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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.)


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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