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Movie Review: Brave

Mike Finkelstein wants to be a pretty, pretty princess. He wants all the boys of the kingdom to fawn over him and fight for his hand. Sadly, he soon woke up from his dream and realized he still lived somewhere around New York City…eh well. He’ll just have to live out his thoughts on the movie screen. Here is his review for “Brave”.



Mike Finkelstein wants to be a pretty, pretty princess.  He wants all the boys of the kingdom to fawn over him and fight for his hand.  Sadly, he soon woke up from his dream and realized he still lived somewhere around New York City…eh well.  He’ll just have to live out his thoughts on the movie screen.  Here is his review for “Brave”.

PLOT: Princess Merida (Kelly McDonald) is a Scottish princess determined to find her own way in life.  So when her firm, inflexible mother, Queen Elinor (Emma Thompson) tells her that it’s time to pick a suitor from the neighboring three clans to marry, Merida decides that she’ll do anything to “fight for her own hand”.  But when that decision leads her to a witch and her deceptive spells, it’s up to Merida to save her mother, her kingdom, and herself.

Check out the trailer:

MIKE’S REVIEW:  Pixar is a name synonymous with excellence.  With ten years of movie memories that include such perfections as the TOY STORY trilogy, FINDING NEMO, and UP, we have grown accustom to seeing films complete with flawlessly shaped stories, loveable characters, and a yearning for our childhood.  So when a movie comes around that may not meet that Pixar standard, even though it may be incredible compared to others, we are nothing short of devastated.

Disney’s BRAVE tells the fairytale story of Princess Merida (Kelly Macdonald), the rebellious firstborn child to parents, King Fergus (Billy Connolly) and Queen Elinor (Emma Thompson).  When Queen Elinor reveals that it’s time for Merida to choose a suitor to marry and carry on the kingdom’s legacy, Merida is determined to find a way out and instead choose her own destiny, even if it means using a spell from an evil witch that ends up going horribly wrong…

From the first frame, it is obvious how far Pixar has come in terms of animation.  Within the intro, alone, seeing Merida riding through the forest as she fires her bow from atop her horse is absolutely gorgeous.  Every aspect of the landscape is meticulously detailed, and when it all culminates in her making her way to the top of a crag to drink from the waterfall, the sweeping shot will leave you nothing short of breathless (one of the few short moments when the 3D added to the film….everywhere else, it did nothing besides darken the screen).  And while all the humans are still shaped with their familiar Pixar style, the wilderness animals are completely realistic, and both humans and animals have all the right emotions (or lack thereof) in their eyes at the right moments.

In terms of characters, you could almost say that this is the female version of FINDING NEMO.  Brenda Chapman is the first female director for any Pixar full length film, and with that, brings us the princess and female equivalent of Nemo and Marlin.  Any mother and daughter pair will be able to relate to Merida and Queen Elinor’s testy relationship, and we yet again get a very cute supporting group to back them up, including Merida’s gruff but lovable father, King Fergus (Billy Connolly), absolutely adorable little devil brothers who get away with everything, and three very unique father and son pairings who come to court Merida (and bring their kingdom’s entire armies along with them…)

But with all that, what BRAVE lacks is the aspect that makes a Pixar film stand out from the rest: a complete and fully fleshed out story.  Everything that you’ve seen so far in trailers and commercials is contained within the first twenty minutes of the movie, and then, suddenly, any real originality the film held was replaced with a seemingly clichéd fairytale predicament.  Granted, we hit every systematic beat we need to between the introduction of the problem and the resolution, but there were no real events or character development to really push us to that end.  Suddenly, moods changed.  Suddenly, people understood each other.  Suddenly, things just…happened.

Amusingly enough, that huge problem doesn’t even make a bad movie!  Little girls will absolutely love the film because it is the new princess movie that Disney swore they would stop making, and a welcome addition at that.  Mothers will love seeing it with their daughters because it comments on the relationship they already have, or are sure to have in the future.  And hell, even guys will enjoy it because it’s Pixar.  But when you leave the theater, something inside you will be churning when you realize that a special something is still missing, and while what you just watched would have been amazing by any other studio standards (trust me, there have been some crappy kids movies lately!), it was not at the ridiculously high standard that any Pixar movie is now held to.

When thought of as a children’s movie, BRAVE hits the nail right on the head.  It has a fun, relevant story with hilarious, adorable characters, and a team of animators that can beat anyone in the business right now.  But what it lacks is the wonderful story and character development that Pixar has been defined by for almost two decades.  We all dug out our toys after TOY STORY 3.  We sobbed uncontrollably within the first ten minutes of UP.  We hugged our fathers after FINDING NEMO.  I have no doubt we will feel those emotions again soon.  This time, however, I’ll smile, nod, and throw this one in the pile next to DESPICABLE ME and KUNG FU PANDA.


Mike’s LIKES:

1) STUNNING VISUALS: Pixar has come such a long way over the past two decades.  When you see Merida riding through the forest and climbing that crag, it is nothing short of breathtaking.  I tip my hat.

2) THREE LITTLE BROTHERS: These three are the equivalent of HAPPY FEET’s baby penguins, or the minions in DESPICABLE ME.  They are absolutely adorable and always ready with the perfect moment to make us giggle.

3) BEAUTIFUL MOTHER/DAUGHTER STORY: The female version of FINDING NEMO, mothers and daughters will have a great time together as they see their own relationship in Merida and Queen Elinor.  A must see for any pair…get ready to bond.

4) SUPPORTING CHARACTERS: From King Fergus to the three suitors and their fathers and the evil witch, all the supporting characters bring the funny, and give us another great batch to remember for years to come.

5) LA LUNA: This short film is absolutely spectacular.  Picking up the baton from “Day & Night” before TOY STORY 3, we have yet another beautiful, emotional short that is breathtaking both in its vision of family, as well as its visuals.  This one is a new peak of perfection in the world of Pixar shorts.


1) 3D: Besides the first scene of Merida riding through the forest (stunning), the 3D was absolutely useless.  It just made the screen darker and harder to see, and with such robust colors filling the screen, I’d rather sacrifice the depth for the imagery.

2) PLOT DEVELOPMENT: The first half hour may have been on the right track, but somewhere along the line, the plot development seemed to disappear.  Plot points were hit because they had to be hit, not because the characters got there.

3) NOT A PIXAR MOVIE: Pixar seems to be the golden standard of animation.  To be a Pixar movie says a lot about your film.  While BRAVE was an excellent film by any other standards, a Pixar movie it was not.


1) The Pizza Planet truck, which can be spotted in every Pixar movie except THE INCREDIBLES, can be spotted in the Witch’s Hut.

2) The first Pixar film to have two directors, as well as a female director.  Brenda Chapman left the film in the middle of production, due to creative differences…I wonder how the film would have turned out if she had stayed…


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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