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Movie Review: The Swell Season



Mike Finkelstein is a huge fan of ONCE.  He has been falling slowly ever since 2006, and he wanted to get a peek into the world of Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová.  He got his wish.  Here is his review of “The Swell Season.”

PLOT: THE SWELL SEASON follows Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová, stars of the cult music classic, ONCE, for three years on tour after winning Oscars for their little movie that could.  Watch as the two travel the world, and get an intimate glimpse into their relationship and personal life, and what fame really means to each.

Check out the trailer:

MIKE’S REVIEW:  Back in 2006, ONCE was the little music movie that could.  A simple story about a busker and an immigrant, its songs and effortless love story won the hearts of millions.  Most importantly, it introduced the world to Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová, and on a certain level, introduced Glen and Markéta to each other.

As audiences found out soon after their Oscar win, despite knowing each other for years, it was Hansard and Irglová’s recent musical collaborations that brought them together, and the filming of ONCE that helped them fall in love.  To hear that there was a real love story behind a beautiful fictional one was just the icing on the cake of a cinematic moment already sweet, but as many people point out at the end of romance film…what happens next?  Are the two really soul mates or torn apart by real life?

That is where THE SWELL SEASON comes in.  A documentary spanning three years on the road in the lives of Hansard and Irglová, it is the closest sequel to ONCE that any fan could ask for.  We see the traditions and customs of a couple and group brought together by a bus and hundreds of concert halls, as well as personal one-on-one interviews with Hansard, Irglová, and their families.  Shot beautifully in black and white with a bold truthfulness that is a breath of fresh air in a world known for reality-television, THE SWELL SEASON shows us that while the fame, fortune and music may seem like a fairy tale to an outsider, real life can make even the sweetest dreams come true a stressful experience.

The conflict of THE SWELL SEASON (also the name of the band itself), lies on the constant feeling that “the grass is greener”.  For Irglová, who was barely 20 when ONCE took off, this entire experience is like being shot from a catapult.  She has loved Hansard since she was a little girl, and wants to be with him, but can’t stand the constant attention or being swarmed at 7:00 am and forced to take pictures with fans.  She is the same as you and I, and wishes that it could just be that simple.

Then, there is Hansard.  For the 37-year-old, who has been busking for years, you could say this is more like a long delayed flight leaving the airport.  He has finally made it, he loves to play his music to thousands and he greets all his fans with open arms.   Yet as he slowly grows tired of Irglová’s resistance, and his parents (who have their own personal issues, both health and relationship wise) constantly praise him and love that their child has an Oscar, he starts to wonder what all of this fame is really worth and what the achievement truly is.

What Nick August-Perna, Chris Dapkins and Carlo Mirabella-Davis do so well is that they do not make these underlying tensions the main focus.  Instead, they are equally balanced with the same type of honest moments of love and intimacy that made ONCE such a cherished piece of film.  Within the first few minutes, Irglová is giving Hansard a haircut as he smiles and jokes, “It’s a great life we have, isn’t it?” Another few minutes in, and the two are at the beach, playfully running naked into the ocean.  You can’t help but smile at their childlike playfulness, and the filmmakers have no problem giving the audiences a few other sweet diversions and peeks that only fame can offer: a post gig jamming session, a tour-bus party, and many others.

If you were a fan of ONCE, then you will adore THE SWELL SEASON.  Based in reality, it has the same tenderness and innocence as its predecessor, except this time, we have the added bonus of knowing it’s all true.  For fans of Hansard and Irglová, they already recognize that the ending may not be as Hollywood perfect, yet seeing something crumble is not the point of this documentary.  ONCE left us with a hope of true love and a beautiful life, and THE SWELL SEASON leave us with that same sense of hope.  Because, as Irglová said, “Fair play to those who dare to dream”.


Mike’s LIKES:

1) A BEAUTIFUL SEQUEL: THE SWELL SEASON plays as almost a sequel to ONCE, the movie that made Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová stars.  You are still in love with the characters, except this time, they are real.  A beautiful continuation into reality, and something that lets you feel like you have even more closure on the two and their lives.

1) FROM THE PERSPECTIVE OF NEWCOMERS: While this film is great as a stand-alone music documentary, I would definitely still suggest any viewers to check out ONCE first.  I don’t know how they would feel going into it without knowing the backstory, but again, this is coming from someone who has seen ONCE many times before.

1) Filmed by Carlo Mirabella-Davis, Glen Hansard’s teacher from a class in the New York Film Academy.  Hansard invited him to come with the band on tour and chronicle their lives.
2) ONCE cost $160,000 to make.  It made over $20 Million worldwide.


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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