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.
  • Even John Landis' Son Won't Touch 'Ghostbusters 3'
    By: Michael Arbeiter Jun 18, 2014
    Columbia Pictures via Everett Collection We're of the mentality that you should never write off a project on concept alone. Who'd have thought that some of this past Oscar season's best material would include a guy falling in love with his smartphone, Will Forte dragging an old man around the American Midwest, or a woman floating aimlessly around in space? So we're really trying to find the hope in your plans for Ghostbusters 3, Dan Aykroyd, but it's not a good sign when even Max Landis, the son of your longtime pal and frequent collaborator John Landis, is turning down the opportunity to direct. Rumors began circulating that li'l Max, writer of Chronicle and Daniel Radcliffe's upcoming Frankenstein picture, was attached to helm Aykroyd's widely lamented attempt at a third go. But the heir to the Landis throne denied these reports on Twitter (via Cinemablend), citing an already stocked foreseeable future: "Zero truth to the Ghostbusters report," he said on Tuesday. "Frankenstein, Me Him Her, American Ultra and Mr. Right come out next year. Working on things at Uni and Sony, and indies. GB3, sadly, no." This must be a letdown for Akyroyd, who must have really been banking on the "But your pa and I did Blues Brothers together! We made history!" speech to take weight. But it's not like the man doesn't have plenty of other pals with up-and-coming offspring to take the reins on this new project. Jason Reitman's got to be looking for a way to make up for Labor Day, right? Follow @Michael Arbeiter| Follow @Hollywood_com
  • The Picture of Dornan's Grey: First Look at '50 Shades of Grey' Star
    By: Michael Arbeiter Jun 18, 2014
    Universal Studios There's nothing sexier than a hip young gent with a sweet ride, leather duds, a clean shave, and a silent glower that says, "I buy American." At least that's what the promotional team behind Fifty Shades of Grey seems to think... perhaps misunderstanding the title as '50s Shades of Grey, as they've stuck star Jamie Dornan in a still that's family friendly even by the standards of my grandmother who still insists that I shouldn't be listening to that awful Bill Haley. The pic keeps in step with the confirmation that director Sam Taylor-Johnson's Fifty Shades will be R-rated, as opposed to the NC-17 that the book's material would more naturally call for, leaving us to expect as tame and tepid a movie about sadomasochism can conceivably be. If you have your doubts, take another look at the photo. It doesn't even seem like Dornan's Christian Grey is driving, rather sitting in park until the devil-may-care youths breaching the speed limit are safely beyond the horizon. Lousy kids. Dornan and Dakota Johnson will take to the big screen with their mutual first step to film stardom next Valentine's Day, a date appropriately void of organic passion. Follow @Michael Arbeiter| Follow @Hollywood_com
  • Mark Ruffalo Says Marvel Might Do Another Hulk Movie — Let's At Least Hear Him Out!
    By: Michael Arbeiter Jun 17, 2014
    Walt Disney Studios via Everett Collection Okay, Ruffalo. Sell it. Tell us why, with so many properties to choose from and all the money required to breathe life into its leviathan of promising characters, Marvel is "entertaining the idea" of another standalone movie for the Hulk. After all, the first two attempts at a Bruce Banner-centric picture resulted in sour reviews and lackluster box office intake. Ang Lee's maudlin interpretation of the character, as portrayed by Eric Bana in 2003, nearly sapped us of our Spider-Man highs, while Louis Leterrier's lunking, charmless 2008 version left us mourning the days when an Edward Norton headline meant a sure thing (there might not have ever been days like that, but it sure seems like there were at some point). But two years past the Hulk's gallant return to Bixbian form in The Avengers, and you're coming to DigitalSpy with the news that Marvel is considering another go at the rage-filled green giant for a spin-off feature? All right, we'll hear you out: "There's still nothing definitive, not even a skeletal version of what it would be. I look forward to going down that road, if we could crack that nut." Clearly, you and Marvel alike share our skepticism, which is, in its own way, comforting. As lovers of Banner in his comic book, television series, and Ruffaloan form (and that last bit includes your appearance in the Iron Man 3 stinger, for which you seem to share an affinity: "If they did Iron Man 4 and Banner’s in that, that’d be very cool."), we'd love nothing more than the Hulk granted his cinematic due. But such a complicated character takes patience and plotting... more so than Leterrier hocked at the screen in '08, but not quite as much as Lee wove so dreadfully in '03. A happy medium. Something that the Phase 2-and-on psychology might be able to bring to life.  Seems like you've convinced us, Ruffalo. Maybe there is some hidden gold left to mine for a Hulk movie. Just... be careful this time, okay? Follow @Michael Arbeiter| Follow @Hollywood_com
  • There Are So Many Helicopters in 'The Expendables 3' Trailer
    By: Michael Arbeiter Jun 17, 2014
    Lionsgate The new trailer for The Expendables 3 shows off an unsurprising abundance of explosions, gunfire, and sexagenarians saying things like "Lock and load." A bit more surprising in its ubiquity, however, is the action hero's old friend the helicopter. Yes, any film bording the lethal dose of adrenaline is bound to feature a chopper or two, but the two-and-a-half minute preview for Sylvester Stallone's upcoming threequel shows off an irrational number whirlybirds. And yeah, those are the only slang words for "helicopter" I know, so we're going to have to get creative now.   We catch glimpse the first of many propellerinos swooping down over an enemy train to rescue the apparently nonexpendable Wesley Snipes from incarceration. After rendering the entire locomotive to ruins (hopefully those were Nazis or something and not, you know, just military men doing their job apprehending criminals), we move onto a slew of other hummingbots prime for adventure: one drops off a maniacal Mel Gibson. One launches explosive at the side of a dock. One hovers over the speeding car of Natalie Burn. And one hovers just out of reach of what we can only assume is a ketamine-engendered Sylvester Stallone. And that's not even counting the jets (of both the plane and Li variety) sprinkled throughout the trailer. If the trailer offers up this many circle-spin-bumble-droids (too creative?), we can only imagine what the 103-minute runtime has in store. Follow @Michael Arbeiter| Follow @Hollywood_com
  • The 'Father of the Bride 3' Gay Marriage Plot Sounds Totally Outdated
    By: Michael Arbeiter Jun 16, 2014
    Buena Vista Pictures via Everett Collection Twenty-one years ago, we watched a homophobic Denzel Washington warm up to his fellow lawyer and client Tom Hanks, a gay man afflicted with AIDS, over the course of a criminal case that proved that America was no easy place for a homosexual gentleman to make a living or lead his life. And at the end of this story called Philadelphia, that no-longer-homophobic Denzel Washington was a hero. The sort of man who harbored "completely sympathetic" sentiments at the start, but graduated to sentiments altogether admirable. That's the sort of world we lived in back in 1993. But these 21 years later, we live in the sort of world that would take a homophobic Denzel Washington and cast him into villainy, redemptive arc or not. Which is why the plot of Disney's Father of the Bride 3, of all things, sounds about a decade or so too late. The threequel to Steve Martin's family comedies Father of the Bride (1991) and Father of the Bride Part II (1995) will have the snow-capped comedic dynamo lamenting the realization that his son Matt (played in the first two films by young Kieran Culkin, now age 29) is gay and engaged to a man. Nikki Finke's blog reports the premise, explaining that Martin's uptight-but-affable family man George Banks will this time be "thunderstruck and speechless" and none too keen on the revelation of his son's sexual orientation. Although George's wife Nina (Diane Keaton) plays the voice of reason in casting her thick-headed husband out of the house, so reports Finke, we're still looking at a severely outdated mentality in the approach of the subject. Buena Vista Pictures via Everett Collection Although homophobia is a far, far cry from absent in today's America, the media (including a few of Disney's own properties) seems to embrace the idea that anyone advertising prejudice against gay men and women is acting in the name of ignorance, idiocy, and injustice, not the "acceptable hesitations" of eras past. No longer do we live in the Philadelphia days when a character like Washington's attorney Joe Miller might be seen as sympathetic in spite (or perhaps in light) of his bigotry. Today, the homophobes of film and TV are the bad guys. Although heteronormativity remains a problem coursing through our media, abject hatred is aligned with criminal characters. How can we accept our own George Banks in his role as put-upon good guy with such a nasty proclivity for intolerance? And why is it necessary in a movie about gay marriage for any figure to express disfavor with the wedding at hand? Of course it would be ridiculous to deny extant hardships faced by the gay community, but we've also breached an era wherein the notion of a family accepting a member's profession of homosexuality without pause is hardly implausible. The Philadelphias of past helped to align the sympathies of viewing audiences with gay men and women, to point out the wickedness in the time's all-too-prevalent defamy. What we need now from our movies is to induct gay relationships into their depiction of normalcy. To show that the same love, happiness, drama, and comedy that we see in films like Father of the Bride would exist in a story about two men tying the knot. Even this notion seems too obvious to point out, but clearly Disney doesn't quite think so. Follow @Michael Arbeiter| Follow @Hollywood_com
  • Review: The Simplicity of 'The Rover' Is Its Victory and Its Downfall
    By: Michael Arbeiter Jun 13, 2014
    A24 via Everett Collection Ten years after the civilized world bites the dust, making way instead for a criminal wasteland run on greed, violence, sex trafficking, and any number of other unthinkable vices, we meet a man who just wants to take back what was stolen from him. The terrific thing about The Rover is its simplicity. The vast contrivances of its post-apocalyptic world and the dozens of questions that arise as a result of its many mysteries aside, the film never strays from its focus on the bones of grisly Guy Pearce, a man on a mission who just happens to live on a surreal new version of the planet Earth. Pearce chauffers the audience through the nooks and cranies of a tattered Australian outback, giving us a look at the dingy yet colorful customs of the dark era while sticking with promise to his revenge-and-retrieval journey. The script doesn't give Pearce a lot of breathing room, resigning the hot-heated, closed-mouthed character to his mission without much room for exploration. While we celebrate the simplicity of his quest, the simplicity of Pearce's character — and more importantly, his performance — does keep from instilling The Rover with the nuance that would afford it true flavor. A24 via Everett Collection Beside him is Robert Pattinson, playing a young man of questionable mental capacity, roped along for the ride thanks to his tenuous knowledge of where Pearce's desired possession has been taken. Pattinson impresses as the far more vibrant of the duo, his performance abetted by the stark contrast to anything we've seen of him to date — even the stellar Cosmopolis kept the actor moreover subdued. But here, he's given free range to be vulnerable, menacing, and funny.  Ultimately, Rover delivers on everything it offers up, but nonetheless lands short of what feels like a complete and compelling feature. Though the brevity of its intent is one of its strengths, you almost wonder if the story wouldn't have been better served as a short film instead. But we aren't likely to see Robert Pattinson break free from routine in a short film, so I guess that's reason alone for the 102-minute runtime. 3/5 Follow @Michael Arbeiter| Follow @Hollywood_com
  • 'Birdman' Looks Like Proof That We've Been Wasting Michael Keaton All These Years
    By: Michael Arbeiter Jun 12, 2014
    YouTube/Fox Searchlight No, not RoboCop — that's just a movie with Michael Keaton in it, puttering around the background with tempered menace. Not The Other Guys, which uses Keaton for nothing more than a recurring joke about TLC lyrics. It's been years. Decades, even, since we saw Keaton grab hold of a role that we could really take home and stew in. Acclaim as the man's greatest work will invariably land on Beetlejuice or Batman. But even these great, especially bizarre cinematic turns don't offer up the full scope of which Keaton is capable. But his latest venture — Alejandro González Iñárritu's Birdman, which has released its first trailer — just might.   It's impossible to ignore the similarities between the premise of Birdman and Keaton's own career: the character began his life in show business as a big name movie star in a superhero franchise, falling toward obscurity in the years to follow. Keaton's decline was never quite as dramatic as the delightfully named Riggan Thomson's looks to be, nor has he ever (publicly) succumbed to this degree of mania. But there's one more connection: one last chance to prove himself more than anybody ever thought him to be. In Birdman, that takes form as a Broadway production that Riggan lands. In Keaton's real life, it's Birdman itself. YouTube/Fox Searchlight Forgive the meta interpretation, but Birdman does look like something we haven't seen (or let) Keaton do in quite some time, perhaps ever. Such a master at the wisecrack and so adept at playing the tertiary oddball, and ostensibly happy to stay relegated to these talents, Keaton has been robbed of his chance to shine as an offbeat dramatic star, instead sticking consistently to the background of commercial fare. In Birdman, so it seems from the trailer (and with consideration of director Iñárritu's history of helming inventive punch-to-the-gut pictures like Biutiful, Babel, 21 Grams, and Amores Perros), Keaton could tap freely into a darkness we haven't seen since his days with Tim Burton; he could use his expertise with vocal tics and manneristic schisms to evoke true psychological horror, drama, and comedy alike. Birdman could give Keaton exactly what the in-universe play gives the former Birdman. And for those of us hungry for the same brand of irreverent insanity packed into his tiny but memorable Beetlejuice performance, this time dipped in a batter of real world turmoil and emotional discord, it's quite an exciting prospect. Birdman, also starring Emma Stone, Edward Norton, Zach Galifianakis, and Naomi Watts, hits theaters on October 17. Follow @Michael Arbeiter| Follow @Hollywood_com
  • Review: Hokey 'The Signal' Is a Really Fun Bad 'Twilight Zone' Episode
    By: Michael Arbeiter Jun 11, 2014
    Focus Features via Everett Collection If you take the unpredictability, the philosophical depth, and the groundbreaking artistry out of a Twilight Zone episode, you'll be left with something like The Signal: a "dude wakes up in a weird place and everything's different and he doesn't know why" story, lacking in most of the merit, but still packing a good sum of the entertainment factor. Although it's hardly the stimulating piece of thought provoking sci-fi that it might aim to be, The Signal is a thoroughly enjoyable romp through the avenues of B-movie kitsch, kookiness, and half-baked imagination. The film does the trick in establishing palpable characters. However rote they may be, MIT student Nic (Brenton Thwaites), post-millennial geek Jonah (Beau Knapp), and Nic's girlfriend Haley (Olivia Cooke) are colored bright enough to cart us through the bizarre world soon to ensnare them with no dearth of empathy. We meet the trio at the tail end of a cross-country road trip; Haley is moving to the West Coast with plans reeking of a "fresh start" mentality, despite her affirmed devotion to the recently crippled Nic and their relationship. During their travels, Nic and Jonah are contacted by an anonymous hacker of renown, Nomad, and driven to find his secret hideout in the middle of nowhere. Naturally, exploration of a remote cabin leads our heroes to ultimate doom: they wake up the next morning steeped in a set of strange, often incomprehensible, and consistently titilating circumstances. Focus Features via Everett Collection Government facilities, men in spacesuits (Laurence Fishburne leading the bunch), dense interrogations, disturbing footage, and lanced memories... all of the Rod Serling traditions, each injected with an intimate connection gratis of our mumblecorey introduction to the early 20s trio. As we follow Nic on his endeavor to figure out what the hell is going on and get himself and his friends the hell out of dodge, we're driven both by the mystery and the personal evolution of the characters at hand.   Granted, neither one is offering particularly stellar material: Nic's character arc is basic at best, ditto the "big questions" circling the enigmatic setting. But the saving grace of The Signal, odd as it may be, is that we're never really expecting to be impressed. From the get-go, we feel as though we're stepping into a particularly hokey second-rate feature. It's the embrace of this identity, and the appreciation for a movie of this aesthetic, that can help to carry us to the end (the big reveal!) with plenty of enjoyment. 3.5/5 Follow @Michael Arbeiter| Follow @Hollywood_com
  • The Fatal Difference Between the 'Dumb and Dumber 2' Trailer and 'Dumb and Dumber'
    By: Michael Arbeiter Jun 11, 2014
    Universal Pictures The spirit of Dumb & Dumber is summed up, appropriately, in the final lines of the film. After inadvertently shooing away a busload of beautiful women seeking their company (and then some), our witless heroes Harry and Lloyd continue on their wayward journey down the Colorado highway, sinking blissfully into the little world that only they will ever occupy. After Jim Carrey bemoans their lonesome fate, Jeff Daniels stoically assures him that the duo's time will come — "We've just got to keep our eyes open." — before the inevitable game of its, no backsies, and double stamps erupts. It's this particularly tender ending that makes us realize that the previous two hours of infantile wisecracks and slapstick of the lowest brow were actually woven together, and made far more enjoyable than they should have been, by a sweet, warm thread of love for these characters and their joint private nirvana. It's the kindness, not the crudeness, that makes Dumb & Dumber such a special success. So we're worried that Dumb and Dumber 2, from the looks of the first trailer for the film, might be approaching its mission from the wrong side.    The trailer works blue with jokes about cat butts, bicycle dry-humping, and the vicious yanking of active catheters... nothing that would have felt too out of place in Dumb & Dumber. But the extended focus on a scene in which Lloyd attempts to swindle an ostensibly senile old women out of her hidden diamonds, amounting in the crassest gag in the preview. New Line Cinema via Everett Collection While crassness isn't a dealbreaker, it should not be the backbone of a Dumb & Dumber movie: innocence should. Harry and Lloyd were likable characters despite all the havoc and harm they caused due to their good nature and innocence. But here, that seems to be shafted in favor of an up of the ante on the crudeness that the Farrelly Brothers are so famous for. Look at lesser Farrelly films, like Shallow Hal and Hall Pass, as compared to Dumb & Dumber or There's Something About Mary — when crudeness takes a backseat to heart, we don't wind up with something memorable or particularly funny. We only hope that Dumb and Dumber To, as it is officially titled, does not make this fatal mistake. Follow @Michael Arbeiter| Follow @Hollywood_com
  • 'Louie' Takes on Marijuana with a New, Important Message
    By: Michael Arbeiter Jun 10, 2014
    FX By this time, you've probably read, tweeted about, and sorted through no shortage of confrontational reaction pieces on Maureen Dowd's essay on getting so high she thought she was dead. A collective of Internet voices pointed out why marijuana was not the culprit of Dowd's existential eruption but a mixture of inexperience and poor planning. Dozens leapt to the defense of pot in the wake of what they considered an unjust maligning of their dear friend, following the form of so many television programs and films of the past two decades that have worked to glorify recreational use of the drug after years of criminal stigma. In the sociopolitical spectrum, Dowd represented the closing of that cycle: a rebuttal to all the rebuttals. And in the aforementioned spectrum of pop culture, we have Louie doing the same. Or so it might seem. This week's episode of the often surreal comedy/drama takes the form of a 90-minute mini-movie, shafting the show's usual subversion of structure, stories, characters, and basic sentiments we're used to seeing on air in favor of a far more conventional, soft-spoken anecdote about a 13-year-old boy's first experiences with pot. The extended flashback about the dawn of Louie's marijuana use, which makes up the bulk of the episode, is inspired when Louie catches 12-year-old Lily smoking a joint with a few kids her age. His nerves explode as he wrangles her away from the pack, plops her down by a nearby tree, scolds her for this behavior, threatens to inform her mother, takes her to get a burger, and then drives her home silently... throughout the mission, Louie doesn't seem to have a clue about how to handle this sort of thing. And that's probably because, as we learn from a flashback, nobody really knew how to handle it when he did the same thing at her age. We meet Louie (Devin Druid, who we'll forgive for a deficit of freckles) in his last year of junior high school. The young man, pre-first toke, is warm and loving to his mother, attentive in school, and an all around good fella. With the knowledge of where this episode is setting to go, there's the inescapable ambiance of propaganda here — such a good kid torn asunder by the clutches of recreational drugs: Louie does lose his grip quite a bit once partaking in the bounties of weed. He becomes lazy, tired, edgy, and resorts at his lowest point to stealing a handful of scales from his school's chemistry department (and his beloved teacher, played by Skipp Sudduth and named ostensibly for Philip Seymour Hoffman, to whom the episode is dedicated) for trade with his shifty drug dealer (maybe my favorite Jeremy Renner performance yet). FX On paper, it does seem over the top, and the episode veers in that direction quite a few times, barely avoiding the after school special state of being. But once "In the Woods" grabs hold of the characters around Louie, like his mom, friends, friends' families, teacher, principal, guidance counselor, drug dealer, and long absent father (played by F. Murray Abraham in his third role on the show, the previous being Louie's Uncle Excelsior), it proves itself as an episode not about marijuana, but about the way people react to marijuana. Louie's friends react to the idea of starting a life with pot with hungry glee. His dorky pal thinks hedonistically, encouraging Louie to get in the drug selling game, while a "wrong side of the tracks" new friend/former bully who hitches his wagon to Louie in light of his latest score of hash, warns against the dangers of dealing, and dealing with dealers. Adults around these kids have adverse reactions: they respond with hostility (the bully's older brother, lamenting this waste of time and money as their mother succumbs to illness), legal threats (Louie's principal, suspecting him of theft of the school's property), moral condemnation (Louie's father, rearing his head for the first time in a month to express his distaste for Louie and his choices), and compassion (a guidance counselor who caps the episode with reasonable theories about Louie self-medicating to overcome his parents' divorce). But the one that really hits, the one that veers closest to Louie's own befuddled reaction: his mom, played once again by Amy Landecker (and quite astoundingly), who is simply hurt. She is hurt over the thought of losing her son: his purity and innocence. And she, with more burdens upon her than adult Louie, is torn to accusing him of abandoning her and himself. Of becoming selfish, vacant, and boring (we recall just last week, Dr. Charles Grodin said the very same thing of Louie... but it didn't sting quite as much then). Louie recoils immediately after accusing Lily of leaving behind her childhood for good, knowing that experimentation, while indicative of an ushering in of the new, does not necessitate a deletion of the old. Still, he's afraid to lose his girl to things she can't handle, and more inevitably, adulthood altogether. And rightfully so — considering the Louie we know from the show's admittedly loose modern day canon, he has never been the same since "growing up." He might miss his old self. And just like his mom missed him when he began to change, he'll miss Lily as she does. But as "In the Woods" shows us, this doesn't mean that Louie is ruined; that's where it differs from the propaganda of health class specials that we're used to, despite mimicking them in tone (probably with intention). Louie maintains integrity in the face of fear throughout his plethora of mistakes. He stands up for his bullied friend, dissuades from the use of violence, owns up to his crimes, and ultimately reconciles with his mom. Marijuana didn't make him worse, it was just a bridge to him becoming older. By the end of "In the Woods," Louie was the kind of person who'd have to fix his mistakes rather than never make them in the first place. The episode is a ways away from the glorification of pot that we've seen in most adult television shows and movies of late. After years of demonization, Judd Apatow and his ilk took the drug back to showcase how harmless and fun it can be. And it can be both of those things. But just like any other new experience at the onset of teen- and adulthood, it can also be a problem. More important than the drug itself is the way people react to it... and not just the users. Follow @Michael Arbeiter| Follow @Hollywood_com