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Movie Review: Argo

Mike Finkelstein has always known that truth is stranger than fiction…how else could he explain his life so far? But that belief was just proven yet again when he went to the movies one day, and saw just how far one CIA operation went to get back their men. Here is his review of “Argo”.



Mike Finkelstein has always known that truth is stranger than fiction…how else could he explain his life so far?  But that belief was just proven yet again when he went to the movies one day, and saw just how far one CIA operation went to get back their men.  Here is his review of “Argo”.

PLOT: During the 1979 Iranian Revolution, the American Embassy is overrun and 52 Americans are taken hostage.  Six US diplomats, however, manage to escape and make their way to the home of the Canadian Ambassador.  But when the Ambassador and the US Government start to realize that time is quickly running out until the group is found and the Ambassador is punished, it’s up to CIA ex-filtration specialist Tony Mendez (Ben Affleck) to get everyone out alive.  His plan—the “best bad idea” in United States history—enter Iran as a Canadian film producer, and leave the country with the six diplomats as his crew.

Check out the trailer:

MIKE’S REVIEW: Imagine, if you will, a scenario where the CIA would send an undercover agent to rescue hostages.  The agent would pretend to be a Canadian film producer, the hostages would be his crew, and together, they would sneak out of the country without anyone being the wiser.  It almost sounds too ridiculous to be true, yet, somehow it is.  And thanks to one of the most talented directors in Hollywood today, we have ARGO, a film that does justice to that captivating true story, and proves yet again that truth is always stranger than fiction.

If you were to go back about a decade and said the name “Ben Affleck”, you probably wouldn’t have heard anything more than a few chuckles and scoffs.  (GIGLI and JERSEY GIRL, anyone?) Flash forward to today, and it is safe to say that the man is a force to be reckoned with.  With his exquisite attention to detail and respect to history, Affleck has created a tour de force of a film with ARGO, and has given us a number of scenes that felt all too real…something that hit home when we later see that many moments were recreations of photographs taken during the revolution.

Every moment that we spend in Iran, whether it be the first ten minutes or the last hour, is a moment where your body is locked with tension. As the embassy gates are breached, we are sitting ducks with the Embassy workers.  We see them next to us being blindfolded and taken.  When we sit with the six diplomats in the Canadian Ambassador’s home, everything is on the line, and with a superb cast of character actors that include Tate Donovan, Christopher Denham, Clea Duvall, Rory Cochrane, Kerry Bishe and Scoot McNairy playing our diplomats, we are reminded of their fear every second by way of simple facial expressions and private break downs.  We are with these six.  We are in their shoes.  And oh yes, we are feeling their nerves.

But what makes ARGO so great is not an overdose of drama, but that perfect balance of comedy that comes with it.  Chris Terrio has written a screenplay that not only keeps the audience constantly engaged, but lets them breathe with some wonderful one-liners sprinkled throughout. (Most of which come from “Breaking Bad” star Bryan Cranston, who plays Mendez’ CIA buddy Jack O’Donnell…I guess when your job is so serious, you need the funnies to stay sane).  The humor runs especially high with Alan Arkin and John Goodman (he’s popping up everywhere…), who plays real life PLANET OF THE APES makeup artist, John Chambers.  The two help Mendez navigate 1970s Hollywood, while at the same time exposing it for all its ridiculousness.  Both completely steal the scenes they’re in, and when you know you’re about to be stressed out for the next hour, it was a blast to follow these two loonies around for a bit.

As for Affleck, himself, it seems like being a director on his own films has improved his acting tenfold.  Affleck is completely immersed in the script, which lets him easily disappear into the skin of the quiet, discrete, and almost hesitant Tony Mendez.  Somehow, in return for giving up those ‘leading man’ roles that were digging his career grave and instead focusing on work that he loved, Affleck has actually become the George Clooney-esqe leading man that he has always been capable of, and it’s a pleasure to see him reach his great potential.

The story of ARGO is almost too ridiculous to believe.  Hell, even after leaving the theater, I still had trouble accepting the fact that all of this craziness actually happened with the approval of the United States government and CIA.  But that is exactly why the story needed to be told.  And luckily, under the guidance of one of the best directors out there today, we not only received a beautiful, edge of your seat thriller, but a film that does complete justice to an amazing true story that proves the magnificence of the human soul.


Mike’s LIKES:

1) BEN AFFLECK:  After GONE BABY GONE and THE TOWN, Ben Affleck has given us yet another extraordinary film, making him one of the most respected directors in Hollywood today.  His directing and acting skills are growing immensely, and if he doesn’t get an Academy Award nomination for this entry, expect one (as well as a win) to come somewhere down the line.

2) RECREATION OF REALITY: As you watch the end credits and see the side by side comparisons between scenes in the film and photographs taken during the Iranian revolution, you realize the extreme about of detail put into this film.  Both impressive and moving…

3) HUMOR: Chris Terrio found a perfect balance between comedy and drama in his screenplay.  Outlandish, but never offensive or over-the-top, the first half is a perfect balance for what we are about to endure during the second half.

4) JOHN GOODMAN/ALAN ARKIN: These two just looked like they were having an absolute blast playing their respective roles!  Completely destroying Hollywood in their wonderfully sarcastic way, I loved every minute they were on screen.


1) NONE: Overall, ARGO is an excellent political thriller that both makes you laugh and keeps you on the edge of your seat for the entire two hours.


1) The real-life version of the Argo script used by the CIA was actually the unmade feature film “Lord of Light” based on the novel by Roger Zelazny.

2) “Argo” was the ship Jason and the Argonauts sailed in to retrieve the Golden Fleece.


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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