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Movie Review: 50/50



Mike Finkelstein just went on an emotional roller coaster ride, and for the first time ever, teared up in a movie (don’t tell anyone…).  Here is his review for “50/50”.

PLOT: Adam (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is a young, healthy 27-year-old with a good job and a beautiful girlfriend (Bryce Dallas Howard).  However, all of that is turned on its head when he finds out he has a rare form of cancer, and only a 50/50 chance of living.  This is the story of his battle, with the help of his best friend (Seth Rogan), mother (Anjelica Huston), and a young, inexperienced therapist (Anna Kendrick).

Check out the trailer:

MIKE’S REVIEW:  To have cancer in a drama is one thing.  You show all the pain and heartbreak that comes with the battle.  By the end, the audience is either cheering with tears of joy, or choking back sobs.  But a cancer comedy?  How can you balance that?  How do you make the jokes genuine without poking fun?  How do you make the story funny without holding back or being over the top?

The answer is simple: make it about the characters.

50/50 is based on the life of Will Reiser, a writer and producer on “Da Ali G Show”, and one of Seth Rogan’s best friends.  Reiser had a rare form of cancer, and wrote the script’s first draft in remission.  He said in interviews that while the film wasn’t autobiographical, Rogan and producer Evan Goldberg would grill him constantly while rewriting to make sure everything in the script was something he would actually do or he was actually thinking.  They wanted to make the film as realistically human as possible.  They did just that, crafting a movie not only heartfelt, but one that runs the gauntlet on emotions.

50/50 follows Adam, a young, healthy 27-year-old guy who plays by all the rules.  He avoids all drugs and alcohol, never learned to drive (too unsafe), and doesn’t even jay-walk on an empty street just in case a car appears out of nowhere.  He has a good life, but one hell of a nagging back pain.  Turns out the back pain is from a tumor on his spine.  Suddenly, Adam is battling cancer.  He doesn’t go on a huge BUCKET LIST style adventure or violently flip out on everyone, a la SAW.  He takes his medicine and goes to his therapy appointments and does exactly what he is supposed to do, because, frankly, that’s what he’s always done and he doesn’t know what else to do.  That is where the charm is: in the complete and utter confusion and uncertainty that lies within each of these characters.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt plays Adam, and does so beautifully.  After his diagnosis, Adam is, as they say in the five steps, numb.  He is carrying a metaphorical bag of bricks and can’t put them down until either a doctor tells him he can, or he very literally dies.  Gordon-Levitt brings that stoic tension in every frame, and in fact, leads this film.  His eyes show every ounce of frustration and fear building, all leading to a pivotal emotional scene where he is finally forced to deal with his impending fate.  Despite all the jokes Adam’s best friend makes and all the ‘therapy’ his therapist tries to give him, Adam is ultimately alone, and thanks to Gordon-Levitt, we are right there with him.  I honestly don’t know if a lesser actor could have handled such a role, but I’ve very happy I didn’t have to find out.

While Adam is the main focal point of 50/50, what also makes it work so well is the excellent supporting cast.  Seth Rogan plays Adam’s well-meaning yet stupid best friend, Kyle, who just keeps trying to make light of the diagnosis by using it to get laid.  While it’s basically Rogan in every film you’ve seen him in so far (including the fart and sex jokes), he plays the part simple and with major heart, a testament to the fact that it is his real life best friend whom the film is based on.  As for romance, Anna Kendrick plays Katherine, Adam’s young, doctorate-seeking therapist   With Adam only being her third patient ever, we see her struggle to try and follow the school rules, as well as her failing as she starts to really care about him.  Kendrick is absolutely adorable, and together, the two develop a sweetness that makes us beg for even just a kiss.  (On another note, I think I officially found what warm, home baked chocolate chip cookies are made of: the cuteness given off when they’re around each other.)

Rounding out the support are Anjelica Huston as Adam’s mother, Bryce Dallas Howard as his (ex) girlfriend, and Philip Baker Hall and Matt Frewer as his two fellow chemo patients.  Huston could have easily turned her role into a one-note cliché, but manages, within a mere two scenes, to turn all that around and let us know there is something a lot deeper that comes with a mother’s (and wife’s) love.  As for Howard, I don’t think there was one person who couldn’t tell what was going to happen with her, but she did what she had to do very nicely, and even had her own scene to give just a bit more depth than we were expecting.  And Hall and Frewer are just plain funny.  They may be sick, but let us know that even if you’re down, never take life too seriously.

If anyone ever asks you how to do a cancer comedy, point them in the direction of 50/50.  Director Jonathan Levine, writer Will Reiser and producers Evan Goldberg and Seth Rogan have created a film that just set the bar.  Heartfelt and most importantly real, 50/50 will have you laughing one moment, crying the next, and in the end, just plain thankful to be alive.  Let’s see what awards season brings…


Mike’s LIKES:

1) JOSEPH GORDON-LEVITT: I can’t rave about Joseph Gordon-Levitt enough.  While he is ‘calm’ on the outside, you could see the twisting and turning and battling of emotions on the inside.  He finally lets everything go in one climactic scene near the end, and it’s extraordinary.

2) CANCER SUPPORT GROUP: Philip Baker Hall and Matt Frewer have some of the best moments as Alan and Mitch, the two other chemo patients.  The Cheech and Chong or Waldorf and Statler of cancer are warm, comical, and somehow even made chemotherapy funny.

3) SUPPORTING CAST: Every supporting actor deserves a mention here.  Seth Rogan plays his usual idiot self, but does so with charm and care for his friend.  Anna Kendrick is absolutely adorable as the young therapist-in-training, and Anjelica Huston IS a mother in turmoil who would do anything for her son.

4) I NAILED YOU!: Great line by Rogan!  He said everything the audience was thinking, and I loved relishing in that moment!

5) MUSIC—“SOMETHING” AND “YELLOW LEDBETTER”: Listen closely to the score during any moments with Adam and Katie, and you’ll hear a faint resemblance to the Beatles’ “Something”.  Also, we have the best usage of “Yellow Ledbetter” I’ve heard in a long time…

6) BREAKDOWN: The scene referred to in like#1.  Wow…that is all…

7) TOUCH FOR COMFORT: The theme of touch for comfort is spread throughout the film, and when you see how such a small thing can impact a person’s life, you can’t help but get emotional.


1) NONE: Just an excellent, emotional roller coaster ride of a movie.


1) The film is based on Will Reiser, who developed cancer while working as an associate producer on “Da Ali G Show”.  Seth Rogan and Evan Goldberg, worked as writers on the show at the same time, and encouraged Reiser to write.

2) James McAvoy was originally cast as Adam, but had to drop out due to personal conflicts. Joseph Gordon-Levitt accepted the lead role just two days before shooting was about to start.


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VIDEO:Rolled Ice Cream, Cheetos Bagels And Grasshoppers Are Just Some Of The Unusual Things Brian Balthazar Has Eaten On ‘The Wendy Williams Show’



You’ve seen pop culture expert, Brian Balthazar, appear on The Wendy Williams Show quite a bit over the last few years. He even co-hosted the show on three separate occasions. It wasn’t until his last visit where he and Jason Biggs chowed down on a KFC Cheetos Chicken Sandwich that it hit me: Being on the daytime talk show makes Brian Balthazar hungry!

The proof is in the pudding…pun definitely intended. Carla Hall made sure to bring some snacks for Brian when they cohosted together.

Sure, Wendy is known for telling us to “grab a snack and come on back”…

But you’d have to be absolutely famished to want to eat fish sliders at 10am.

He’s gotten so hungry he resorted to eating GRASSHOPPER TACOS on the show!

Could it be that Brian isn’t actually hungry though? Could he just be a brave soul willing to be the taste tester so we don’t have to? Could my theory be flawed?!

I suddenly feel like maybe we owe Brian a big thanks…

Either way, it’s fun to watch! Click below to take a look at a compilation of all the fun stuff Brian Balthazar has eaten on The Wendy Williams Show!

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Get The Look! A Buyer’s Guide To Brian Balthazar’s Philadelphia Home Redesign



As the world was forced to spend more time at home, Brian Balthazar found himself in a position where he had sold a house before the lockdown and had to find a new one.

“We sold our home with all the furniture in it, so not only did we find ourselves struggling to find a new place, once we found one we didn’t have any furniture to put in it.”

And so, Brian and partner Dennis got resourceful, turning to refurbishing and buying store floor models. They were inspired to make bold, fun choices in color and style when they started shopping around for wallpaper.

Below is the segment as it appeared on the Today Show, and further down, a rundown of where you can find the pieces or ones with a similar look!


Let’s start with the Dining Room!

Move the slider dividing the image to see all of the before or all of the after!

Brian saysThe dining room was the first space we wanted to do. I haven’t had a true dining room since I was a kid, and I’ve always wanted a big table for dinner parties! There were no tables within the price range we wanted, so we found a floor model at one of our favorite go-to stores, Arhaus. We easily saved 75 percent on this table by getting the one that they weren’t going to carry anymore. The chairs are from Wayfair.  On each side of the fireplace (not seen in the photo, but visible in the Today Show video) are two black tall lanterns flanking the fireplace. I got them at Target. I can’t currently find them on their app, but similar versions pop up every year. Get thee to Homegoods! Homegoods and Homesense (same parent company) are my go-to spots for home accessories for virtually every room in the house. You never know what you’re going to find, which is part of the fun.

But let’s focus on the real WOW element to this room – the wallpaper! This pattern is called Bellewood, by RebelWalls.   As you will soon see, I’m sort of obsessed with their patterns. To me, this room is magical with the added whimsy of this forest pattern. (They also have a more muted version with grays and even one with blues.) I also love that by hanging the paper from the chair rail up, you almost get the feeling that you’re standing on a balcony overlooking the forest. I surrounded the whole room with this paper, which I love, but you could easily add the same magical feeling by just doing one feature wall. Their website shows how it can translate to a bedroom or office. You might be intimidated by hanging wallpaper but don’t be! This pattern has so much going on that it really looks perfect when it goes up!



Brian says: The guest bedroom is on the top floor of the house, so it’s got roof lines on two sides that make it a tricky space to navigate if you’re not careful. The planning of this space alone resulted in a few bonked heads. On the upside, the wall where the bed goes is tall, so it was an obvious place to create some visual pop. Again, the wallpaper takes the spotlight.  Called “Nude Roses,” also by RebelWalls, I love this design. Floral wallpaper was ‘big’ in popularity back in the 1920s when this house was built, but the patterns at that time were smaller, repeated more often, and were often really bold in color. This interpretation is so fun to me! Gone are the small roses in favor of oversized blooms, and the bold colors are more subdued pink and gray hues, with touches of dark green and creamy whites.

While roses can inherently feel feminine, the plaid bedding (30 dollars for a queen set from Target) are a surprising complement that keeps everything from feeling a little stereotypical. The side tables are mismatched – partly because we didn’t want to go too “matchy=matchy” – but also to save some money – the one on the left side (hard to catch here) was from West Elm. Normally $199, we got it for half off as the floor model. The one on the right we found in the trash. It was perfectly fine, clearly someone had just gotten tired of it! Nothing some disinfectant can’t fix. That gave us some extra money to spend – To reduce the softeness we went with industrial lamps and edison bulbs. The lamps  are called “Ginyard,” from Wayfair. The headboard was on sale at Arhaus. The dark gray takes balances out the pink hues well. The pillows are from Target and Homegoods.

For the 360 degree view of this room, watch the Instagram reel below!  You’ll see the dresser, on sale for $599 from Arhaus, a lamp from Homegoods, and mobiles from Amazon which we fashioned into a ‘piece of art’ that keeps you from hitting your head on the angled wall opposite the bed. Watch the video to check it out!


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A post shared by Brian Balthazar (@brianbalthazar)



Brian says: The idea for the basement game room was to create a space that feels like a lounge you might find if you went out with friends. When you go into this basement it definitely feels like you’ve gone someplace unique! Believe it or not, I found out the Today Show had invited me to to record my house tour just a few days in advance, and so we turned around this spot in just THREE days! There was literally no pool table at the time, (although it had already been scheduled to come on Friday, the wallpaper came on Saturday, (as well as the floor tiles!) and by Sunday we were covered in paint and glue and drinking wine to celebrate it’s completion! I recorded the final video that Monday.

Some people might not think to take a bright basement and make it dark, but that was our first instinct. Clubs are dark and moody, and we wanted this to feel like that. We painted the walls Wrought Iron by Benjamin Moore, which is a very dark gray that seems to take on different hues based on where you paint it and the light that shines on it. We painted the ceiling black. This was Thursday night! Then Friday the pool table came. The floor tiles (“Tweed Indeed” in black by Flor) hadn’t arrived until the next day, so when they did arrive I meticulously trimmed four tiles to fit around the pool table legs so it looks like they were there the whole time. I had ordered the pool table online weeks before from and by sheer coincidence it was scheduled to arrive in time for me to shoot the redesign. This was the second time I have ordered a pool table from them (which was initially scary because you’re not even seeing it beforehand!) but it always arrives in perfect condition to your specific selections. I love that the felt jet black and keeps things dark and moody. In the time that has passed since this photo was taken, I’ve added more of the carpet tiles to make the carpeted floor area darker and bigger.

But once again, the wall mural steals the show in a marvelous way! This mural is called “A Priori” from Rebelwalls, and is inspired by The Allegory of Divine Providence and Barberini Power, a famous fresco by Italian artist Pietro da Cortona. Fitting, because this house is Italian in style on the outside. You can’t see it from this photo but the wallpaper runs up part of the ceiling as well. It truly gives the room a wow factor when you enter it. The lamps are from Homegoods, (we’ve since added some industrial floor lamps for extra mood lighting) and the piano was something we brought with us. The bar tables are from Amazon ($72 each) and the stools we brought with us – they were discards from someone who didn’t like their original bright colors and thought they were dated! We covered them ourselves with gray plaid fabric and they’re better than they were new!


So there you have it! Hope you enjoyed the rooms and find something you like!

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The Pentagon Has Released Official UFO Videos Because 2020 Is The Absolute Worst



Aren’t swarms of locusts supposed to be the next installment of this plague?!

Can we finally declare 2020 as the worst year ever? In January there were fears of a third World War. In February the coronavirus began its rapid spread. In March the world essentially shut down due to social distancing and quarantining. And now in April…with only two days left in the month…we have official government footage of unidentified flying objects. I’m sorry but Milton Bradley’s game of “Life” never prepared me for any of this!

The Pentagon has confirmed the authenticity of three videos that have been circulating the web but didn’t really answer what is visible in them. In the videos, now declassified by the Department of Defense, navy pilots capture “unidentified aerial phenomena” aka unidentified flying objects aka UFOs! Pentagon officials were sure to state that the videos do not show “any sensitive capabilities or systems,” meaning we probably won’t be seeing any little green men any time soon.

The first video dates back to November 2004 and the other two from January 2015. Of the Pentagon’s confirmation of authenticity, Pentagon spokesperson Sue Gough said the videos were released “in order to clear up any misconceptions by the public on whether or not the footage that has been circulating was real, or whether or not there is more to the videos.”

So great. We now know that these strange videos are real but what exactly are we looking at? Well, the Department of Defense says it has no concrete answer as to what might be floating around the skies and has classified the phenomena as “unidentified.” And…just like that I suddenly feel less defended.

Social media is having a field day with this revelation of course. The #AliensAreReal has been trending high on Twitter since the news broke. One user referenced Independence Day and said the aliens are “getting ready for July 4th.” Of the bad timing, another wrote “Et tu aliens?” And finally one user couldn’t help avoid sarcasm and wrote”Where’s the space force when you need it?”

Well 2020, you have worked your awful black magic once again. What’s next, cat videos get banned from the internet?! You’ve taken everything else from us!

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