her life (twice!)  DonatelloCharlotte, the conservative, overachieving Ivy League grad obsessed with everything appearing perfect MichelangeloSamantha, who has never passed up a chance to see and be seen United Artist via Everett Collection THE BEATLES LeonardoPaul: "Think globally, act locally." RaphaelJohn: "Everybody loves you when you're six foot in the ground." DonatelloGeorge: "When you've seen beyond yourself, then you may find, peace of mind is waiting there." MichelangeloRingo: "Peace and love. Peace and love." THE AVENGERS LeonardoCaptain America, the wholesome, morally didactic good guy RaphaelThe Hulk, the "muscle" who is tortured by his own demons DonatelloIron Man, the tech genius who never hesitates to let his teammates know how much smarter he is than they are MichelangeloThor, who's just kind of an idiot DAWSON'S CREEK LeonardoDawson, proving that having your name in the title doesn't save you from being the biggest buzzkill  RaphaelPacey, the rebellious, wise-cracking screw up of your teenage dreams  DonatelloJoey, smart - she went to Worthington! - sweet, and innocent, and always likely to end up in a bad situation MichelangeloJen, the reformed party girl with a heart of gold and a chip on her shoulder LITTLE WOMEN LeonardoMeg, the oldest sister and de facto head of the household RaphaelJo, strong-willed and at odds with her siblings (and herself) DonatelloBeth, who is shy, wise, and musically adept MichelangeloAmy, the li'l one with the penchant for art Columbia Pictures via Everett Collection THE GHOSTBUSTERS LeonardoRay, the heart and soul of the group RaphaelPeter Venkman, the rebel who plays by his own rules (and forces everyone else to accommodate) DonatelloEgon Spengler, the smartest in a team of scientists MichelangeloWinston, who is also there THE MT. RUSHMORE PRESIDENTS LeonardoGeorge Washington, the diplomat who kicked off American democracy RaphaelAbraham Lincoln, the agonizingly depressed hero who took to the front lines DonatelloThomas Jefferson, the braniac wordsmith who wrote the Declaration of Independence MichelangeloTheodore Roosevelt, the loon who used to fight bears and whatnot GOLDEN GIRLS LeonardoBlanche, the open-minded, creative sort RaphaelSophia, a master of caustic wit DonatelloDorothy, the smartest of the lot MichelangeloRose, the ditz THE FACTS OF LIFE LeonardoBlair, who was rich and blond, so she was the natural choice for the central role in an '80s sitcom RaphaelJo, who wears a leather jacket DonatelloNatalie, who basically acts like she's 40 at age 15 MichelangeloTootie, who wears rollerskates all the time 20th Century Fox Film via Everett Collection THE FANTASTIC FOUR LeonardoSue Storm, the levelheaded voice of reason RaphaelThe Thing, who is, as one might expect, pretty pissed about being a giant rock DonatelloMr. Fantastic, the hyper-intellectual MichelangeloJohnny Storm, the jag who's always jumping around and lighting stuff on fire, because he thinks it's cool STAND BY ME LeonardoGordie, the courageous leader RaphaelChris, the young punk who has stolen his share of milk money DonatelloVern, the timid perpetual bullying victim MichelangeloTeddy, the kooky thrill-seeker GIRLS LeonardoHannah, who at the very least sees herself as a well-adjusted leader of mankind RaphaelJessa, the alleged loose cannon who is riddled with dark passengers DonatelloMarnie, the uptight would-be sophisticate who tries to manufacture life experience by the book MichelangeloShoshanna, the young nutter butter who garners the least respect ROCKET POWER LeonardoReggie Rocket, the smart, even-tempered overachiever RaphaelOtto Rocket, the troublesome bad boy DonatelloSam Dullard, the awkward intellectual MichelangeloTwister Rodriguez, the idiot comic relief Paramount Pictures via Everett Collection MEAN GIRLS LeonardoCady Heron, the acceptable human being RaphaelRegina George, the villainous upstart DonatelloGretchen Wieners, kind of just by default MichelangeloKaren Smith... see "Thor" THE SWEATHOGS LeonardoVinnie Barbarino, the boring (albeit charming) leader RaphaelJuan Epstein, the tough guy with whom everybody knows not to mess DonatelloArnold Horshach, the dorky dweeb MichelangeloBoom Boom Washington, the loudmouthed goofball A special thanks to writers Angie Han (an easygoing Michelangelo type) and Rudie Obias (a total Raphael, with respect) for helping to mastermind this piece, and to everyone else who contributed their varied expertise to the cause. Follow @Michael Arbeiter |Follow @julesemm | Follow @Hollywood_com
  • Review: 'What If' Is a Wonderfully Funny Old Fashioned Rom-Com
    By: Michael Arbeiter Aug 07, 2014
    CBS Films/Entertainment One What If is a rare breed these days — a romantic comedy that works without any of the requisite add-ons. The Michael Dowse movie is not a send-up, nor a deconstruction, hardly a reinvention, and packs no particular “twist” other than its above average attention to the nature of bustling romantic feelings beneath the sheen of platonic relationships. In earnest, What If is as traditional a rom-com as you’ll see come out in theaters these days. The unusual thing: it’s just really, really good. The reasons why are incredibly simple. First, it’s sweet. Daniel Radcliffe’s unfortunately named Wallace might not fall too far from the typical genre hero that we’re miraculously still able to stomach: the mopey, hapless, self-absorbed good guy who just wants the gal to notice how nice he is. But what separates Wallace is his empathy. What If gives him value, intellect, character, and, most importantly, a genuine interest in the even more unfortunately named Chantry (Zoe Kazan), the spoken-for young lady who wins his heart soon after the inception of their friendship. Wallace isn’t pining meaninglessly for the nearest unavailable hot chick; he and Chantry have chemistry. They’re compatibly cynical (but not curmudgeonly) and idealistic (but not idiotic), equal doses awkward, and palpably conducive to one another’s comfort. We can feel true friendship between Wallace and Chantry, which is what makes us root all the more for the hidden feelings to peer through. CBS Films/Entertainment One The second reason: it’s smart. Yes, What If takes some goofy missteps: Your usual rom-com contrivances — ad hoc plane trips, disastrous dinners, and third party romantic candidates in desperate need of psychological evaluation — are hot on display here, though seldom does the film sink to levels of abject ridiculousness. But on the whole, Wallace and Chantry’s trip celebrates its characters’ and viewers’ intellect. It overthinks love, romance, friendship, and relationships, happily committing to that old Socrates gem. Which brings us to the final and most important reason this movie is such a treat: it is really, really funny. Most of this is owed to Radcliffe, so swift with a joke that he even sells the clunkers. But Kazan herself is no slouch, nor are supporting players Adam Driver and Mackenzie Davis, in the delivery of the script’s musical wit. Of all the great things that What If introduces us to — its ideas about friendship and love, the comic prowess of Daniel Radcliffe, and the glory of fridge magnets — the notion that good ol’ fashioned rom-coms can still be downright terrific has got to be the most valuable. Thanks for reminding us! 4/5
  • Review: 'Into the Storm' Is an Ugly, Unpleasant Movie in Every Conceivable Way
    By: Michael Arbeiter Aug 07, 2014
    Warner Bros. Pictures via Everett Collection Here’s the sole compliment I will pay Into the Storm: it let’s you know right away what you’re getting into. The very first minute of the movie introduces fans to the sort of grim, nihilistic, aesthetically repugnant and substantially barren horror that maintains throughout the hour and a half to follow, saving only the extent of its special effects for later… and trust me, it’s not worth the wait. While we’ve been debating the toxicity of “destruction porn” since before Man of Steel, but surely we can point to entries in the disaster genre that don’t feel like soul-mincing works of large scale snuff — we can point to this summer’s Godzilla, for instance. But for every thematically dense project like the aforesaid, we have a half-dozen Into the Storms: movies that, somehow, pass off the most mangled constructions of mindless, banal, uninspired, grotesque unpleasantness as entertainment. Warner Bros. Pictures via Everett Collection We are asked to believe that there are characters in this movie: Richard Armitage insists that he’s a father of two, a disappointingly joke-free Matt Walsh tells us that he’s a storm chaser and a documentarian, and Sarah Wayne Callies introduces herself as a meteorologist of some kind. But we never get more than a résumé recitation from each character; we never earn an understanding of what any of them would do when faced with mortal danger, what they would think about, who they would want to be with. So, really, we’re not given much of a story. Sure, there are tidbits mentioned about Armitage’s strained relationship with his two sons (Max Deacon and Nathan Kress), about Walsh’s obsessive devotion to his work, about Callies’ desire to make it home to her five-year-old daughter (ugh, the pandering). But these don’t feel like character beats, but rather like bits of data. Nothing within these characters exists beyond what we are explicitly told about them. As such, they wind up feeling less like people to whom we’re anchored and more like chunks of debris being tossed around between tornadoes. And that’s what’s so ugly, unenjoyable, and dangerous about this movie: it’s dehumanizing. It prefers the thrills of demolition to the pathos inherent in accessing what this demolition might be doing to real people. But even in its misguided mission does Into the Storm fail: it’s not thrilling. Not fun. Not cool to look at. It is, in all conceivable ways, a disaster. .5/5 Follow @Michael Arbeiter | Follow @Hollywood_com
  • Review: 'The Hundred-Foot Journey' Is a Quiet, Simple, Perfectly Pleasant Slice of Life
    By: Michael Arbeiter Aug 07, 2014
    Walt Disney Studios It’s a given that you don’t go into a film like The Hundred-Foot Journey hungry, but you should also steer clear if you’re the least bit sleepy — you’ll never make it. Despite a title that suggests the ambiance of adventure, the movie has no intention of rousing its viewers beyond a fugue state of pleasantry. What we get instead of a journey is a slice of life: a soft-spoken celebration of family, friendship, romance, culture, and cooking. In essence, a tribute to that old maxim about stopping to smell the roses (or pick edible mushrooms). But the film’s quaint, merry charm doubles as its chief problem: things are almost too easy. We step into the going-more-or-less-okay lives of a family of Indian cooks as they set up shop in small town France, wrinkle our brows as matters dip to levels of ain’t-that-a-pickle when they cross paths with a hardnosed-but-really-not-all-that-bad-whatsoever French restaurateur, and then sigh merrily as things seem to turn out just splendidly for all parties involved. Walt Disney Studios The parties in question, too, are a broadly painted lot: we never really get to know hero Hassan (Manish Dayal), a talented cook torn between his roots and aspirations… or his work and his love life… or something. As such, the task to engage with his struggles — burnt hands, a marred relationship, and a job that ain’t all it’s cracked up to be — becomes a futile one. And the effort is not made much easier by the film’s insistence on keeping things as light as can be. Hell, even the fire that breaks out in this film doesn’t get too out of hand. Still, although we might be dealing with simple characters, we can’t really bemoan our time spent with them as anything other than pleasant. Helen Mirren, as should be no surprise to anyone, is a treat in her colder scenes — like when she’s condescending to her new neighbors or doling out judgmental grimaces from behind her omniscient drapery — and her warmer ones. Om Puri, playing Hassan's plucky father, is a riotous purveyor of smart aleck irreverence. There’s a half dozen other characters who kind of get brushed to the side, but it’s hard to mind when The Hundred-Foot Journey’s greatest gems are the passive-aggressive bickering matches between Madame Mallory (Mirren) and “Papa” (Puri). Ultimately, this very Lasse Hallström feature isn’t looking to excite, challenge, or institute anything altogether new. It’s here to remind you of the simple, slow, soft pleasures — sure, it’s a light dish. But it’s a sweet one. 3.5/5 Follow @Michael Arbeiter | Follow @Hollywood_com
  • Review: 'Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles' Isn't So Much Terrible, It's Just Really Dumb
    By: Michael Arbeiter Aug 07, 2014
    Paramount Pictures At every instance of unnecessary and callous city destruction, every inset of comic flatulence, and every mention of what I sincerely hate to denote as turtle boners, I found myself resenting this latest cinematic stab at Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. A movie that makes so little effort to stray from the lowest common denominator of what passes for PG-13 entertainment, the Michael Bay-produced Turtles is far less concerned with what it is doing than with the fact that it is simply doing something. Anything. At all times. Martial arts, car chases, flashbacks to lab fires… it’s all a go. The funny thing is that Turtles’ egregious flash does, at times, manage to cover up its vacancy. When the familiar, albeit modernized, foursome — street tough Raphael, eager intellectual Donatello, giddy halfwit Michelangelo, and the borderline anonymous Leonardo — are goofing around under the tutelage of serious sensei Splinter, there are occasional smiles (not laughs, let’s not get crazy) to be earned. And, ridiculous as it all may be, when the quartet of reptilian vigilantes zooms down a snowy mountain (don’t ask me how they get there so quickly from springtime Manhattan) in hot pursuit of (or evasion of… man this thing is incomprehensible) a band of evil mastermind Shredder’s toughest assassins, we witness the miraculous achievement of genuine fun. Paramount Pictures But for every minute enjoyed with the turtles, there’s about five lamented with Megan Fox. Her April O’Neil is meant not only to courier us through the action and outrageous origin mythology — which, justly, we get out of the way pretty early in the film — but to serve as the human heart with which we access and understand these bonkers creatures. But April is the most alien character onscreen, effectively mindless and charmless, truly beyond the grasp of any viewer looking to latch onto her as a remotely fleshed out heroine. Alongside Will Arnett, whose sole function in this film is that he has a car, Fox runs us through the legion of non sequitur elements that stands in for a cohesive plot. Occasionally, she stops to chat with the turtles, who — for all their irritating characteristics and regrettable attitudes on romance, masculinity, and pizza (they love Pizza Hut… these jags live in New York f**king City and all they eat is Pizza Hut) — actually revel in relative nuance. Their second-rate charms never manage to effectively save the movie from its ultimate crime: it’s so, so stupid. 2/5 Follow @Michael Arbeiter | Follow @Hollywood_com
  • Does 'The Theory of Everything' Trailer Look Too Ordinary for the Great Stephen Hawking?
    By: Michael Arbeiter Aug 06, 2014
    Focus Features Stephen Hawking's life, work, and devotion to science might be doubly impressive because of his illness — a motor neuron disease that has rendered him almost completely physically paralyzed — but the fact of the matter is that they would be duly impressive anyhow. Often considered the smartest man alive, Hawking has contributed ideas to the field of theoretical physics that have revolutionized the way both the scientific community and the public understand space, time, and life itself. Hawking's innovative notions have changed the world, and even changed the way the world might from here on out be changed, all for the better. And we hope to get more than a glimpse of Hawking's work in the developing film The Theory of Everything, a biographical feature that seems determined to recount the struggles of the scholar upon the development of his debilitating disease. Per the stasis of your standard biopic, The Theory of Everything appears most attentive to Hawking's personal hurdles... a particularly understandable route considering of the gravity of the man's physical hardships. But just as Hawking did not let his turmoils stand in the way of his work, we hope that director James Marsh allows the scientific machinations of an unparalleled mind to peer through. We want to see Hawking's imagination take form, his nearly superhuman understanding of the dimensions that constitute our universe come to life. We want to see everything the man has worked to teach this world on display. It's difficult to tell from such a quick glimpse, but we're hoping that The Theory of Everything allows for this mission. While we'd revel in a powerful performance by Eddie Redmayne, portraying Hawking in what one imagines to be the most difficult chapter of his long life, what we really need in addition to this is the opportunity to step inside the magic of the genius' brain. Follow @Michael Arbeiter | Follow @Hollywood_com
  • Do 'The Amazing Spider-Man' Movies Give Hope for a Good Female Superhero Film?
    By: Michael Arbeiter Aug 04, 2014
    Marvel We've been clamoring for a female superhero film for years now. Principal focus in this call to arms has been on Disney and the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the purveyors of the best superhero flicks on the lot, and Warner Bros/DC Comics, what with Wonder Woman on their roster. But we've overlooked Sony, the company that lays claim to the Marvel property Spider-Man. As it turns out, per Deadline, the Amazing Spider-Man films might spawn the next female-centric superhero movie... but we're wondering if this will be a project worthy of that superlative. Back in the early aughts, Spider-Man and Spider-Man 2 set the bar high for superhero cinema. After the much maligned third chapter in Sam Raimi's Peter Parker series, fans diverted attention to the Avengers pictures and Christopher Nolan's Batman films, hoping to find all their comic book wishes met within said parameters. Then came Amazing Spider-Man and Amazing Spider-Man 2... which more or less validated this specified cynicism, turning over middling reviews and no small sum of fan backlash. But Marc Webb's features aren't devoid of charm. The shining light in both movies, in fact, is the sort of character that usually gets shafted, and big time: the "girlfriend." Emma Stone plays Gwen Stacy, Peter Parker's (Andrew Garfield) friend and young love, with far more moxy and character than are usually attributed to women in superhero films. Although we get venerable players like Natalie Portman and Liv Tyler playing the ladyfriends of Marvel heroes, agency is a palpable absentee; Gwyneth Paltrow, the strongest of the lot as Pepper Potts, only really conjured up some vigor for the third Iron Man movie. And female superhero Scarlett Johansson still hasn't gotten her long overdue starring feature. Columbia Pictures via Everett Collection While the DC side of the game is notably lacking in the same kind of pizzazz on the whole, its women can be noted as especially bland. Lois Lane, both versions of Rachel Dawes, and even Anne Hathaway's Selina Kyle are particularly dull characters who function primarily as appendages of their respective heroes... even if one of 'em did run down an asthmatic Tom Hardy. And yet Sony, perpretating movies that are altogether less impressively crafted than those of its competitors, gives us an interesting, courageous, and likable character in Stone's Gwen Stacy. She's funnier, smarter, braver, and more reasonable than her counterpart Peter, a rarity for a genre of film that prefers to use women as damsels in distress and set dressing. Beyond just being a more vivid presence in these films, Stacy actually contributes to both the plot — she is the most important factor in any one of Peter's actions and decisions — as well as the ultimate takedown of the central villain. In the end, she's more of a sidekick, a hero in her own right, than a girlfriend figure. We don't know what sort of character Sony will put forth with its undisclosed superheroine film, but we're glad that they're the ones taking this step forward. But this isn't a free pass to further put off a Black Widow movie, Kevin Feige. Everyone needs to get in on this action! Follow @Michael Arbeiter | Follow @Hollywood_com
  • How Does 'Guardians of the Galaxy' Compare to 'The Avengers'?
    By: Michael Arbeiter Aug 01, 2014
    Walt Disney Studios/Marvel Almost immediately upon exiting my screening of Guardians of the Galaxy, I was hit by a friend and fellow movies writer with the inevitable question: "Better than The Avengers?" Even though Guardians is less a superhero movie than a space adventure, the new release is bound to win (or suffer) comparison to the 2012 hit that broke box office records and redefined the possibility of the already prosperous comic book feature. But it's no easy question to tackle — is Guardians of the Galaxy (which is great) better than The Avengers (which is great)? I'm still not sure. But when you allocate the debate toward specific elements braved by the films, you close in on something resembling an answer. So here we go. Which movie is better in terms of... Action?The Avengers. James Gunn is still new to the blockbuster game, and needs to work out a few bugs in his action sequence methodology. Joss Whedon, though generally more of a small-scale player himself, showcased some pretty stellar sequences in '12. Characters?Guardians of the Galaxy. Star-Lord, Gamora, Drax the Destroyer, Rocket, and Groot are not simply snappy vehicles driving us toward exciting set pieces. They and their pangs (and quirks) are the sincere core and draw of this story. You'll be surprised at how much empathy a misanthropic raccoon can command. Villain?The Avengers, in a big way. Loki was the virtual highlight of his movie, while Guardians' Ronan the Accuser is a moreover anonymous figure that simply spouts colorless threats of tyranny. Performances?Kind of a toss-up. In Guardians, Chris Pratt is a standout as hero Star-Lord, Dave Bautista is a surprisingly charismatic Drax, and Bradley Cooper and (especially) Vin Diesel managed some pretty impressive vocal charms as Rocket and Groot, respectively. But we'd be remiss to forget how inviting the snarky Robert Downey Jr., caustic Scarlett Johansson, brooding Mark Ruffalo, and flamboyantly wicked Tom Hiddleston all were. Humor?Guardians of the Galaxy. Yes, The Avengers had terrific moments of comic relief, but these were peppered delicately throughout a tense (albeit joyful) action-adventure movie. Guardians is as much a comedy as it is a genre picture, and its material is sharp and wry. Coherency?The Avengers. Whedon's flick is astoundingly neat and well-packaged for how grand (and kooky) it is. Guardians' biggest mis-step is probably is clumsy construction. Special Effects?The Avengers, thanks once again to experience... and an extra $50 million in budget. Thrills?Probably, again, The Avengers, though not by a wide margin. Something about Whedon's sleek design, meticulous plotting, and an everpresent severity made the whole thing seem a little more gasp-worthy. Je ne sais quoi?Guardians of the Galaxy. The real victory of Gunn's new film is its spirit, its warm and inviting personal touch. It might have its bugs, but the tidy perfection of The Avengers wouldn't have been appropriate for a film of its theme and motives. Overall, we'd champion Guardians as our preferred Marvel adventure for this reason alone: it's got that special heart that doesn't come around to big budget blockbusters all too often. But don't just take our word for it. Sound off below!