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Movie Review: To Rome With Love

Mike Finkelstein took a trip to Rome recently. It was a city filled with wonderful people, beautiful women, and gorgeous scenery. Oh, and there was a little anxious man named Woody that followed him around everywhere…it was somewhat strange. Either way, he found time while there to see a film about the location. Here is his review of “To Rome With Love”.



Mike Finkelstein took a trip to Rome recently.  It was a city filled with wonderful people, beautiful women, and gorgeous scenery.  Oh, and there was a little anxious man named Woody that followed him around everywhere…it was somewhat strange.  Either way, he found time while there to see a film about the location.  Here is his review of “To Rome With Love”.

PLOT: Four vignettes telling stories in the beautiful city of Rome, in the way that only Woody Allen knows how.

Check out the trailer:

MIKE’S REVIEW: For the past decade or so, Woody Allen has been seemingly making his way through Europe to find his muse.  Sometimes, it works magnificently (MATCH POINT, VICKY CRISTINA BARCELONA), and other times, not so much (SCOOP, YOU WILL MEET A TALL DARK STRANGER).  After last year’s beautiful love letter to the streets of Paris, fans were anxiously waiting to get a glimpse of his newest tribute to a European city, aptly titled TO ROME WITH LOVE.  But while the elegant city views and trademark Allen wit is present and ready to go, the coordination and depth that should be with it seems to be missing.

Based on Giovanni Boccaccio’s “The Decameron”, ROME is comprised of four separate overlapping vignettes that are as different in feel as they are with their social commentary.  We follow Alec Balwin’s John, as he wanders his old stomping ground and runs into Jack (Jesse Eisenberg), a young architect who falls for his girlfriend’s eccentric best friend (Ellen Page).  Soon, Baldwin becomes a fly-on-the-wall throughout the couple’s few weeks together, leaving the obvious impression that he is actually reminiscing about his own experience, and Jack is really just the younger version of him.

Next up is the tale of Antonio and Milly (Alessandro Tiberi and Alessandra Mastronardi), two newlyweds who arrive in Rome to meet Antonio’s aunts and uncles about a job opportunity.  As Milly runs into the biggest movie star in Europe when she gets lost looking for a hair salon, Antonio has a misguided prostitute (the stunning Penelope Cruz) show up at his door the same moment his family arrives.  Hilarity ensues.

Following both of those is the joy-filled Roberto Benigni (who can ever be angry at this man?) as an average guy who becomes an instant celebrity for no apparent reason, and the mandatory vignette with Allen himself as a newly retired music man finding out his future son-in-law’s father (real life tenor Fabio Armiliato) has an amazing talent for singing in the shower.

You can already see that there is a lot of charm to go around, with everyone in the cast getting a moment or two to shine.  Baldwin has some of the best lines in the film (“Walk into the propeller”) with his matter-of-fact, know-it-all delivery, Benigni leaves a smile on your face every time he hits the screen, and Allen gives us the same familiar dose of Allen that any fan of his yearns for once a year when they know he’s releasing another film.  (On a side note, Allen found a hell of a wife in Judy Davis, who goes blow for blow with him beautifully.)  All of this is done amongst the stunning backdrop of the titular city.  Everywhere we go, Allen bombards our senses with marvelous views of the cobblestone streets and historic architecture, even giving us one 360 degree shot in Milly’s world that is almost a message to the audience saying “Yes, this is why it’s magnificent…”  If this is his love letter to the city, his scenery plays like poetry.

However, with all that, TO ROME WITH LOVE is no MIDNIGHT IN PARIS.  Maybe it’s unfair to hold Allen up to the standard of his previous Oscar winner, but there is a certain disconnect this time around.  Yes, while all the characters do deliver on the surface, there is no real conflict amongst anyone to deliver any depth.  We barely get to know some, and when we think we know others, things are done almost completely out of character to jar our view of them.

The storytelling technique doesn’t help matters much, either.  We’re meant to believe that these are the stories of Rome, yet none seem anywhere near exclusive to the city.   Each vignette has a different feel to it, ranging from complete farce and fantasy to a realistic day-in-the-life, as well as a different time span, ranging from a few hours to a few weeks.  The short blurbs are probably good little tales if placed on their own, but after a certain point, with the reality around us constantly changing (and the unrealized hope of some sort of connection or interaction between them…), there is a certain discombobulating feeling that settles in.  Is this a commentary on celebrity and life?  Is this just a fun take on growing old?  I gave up after a while trying to figure it out.

There is a certain joy that one gets when they go to a Woody Allen movie.  When the lights go dim and those familiar plain title cards hit the screen, you can’t help but get a smile on your face as you look forward to the quick talking, sarcastic, neurotic sense of humor that is sure to come.  But after more than three decades in the business (and a pretty steady flow of a film a year), it’s safe to say that Allen’s career has hit both highs and lows.  While TO ROME WITH LOVE is nowhere near the low points of some recent flicks, its inconsistencies keep it from being near the high.  I’ll put this one down on the better half, however, if only for the beautiful scenery (I need to go to Rome, like, now), and the great little bits on the surface that’ll no doubt bring a smile to your face.


Mike’s LIKES:

1) ALEC BALDWIN: The man is hysterical in everything he does.  Here, he plays the sarcastic know-it-all older man perfectly, and as the proverbial fly-on-the-wall, gives us some of the best moments in the film.

2) ROBERTO BENIGNI: No matter what Benigni does with his newfound celebrity, you cannot get angry at him!  He is just too damn sweet and innocent.  Every time he hit the screen, a smile hit my face.  I swear, the man could murder someone in front of a group of cops, and they’d still let him off because of his smile and happiness.

3) ROME: I now am convinced that I have to go to Rome.  Allen paints the city beautifully, and leaves us wanting the better, simpler life that seems to await us over there.  Twas a fine tribute, indeed.

4) A WOODY ALLEN FILM: No matter how many issues there may be, there’s something about seeing a Woody Allen film in theaters.  Seeing those familiar title cards and hearing those familiar sarcastic comments that only Woody could come up with is golden, and to know that your filmography has that sort of effect on people, even if your newer works don’t exactly hit the bar, is stunning.

5) BOOKEND COMMENTARY: To see the two men of Rome popping up out of nowhere to give us an introduction and fond farewell was more than cute.  Only Woody…


1) NO RHYTHM: With a script that keeps bouncing back and forth between topics, feels, commentary, and time, it’s hard to keep track of your feelings toward the movie.  I just wish that there was a bit more organization.

2) PLOT DEVELOPMENT: While all the characters were very cute, there was a depth that was missing this time around.


1) The film was originally titled THE BOP DECAMERON, and then NERO FIDDLED.  Allen changed the names when he realized audiences didn’t really understand the references to The Decameron, a medieval collection of novellas.

2) Both Aaron Johnson and Robert Pattinson auditioned for a role.

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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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