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Movie Review: The Descendants



Mike Finkelstein took a flight to Hawaii to escape all the troubles of life.  Turns out he met some people that made him realize there is no place out there that is perfect.  Here is his review of “The Descendants.”

PLOT: Matt King (George Clooney) is a very simple man with a very big responsibility: he is the descendant of Hawaiian royalty and trustee of a huge chunk of his beautiful island.  When his wife is left in a coma by a boating accident, it is up to him to figure out how to care for his two daughters (Shailene Woodley and Amara Miller), as well as make the right decision concerning the land that would either make his family even richer than it already is, or keep a little bit of paradise intact.  On top of all of that, he finds out that his wife was carrying on a long term affair.

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MIKE’S REVIEW:  Alexander Payne is excellent at crafting stories about older characters in crises.  CITIZEN RUTH and ELECTION were both tremendous, but it is in the subtle, humanizing world of ABOUT SCHMIDT and SIDEWAYS where he seems to be most comfortable.  With THE DESCENDANTS, Payne has returned to that world for the third time in a row, and somehow, he has delivered yet again a funny, heartfelt, and life affirming film

George Clooney is Matt King, a man with many problems.  First off, he and all of his cousins are the descendants of Hawaiian royalty, but while he has decided to not live off any of his inheritance (a moral instilled in him by his father), most of his cousins have already blown theirs.  When they have a chance to sell the huge chunk of island land they still own for a massive payday, it is up to Matt alone as the trustee to make the final decision.  Add to that the fact that his wife just got into a major boating accident that leaves her basically brain dead.  Suddenly, Matt has to break the news to his two daughters and step up as a parent, only to be hit with the news from his oldest that his wife was cheating on him.

Clooney is very good at playing the everyman.  It seems like over the past couple of years, from UP IN THE AIR to MICHAEL CLAYTON, he is getting nominations for roles that are not exactly characters, but different offsets of his personality (usually pretty confident, somewhat defying…).  We get to see the insecure, destroyed side of George here, and while it may not be something like O BROTHER WHERE ART THOU, he draws us in with his emotion and gives us some pretty funny moments doing some ridiculous things that we wouldn’t want to admit we’d do in the same situations.

The real meat and potatoes of this movie, however, come from the Matt’s daughters.  Shailene Woodley plays older daughter Alexandra charmingly, and shows the skill level of actresses twice her age…something definitely apparent in a pretty emotional scene early on where she breaks down in her pool, and then goes toe-to-toe with her father.  Amara Miller is also adorable as Scottie, throwing off curse after curse, trying to be like her sister.  When the three finally start to come together and understand each other, you can’t help but feel that heart and soul Payne was aiming for.  Besides George getting a nomination for Best Actor, I wouldn’t be surprised if Woodley’s recognized with a Best Supporting Actress nomination.

The rest of the cast also lends some great support, with Matthew Lillard as the ‘other guy’ (the man has matured tenfold since the days of SCREAM and SCOOBY DOO) and Robert Forster as Matt’s angry and blaming father-in-law.  A special mention goes out to Nick Krause as the hysterical comic relief in the form of Alex’s friend, Sid.  The kid is stupid, and you hate him in the beginning, but by the end, he is part of the family.

THE DESCENDANTS may not be a blockbuster, but it doesn’t have to be.  Alexander Payne is in the business of creating films that tell “simple, human stories”, and he does a striking, elegant job of it (calling the nominations for Picture and Director now).  Just like SIDEWAYS and ABOUT SCHMIDT before it, the tale works on a simple, intimate level, backed with some beautiful, grounded performances by its cast, and a final, life affirming message that’ll have you leaving the theaters feeling just a bit better about life.


Mike’s LIKES:

1) GEORGE CLOONEY: What can I say?  George Clooney is George Clooney through and through.  Yes, maybe he suffers from the syndrome of “Hey! That’s George Clooney on screen!” but either way, the man plays his roles well.

2) SHAILENE WOODLEY: Woodley is a beautiful young actress, and here, she shows amazing range for one of her first lead film roles.  More Dakota Fanning than the Disney Channel group.

3) NICK KRAUSE: Krause is the full comic relief as Sid.  At first, I thought I hated the character for being so stupid, and then I realized just how good the actor was.  You absolutely hate him in the beginning, and by the end, you love him.

4) MATTHEW LILLARD: The man has matured drastically since playing Shaggy in SCOOBY DOO.  I hope he’ll have a chance to show us more in the future.

5) ROBERT FORSTER: “I’m going to hit you now.”  That line sums it all up.


1) NONE: Just an enjoyable, heartfelt, human story throughout.


1) George Clooney actually wanted to play the role of Jack in Alexander Payne’s last film, SIDEWAYS.  Payne turned him down because he wanted someone lesser known for the role.


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

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