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.
  • The 20 Best Movies of 2014 (So Far)
    By: Michael Arbeiter Jul 04, 2014
    Now that the halfway mark has hit between the dawn of a hopeful 2014 and the inevitable exasperated gasp of relief that another year of harrowing grief is finally over, we're inclined to look back on the past six months of cinematic glory. First, we set our sights to the best performances of the year, both leading and supporting. Next, we turned to movie scenes and moments. And finally, we take on the big guns: the best movies we've seen so far this year, listed below in alphabetical order. Check 'em out, and see which ones sound worth catching up on. Drafthouse Films via Everett Collection BORGMANA mysterious vagabond makes himself at home on the property of a posh, rapidly fissuring Danish family. "All is not what it seems" to the nth degree.As a bonus: The film's proclivity to tease its viewers for their inevitable search for answers to its mysteries.  BOYHOODThe life of a boy as he grows from age six to 18. More of a poem about the bounties of life and presence than a traditional narrative, and unlike any other film you'll see.As a bonus: The eventual realization that you've been looking at life all wrong, but that it's not too late to find a new kind of existential harmony.   THE DOUBLECrippled by his anxieties, Jesse Eisenberg is tossed into a dark and comical existential whirlwind when he meets a man who looks just like him (also Jesse Eisenberg, naturally) but acts the exact opposite.As a bonus: The engaging debates following the movie about whether or not director Richard Ayoade is just ripping off Terry Gilliam.*The Double made our Best Performances list for Jesse Eisenberg, but we'd also like to give special props to Wallace Shawn for his hilariously dimwitted boss.   THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTELAt the dawn of the Third Reich in Eastern Europe, the consierge of an esteemed luxury hotel in sets off on a wild caper, his lobby boy in tow, when he is suspected of murder.As a bonus: Finally getting a Wes Anderson movie that you think your non-Wes Anderson-fan friends might actually enjoy. HIDE YOUR SMILING FACESA simple and closed-mouthed but incredibly dense film about two young brothers dealing with the death of a close friend. Heartwrenching and accessible all the while.As a bonus: The faith that debut director Daniel Patrick Carbone is definitely going places. Music Box Films IDAOn the dawn of her inception into a monastery, a teenage orphan finds out that she is Jewish and sets off to meet her alcoholic, free-wheelin' aunt for the first time. Terribly sad, but incredibly funny at times.As a bonus: The realization that this movie is kind of like Planes, Trains, and Automobiles set in post-WWII Eastern Europe.   JOEAn emotionally rattled Nicolas Cage rambles about his rural town, solving and causing problems for neighbors, friends, his dog, and a young boy who comes to him looking for a job (and a father figure).As a bonus: You can't help but delight in the fact that Cage actually gets to be in a good movie for the first time in years (and does a hell of a job in it, too).   THE LEGO MOVIEA tribute to the omnipresent children's toy, as well as to creativity, individuality, and spaceships. Funny as hell.As a bonus: If for some reason your kids didn't like LEGOs, hopefully this will do the trick.   LIFE ITSELFA documentary that scales the life and work of Roger Ebert, the most decorated film critic in the history of the business. As a bonus: If you're a film critic, this will really, sincerely make you feel good about what you do for a living. And if you're just a movie person in general, it will simply just make you feel good. MANAKAMANAA weird, formless movie that follows a series of passengers on a cable car traveling to and from the Manakamana Temple in the mountains of Nepal.As a bonus: The one American featured in the movie is... comically American. MOOD INDIGOMichel Gondry's whimsical tragedy (if such a thing ever existed, it was Mood Indigo) about an eccentric couple that falls victim to one party's fatal illness.As a bonus: Gondry's Science of Sleep-style imagery is in full force here, even in the darker chapters of the feature. NIGHT MOVESThe second Jesse Eisenberg picture on the list: this time, he's an eco-terrorist whose plans to blow up a problematic dam go awry. A rare gem that captures thrilling tension and precise intimacy at once.As a bonus: You'll learn a few things about living "green." Just don't blow up too many dams. OBVIOUS CHILDA traditional rom-com — she's kooky, he's serious, and New York is a palpable character (man, They Came Together really got it right), but fresher, funnier, and centered around the process of getting an abortion.As a bonus: Although Obvious Child doesn't seem to have any political angles, the fashion in which it treats abortion is particularly important in the interest of quelling the stigmas facing those pursuing the option. ONLY LOVERS LEFT ALIVEPossibly the best thing to come out so far in 2014, Jim Jarmusch's story about a pair of madly-in-love but decadently depressed vampires uses the mythology of immortality to discuss just how sad mankind is getting, and just how sad a man can be.As a bonus: It's basically a love letter to classic rock. If you're a music lover, this is a must-see.   PALO ALTOA fever tream about suburban teen ennui, involving the stories of three high school students and a lecherous soccer coach.As a bonus: Hey, we've got another Coppola now! Abramorama via Everett Collection PARTICLE FEVERA chipper, accessible documentary about the Higgs-Boson particle and the nature of existence altogether. It doesn't condescend but it doesn't shoot too far over your head, either.As a bonus: It's a movie about the very fabrics of the universe. What more do you need?   SNOWPIERCERWhere do we begin? Long after the human race has been wiped out, a "super train" containing the last living people runs indefinitely, hosting a vicious class system that is about to be uprooted by a blue collar revolutionary.As a bonus: Tilda f**king Swinton.   UNDER THE SKINThis one is hard to explain. Basically, Scarlett Johansson drives around Scotland bringing men back into a black room containing a carnivorous liquid floor. Kind of. Just see it, okay?As a bonus: The movie helped one of its actors overcome the hardships of his disease.  WE ARE THE BEST!Three Swedish schoolgirls find agency and identity in the punk rock scene, forming a band and a tight friendship in this endearing and joyful tribute to the coming-of-age genre.As a bonus: HATE THE SPORT! HATE THE SPORT! NA NA NA NA HATE THE SPORT! ZERO MOTIVATIONA weird mix of sincerity and loony surrealism, this Tribeca Film Festival entry about best friends toiling as grunts in the Israeli army is oddly funny, charming, and original.As a bonus: Imagine if Stripes were about kooky, petulant teenage Israeli girls.
  • The Best Movie Moments and Scenes in 2014 (So Far)
    By: Michael Arbeiter Jul 03, 2014
    Now that the halfway mark has hit between the dawn of a hopeful 2014 and the inevitable exasperated gasp of relief that another year of harrowing grief is finally over, we're inclined to look back on the past six months of cinematic glory. First, we set our sights to the best performances of the year, both leading and supporting. Next, we turn to movie scenes and moments — the funny, shocking, moving, and just plain weird instances that stuck with us long after we stepped out of the theater. Here's a quick list of some of the most memorable movie scenes and moments we've seen so far in 2014. Paramount Pictures The evolution sequence in NoahDarren Aronofsky's account of the great flood jumped levels in progressive thinking when it included a scene that comfortably meshed creationist beliefs with the science of evolution. The sequence, which followed an aquatic amoeba as it grew into a fish, then a lizard, then a series of mammals, until ultimately becoming the impetus for mankind, is not just intellectually rich, but visually dazzling. Gustave's prison break in The Grand Budapest HotelEvery chapter in Wes Anderson's latest film is terrific fun, but Ralph Fiennes on the run from the law (and the vicious Adrien Brody) is about as merry as it gets... even with the haunting undercurrent in an approaching World War. The opening sequence in BorgmanThe mysterious Danish picture Borgman institutes an excitement, a levity, and a curious nature all at once with its terrific opening sequence, wherein the title character is drawn from his home underground for unexplained reasons and forced to flee the wrath of angry villagers, and help to liberate his friends from the same. The "Spaceship, spaceship, spaceship!" gag in The Lego MovieServing primarily as a punchline to a long gestating joke, Charlie Day's Lego character's manic exclamation of his favorite word is the biggest laugh in a very funny movie. Scarlett Johannson abducting a man with neurofibromatosis in Under the SkinJonathan Glazer's bizarre film is nothing if not evasive, but peaks in its enigmatic nature when the nameless hero/villain Scarlett Johansson, herself of mysterious origins, abducts and seems to warm to a man afflicted with a facial deformity. Cue the process of undress and cannibalistic black liquid floors... Warner Bros. Entertainment Ken Watanabe's big moment in Godzilla"Let them fight." The end credits of 22 Jump StreetChris Miller and Phil Lord embrace their love of genre parody in the post-narrative moments of 22 Jump Street, in which they send their starring duo through a long line of false sequels (entailing their attendance at med school, military school, traffic school... there are a good dozen of these, all of 'em funny). The statutory rape endorsement in Transformers: Age of ExtinctionLet's get this straight: we're simply in awe of this scene due to how god damn bizarre it is, not at all on board with its message (or even its artistic merits in a movie about robot wars). We can't help but think about Mark Wahlberg challenging the validity of 20-year-old Jack Reynor's romantic relationship with 17-year-old Nicola Peltz, only to see Reynor pull a laminated document from his pocket that exempts him from all legal ramifications of dating a minor. Weird as all hell. The getaway scene in Night MovesNear unprecedented tension hits when Jesse Eisenberg and his two fellow eco-terrorists attempt to flee the scene after programming a time bomb to detonate an ecologically destructive dam. The trio sits on the midnight river, hoping to avoid both the eyes of passersby and the wrath of a deadly explosive. It's edge-of-your-seat kind of stuff. Liam Neeson grabbing a gun in mid-air while the airplane aboard which he is a passenger hurdles into oblivion as a team of hijackers attempts to take the whole thing hostage in Non-StopRight? 20th Century Fox Film The Quicksilver scene in X-Men: Days of Future PastEvan Peters spends very little time onscreen in the latest X-Men picture, but his talents are milked for all their value when he is charged with dashing around a slow-motion Pentagon kitchen to the soothing tunes of Jim Croce. The grade school scene in SnowpiercerThe most disturbing, macabre, and wickedly fun scene in a movie that has no shortage of any of those three qualities, a very pregnant Allison Pill's grade school seminar in the back half of Snowpiercer stands out as the film's most enjoyable achievement. Pill sells the hell out of lunacy in this sequence. Paul Rudd walks into a bar in They Came Together Our favorite joke in They Came Together, narrowly beating out Paul Rudd and Amy Poehler's mutual love of fiction books, is Rudd's sullen conversation with a highly redundant barkeep who, let's just say, calls 'em like he sees 'em. Over and over and over. Nicolas Cage asking a neighborhood kid if he's still MMA fighting in Joe I have no idea why I love this so much, but one brief exchange in the sleepy, somber movie Joe has Cage chatting with a young neighbor in a bodega, asking about how his martial arts practice has been going. It's incredibly peculiar and charming, though I don't expect any of that to carry through here. The Zola computer reveal in Captain America: The Winter Soldier Although we weren't crazy about the second Captain America movie, we have to tip a hat to the reveal that Toby Jones' Nazi scientist has been living on for the last 70 years in the form of a bulky yet surpemely efficient supercomputer. The sort of weird stuff that we love to see in the crevices of Marvel flicks.
  • Writer/Producer Says 'Earth to Echo' Uses New Technology to Tell an Old Fashioned Story
    By: Michael Arbeiter Jul 02, 2014
    Relativity Media Although we might bemoan the nostalgia epidemic that has overtaken the pop culture world, we can't help but buy into it from time to time. Occupied so densely by irony and cynicism, the present slate of film and television can seem on occasion to pale in comparison to the spirited, whimsical material with which many of us grew up. We look back to the dawn of Steven Spielberg's triumphant '80s, honing in on films like E.T. and The Goonies that enchanted audiences young and old. We might feel like movies of this nature cannot exist in the callous climate of 2014, but Earth to Echo writer/producer Andrew Panay seems to disagree. "I think one thing that hasn't changed," he says, considering the past three decades of cultural and technological evolution, "is the way young adults process things. I don't think that feelings change, or emotions change." Panay's sentiment is clear in Earth to Echo, a science-fiction family adventure in the vein of the aforementioned classic pictures told through the lens of the everpresent iPhone. We might instinctively assume that the inclusion of modern devices robs a story of that pre-digital wonder, but Earth to Echo actually uses the found footage technique to access that sort of Spielbergian intimacy front and center. "What’s endearing about Echo is that you’re actually seeing people’s feelings right there," Panay says, citing something that many audiences could treat as hokey in a standard contemporary picture but might be more willing to embrace in a found footage film... specifically one that taps into the immediacy of sharing videos. Earth to Echo In fact, Panay delights in things like Instagram and Facebook in helping to bring people together: "[We're] praising it. I think it’s a wonderful thing that people just wanted to share and ... change the world. It’s done a lot of good. Look at how the world has come together so quickly. You can press send, and you can be sharing photos and skyping someone across the world. I think it’s a positive thing."  The Earth to Echo gang — a trio of boys (played by Astro, Teo Halm, Reese Hartwig) and their popular schoolmate (Ella Wahlestedt) who trek out into the desert on a mission to save an endangered alien — represents just as much of the "old world" as it does the new. "I think [the movie speaks to] parents who want to get into the space tour era, that ‘80s era ... but I think this movie was really to give kids the same experience that I had when I was a kid." Plus, the genre can truly help cineastes like Panay and director David Green pay tribute to the power of filmmaking. Panay says to anyone who commands a lens, be it a movie camera or simply an iPhone used to record the events of the day, "You're your own director of how you view the world." Check out Earth to Echo hits theaters now! Follow @Michael Arbeiter | Follow @Hollywood_com
  • The Best Performances in 2014 Movies (So Far)
    By: Michael Arbeiter Jul 01, 2014
    Now that we're reached the halfway mark between the dawn of a hopeful 2014 and the inevitable exasperated gasp of relief that another year of harrowing grief is finally over, we're inclined to look back on the past six months' cinematic highs. First, we set our sights to the best performances of the year, both leading and supporting. The thespian achievements that made us laugh, cry, wince (in the good way, not the Adam Levine in Begin Again way), and cheer. Here's a quick list of some of the most impressive performances we've seen so far in 2014. Fox Searchlight Pictures via Everett Collection Ralph Fiennes in The Grand Budapest HotelIt would be no surprise to anyone that Ralph Fiennes can act his way around a cerebral drama, and probably no real shock that he can handle himself in a sharp, fast-paced comedy either. But Grand Budapest is even doses of both, and Fiennes never slips up in his delivery of the rigid, obsessive Gustave H. as both a humane hero and a comic wonder. Gina Piersanti in It Felt Like LoveThe best part of this terrific movie about struggling with your identity in adolescence is its star, Gina Piersanti, who makes the subtleties of her sad story vividly accessible. Nicolas Cage in JoeSome of the picks on this list are less a result of the performance in question having blown us away, but more due to how happy we were to see the actors in question turn in something worthwhile. Cage is great in Joe, his first halfway decent movie in quite some time, serving to prove that he's still an actor who deserves critical attention. Tilda Swinton in Only Lovers Left AliveSharing screentime and immaculate chemistry with Tom Hiddleston, who is also wonderful in the picture, Swinton manages an unfathomable energy without detracting from the film's focal point of the duo's romantic partnership. Shining so bright through the dark and dusky sheaths of Only Lovers, Swinton is the best part of what is plausibly the very best movie of 2014. A24 via Everett Collection Tom Hardy in LockeIf you liked Locke whatsoever, you'd have to credit that to Hardy's performance. As the only actor onscreen toggling his attentions between a steering wheel, a cell phone, and his own inner demons, the man gets truly theatrical in a way you don't often get to see on the big screen. Mira Grosin in We Are the Best!One of the youngest individuals on the list is one third of the headlining trio in We Are the Best!, a sweet, fun, earnest film about Swedish schoolgirls reaching for (and just about finding) a new identity in punk rock music. Although each member of the band is a treat, the plucky and acerbic Grosin stands out as a particularly special performer. Tom Cruise in Edge of TomorrowIn the vein of the Nic Cage/Joe qualification, we chose Cruise's Edge of Tomorrow performance stricly because of how long it's been since we've seen the once beloved and presently bemoaned movie star provide genuine thrills... it's been even longer since he's provided genuine laughter, which he does in no small doses in Edge of Tomorrow. The reason Cruise works so well in the sci-fi picture? He's playing a jackass — the sort of character at which he proved himself a master back in the '80s but has shied away from in recent years. Stick to the jerks, Cruise. Maverick, Charlie Babbitt, Tom "Morrow" Edgerson... you're good at 'em. Jenny Slate in Obvious ChildThe most impressive part of Slate's turn as the early-life-crisis-stricken Donna in Obvious Child: her stand-up comedy routines are a genuine pleasure to watch (no mean feat for any movie). Slate's fresh turn on the wacky gal we often see in stand-up comedies is bolstered by her agency and palpable identity; this isn't just someone we're forced to see through a hard time, this is a human being who we're truly rooting for. We can give thanks to the script, certainly, but also to the naturally funny and engaging Slate. Magnolia Pictures Jesse Eisenberg in The DoubleEisenberg gets a rare gift in The Double: a chance to bank on the sort of work that made him famous in the first place, and to try out a brand new bag on the viewing public. The always neurotic performer ups the ante on his nervous shtick as Simon James, but breaks loose with a dickish confidence that tops even Mark Zuckerberg's hubris as James Simon. Agata Kulesza in IdaThanks to Kulesza, Ida winds up a shockingly charming, funny, and (less surprisingly) very sad film. A look at the post-Holocaust years through the eyes of a long-internally-suffering Jewish woman (Kulesza) and her neice doesn't seem like a ground particularly fertile for anything "upbeat," but the sharp and spry performance of Kulesza makes for a uniquely inviting portrait of a somber, bizarre world. Ken Watanabe in GodzillaWatanabe delivers what is hands down the weirdest performance in any blockbuster we've seen this year, or plausibly in recent years. The actor channels Jeff Goldblum-level "out there"-ness as a scientist who comes face to face with the titular monster after a lifetime devoted to research on the subject. Most of Watanabe's screentime is spent staring off into nowhere, a choice emblematic of unmistakable lunacy residing in the mind of this obsessed professor. We can feel his pain... but it's pure joy to watch. Nat Wolff in Palo Alto Likely more recognizable for his supporting turn in The Fault in Our Stars, Wolff is a powerhouse in another ennui-soaked high school drama: Palo Alto, which is far more cynical (and terrific) than the aforementioned feature. Wolff plays a teen succumbing to loneliness, self-loathing, and substance abuse in the nihilistic tornado that is his upper class existence. At once the clown and the beacon of tragedy, Wolff really knocks it out of the park in Gia Coppola's debut. Weinstein Company Tilda Swinton in SnowpiercerThe only actor on this list twice (unless you count Jesse Eisenberg for his dual roles in The Double) is Tilda Swinton, who proves herself as powerful a character actor as she is a leading stoic. In stark contrast to her Only Lovers heroine, Swinton's Snowpiercer character is a wicked, delusional tyrant who would be petrifying were she not so damn hilarious. Agata Trzebuchowska in IdaYep, there is a second actor from Ida on this list, and she's also named Agata. In fact, the younger of the two stars gives what is indeed the more remarkable performance, playing almost exclusively silent as she drinks in her aunt's life of tragic hedonism from a two-foot distance. The Ida/Anna role might have been little more than a lens for the audience to view the horrors of the Holocaust, but Trzebuchowska's restrained anguish gives the story an intriguing slant. All the pangs of the post World War II world that filter through her come out the other end with a peculiar, insightful flavor. Daniel Radcliffe in What ifSometimes all it takes for a role to stick with you is laughter. Daniel Radcliffe, who we all love, is destined for a long career in comedy. As the romantic lead of What if, Radcliffe is super-Hugh-Grant levels of dashing, debonair, self-deprecating, and f**king funny. His rapid fire delivery, affable countenance, and complete mastery of the most eclectic wordplay makes his What if turn (as a guy named Wallace, no less) more than worthy of the world's post-Potter love. Nathan Varnson in Hide Your Smiling FacesFinally, representing one of our favorite movies of the year is Nathan Varnson, a child actor who plays a young boy dealing with the sudden death of a close friend. There are no big, showy moments in Smiling Faces. Everything Varnson showcases is largely internalized; his role is predominantly wordless, in fact. All the more reason why it stands out in our minds as one of the best of the year. Follow @Michael Arbeiter | Follow @Hollywood_com
  • Review: Nobody Has Any Idea What Kind of Movie 'Tammy' Is... Including Tammy
    By: Michael Arbeiter Jul 01, 2014
    Warner Bros. Entertainment Tammy isn't a raunchy, wild, slapstick-heavy Step Brothers-style comedy. It may seem as such from its marketing campaign, which features Melissa McCarthy dancing like a goon in the middle of a fast food parking lot before holding up the joint with a fake gun and a paper bag mask. But it's actually a rather serious film, following McCarthy's title character as she treks aimlessly around the Midwest with her alcoholic grandmother (Susan Sarandon) in tow. There are jokes, sure... but they're not very good. More prevalent is the drama — the emotional storyline that sees both Tammy and Grandma Pearl coming to terms with the complications of their lives... but that part is also not particularly good. Everything about Tammy is unclear. We don't know when we're setting up for a laugh or a whimper. We don't know what we're supposed to think about McCarthy's hero: is she a dolt? A blowhard? A sweet gal with a prickly surface? Does she have any self-awareness at all? Is the silly shtick just overcompensation for sadness? Yes to all. At various points in Tammy, we see McCarthy embody different types of characters, ones that conflict with one another entirely. Just as confusing as the tone of the film is the nature of the woman to whom we're meant to anchor. Warner Bros. Entertainment But Tammy isn't entirely charmless, oddly. As far from "good" as its jokes and emotional material seem to sit, they also pretty effectively avoid "bad." Tammy stays smack dab in the middle of comedy and drama, but also in the qualitative middle. It's usually pleasant, often dull. It's primary flaw, perhaps, is in its inability to keep us invested in where it is headed. Although we have absolutely no idea what this movie is up to, we very rarely care.   Still, we have to tip our hats to the always charming Sarandon (playing well above her age as McCarthy's grandma), and the comically proficient Gary Cole (an alcoholic himself who aims to woo the wayward Pearl), and a general, if even a little mysterious, air of affability. Tammy won't bust your gut or move you to tears — though it tries to do both — but it won't exactly bore you to tears either. In its unique form, it ends up oddly intriguing. Just... not that intriguing. 3/5 Follow @Michael Arbeiter | Follow @Hollywood_com
  • Is 'Into the Storm' Changing the Found Footage Game?
    By: Michael Arbeiter Jun 30, 2014
    Warner Bros. Pictures Pioneered as a device to enhance the stakes of horror movies, found footage filmmaking has become a genre all its own. Far more prevalent in the past decade than ever before, the specific brand of cinematography is often mined for heightened realism and utilized as a means to bring the idea of documenting into the story in question. As Steven Quale, the latest director to take on found footage for his new tornado disaster picture Into the Storm, told on a visit to his set, "The found footage genre, I think, is a new genre. A lot of people are getting into it now, and there’s different types of subgenres of found footage. [It] might even be ... first person narrative now instead of found footage." Told through the eyes and digital lenses of a family of three (father Richard Armitage and sons Nathan Kress and Max Deacon), a team of meteorologists (Matt Walsh and Sarah Wayne Callies), and a pair of storm-chasing adrenaline junkies (Kyle Davis and Jon Reep), the film banks on the unique opportunities of found footage cinema to deliver its high-intensity story.   Often, it can be difficult to "rationalize" the characters' use of cameras in found footage films. Producer Todd Garner: "The problem with YouTube — and I don’t blame these people, but it generally is a lot of this: 'Oh my gosh, there’s a tornado! Here it comes! Oh s**t, run!' And [they] usually drop the camera, and you’re like, 'Aw, I almost saw it!' It’s ... close but not right there. So we have one guy whose obsession is to get into the eye ... And then everybody else, just because it’s a movie, is able to stay in it and see what is usually happening when people are running away." Steven Quale: "There’s lots of cameras because things have changed a lot since the introduction of, say, The Blair Witch Project and found footage. Everybody has a camera! I mean, look at half the devices. Every phone has a camera on it, every camcorder, and there are security/surveillance cameras. The world is full of cameras. So what we have here is a high school graduation. Every parent has camcorders, so now suddenly you have hundreds if not thousands of viewpoints and points of view to actually film this graduation ceremony. Plus you have the professional crew, well it’s actually students doing it that are actually supposed to capture the graduation so now you suddenly have a legitimate, rational reason for all these cameras and because of the technology and the recent events you’re able to do more of that." Nathan Kress: "The movie is set up, at least from our perspective, as we’re doing a time capsule for the town. So in a way I’m kind of taking it upon myself to document this event that’s going to undoubtedly change the entire course of everybody’s lives in Silverton. One of the other reasons is that the storm chasers kind of recruit me to be a supplemental camera guy and he offers to pay me, which is great for young Trey. So ... for a lot of the action they were able to justify me trying to document everything that was going on." The role of the camera in found footage filmmaking is complex, as is the actor's relationship with her or her camera. Richard Armitage: "Each camera becomes a character. There [are] times where my son isn’t in the scene, but his camera is, and I have to talk to him as if he’s there. But it’s a camera operator. So each camera becomes a character. Some of them are surveillance cameras, so you have to know very specifically that you don’t start talk to a surveillance camera like it’s a person. So it’s very unusual. I’ve never filmed like this before. There are no formal set ups, and the lighting is obviously [made] to look like it’s not lit. There’s no such thing as a close up unless Trey or Donnie is doing a punch zoom. But I don’t know what size the shots have been. I always know what lens we’re on whether it’s mid or tight. I’ve not asked that question because I think I actually don’t want to know in this instance because I want it to kind of be captured and found rather than having any control over how the performance is. Which is why it feels like there is no performance. That’s a good thing. It’s a different kind of work; it’s sort of über-naturalism. Although, at the same time, you build your relationship with your camera operator that you can create the illusion [and find the] moment, which does involve that kind of choreography with the camera. Otherwise they’re always on the back of your head as you run away." Warner Bros. Pictures Due to the different perspectives and cameras at play in Into the Storm, the look and style of the film varies throughout. Steven Quale: "What’s interesting about [Into the Storm] is we definitely want to let the audience know that these are different cameras, different people, different styles of cameras ... Our story is very unique in the sense that it’s not just one person and one camera and that’s the whole story. Our film has three different things happening simultaneously. A group of high school kids ... have their own cameras, and one happens to be the head of the audio video club. So he’s really good with the camera so that makes his stuff better than, say, the average person. Then we have just a couple of local people who aren’t quite as good with the camera and that will be a little more sort of messy type of stuff. And then we have these professional storm chasers who are making a large format theatrical movie about tornados, so they are professional filmmakers with state of the art, high-resolution cameras. So their goal is to try to film the eye of the tornado, the shot that nobody has ever seen in this amazing cinematic manner. So because we have a group of a half dozen or so professional storm chasers who are professional camera people, we have a great opportunity to make it more cinematic and engaging. So my cinematic style will be reflected in those storm chasers because that’s kind of how I’d do that portion of it if I was and I’ve had years of documentary experience having co-directed Aliens of the Deep, the IMAX 3D documentary, I know exactly what those guys make that type of film. So I applied that experience thinking how these guys would act and relate to shooting in a tornado situation." Todd Garner: "We’re using basically every kind of camera I’ve ever seen on a movie set, from flip phones to GoPros, to these cool Nikon cameras, to REDs, to every format. So I would imagine it’s going to look different. And the way he’s shooting each piece of it ... because the storm trackers have a different way of shooting than the two dips**ts with GoPros. It’s not like Cloverfield with one camera filming the whole thing; it’s many, many, many different cameras. So all of the different characters in the movie have a different shooting style." Nathan Kress: "I’ve been doing a show on Nickelodeon for five and a half years [iCarly] where I was the camera guy, so I was able to use quite a bit of experience to actually help me out. Some of it’s been a little bit different because there’s been times where with muscle memory... I had been doing that show, and [they] would always tell me hold the camera lower because we don’t want to block your face when you’re on camera. With this, they realized that doesn’t look real, so I’ve had to relearn. Rather than holding it in places so that my face is above or below the camera, it has to be right there if I was actually shooting it. So it has helped and in some ways, [and] it has actually hindered because I’d been doing it for so long and was so in the groove of doing it a certain way." Of course, there are dangers to the found footage genre... Steven Quale: "What I was afraid of doing is... some found footage movies tend to ... make the camera so zoomy, so jerky, that it makes you sick, basically. There’s a different sensibility aesthetically for filming something that’s on TV with a small screen versus the large screen of cinema. And when you do the same things, it might look fine on your little monitor, but when you blow it up on the big cinematic screen... I have years and years of experience with large format. It makes you sick. It’s too much. So you have to find a fine balance between that to make it feel real and visceral but at the same time not get the audience sick. So we’ve done a lot of tests and I go up to the monitor and put my face right up to it to simulate what it’s like. I insist on seeing all the dailies projected on a big screen so we can fine tune that balance and make it work." Todd Garner: "I know that the knock on found footage movies has been the shaky cam, but I’ve worked with directors who’ve shot worse shaky cam that’s not found footage. It doesn’t bother me if it’s done right. But I know that’s the knock on it. It’s too disorienting. [Quale has] been very specific about giving you the feeling and experience of being first person but [using] real cameramen who can actually get a good shot. He’s really being careful about making sure it’s a good shot but also not making it feel like it’s just big cranes." Naturally, the Into the Storm crew did look back on a few found footage classics in conceiving the film. Todd Garner: "What triggered [Into the Storm] was I’m fascinated by the found footage idea, or the first person camera footage idea, because I think it puts you in the driver’s seat of the movie like I hadn’t seen before. Originally I wanted to do a found footage alien movie, and then Battle: Los Angeles came out. So I was thinking about it and I think the first found footage I ever saw was either [tornadoes] or Bigfoot. And I’m not really ready to do my Bigfoot movie yet ... Cloverfield and Chronicle both, I think, did a good job of moving [the genre] outside. And I would even say Battle: LA, in a certain way, had that vibe of being a found footage movie ... I think it worked so well in the horror genre because it’s emotionally rooted in things that you see every day and can happen to you. And I think that’s why specifically Cloverfield and Battle: Los Angeles and this are in the same genre, because it’s an extraordinary thing happening in a personal space. It’s not like a found footage movie going to the moon... [but] there was one of those. This is happening in your hometown. Cloverfield, Battle: LA, and now this. So, for me, it’s more of an experiential thing than a genre thing."   Into the Storm hits theaters on August 8.  Follow @hollywood_com
  • The 10 Most Ridiculous Parts of 'Transformers: Age of Extinction'
    By: Michael Arbeiter Jun 30, 2014
    Paramount Pictures via Everett Collection We can't say exactly how much we were "supposed to" be laughing at Transformers: Age of Extinction, but we managed a few chuckles just the same. Michael Bay's latest blockbuster has no shortage of ridiculous moments, lines, scenes, and overarching themes. Here are the 10 most absurd elements in the film: 10) "MY FACE IS MY WARRANT."When asked to produce a warrant before trespassing on Yaeger property, Lost's Man in Black responds with the above proclamation... which is just a little less menacing than it is ridiculous. 9) THE KIDNAPPING OF TESSA YAEGERNicola Peltz's character serves no distinct purpose other than to be yelled about. Her overprotective dad (Mark Wahlberg) yells about her dating her thick-headed boyfriend (Jack Reynor), who yells right back. Then, the two of them get to yell about her being kidnapped by a robot spaceship. But here's the kicker: she isn't really meant to be kidnapped. She just happens to be inside a car that is a little too close to Optimus Prime when they kidnap him. Her attempts to bust open the car windshield (a suggestion that is, of course, yelled to her by her dad) are half-hearted and futile. But the kicker of the kicker: the futuristic, space-traveling robot monsters use a rope net to do the kidnapping. 8) OPTIMUS PRIME'S CLOSING MONOLOGUELittered with idioms like, "There are questions we were never meant to know the answers to, but who we are and where we came from is not one of them," and "When you look to the stars, pretend that one of them is the soul I've spent this movie trying to prove to everyone I probably have, even though I'm a robot," Optimus' final speech to close out the film is as cheesy and vacant as something out of a teen soap with a religious slant. 7) "I WENT THROUGH THE SAME THING WITH BUMBLEBEE."Optimus Prime can empathize with Cade Yaeger's fatherhood headaches. Apparently he's been dealing with his own surrogate child's teenage rebellion and sexual exploration. 6) "ALGORITHMS! MATH!"Stanley Tucci, playing a brilliant scientist, yells this at one point. You've got to imagine that Michael Bay was using these words as script placeholders until he could wrangle a technologically adroit consultant to fill in the gaps... but then just forgot about it in the wake of designing his nineteenth explosion. 5) THE ULTIMATE MESSAGE"Some things shouldn't be invented." So... Transformers is anti-science, then? 4) DRINK BUD LIGHT, EVERYBODY!Struggling to control a wayward spaceship, Wahlberg careens down into the middle of Chicago's rush hour, crashing onto a civilian vehicle and a Bud Light truck. The spill results in a flood of Bud Light bottles and cans, one of which Wahlberg cracks open on a vehicle door as a tacit threat to an angry resident of the Windy City. 3) MARK WAHLBERG'S NAME IS CADE YAEGERThat is a silly name. 2) DON'T MESS WITH TEXASWhen Mark Wahlberg meets his daughter's Irish boyfriend, he calls him "Lucky Charms" and jabs that he doesn't sound like he's from Texas. This coming from a guy who, just a few minutes earlier, exclaimed, "I think we fownd a Transfawmah!" 1) ISN'T IT ROMANTIC?In Transformers: Age of Extinction, Peltz plays 17-year-old high school senior Tessa Yaeger. Reynor plays her boyfriend, the 20-year-old Shane Dyson. Tessa's father Cade presumes such a partnership to be in conflict with statutory law, but is put in his place when Shane produces a laminated newspaper article detailing the Romeo and Juliet Laws, passed in Texas in 2011 (in real life), that allow for the maintenance of any romantic union that began when both parties were minors, even if one breaches the 18-year mark before the other. Got that? The dude carries around a copy of an article that proves he is legally cool to have sex with an underage woman. This is a several-minute-long scene in a Transformers movie devoted to excusing, or presenting a world in which excuses are readily available for, what would otherwise be deemed statutory rape. Weird as all hell. Check out our review of the movie here! Follow @Michael Arbeiter | Follow @Hollywood_com
  • What Is Michael Bay's Best and Worst Movie?
    By: Michael Arbeiter Jun 27, 2014
    Getty Images You might hate Michael Bay. You might hate his movies. You might hate every movie he's ever made. But in that very fact is there a paradox: in order to hate every movie Michael Bay has made, you have to have seen every movie Michael Bay has made. And you have, or at least most of them. His films' box office numbers and the unparalleled population density of their critic screenings are proof enough of that. As much as we all lament the life's work of the Los Angeles-born director (including his latest feature, Transformers: Age of Extinction) there is something about his films that draws us back repeatedly. With this in mind, we have to assume that some of them might not actually be as bad as we're inclined to let on. Sure, some of Bay's films are obscenely empty-headed marathons of metallic friction, but among the lot are a few examples of relatively decent blockbuster production. We're not quite sure which is Bay's best (or, if you prefer, least offensive) movie, but we have some candidates. And of course, we're also up for considering his worst piece of work yet, too. Because that's more fun. WHICH IS MICHAEL BAY'S BEST MOVIE?  Could it be... ...The Rock? Buena Vista Pictures via Everett Collection Just the second film Bay ever made, the '96 picture is a pretty sturdy action epic. Performances from Nicolas Cage and Sean Connery don't hurt The Rock's cause one bit. Nor does the climactic Elton John-inspired wordplay. ...Pain & Gain? Paramount Pictures via Everett Collection The only non-Transformers film that Bay has made since picking up the franchise in 2007 is actually a pretty sharp, funny satire about the very ideas that his filmography propagates. ...Armageddon? Touchstone Pictures I know, I know... but... eh, I don't know. It's decidedly cheesy, but hits a few marks in fun and excitement. WHICH IS MICHAEL BAY'S WORST MOVIE? Could it be... ...Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen? Paramount Pictures via Everett Collection Wholly disillusioning in its nihilistic adherence to spiritually vacant destruction, this is almost certainly the worst of the Transformers flicks and perhaps Bay's most agonizing feature to date. ...Pearl Harbor? Touchstone Pictures via Everett Collection Why did this happen? ...Bad Boys II? Columbia Pictures via Everett Collection I gather that most would deem it egregious hyperbole to denote Bad Boys II the very worst movie Bay has made, but I defy you to sit through this unbelievably overlong tribute to grit and machismo without wincing in agony at every half-hour mark. Let us know what you think: are you a defender of Dark of the Moon? Do you detest The Island? Sound off below! And catch Transformers: Age of Extinction in theaters now. You know you're going to. We all are. Follow @Michael Arbeiter | Follow @Hollywood_com
  • Review: 'Snowpiercer' Is Remarkably Twisted, Creative, and Fun
    By: Michael Arbeiter Jun 26, 2014
    Weinstein Company Every time I begin to recommend Snowpiercer to a friend, I experience an instant of jabbing fear and doubt. These feelings set in, like clockwork, at the onset of my description of the plot: “Global warming has wiped out humanity.” Every time, as whatever listener I have procured struggles to hide a wince, I question first if I can successfully articulate the experience I had with this movie… and then, as I consider the audacity in its premise alone, if it could have really been all that great to begin with. But tasked with at the very least describing the little advertised Bong Joon-ho picture, I advance to the next element in my illustration of the story: “And everybody left alive is stuck on this giant train.” And every time, as the winces turn to looks of bewilderment, I begin to pick up speed. I careen through the explanation of the rigid caste system that envelops the train’s passengers/prisoners, the revolution that sparks at the dawn of the film, and the performances of stars John Hurt, Song Kang-ho, and a particularly miraculous Tilda Swinton. (Chris Evans isn't too bad either, but doesn't always keep up with the campy flavor of his comrades.) Weinstein Company via Everett Collection The uncertainty fades as I come to realize just how much fun I am having explaining what happens in Snowpiercer, sure to insist to my now wholly engaged audience that I’m hardly doing the movie justice. I'm reminded of how inviting the film is, shockingly so when you consider its grim conceit. Affability is no mean feat for a movie about human extinction, class warfare, murder, dismemberment, cannibalism... as dark as the movie gets, it's never repulsive. You're always driven to march on, from the caboose straight up the engine room, at the very least to see what new bit of twisted mania this movie has up its sleeve. The further we travel into the story, the more impressed and delighted we are by the imaginations of director Bong Joon-ho and the creators of the source graphic novel Le Transperceneige. Snowpiercer's ultimate victory is how palatable it makes its unbelievably weird material. Things might get bonkers — a fact you rediscover when you inevitably decide to recommend the movie to somebody else ("...and then they get to the rave room...") — but they are always delivered in a fashion that prefers an intimacy with its audience, rather than the cold distance that some high concept pieces strive for... or at least wind up embodying regardless of intent. This is never a problem with Snowpiercer. The weirder it gets, the more we get into it. You might not recognize this at first, or at the dawn of your recollection of the bats**t premise, but you'll get there quickly enough. This train doesn't take long to pick up momentum. 4.5/5 Follow @Michael Arbeiter | Follow @Hollywood_com
  • Review: 'Transformers: Age of Extinction' Is a Nonlethal Overload of Nonsense
    By: Michael Arbeiter Jun 26, 2014
    Paramount Pictures via Everett Collection Ultimately, Transformers: Age of Extinction is not as excruciating as its predecessors. The first Transformers was bad, but not spirit-killing bad. Revenge of the Fallen kicked off that trend, delivering a soulless two-and-a-half hours of nihilistic gear crunching nihilism — a phenomenon that was reproduced, but in sub-lethal doses, in Dark of the Moon. Somehow, even with at least four extra tiers of mindless climax and a post-9/11 motif underway, Age of Extinction manages to be the least offensive of the lot. Maybe it's the absence of Shia LaBeouf, perhaps the colorful robo-voice cast, or even the thinly veiled breakdown of American conservatism that's principally responsible fueling interest. But make no mistake: this combination may well airlift Transformers: Age of Extinction to a surprising altitude of tolerability (especially when considering its egregious 167-minute runtime), but the movie is still pretty darn bad. The movie bats around themes of progressivism (and, more prominently, anti-progressivism) with no particular margins in mind. Mark Wahlberg plays a lifelong Texan with a distinct proclivity for non-rhotic Rs and a teenage daughter (Nicola Peltz) who he keeps on a tight leash. When he comes face to face with her new boyfriend (Jack Reynor), a 20-year-old immigrant (perish the thought!) from Ireland (is that one of the bad ones?) in one of the film's most mind-boggling scenes representing the upsurge in liberal thinking that lays waste to American values like statutory law. Dopey Wahlberg, a perpetually blubbering Peltz, and the wickedly nondescript Reynor discover and join forces with a Transformer — Optimus Prime, to be precise — who is on a quest to do something. Something to do with humans or Decepticons or Dinobots. Whoever it is (they're all in there), he's trying to avoid them or save them or fight them. His friends come, too. Bumblebee, John Goodbot, and a samurai Transformer so undeniably racist that it stunned me that the voice actor behind the portrayal was Ken Watanabe, and not somebody whose only experience with Japanese culture came from World War II-era Looney Tunes shorts. Paramount Pictures via Everett Collection The incomprehensibility rages on as the "story" ropes in inventor Stanley Tucci — a Steve Jobs type — and Senator Kelsey Grammer — a Kelsey Grammer type. As the arguments for and against innovation are sprinkled through a minefield of nonsense, we struggle to understand the sincerity behind director Michael Bay's ultimate message. We also struggle to understand where or when or how any of what happening is happening in relationship to any other place, time, or characters in the movie. The geography of the action sequences (it might be wrong to pluralize this phrase — the second half of the film is more accurately one long action sequence separated by moments of Tucci nebbishing it up) and coherency of the set pieces are sub-afterthought. We see a lot of stuff, but we never watch anything really happen.   With a climax that lasts forever and an abject lack of denoument, the second half of the movie is notably more harrowing than the first. But thanks to the charms of its cast (Tucci has fun and Goodman is endearing... forget Wahlberg, Peltz, and Reynor, though) and a few comically bizarre moments (like a rainstorm of Bud Light bottles or Tucci screaming about math... well, not about math, but... eh, you'll see), Age of Extinction is ultimately... survivable. Not the highest praise you can give a movie, but possibly the highest praise you can give a Transformers movie. 2/5 Follow @Michael Arbeiter | Follow @Hollywood_com