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Movie Review: Take Shelter



Mike Finkelstein is having some really horrible dreams.  Some have to do with death, some have to do with kidnapping and stabbings.  Mostly, they just have to do with Barney the Dinosaur.  (See why I’m scared?)  Here is his review for “Take Shelter.”

PLOT: A young father (Michael Shannon) starts to have nightmares about an impending apocalyptic storm that will cause everyone around him to turn violent.  But when he starts to take measures to protect himself and his family, he has to figure out if he really is protecting them against an outside evil, or just himself.

Check out the trailer:

MIKE’S REVIEW:  I was so looking forward to seeing TAKING SHELTER.  It won the Critics Week Grand Prize at Cannes and the trailer made it look like a psychological sci-fi thriller on the level of DONNIE DARKO.  So when I stepped into that theater, my expectations were high.

What the hell happened?

TAKING SHELTER had to be hands down the biggest disappointment in film for me this year.  Don’t get me wrong…it isn’t anywhere near the worst movie in theaters.  It’s just that it should have been so much better than what it was: a slow moving, comatose character study that couldn’t find its identity.

Michael Shannon stars as Curtis LaForche, a well respected construction worker and family man.  Everything is going right in his life, until he starts having vivid nightmares about an apocalyptic storm that causes everyone close to him (including his dog, best friend, and wife) to turn violent.  The visions and pain of the dream are so real, it ends up dramatically affecting his relationships while awake, and even has him questioning his own sanity.

I told you it sounds intriguing.  And granted, there are some wonderful details on that screen for us.  The visuals and cinematography are stunning, and for what had to have been a small budget, the special effects on the storms and dreams are excellent.  The score is haunting, and the dreams are exhilarating and foreboding.  Every time we’re in one, we get a shock of adrenaline to our system because we, too, can feel the pain.

But wait, there’s more!  As for the acting, the performances are beautiful to watch.  Michael Shannon is an actor’s actor, and as we’ve seen many times before, he plays crazy perfectly.  Curtis is quiet, but you could see him hurting, trying to figure out what is wrong with himself without letting anybody else worry.  When all of that culminates, it turns into a beautifully emotional scene of frustration.  Forgetting the rest of the movie for a second, I wouldn’t be surprised if Shannon is nominated for some awards for that scene alone.

But sadly, that probably won’t happen.  You see, the movie fails on two main levels that overshadow everything else: timing and resolution.  The pacing is painstakingly slow.  Yes, the dreams give you a jolt, but that jolt comes only every twenty minutes or so, and it’s usually jolting us awake.  When you’re in a theater and the person next to you is commenting out loud that only 45 minutes has past, you know something is wrong.  A good half hour of ‘coverage’ could have been cut to make a much tighter film, but no…we saw every single minute of what this man is doing.  It reminded me of THE AMERICAN, another film that was advertised as a thriller, but gave absolutely nothing to the audience besides a lot of watching and waiting.

Secondly, the movie can’t seem to figure out what it wants to be.  At first, we’re on the track of a psychological thriller about a man with premonitions.  Then, suddenly, he’s going crazy, and we get a drama about a mentally sick man who is about to lose everything dear to him.  And all of that is capped off by a Hollywood ending that may have been inserted to make the audience think, but ends up completely reversing any stable ideas we had about where the plot was going or what the director was trying to say.

Jeff Nichols wrote that he was inspired to write TAKING SHELTER after his daughter was born, because he finally understood the fear of losing everything important to you.  If you watch the film with that idea in mind, you’ll take it one way.  If you watch it as a DONNIE DARKO-type thriller, you’ll take it another.  The only issue is that those lines cross so much, you can’t really take it as either without contradicting yourself.  TAKING SHELTER had potential to be a great movie, and for that attempt (and the story behind it), I will add some points.  But in the end, I think Nicholas was trying so hard to be everything at once, that he couldn’t find that sweet spot to make the film find itself first.

Oh, and did I mention it’s really, really slow?


Mike’s LIKES:

1) MICHAEL SHANNON: Shannon is turning into one of my favorite independent film actors.  The man is a character actor through and through, and can play crazy like no one else.  His breakdown is by far the best moment in the film, and I don’t think another actor could have done it justice.

2) NIGHTMARES: With their foreboding and haunting nature, the nightmare scenes are the best moments in the film.  You’ll be on the edge of your seat for those few minutes, terrified of what is about to happen.


1) RIDICULOUSLY SLOW PACE: Wow…besides the nightmare sequences, everything just dragged.  At least a half hour could have been cut out no problem for a quicker pace and tighter story.

2) BACK AND FORTH: What was the film trying to say?  Was it a sci-fi psychological thriller?  Was it a drama about a man trying to stay sane?  Nichols kept switching between the two, and a lack of an identity is the result.

3) SELF SERVING: I’m sorry to say it, but between numbers one and two, TAKING SHELTER came across as almost self serving for Jeff Nichols, like a man who likes to hear his own voice.  Again, I have no doubt the intentions were good, and he had something with great potential in there, but it was definitely buried.


1) Michael Shannon also starred in Jeff Nichol’s directorial debut, SHOTGUN STORIES.


Who Is This Brian Balthazar Guy, Anyway?

Did you see Brian on TV today? Wondering who he is? Here’s much more than you wanted to know. They leave the part out that he loves a well mixed Dark And Stormy, but let’s keep things professional…




You may have seen Brian Balthazar on television this morning, heard him on the radio, or read about some recent developments in the world of media and pop culture. But who the hell is this guy? Brian Balthazar leads a double – triple – okay, maybe quadruple life. Part journalist, actor and comic, he appears on many TV shows as a guest, but is also a developer and creator of several television shows behind the scenes. This when he’s not renovating homes and making snacks for his websites, and

After launching the fourth hour of the Today Show with Kathie Lee Gifford and Hoda Kotb, he turned his attention to cable television, overseeing the direction and development of several shows on HGTV, including Flip or Flop, Love It Or List It, Christina On The Coast, House Hunters, Hit Properties with Nathan Morris, Flea Market Flip and dozens more.

As a comic he served as the opening act for Russell Brand In New York City and the MTV series Man and Wife featuring hype man Fatman Scoop.  He has performed at The Comic Strip, Caroline’s On Broadway, Gotham Comedy Club and more.Wendy Williams Show Feb 2013

In addition to being a frequent guest on “The Wendy Williams Show,” (he co-hosted several times during Williams’ three week break) and appearing on the “Today” show, where he guest co-hosted with Jenna Hager-Bush,  Brian has frequently been seen co-hosting the syndicated TV gossip show Page Six TV.

Additionally, he was the sideline reporter for HGTV’s Rose Parade Coverage, hosted the HGTV Special I Bought A Famous House, and has appeared on CBS’s The Talk, HLN’s Showbiz Tonight, MSNBC’s Caught On Camera, The Joy Behar Show, and more.

Brian Balthazar Kathie Lee Hoda

An appearance on the fourth hour of the TODAY show with Kathie Lee and Hoda.

He has also been an emcee for many notable events and sponsors, including work as a brand ambassador for Bombay Company, the co-host of the Miss Tennessee and Miss Mississippi USA pageants, and a red carpet host at the Daytime Emmy Awards.

You may also have seen Brian in some viral videos, most notably a recent parody of Bird Box, and a satirical look at House Hunters’ Writers’ Room.

HGTV – House Hunters Writer’s Room from Buffalo Picture House on Vimeo.

 Brian Balthazar Bombay

Appearing in a series of videos for Bombay Company.


Brian has provided analysis, interviews and helped co-host the Tony Awards backstage show. He also followed all the backstage madness at the launch of Fashion Week in New York City while co-hosting the Red Dress Event. He has been a roving reporter for the Dr. Oz show. Earlier in his career he was a features reporter and contributor on NBC, MSNBC, United Airlines In-Flight Entertainment and more.

For A&E network, Brian appeared in an episode of Biography about Jim Carrey. He also provided play by play of some of film’s greatest car chases for a documentary about, well, car chases. (Ask his family and they will tell you: NO one would have expected to see him in a show about cars. We’ll leave it at that.)


Before ‘finding himself’ professionally, Brian was a singer on a ship, a publicist for a trance medium, an insurance customer service rep, waiter, bartender, activities director, substitute teacher, website programmer, pianist at a camp for spoiled children, and college mascot. None of them worked out. Let’s hope this does.

To contact Brian, email

To check out his video clips from NBC, HLN, and MSNBC, click HERE…

And – become his friend on facebook!

For a more extensive listing of his TV appearances visit his IMDB page.

And he’s apparently getting better about Twitter. So he says. He’s @BrianBalthazar.

Thanks for reading POP GOES THE WEEK!

For his TV Appearances, Click on the TV APPEARANCES page.

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POP in the Kitchen! The Perfect Snack and Cocktail Pairings.



POP Goes The Week’s Brian Balthazar is part of the all new Food Network Kitchen App! Cook LIVE alongside Brian as he makes get party food and the drinks that go perfectly with them!

Hey everyone! I’m so excited for this – I was thrilled to be a part of the new app, which is an all new way to cook with your favorite chefs and cooking experts. In the app, you can get the recipe and ingredients and recipe in advance, check the live class schedule, then cook at the very same time as your instructor!

I was fortunate enough to be invited to do a live snack and cocktail pairing, which you can still watch – and cook along with me! Trust me, these all start out as live, which means anything can happen! (I have an adventure with the broiler in one of them!)

Download the app here.

For my recipes, I made a pulled pork toast with queso, sour cream radishes and green onions, along with a smoky mezcal paloma.

Pulled Pork Toasts with Sour Cream, Queso, Radishes and Green onions, garnished with cilantro. The recipe is literally those ingredients stacked onto baguette slices!

In another class, I make lavender honey that gets drizzled right on top of baked brie with herbs, then use that same lavender honey for my own interpretation of a “Bees Knees” cocktail that I call a “Bees Knees Breeze.” I came up with the variation because the original recipe, simply gin, honey and lemon was just TOO strong for me and I found myself always getting plastered!

Check out the gallery of what I made, all available on the FNK app!

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I hope you can check them out, AND all your favorite instructors like Bobby Flay, Giada de Laurentiis and Ree Drummond!



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‘Saved By The Bell’ Cast Reunited For 30th Anniversary – And I’m So Excited



If you think your high school experience feels like ancient history then it won’t bring you any comfort to know that Saved By The Bell debuted 30 years ago!

Back in 1989, Saved By The Bell hit the small screen and quickly became a television staple. Over the course of its four seasons, the sitcom followed Zach Morris and his unique blend of friends as they navigated the tricky waters of high school. Everyone had a favorite Bayside Tiger and the series spawned many memorable scenes…but you are a liar if you didn’t say your favorite scene was where Jessie broke down crying after coming to terms with her caffeine pill addiction while crying out the most iconic line ever, “I’m so excited…I’m so excited…I’m so…scared”


In any event, some of Bayside’s most memorable students reunited over the weekend to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the hit sitcom. Mark-Paul Gosselaar (Zach Morris), Tiffany Thiessen (Kelly Kapowski), Mario Lopez (A.C. Slater) and Elizabeth Berkley (Jessie Spano) all gathered together to hit us right in the nostalgia. Notably missing were Lark Voorhies (Lisa Turtle) and Dustin Diamond (Screech). Berkley wrote on her Instagram “FRIENDS FOREVER!!!” along with some sweet and fun hashtags. Lopez upped the ante and posted a video recapping the fun time the gang had as they reminisced on the days way back when. WHY WASN’T THIS TELEVISED?!? Many are speculating the reunion to be the beginnings of a reboot or revival but nothing of the sort has yet been confirmed.



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FRIENDS FOREVER #spousestoo!!!❤️❤️❤️#imsoexcited #buddybands #love #friends #family #life #magic

A post shared by Elizabeth Berkley Lauren (@elizberkley) on



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Credit card roulette comin up! #OldSchool

A post shared by Mario Lopez (@mariolopez) on

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