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.
  • Review: 'Million Dollar Arm' Is a Strangely Likable Movie with So Many Problems
    By: Michael Arbeiter May 13, 2014
    Walt Disney Studios via Everett Collection Million Dollar Arm takes a lot for granted when it comes to its audience. It assumes that anyone paying to see this film must care about baseball. Odds are it's right — you've got to have some motivating factor beyond Jon Hamm's jawline. But it assumes you care enough that it doesn't matter how little its characters seem to. We see so few instances involving any carnal appreciation for the game throughout the bulk of the picture, least of all from cranky and materialistic sports agent J.B. Bernstein (Hamm), that when the final act treats us to its coup de grâce tearjerkers we can't help but feel like we're being thrown one hell of a curveball. But that isn't the worst of the film's assumptions. As a last ditch effort to find a ringer both talented and bankable enough to save his career, J.B. throws caution to the wind and high tails it to India on a scouting mission for strong-armed cricket bowlers. So casually racist that you'd think this film takes place long before 2008, J.B. hates everything about cricket (...why?) and India on the whole, submitting immediately to the idea that he's in a third-rate wasteland where nothing can get done, nobody knows anything, and any young boy would be elated to get out of dodge. And Million Dollar Arm has no interest in proving him wrong: The film never second-guesses (and assumes we won't either) the notion that Big Leagues hopefuls Dinesh (Madhur Mittal) and Rinku (Suraj Sharma) would be happier and better off in America. It assumes we won't take any issue with the idea that two boys from India must have never seen an elevator, a television, or a moment of good fortune. Sure, they might not have... but it's as if Million Dollar Arm expects us to believe there is no other option when a wide-eyed Sharma wanders through a Californian hotel like Wall-E exploring the starliner. Walt Disney Studios via Everett Collection The film gives itself so much regrettable leeway while carting through the necessary points of its true story, jumping from the laughable inception of J.B.'s plan to move his search overseas to the languid introduction of the two boys (neither of whom is given any backstory) and their entry into the MLB's consideration. But scattered throughout are beats and scenes that seem ripped from a different script entirely — J.B.'s gradual appreciation of Dinesh, Rinku, and much bemoaned translator, documentarian, and aspiring baseball coach Amit (Pitobash Tripathy) as his surrogate family. Of course the vast majority of his emotional realizations come at the behest of his beautiful, kooky tenant Brenda (Lake Bell), but the kids are usually at least nearby. It's shocking how much the personal material does to salvage Million Dollar Arm, though. J.B.'s relationship with Dinesh, Rinku, and Amit, and — perhaps more importantly — the relationships between Dinesh, Rinku, and Amit themselves are funny, warm, and flavorful enough to give this otherwise faceless movie some real character. Secondary players Bill Paxton and Alan Arkin do little to surprise, playing disgruntled and unconscious respectively, but there's a reason these guys are always called on to do the same thing. And if that's not enough for you, Aasif Mandvi's kids keep throwing up. It plays both like an extended metaphor about the hidden joys in family life and a non sequitur gag from Tomcats. Take your pick.   // Million Dollar Arm's charming points are strong enough to distract at times from its boisterous misgivings, but they peer through in the end. Not every baseball movie needs hair-tustling and eye-welling. Not every baseball movie warrants a Pride of the Yankees elegy about the glories of the diamond. But Million Dollar Arm wishes it was one of these movies (so much so that it actually rips the Lou Gehrig speech right out of Gary Cooper's mouth). Still, instead of building a story about the love of baseball or even about the magic of this story, Million Dollar Arm keeps all its genuine energy on a bunt: the story of some jackass who warms up to a couple of kids after a while. Not a bad play, but hardly the grand slam it was going for. 2.5/5 Follow @Michael Arbeiter| Follow @Hollywood_com
  • The Evolution of the Batsuit from Adam West to Ben Affleck
    By: Michael Arbeiter May 13, 2014
    ZackSnyder/Twitter Zack Snyder, director of enough obtuse mediocrity to justify suspicion of blackmail behind his landing the gig directing a movie about the two most beloved comic book characters in American history, has given the world its first glimpse of his take on the Dark Knight. Two shots from the set of Batman vs. Superman hit the web today via Snyder's Twitter account, showing off the latest version of the superhero's famed uniform and trusty ride. ZackSnyder/Twitter Though we can only guess how star Ben Affleck, depicted here with a glower for the ages, will treat the long familiar Bruce Wayne, we are offered a healthy glance at the Batsuit we'll be spending time with in this film. Just a costume, you might claim, but perhaps just as lively and vivacious as the man it cloaks (in Kilmer's case, even more so). In fact, if you look back through the history of the Batsuit — with our scientific breakdown — you'll find it has evolved quite a bit... Batman: The Movie (1966)Starring Adam West, directed by Leslie H. MartinsonSUITIS ORIGINALIS 20th Century Fox Film via Everett Collection Back when people wore things made of fabric and cloth, the Batsuit was a simple entity.  Batman (1989)Starring Michael Keaton, directed by Tim BurtonSUITIS SHIFTICUS Warner Bros. Pictures The 1970s must have seen a nuclear power plant lay waste to the waters of Gotham, because the genetic code of the Batsuit shifted dramatically between its first and second big screen incarnations. Here we see an all-black (save for the yellow pelvic logo) suit comprised ostensibly of galvanized rubber, armed with defensive wristular fins, and topped with a substantually more constricting headpiece. Because the '80s weren't about silly things like comfort or functionability. Batman Returns (1992)Starring Michael Keaton, directed by Tim BurtonSUITIS CONSISTICUS Warner Bros. Pictures via Everett Collection Keaton and Burton's second go saw few changes to the Batsuit... though that mask does seem a little angrier this time... Batman Forever (1995)Starring Val Kilmer, directed by Joel SchumacherSUITIS NIPLICUS Warner Bros. Pictures via Everett Collection Doing away with any semblance of subtlety, the '95 tin-plated model was mostly about intimidation: Abs. Pecs. Nipples.  Batman and Robin (1997)Starring George Clooney, directed by Joel SchumacherSUITIS REGRETIBLUS Warner Bros. Pictures Um. Hm. Batman Begins (2005)Starring Christian Bale, directed by Christopher NolanSUITIS SERIUS Warner Bros. Pictures via Everett Collection Now things are getting serious. With a mask that allows not even for the occasional smile, the suit that reared its upsetting head in the Nolan era did away with any hint of color (be it yellow, silver, or gray), kept its contours angular, and found a fair balance between statuesque and athletic. The Dark Knight (2008)Starring Christian Bale, directed by Christopher NolanSUITIS ANGRICUS Warner Bros. Pictures via Everett Collection Taking a page from the Kilmer book, The Dark Knight slapped Bale's sophomore uniform with a bit more pizzazz in the torso area — not showing off human muscles, per se, but an exoskeletal design reminiscent of weaponry. Dark times, those aughts. The Dark Knight Rises (2012)Starring Christian Bale, directed by Christopher NolanSUITIS CROSFITUS Warner Bros. Pictures via Everett Collection Sleeker, slighter, and stocked with arm straps and shoulder pads. The most extreme species of Batsuit we've yet to see. Batman vs. Superman (2016)Starring Ben Affleck, directed by Zack SnyderSUITIS AFLECUS ZackSnyder/Twitter The diminutive ears of the original, the light feel of the Keatons, the abdominal audacity of the Kilmer era, and the colorless palate of the Bale/Nolans... plus, inscrutably, so many veins. Affleck's Batsuit has taken a few traits from each of its ancestors (except the Clooney one) to become a species all its own. Follow @Michael Arbeiter| Follow @Hollywood_com
  • Review: 'Godzilla' Is a New, Fresh, Exciting Adventure for the Classic Monster
    By: Michael Arbeiter May 12, 2014
    Warner Bros. Pictures via Everett Collection With only a week and change having passed since the release of The Amazing Spider-Man 2, we no doubt feel the question living fresh in our minds: can we ever judge a remake without considering its predecessors? The conversation about the stark contrast in critical favor between Marc Webb's release and Sam Raimi's trilogy (the second installment of his franchise in particular) buzzed loudly, and we imagine the volume will keep in regards to Gareth Edwards' Godzilla. But it'll be a different sound altogether. The original Godzilla, a Japanese film released in 1954, reinvented the identity of the monster movie, launched a 30-film legacy, and spoke legions about the political climate of its era. The most recent of these films — Roland Emmerich's 1998 American production — is universally bemoaned as a bigger disaster than anything to befall Tokyo at the hands of the giant reptile. With these two entries likely standing out as the most prominent in the minds of contemporary audiences, Edwards' Godzilla has some long shadows cast before it. And in approaching the new movie, one might not be able to avoid comparisons to either. It's fair — by taking on an existing property, a filmmaker knowingly takes on the connotations of that property. But the 2014 installment's great success is that it isn't much like any Godzilla movie we've seen before. In a great, great way. This isn't 1954's Godzilla, a dire and occasionally dreary allegory that uses the supernatural to tell an important story about nuclear holocaust. A complete reversal, in fact, first and foremost Edwards' Godzilla is about its monsters. Any grand themes strewn throughout — the perseverence of nature, the follies of mankind, fatherhood, madness, faith — are all in service to the very simple mission to give us some cool, weighty, articulate sci-fi disaster. Elements of gravity are plotted all over the film's surface, with scientists, military men (kudos to Edwards for not going the typical "scientists = good/smart, military = bad/dumb" route in this film — everybody here is at least open to suggestion), doctors, police officers, and a compassionate bus driver all wrestling with options in the face of behemoth danger. The humanity is everpresent, but never especially intrusive. To reiterate, this isn't a film about any of these people, or what they do.  Warner Bros. Pictures via Everett Collection The closest thing to a helping of thematic (or human) significance comes with Ken Watanabe's Dr. Serizawa, who spouts awe-stricken maxims about cryptozoology, the Earth, and the inevitable powerlessness of man. He might not be supplying anything more substantial than our central heroes (soft-hearted soldier Aaron Taylor-Johnson, dutiful medic and mom Elizabeth Olsen, right-all-along conspiracy theorist Bryan Cranston), but Watanabe's bonkers performance as the harried scientist is so bizarrely good that you might actually believe, for a scene or two, that it all does mean something. Ultimately, the beauty of our latest taste of Godzilla lies not in the commitment to a message that made the original so important nor in the commitment to levity that made Emmerich's so pointless, but in its commitment to imagination. Edwards' creature design is dazzling, his deus ex machina are riveting, and the ultimate payoff to which he treats his audience is the sort of gangbusters crowd-pleaser that your average contemporary monster movie is too afraid to consider.   // In fairness, this year's Godzilla might not be considered an adequate remake, not quite reciprocating the ideals, tone, or importance of the original. Sure, anyone looking for a 2014 answer to 1954's game-changing paragon will find sincere philosophy traded for pulsing adventure... but they'd have a hard time ignoring the emphatic charm of this new lens for the 60-year-old lizard, both a highly original composition and a tribute in its way to the very history of monster movies (a history that owes so much to the creature in question). So does Godzilla '14 successfully fill the shoes of Godzilla '54? No — it rips them apart and dons a totally new pair... though it still has a lot of nice things to say about the first kicks. Oh, and the '98 Godzilla? Yeah, it's better than that. 4/5 Follow @Michael Arbeiter| Follow @Hollywood_com
  • 'Mad Men' Recap: The Weirdest Episode of 'Mad Men' Ever
    By: Michael Arbeiter May 12, 2014
    AMC A quick run-through of everything this week's episode of Mad Men has to offer: threesomes, cartoon monkeys, hippie parties, evil computers, and a guy who cuts off his own nipple. But if you want to get to the heart of the strangeness of "The Runaways," you have to appreciate the peculiar choices episode director/series cinematographer Christopher Manley made in shooting it. The ep poses a stark contrast to Mad Men's usual structure (a few patient, meaty scenes many minutes in length, flowing seamlessly into one another) with a collection of jagged 15-second clips that lob off mid-conversation or immediately after someone picks up the phone; twice this latter technique is used, once with Betty and once with Megan. We can chalk this up to the throughline of people not getting what they want in this episode — Don wants to see Stephanie (the niece of the late Ana Draper, who phones him in hopes of getting a little support for her fatherless baby-on-the-way), Megan wants to save her marriage, Ginsberg wants to defeat the nefarious machine wreaking havoc on Sterling Cooper & Partners (and woo Peggy), Lou Avery wants a little respect for his beloved comic strip creation Scout, and Betty wants... ugh, who knows — a theme that collapses when the most unpredictable desire is met: Don gets his groove back. Way back when, Don earned the ire of cigarette kingpin Philip Morris when he penned an editorial decrying the health problems caused by their product. It was the first in a string of antics that fissured Don's stellar reputation in the advertising game, particularly in the eyes of his own bosses and partners. The climax of that string, of course, cost him his place at SC&P at the end of last season, so a mending of the former might be the right touch (psychologically and thematically) to undo the latter. We can't really see Mad Men let Don taking his seat back at the head of the industry, so we're a bit perplexed as to what his apparently fruitful ad hoc chat with the Philip Morris boys this week will lead to (if not just the displeasure of Lou Avery and Harry Hamlin). But mystery aside, Don's determined play at the cigarette account is the only thing about "The Runaways" that feels cohesively put together. AMC The episode is littered with awkward gambits. Cautious reveals are shafted for abject ones (re: the initial shot of Stephanie's pregnant body), subtlety is all but foregone in thematic references (that 2001: A Space Odyssey send-up went over nobody's head), an incriminating conversation is overheard by the wrongest of persons from a bathroom stall (come on, guys, didn't something like this just happen in "A Day's Work"?). "The Runaways" strings together incredibly bizarre conceits, Michael Ginsberg's sudden schizophrenic explosion topping the lot, with such overt techniques and uncomfortably paced scenes that you can't help but wonder if what you're watching is next-level genius or a severe artistic mishap. But the material is all interesting. Even the dreadful locking of horns of Mr. and Mrs. Francis lands us some cherished time with Sally, whom we get to see adorn little brother Bobby with that same big-hearted kindness to which she treated Don a couple weeks back — it's adorable, and dripping with severity. Megan's play at a drug-induced threesome "for Don" (after growing jealous and suspicious of his concern for pregnant Stephanie) might be frustratingly ill-fated, but we get the feeling that it's the penultimate straw for the pair. And Ginsberg losing his mind over Sterling Cooper & Partners' new computer, devising homophobic conspiracy theories, jumping Peggy in her own apartment, mutilating himself (his severed nipple "for Peggy" beats Megan's ménage à trois by just a touch as the worst way to win someone's heart), and being carted off by mental health professionals is all enthusiastically stirring, if still outrageous enough to call the script's judgment into question. But, being told mostly from Peggy's point of view, it has its place. This job will kill them all. The future has no patience for (or interest in) men and women who aren't ready for it. And as Ginsberg is wheeled off screaming, Peggy begins to cry. Both for her suffering friend and for herself. Having seen her own era take down Don, she knows she might be next. Episode grade: B, with bonus points to Don for getting us away from Megan's banjo party so quickly Follow @Michael Arbeiter| Follow @Hollywood_com
  • A Brief History of All the Things That Are Just Like Other Things Leading Up to 'The Double'
    By: Michael Arbeiter May 09, 2014
    Magnolia Pictures via Everett Collection A brief history of things that are very much like other things, or at least that have been accused of being so: 1831-42: Nikolai Gogol publishes a several works of fiction, including "The Nose," "The Overcoat," and Dead Souls. 1846: Fyodor Dostoevsky publishes Dvoynik (in English: The Double), a novel about a timid, awkward guy who meets his confident, assertive lookalike. 1846: Literary critic Konstantin Aksakov accuses Dostoevsky of lifting from the various works of Gogol's, stating in a review of The Double that "Dostoevsky alters and wholly repeats Gogol's phrases." 1985: Director Terry Gilliam releases Brazil, a film about a tremendous corporation. 2002: Writer José Saramago publishes O Homem Duplicado (in English: The Double), a novel about a timid, awkward guy who meets his confident, assertive lookalike. 2006: Richard Ayoade begins starring on the British sitcom The IT Crowd, about the technological department of a tremendous corporation. 2007: Richard Ayoade stars in an unaired pilot for an American version of The IT Crowd, which was very much just a carbon copy of the original. 2007: America becomes aware of Michael Cera. 2009: America becomes aware of Jesse Eisenberg. 2009: America accuses Jesse Eisenberg of being a carbon copy of Michael Cera. 2010: Michael Cera stars in Youth in Revolt, in which he plays two roles: a timid, awkward guy (in keeping with his off-screen image) and a confident, assertive looklalike. 2010: Jesse Eisenberg stars in The Social Network, a film about a tremendous technological corporation. In the film, supporting cast member Armie Hammer plays two roles, though they are essentially the same character. 2011: Director Michael Brandt releases The Double, a film not at all affiliated with Dostoevsky's novel The Double. 2014: Jake Gyllenhaal stars in enemy Enemy, a film — based on Saramago's novel The Double — in which he plays two roles: a timid, awkward guy and his confident, assertive lookalike. 2014: Now a director, Richard Ayoade releases The Double, a film — based on Dostoevsky's novel The Double — about a tremendous corproation and starring Jesse Eisenberg. In the film, Eisenberg plays two roles: a timid, awkward guy (in keeping with his off screen image) and a confident, assertive lookalike. The first Eisenberg grows to hate the second Eisenberg for stealing his shtick. 2014: Some film critics accuse Ayoade of lifting from Gilliam, likening the dystopian aesthetic to that of Brazil.  2015 and on: Films, stories, and people will continue to work their way into our lives, earning scorn for their similarities to those that came before, be these similarities the result of theft, homage, simple coincidence, or diluted perception. Follow @Michael Arbeiter| Follow @Hollywood_com
  • Review: 'Palo Alto' Is a Devoted But Uneven Tribute to Teenage Ennui
    By: Michael Arbeiter May 07, 2014
    Tribeca Film via Everett Collection Palo Alto bleeds aimlessness in a lot of good ways. In the tradition of Dazed and Confused and The Last Picture Show, Gia Coppola's directorial debut lands us knee deep in the ennui of a self-contained society of small town teens, daring us to dive right into a neon cesspool vacant of hope or self-actualization. Keeping in step with the mentioned films, Palo Alto is far less interested in telling a story than it is in painting a picture. The spectacle that results is beautiful, piercing, and — quite definitely — Coppolian. But it hits some difficulty when it tries to move beyond its frame. Adapted from the short stories of at-least-he's-always-interesting James Franco (who is featured in the movie as a sneakily lecherous soccer coach), Palo Alto tags us to the corroded souls of a gaggle of misguided high schoolers in suburban Central California. Emma Roberts is the ostensible lead; her April is a sullen young woman whose chief character trait is sympathetic disillusionment. Her paths cross here and there with Mr. B (Franco) and likewise wayfaring classmate Teddy (Jack Kilmer — son of Val, who has a brief part in the film as the space cadet stepfather to Roberts), who is lightyears away from appreciating the gravity in his drunk driving episode and subsequent community service. Tribeca Film via Everett Collection The highlight of the bunch is Teddy's pal Fred, a compulsively obnoxious clown who The Naked Brothers Band's Nat Wolff stuffs with palpable agony and confusion. Buried inside of him, April, Teddy, and the scattered secondary players who work to identify the core of the proper main character — Palo Alto itself — lives our story, never progressing in any direction thereon out. The film is a snapshot of the pangs, frustrations, misgivings, malfeasances, and so on of the kids, adults, and neighborhood in question. In this form, it glows. But Palo Alto tries to drive its story forward, yanking April, Teddy, and Fred out from the stronghold of their communal desperation and throwing them into the beyond. It's this forward motion that brings our attention to the delicate seams of the film, its unpreparedness in handling the story as much more than a lasting glimpse. We feel the elements slipping away from Coppola as she attempts to set them on a motive course for the first time in the third act, and so we have a tough time staying adhered as we once were to the characters — the falter is doubled by the fact that this emancipation comes at the intended peak of their emotional journeys.  Although the film might leave off dabbling in undeveloped turns — feeling frayed, uneven, and incomplete (I suppose it's hard to insist that such qualities are inappropriate for the story at hand) — it spends the lion's share of its time in a remarkable establishment: a portrait as lifelike as it is dreamy and as funny as it is haunting. It might lose its balance when it grabs for agency, but it offers an image very much worthy of our eyes. 4/5 Follow @Michael Arbeiter| Follow @Hollywood_com
  • Review: 'Neighbors' Is a Successful Mixture of Natural, Broad, and Surreal Comedy
    By: Michael Arbeiter May 07, 2014
    Universal Stepping out of Neighbors into the cold, calm, dick-joke-free real world, you might find yourself hit with a barrage of "But wait..." moments: "Why did they move into a new frat house just a month or two before the end of college?" "When was it established that she wanted to sleep with him?" "Where did that pledge come from?" "Who was that other guy?" "If he, then why?" "When did?" "How?" "What?" "Huh?!" Yeah, there are enough logical holes in Nicholas Stoller's comedy to warrant an "Everything Wrong with Neighbors" gag trailer and a dozen or two angry message threads. But the tenability of a movie's realism isn't exactly on trial when it sells itself as the Seth Rogen comedy in which a baby eats a condom. Neighbors eagerly liberates itself not only from the laws of basic reality or tight storytelling, but also from the rigid shackles of any one comic tone. We jump from a slice of life about new parents Mac and Kelly (Rogen and Rose Byrne) who aren't quite ready to say goodbye to their youth instantly to a wild and wacky college farce about the fraternity one house over (led by Zac Efron and second banana Dave Franco), borrowing a lexicon from latter day National Lampoon. As the war picks up between these congenial neighbors-turned-close-quarters enemies, we're invited into a back and forth of vicious, albeit loony, aggression, each maneuver to "get those fogeys/punks next door" escalating in hostility, danger, and independence from earthbound possibility. As we're treated to this ceaseless exercise in human malignance, Neighbors peppers in episodes of cartoon-grade zaniness, macabre pathos, and absolute surrealism. And although it might not seem like all of these comic identities can exist in the same film, Neighbors has a special trick up its sleeve to make it all work: it's funny. Never brilliant, and rarely all that fresh, but always funny.  Universal The frat stuff plays broad, often saddling Efron's sadomasochistic pseudo-villain, Franco's vulnerable prick, and the pair's gang of goons — a wily Christopher Mintz-Plasse and an effortlessly charming Jerrod Carmichael at the top of the heap — with the usual party flick shenanigans like dance-offs and flaming barrels of marijuana. The team of youngsters is at its best, though, when the standard routine is shirked for more peculiar fare, like an abstract non sequitur that has Franco demonstrating a bizarre biological skill, or a fractured history of drinking games as narrated through flashbacks by a passionate Efron. A good deal of fun can be pinned on the usual assortment of physical gags, pop culture references (one extended bit plays on the film histories of Robert De Niro, Samuel L. Jackson, and Al Pacino to endearing results), and the goofball antics of supporting players like Ike Barinholtz (as Mac's zealous, dimwitted pal). But Neighbors' secret weapon is Byrne, outshining the established comedic reputations of her co-stars with her performance as Kelly. Catapulted miles from the doldrums of straight-man-hood, Byrne tops even Rogen in awkward panache (watching her struggling to interact with the younger breed early on in the movie is delightful) and diabolical villainy alike — the very biggest laughs come from Byrne unleashing her furies or executing evil schemes. If Neighbors inspires any lasting impression, it should be a new appreciation for Byrne's chops in the humor department.   // Somehow, this farcical grab bag never feels lethally convoluted or overstuffed. While the film's pacing does no great favors — we jump right into the principal conflict, which is a tough beat to sustain for so long — and a few abject narrative leaps keep the story from feeling tidy, these problems feel like a second priority. Even if some of the jokes feel strained or rehashed, if the characters are malleable, if the conceit is overcooked, or if there are too many plot holes to count... we're laughing. So it's working. 3.5/5 Follow @Michael Arbeiter| Follow @Hollywood_com
  • 'Louie' Premiere Kicks Off Season 4 with Delightful Weirdness
    By: Michael Arbeiter May 06, 2014
    K.C. Bailey/FX There are a few different types of Louie episodes. The first two entries in Season 4, premiering back to back on Monday night, showcase diversity in story structure — one a series of barely connected (sometimes not at all) vignettes, one a long self-contained narrative — but keep primarily within the margins of a specific type of comedy. One of the very first things we see in premiere episode "Back" is a gang of rowdy garbage men going out of their way to make as much noise as possible on a sleepy Manhattan morning, escalating in destruction from simply tossing trash cans around the street to breaking through a stoic Louie's window and wreaking havoc on his bedroom. (The fact that we've seen Louie's apartment to be a few stories above ground — think: Never tossing his rug out the window — makes this surreal gag even funnier.)  The sequence sets a tone for not only this episode, but the one to follow. We embrace even the chapters set in "reality" (like Louie laughing off young Lily's homework assignment to write a letter to AIDS, or Todd Barry telling his pal how much he dislikes his two daughters) with a whimsical, heightened feel. When Louie takes to the Hamptons in Episode 2 for a schmaltzy benefit gig that devolves into a night of passion with a wealthy model, we keep expecting something weird to happen. Weirder, I mean. K.C. Bailey/FX C.K.'s show handles fantasy in a way that few other programs do, playing on imagination to either breathe life into thoughts or sentiments that we've all experienced — the disruptive melodies of the morning garbage pickup, or obtrusively unhelpful medical professionals (Charles Grodin wonderfully plays a doctor who lays waste to the idea that Louie might ever be able to relieve himself of back pain) — or to say something interesting about the human condition (after blowing it with Yvonne Strahovski, accidentally punching her in the face and paralyzing her pupil, getting his own nose broken, and winding up on the losing end of a multi-million lawsuit, Louie can only smile about the fact that his woeful story has earned him the attention of a cute comedy club employee). Really, Louie is today's answer to The Twilight Zone. The episodes yet to come this season will show us a different side of Louie, the type that offers earthy, biting commentary on who we are as members of this society and how we operate therein. But as a kick-off to the season, we're very pleased that C.K. chose to go the delightfully weird route. There's nothing on TV quite like Louie, and there really never has been.
  • How 'The Amazing Spider-Man 2' Changes Up Gwen Stacey and Harry Osborn
    By: Michael Arbeiter May 02, 2014
    Columbia Pictures via Everett Collection Although Spider-Man comics have been around for decades, and a whole trilogy of films was delivered just a few years back, there are still opportunities to handle the characters and stories in new ways. Emma Stone's take on Gwen Stacey in The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is an example of that. The talented Stone manages to give us a far more developed, substantial, and progressive version of the traditionally slighted "superhero's girlfriend figure." Meanwhile, Dane DeHaan is offering a version of Harry Osborn that he and Jamie Foxx think could never have existed before. Producers Avi Arad and Matt Tolmach on how Emma Stone helped to create a stronger, more substantial Gwen Stacey for the modern era: Avi Arad: "When you have a great actress, and you give her the proper material, now you have a real scene. You don’t just have someone screaming. It’s important that you noticed it because when the comics were written in the ‘50s and ‘60s, women didn’t really have a role in comics. They were supposed to look good, stay on the side. We’re all very proud that we were able to change completely… there was source material that was changed completely. It’s the way we approached everything, as far as where we are today. And we just love the fact that we had this opportunity to make Gwen a true partner. As a matter of fact, the tragedy of it is that these two should be together forever. The fact that she’s more intelligent than him — way more! — and more mature… to me, the moment where she says, “I’m breaking up with you,” It’s such a change in any time in Marvel’s history. It’s never happened before."Matt Tolmach: "You know who wrote that line? Emma Stone. True story… Now I’m going to get an angry call from the writers."Emma Stone: "My agent is like, 'Where’s the writer credit?!'"MT: "That was your instinct."AA: "These are the little victories of time, when you can take comics that were written so long ago and bring it to our world. Again, when you have someone like that, you better make it a two-person act."MT: "We spent a lot of time over the years working on Spider-Man movies, asking the question, “What’s happening with Peter Parker? Where’s Peter Parker? Where’s Peter Parker?” as they sort of follow the bouncing ball narratively. And it is really smart of you to pick up on that on sight, because, the truth is, she’s driving the story. She’s the one who’s making decisions, she’s going to England, she’s making choices. Peter is trying to keep it all together. That’s his struggle. Gwen is somebody with a real sense of who she is and what she wants. It’s not that that isn’t complicated, but it’s incredibly empowering in a character."AA: "To tell you how much it became a part of everybody’s life, there’s a great scene where he webs to the taxi cab, and you [Emma] go “Peter!” It was not in the script..."MT: [Joking:] "We actually never had a script."AA: " was awesome and thankfully we shot it." Dane DeHaan and Jamie Foxx on the evolution of Harry Osborn from the comic books to James Franco in Sam Raimi's Spider-Man trilogy to The Amazing Spider-Man 2: Dane DeHaan: "Harry Osborn is a character that’s been around for 50 years. There’s been many incarnations of him, whether it be in comic books or cartoons or movies, or whatever. The main difference now is that there’s never been a Harry Osborn of today. And there’s never been a Harry Osborn in today’s culture. So what I tried to do was look at who Harry has always been in the Spider-Man universe, but then find out where that fits into today’s culture. I think that there’s this whole kind of trust-fund baby, hipster culture today that hasn’t ever really existed in that way. To me, that was just the most natural fit for Harry. And I think that it’s only different because it’s a different time." Jamie Foxx: "That’s what’s interesting ... I’m looking at a kid in a room who is seeing me for the first time as Electro. Doesn’t know anything — I think maybe they knew, maybe, about Django. It’s too young. It’s interesting how we will ask questions about the older Spider-Mans, but when you think about it, the kid that’s 12, 15, he probably wasn’t even around! Maybe he saw it on [TV]. I think that [we’re] able to get a fresh start, in a sense. I’m opening up to a whole different audience, as well as Dane. They’ll know Dane ... We’ve got this thing on Twitter now called 'the Dane Train.' I was like, 'Get on the Dane Train!' There’s a difference, for me, looking at the perspective of James Franco and looking at [Dane]. Dane has this thing, this sort of like cool… like that line where you say, 'Isn’t that the question of the day?' That line in the movie — I had my hoodie on in the theater, seeing what people respond to, you see little girls [get excited] because there’s a certain fly coolness to it, the same with Andrew. There’s a certain… these guys jump outside of these characters and they’re on the red carpet like sex symbols, in a sense. People are looking at them completely different. I think that’s the difference, to me, in how the characters are being played. There’s a certain 'today' flyness to it." More Amazing Spider-Man 2 interviews: Read about Stone and Andrew Garfield bringing real-life romance to the screen, and the creation of the sets and villains in the film. Follow @Michael Arbeiter| Follow @Hollywood_com
  • Building the World and Villains of 'The Amazing Spider-Man 2'
    By: Michael Arbeiter May 02, 2014
    Columbia Pictures via Everett Collection Even if you've only seen trailers for The Amazing Spider-Man 2, you know that the latest film from Sony must have entailed a hefty sum of effort in the design of sets and characters alike. One scene in particular showcases an electrified Jamie Foxx wreaking havoc on Times Square — no mean feat for even the most able-bodied of production teams. Check out a few remarks from director Marc Webb and stars Foxx, Dane DeHaan, and Emma Stone to hear about all the work that went into creating the world of The Amazing Spider-Man 2 and the villains who inhabit it. On the mammoth Times Square scene: Marc Webb: "We shot for only one or two nights in the actual Times Square, and then we built and entire version of Times Square out in Long Island. Simply because the logistical obligations of that scene were so complex that we had to... and we could, amazingly. I remember that scene came up in the script and we worked on it a little bit, and I was denying myself the pain and fear of thinking about how I was going to [do it]. Like, 'Oh, that’s so cool.' I was like, 'I don’t know how the f**k I’m going to do this.' And then I was like, 'Well, we’ll just build part of Times Square.' They’re like, 'Okay.' I kept on waiting for someone to be like, 'Are you insane?' But they were just like, 'Oh, okay, yeah. We’ll just do this here…' But it ended up being a logistically very difficult thing, just in terms of bringing the amount of lights that were required and the amount of cement that was required. Marc Friedberg, our production designer, did a really extraordinary thing, and there’s a huge spectacle, of course. There’s lots of explosions and extras and all that stuff, but really it’s a very important scene for Electro. Spider-Man’s biggest fan becomes his biggest foe, and there’s an emotional texture that has to ring true." Columbia Pictures via Everett Collection The actors talk how costumes and makeup helped to bring their characters to life: Dane DeHaan: "My makeup took three and a half hours for the Goblin. And then it was another hour just to get into the suit. I literally had four people using screwdrivers and wrenches getting into that suit." Jamie Foxx: "Mine was like taking me and dipping me in blue candlewax for like four hours. And then I’d come out, and then the CGI guys would be there, and they’d look at me, take pictures, and say, 'Stand this way, say this, laugh.' [Performs evil laughs and grunt] All these things. It was really fun. It’s like you were back at your crib, where you’re looking in the mirror, practicing how to act. Then when I looked at it and saw what they did with the CGI, it was incredible. Because people don’t even know that that’s actually me. They think it’s all CGI." "We [spent] 16 to 17 hours on finding the right suit to wear, or the right makeup. And they took it from there. These guys are geniuses at what they do. The guy that was the head of the CGI department, he was like, 'We got it. We know what we want to do. We want to make a thunderstorm inside your body,' and all these other different things. It was great to see it all work."   // Emma Stone: "I had input [on Gwen's wardrobe], but [Deborah Lynn Scott] was the costume designer and she’s a genius. She made Marty McFly Marty Mcfly. So there was no trouble there. She really understood..."Producer Matt Tolmach: "Those Nikes."ES: "That puffer vest. She did Titanic."MT: "Originally in this movie you were wearing those Nikes."ES: "I was wearing those Nikes and I was wearing Kate Winslet’s really tight corset."MT: "It was an homage."ES: "I bridged the gap between that comic book fantasy wardrobe and real life in a really beautiful way." When asked if she was able to take any pieces of Gwen's wardrobe home with her: ES: "No you have to keep everything in a Sony vault in case you have to reshoot."MT: "She tried, it got really awkward."ES: "Got super uncomfortable."MT: "Security."ES: "Arrests." Follow @Michael Arbeiter| Follow @Hollywood_com