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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.


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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