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Movie Review: The Cabin in the Woods

Mike Finkelstein has learned many things from horror films. One of the greatest lessons: never go camping in a deserted area with four friends. Except for this one time-maybe this time, it’ll be fun-maybe? Here is his review for The Cabin in the Woods.



Mike Finkelstein has learned many things from horror films. One of the greatest lessons: never go camping in a deserted area with four friends.  Except for this one time…maybe this time, it’ll be fun…maybe?  Here is his review for “The Cabin in the Woods”.

PLOT: It’s the classic, cliche horror story: five teen friends (the jock, the blonde, the prep, the pothead and the virgin) head into the woods for a weekend camping trip, only to meet a force outside of themselves that wants them dead.  Wait, did I say cliche?  Heh…I take that back…

Check out the trailer:

MIKE’S REVIEW: When SCREAM hit theaters back in 1996, it tore open the horror genre.  No one was expecting a meta-slasher flick that was both funny/self-aware and smart/terrifying at the same time (that comment doesn’t exactly include the sequels…).  Now, over fifteen years later, THE CABIN IN THE WOODS has completely blown SCREAM (and all its imitators) out of the water by going 20 steps further, and has easily taken the title of best “horror” film of the past decade.

Yes, I know…that’s a huge title to live up to, but there’s a reason why the word “horror” is in quotation marks.  Can you really call CABIN IN THE WOODS a horror film?  On one hand, yes you can.  It has its main cast of idiotic teen friends, consisting of the Jock (Chris Hemsworth before he hit it big in THOR), the virgin (Kristen Connolly), the dumb blonde (Anna Hutchison), the good guy (Jesse Williams), and the pothead (Fran Kranz), all of whom get hunted down and killed off in some gruesome manner by a terrifying family of redneck zombies.  They have their warning signs, their cliched moments of playing truth or dare and splitting up, and their very, very bad decisions.

But then, Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard do something that the phrase “thinking outside the box” can’t even remotely justify.  How, exactly?  I can’t tell you that, or it’ll ruin all the fun.  All I can say is that all those B-movie cliched moments are turned on their heads, and we are left with no idea of what the hell is going on.  And I ain’t talking about some little twist that comes halfway through, oh no.  We’re screwed within the first minute, because we go in expecting one film, and end up getting something completely different.

Now, you may be a tad confused, and rightfully so.  (Not since MIDNIGHT IN PARIS have I had a harder time trying to write a review without giving away a thing about the plot.)  So let me try to sum this up one more time: imagine a complete deconstruction of the horror genre in one film that both honors and laughs at every joke, every formula, and every wrong move and turn and scream that your five favorite friends (the idiots getting killed) could make.  Imagine a horror nerd’s wet dream when all those movies and villains and souls you love from movies past meet face to face in one hallway.  Imagine taking that deconstruction to the Nth degree and finally meeting the man behind the curtain. That’s what you get when you see THE CABIN IN THE WOODS.

Oh, and whatever you think I mean right now, throw it out the window.  You’re wrong.

As for our five main actors, they all went through the motions of their performances with no issues, and seemed to be having fun every step of the way.  (Having been shot in 2009, this was made before Chris Hemsworth was cast in THOR, and it’s safe to mention that you could still see the star power in him even then.)  Alas, the only character of the bunch that was truly memorable—and in some strange, Freudian way, it makes complete sense that no one else stood out…they never do—was our loveable pothead, Marty, played hysterically by “Dollhouse” favorite Fran Kranz. The kid steals the show in every scene he’s in, whether it be with a giant bong-turned-coffee-mug, or the sheer confusion that comes out of his mouth every time a stupid decision is made. (A complete 180 from his work in Mike Nichol’s Broadway production of “Death of a Salesman”…even more stunning.)  He is right on level with Bradley Whitford and Richard Jenkins, who were absolutely brilliant and perfectly cast in their roles (you’ll see) and helped deliver every unforgettable moment in the film.

Again, I will reiterate: I am not a fan of horror films.  To me, they are long, cliched, and completely unoriginal.  But then, once in a while, we are lucky enough to experience a movie that completely resets the bar.  Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard just did that.  Whether you’re a fan of horror movies or just film in general, you will leave this meta-fest with a smile on your face, amazed at not just the thrills and chills, but the humor and the brains that bring THE CABIN IN THE WOODS to a whole new level.

Oh, and one more piece of advice…never bet on the merman…


Mike’s LIKES:

1) BRADLEY WHITFORD AND RICHARD JENKINS: These two vets are absolutely brilliant in their roles as…well, you’ll see…Humor, sarcasm, and just play narcissistic…  Loved it

2) MARTY/SMOKE A GIANT BONG IN YOUR FATHER’S VAN?: For a stoner, Marty is the smartest guy in the entire movie.  Mix his impeccable logic with moments like “a giant bong” and “I’m going to take a walk”, and you got the show stealer.

3) TAKING BETS:  I would have bet on Kevin, but that’s just me…

4) A HORROR NERD’S WET DREAM:  If you’re a horror movie fan, get ready…by the end of the movie, all your dreams and fantasies will come true, and you will be in heaven.

5) A NOTE ON JOSS WHEDON: My respect for Joss Whedon is growing by the day, not just for his directing style, but for all the love and care that he puts into his movies.  If Whedon puts as much effort into THE AVENGERS as he did in CABIN, we’re in for an incredible film…


1) NONE: I’m not a fan of horror movies, and I loved this one.  Completely out of the box and different than anything you’ve seen before, yet not.  (I know what I’m saying makes no sense, so just go see the movie already!)


1) The film’s release date was postponed because the studio wanted to convert it to 3D.  The plans were eventually scrapped (much to the relief of Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard).

2) In the tie-in book “The Cabin in the Woods: The Official Visual Companion” co-writer Drew Goddard said that Kevin was meant to be “a sweet-looking guy who seemed like he might work at Best Buy–until he dismembers people.”  (If you haven’t seen the movie yet, don’t expect to understand this.)

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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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