NJ T-Shirt Tuesday 112: Kal Penn Tweets His Tee During The Super Bowl

It was New Jersey’s first Super Bowl. You’d think I’d be glued to the TV. Nope. It took Radio Shack’s ’80s commercial and The Electric Mayhem Band starring in a Toyota ad to pique my interest, otherwise I spent most of the night on Twitter giggling at the amusing shit people were coming up with while poking fun at the train wreck that was happening merely miles away in MetLife Stadium.

Astoundingly, I somehow managed to scrounge some content out of such an awful game. One of the tweets that I kept on reserve (retweeted by @faceman802!) was from producer, actor, Obama team member, and Jersey guy, Kal Penn. He’s otherwise known as Kumar from the Jersey classic, Harold and Kumar Go To White Castle.

Kal Penn proudly displaying his awesome t-shirt via a Tweet during the Super Bowl last Sunday

Presently, Penn, who also starred in Van Wilder and Superman Returns, works in the White House Office of Public Engagement, and he certainly engaged me with this tweet.

Penn was born in Montclair and later attended middle school in Howell followed by high school in Freehold Township. According to his Wikipedia page, during high school, Penn was involved in theater and the forensics team. One thing is certain, he hasn’t lost his Jersey sense of humor!

Insidious II’s Patrick Wilson Discusses NJ

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Patrick Wilson stars in both Insidious films as well as The Conjuring, and I enjoyed his performance in all of them. For some reason feedback on his performances seem to be mixed and I can’t seem to understand why. To me, he comes off as a very regular, likable guy and in terms of horror films that’s necessary in order for the audience to relate to characters. Plus, he lives in New Jersey so don’t knock him!

November 2009’s Garden State Playmate, Chelsea Handler, had Patrick Wilson on the show recently to promote The Conjuring and they had a funny conversation about him taking up residence in New Jersey.

CHELSEA: “I heard that you moved voluntarily to the state of New Jersey…”
CHELSEA HANDLER: “I’m from New Jersey and people don’t move there, they move out!”

Chelsea asked Wilson why he would you do such a thing and he went on to explain that he basically wanted a backyard. He had a tough time selling his wife on the idea though, since she’s a New Yorker, and she didn’t even want to step foot in Jersey, but eventually, they found a place that they both liked and he really “digs” living here. As if starring in WatchmenThe  Conjuring, AND the Insidious films wasn’t enough, Patrick Wilson’s words about The Garden State boosted his position on the cool list even more.

Brock Lesnar Inhales $500 Dollars Worth of Food at Montclair NJ Restaurant

I hate reading TMZ and all the tabloid/gossip sites, but this relates to 2 of my favorite things – New Jersey and Pro-Wrestling!

Brock Lesnar, the monstrous pro-wrestler turned UFC fighter turned pro-wrestler, was just a little bit hungry after Monday Night Raw this week. After tossing CM Punk around the ring area to kickoff a feud between them leading to Summerslam, Brock took his wife, former WWE Diva Sable, to Fresco, an Italian restaurant in Montclair, NJ. The gigantic feast he partook in cost him over $500 dollars, and he supposedly shared only two items with his wife. Below you can read what he ordered.

  • Ahi tuna with asparagus (shared)
  • Margherita pizza (shared)
  • Chicken Parm.with triple-extra chicken
  • Full bowl of parpadelle bolognese
  • Slice of cheesecake for himself

THE MEDICI IRIS by Max Medford: Book Review

In my early 20s I went through a period of boredom. I was dying for something out of the ordinary to happen. Typically, college and dating would be enough to keep things exciting, but I’d been living in a nice little suburban bubble for my entire life. I was craving some intrigue…something unknown. Comic books, movies, and episodes of The Twilight Zone and Amazing Stories strove to stimulate what I convinced myself was a stagnant existence. Eventually, here and there, things started to happen. Nothing earth shattering, but occasionally, some random amusing shit went down and inspired me to write about it, although it was nothing quite as cool and bizarre as what happened to fellow Jersey guy Wes Barino in Max Medford’s first novel, The Medici Iris.

During the the time I spent with this book, I got a few “what are you reading?” inquiries. Thinking of how to sum this book up and provide an answer to that was a bit of a challenge, but all I had to do was look right there at the bottom of page one: “A tale of murder, sex, drugs…and horticulture.” If that’s not enough of a description, here’s a few key words for you:

Beer, bar trivia games, organized crime, drugs, mysterious monks, strippers, corrupt cops, and crimson colored flowers. More than enough to elicit your attention I gather.

The characters Medford embroils into these exploits feel familiar. From the get go, we become acquainted with Wes Barino, our chain smokin’, sub makin’ main character. Right away I put myself in his shoes and even though he’s supposed to be twenty-something, I pretended he was thirty-something. Wes drives an old Chrysler LeBaron, a detail that I got a kick out of since that was my first car. He’s also a master at the bar trivia game, Quiztouch, a diversion that he’s perfected at a nearby Houlihan’s while drinking with his best friend, Scott, who trolls the establishment for women.

To me, Scott wasn’t as likable as some classic best friends like Stiles from Teen Wolf for instance. I always use that comparison, even though Stiles was occasionally kind of a douche as well. I pictured Scott to be played by Kevin Connolly a.k.a “E” from HBO’s Entourage, sort of annoying, tries too hard, but a fiercely loyal friend. Scott, who drives an IROC, usually goes a little overboard and he’s clearly a bad influence on Wes, who usually keeps his nose clean, well, not always.

You’ll be able to relate to Medford’s real dialogue, especially between Wes and Scott. Their banter sounds like it might have been transcribed from a conversation you had while hanging out with your friend the other night.

It comes to Wes and Scott’s attention that the Quiztouch game is holding a grand competition to determine the national champion of the game in Texas. Before the big championship, they’ll hold a regional tournament to see who advances. Wes enters. It’s a chance for him to do something that he’s really good at while possibly winning a small jackpot. And as Clark Griswold once said “Getting there is half the fun, you know that!” Since I think of everything in film terms, the quest to get to the big game tournament reminded me of “Video Armageddon” in 1989’s The Wizard.

Before Wes and Scott embark on their quest, there’s a whole load of other drama going on. Wes has to deal with his on-again off-again girlfriend who’s made up of Italian stereotypes, Sam, but he can’t keep his mind off her. She thinks Wes needs to quit the sub shop and do something more worthwhile with his life. Then there’s also his sister who’s having issues of her own with her husband who’s a cop keeping tabs on Wes. As if that’s not enough, there’s mysterious messages forming on her fridge. Oh and one more, Wes has an enigmatic flower growing in his yard that is devouring his attention.

Wes can barely focus on all this stuff, but the Quiztouch competition requires ultimate mental sharpness. Piling on even more tension, Wes has been having weird blackouts which have him visiting the doctor. It can’t seem to get much crazier until Wes and Scott get appointed delivery boys. They are bestowed with the precarious task of making a drop-off of a mysterious, locked duffel bag on their journey.

Geographical details of The Medici Iris obviously provide a nice frame of reference if you’re from Jersey or even have a loose knowledge of it from seeing it on TV. Naturally, for a Jersey freak like me, the Garden State backdrop made me feel even more like I was right there with Wes and his buddy Scott in the book. The duo traverses New Jersey from Montclair and Newark all the way down to the Pine Barrens. The NJ newspaper, The Star Ledger, is also makes a few prominent appearances.

Also a regional thing, the usage of Sub/Hoagie in vernacular gets brought up. Personally, I’ve never actually heard anyone refer to a sub sandwich as a hoagie, but one of our convenience store chains, WaWa, which happens to be represented in the book, sells these sandwiches under the guise of Hoagies, NOT subs. I give them a pass because they make decent subs, even though they’re clearly weirdos. What’s weirder, one customer at the sub-shop in the book refers to a sub as a “grinder,” and is appropriately scolded for it.

I had no idea what to expect The Medici Iris, especially since the plot synopsis sounded all over the place. I found myself tearing through the book just to see how the hell it was going to come together. I wasn’t frustrated by all the twists, turns, and red herrings in the least, in fact, they enticed me even more.  Medford methodically builds a mondo amount of suspense as the story ascends to it’s rousing finale. All the while ancillary thrills and mini cliffhangers provide a lot fun along the way. Even after the first 50 pages I wasn’t entirely sure where the book was taking me, but all I knew was that it was amusing and I thoroughly enjoyed the story that’s constructed like a wild mouse roller coaster.

The Medici Iris satisfied my desire for “something cool to happen,” while allowing me to stay out of trouble altogether. If you read this book you might wind up asking yourself “why can’t this stuff happen to me?” Wes and Scott ran into a few of those surreal experiences – the kind of times where you feel like they may not really be happening, so you have to pinch yourself. Competently, Medford’s intertwining plot unfolds in a similar way to an Elmore Leonard crime novel or in films like 1994’s Pulp Fiction and 1999’s Go, and even the slacker masterpiece Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle.

The style of the adventure incorporated stream of consciousness and it felt very cinematic. If you’re a fan of films like 1985’s After Hours and Into the Night, you’ll dig this. While I definitely recommend this book to my fellow New Jerseyans, I also say that if you have an insatiable desire for never-ending stories, fantastic voyages, and excellent adventures, I suggest you read The Medici Iris. It may change the way you look at stuff.

New Jersey’s Great Pop Culture Moments Vol.71: The Oranges

The Oranges
Our featured writer N.J Holden is back and this time around 
he’s providing his thoughts on the 2011 film The Oranges
This is what happened when House and Gossip Girl visited The Oranges (Well, sorty of). With fall comes not only the changing of the leaves and temperature, but a crop of films, from the ones that litter the multiplexes like poppies on a bagel to the smaller fare that fly under the radar. The Oranges has just opened in limited release in theatres scattered about the Garden State, and one should think that New Jersey would be proud. An acclaimed cast led by everyone’s favorite angry doctor House and a semi-serious look at the middle aged would be cause for celebration. But aside from the cast, the film is probably the first pro-Jersey film NOT filmed in Jersey. As witnessed by the end credits, New York stands in for nearly the entire film save a fleeting glimpse of the Atlantic City Boardwalk and the nice hand-painted sign that welcomes the visitors to the Oranges. But regardless, one should find time to check out this rare oddity.

David and Paige (Hugh Laurie and Catherine Keener) and Terry and Cathy (Oliver Platt and Allison Janney) are neighbors on the same block in the NJ suburbs of the title, both well to do and constantly enthralled with the latest gadgets on the market. But when Nina, Terry and Cathy’s free-spirited, nomadic daughter, Nina (Gossip Girl Leighton Meester) returns home after a failed relationship, everyone’s happy existence is thrown into chaos. David and Paige’s daughter Vanessa (Alia Shawkat) is embittered by her sheltered life and fleeting dreams of being a designer and their son Toby (Adam Brody), who was thought to be a perfect fit for Nina, is conflicted when the free spirit instead finds a kinship and romance with the older, but miserable, David. What ensues is a comedic look at how marriages survive and wither as well as an insightful look into how happiness eludes people in favor of normalcy and comfort.

New Jersey (despite not being shot in NJ) is shown in an appeal not seen in a certain shore show or long-off-the-air Mafia cable drama. The Oranges is an idyllic, decorative suburb with manicured lawns and a Rockwell-esque appeal that demonstrates that the Garden State is far more beautiful than it is given credit for, and kudos to the production team for finding locations that fit the state without making it too much of a distraction. It is odd that the film, while nowhere near a big-budget noisemaker, could not be filmed at least in a nearby location such as Montclair or Verona, towns that could easily fill in for the Oranges. But the film survives due to the appeal and witty exchanges between the characters, and Meester actually does a lot to distance herself from the bitchy society girl on Girl and makes you feel for and against her devil-may-care character who is far from the typical whore found in such fare, just a girl falling into unfortunate situation after situation. Another standout is Keener, a wife trying to (and ultimately, in hilarious fashion) put on a brave smile while her happily framed life falls apart all around her.

So, instead of the usual fare that is soon quickly forgotten just as soon as it has arrived, give The Oranges a view, a great Jersey film that isn’t and wasn’t at the same time.

by N.J Holden

Christina Ricci Is October’s Garden State Playmate!

Christina Ricci is October’s Garden State Playmate. She was born in California, but moved to New Jersey with her family. She grew up in Montclair, NJ and starred in plays at a very young age. Ricci has played a wide variety of characters, but it’s the dark ones she’s best known for. I’ll use this month’s column to defend some of her macabre roles in honor of the Halloween countdown.


Most notably is Ricci’s wicked portrayal of Wednesday Addams in The Addams Family and it’s sequel, Addams Family Values. Coming off the success of those films, Ricci went on to 1995’s Casper. I’m not afraid to admit that I remember seeing this the night it opened with my cousin Danielle. When it came out it had a fairly big buzz surrounding it and the trailers looked awesome. It looked a few steps above a kids movie, but it only turned out to be decent, nothing extraordinary. IMDB reminded me that this was the first feature film with a fully computer animated title character – take that Phantom Menace! Oh yeah…and Ghostbuster Ray Stantz makes a funny cameo in this as well!

1999’s Sleepy Hollow is often criticized for being style over substance. Regardless, this interpretation of The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, one of my favorite short stories by Washington Irving, is hard to beat. To say it’s definitive may not be the opinion of everyone, and I tend to go with the Disney animated version in Ichabod and Mr. Toad, but Christopher Walken was so damn terrifying in this movie! Previously known for her role in The Addams Family movies, this was a great opportunity for Ricci to show off her acting ability while also maintaining the gothic vibe. Directed by Tim Burton, and alongside Johnny Depp, Ricci was perfectly cast.

10 years after Casper, Ricci starred as Ellie, a girl who’s in love with a werewolf in 2005’s Cursed. This one gets such a bad rap. Surprisingly it’s one of Wes Craven’s later films that is not underwhelming. It took 7 years, but this fun horror film actually has gained a cult following. A film like this is relevant now more than ever thanks to the world’s obsession with the Twilight saga. Cursed beats that any day.

The effects are pretty damn good in Cursed. It was cool to see Derek Mears in an actual werewolf costume. Of course there was a fair share of CGI, but there was an equal amount of practical effects which was welcome. You’ll also see Jesse Eisenberg in an early role. Next time someone accuses him of being a poor man’s Michael Cera, tell them Jesse Eisenberg is an f’n WEREWOLF and he lived in East Brunswick, NJ for 20 years! Scott Baio actually plays himself, a total slimeball actor who tries to hit on Ellie as they discuss his appearance on…get this…The Late Late Show with Craig Kilborn! (seriously)!

OK, so Cursed is dated in some aspects. The songs used in the soundtrack (not the score) are pretty lame by today’s standards and the Craig Kilborn thing is just atrocious. He’s just a dick. Does anyone even know what happened to that guy? He was good on SportsCenter and it pretty much ended there. Back on track though. Finally, the film has numerous scenes inside a club that has a Hollywood wax museum theme to it and lots of classic monster references too! Perfect movie for you and your significant other to enjoy during Halloween! Ricci is the star of the film and although it wasn’t her best performance, I still found myself rooting for her. I’d like to see Ricci get back to doing more films in the horror/thriller genre. What do you think?

Wednesday: “Please end this post…”
Morticia: “What do we say?”
Wednesday: “NOW!”

*I didn’t see 2003’s The Gathering, but if you did let me know how it is!

New Jersey’s Great Pop Culture Moments 62: Christmas Evil


I hope you’re not planning on asking Santa for a lifetime subscription to Penthouse magazine or you’re in for it. Released the same year as To All a Good Night, Christmas Evil is the true classic of Christmas horror films. If Psycho and Halloween are looked at as pioneering films in the genre, Christmas Evil holds the same honor when it comes to Christmas horror movies. Don’t get me wrong, I still love Silent Night, Deadly Night, but the majority of Christmas Evil was actually filmed right here in New Jersey. Originally released as You Better Watch Out and also known as Terror in Toyland, this largely overlooked horror movie offers dark humor and a creepy, yet yuletide atmosphere.

Can you dig it? Santa traded in his sleigh for a custom van!

It’s a familiar story, one that has been copied numerous times after the release of both Christmas Evil and To All a Good Night. At the time in 1980, these two films just seemed like cheap throwaway horror film gimmicks, but to many horror film buffs they are classics now.

You can read about Christmas Evil all over the Internet, but the basic gist of it is that on Christmas 1947 little Harry loses his shit and starts cutting himself after witnessing Santa Claus getting naughty with his mother. When Harry realizes it was his father under the Santa suit he grows up wanting to be like the Santa he thought existed. Fast forward to his adult years, Harry has become straight up obsessed with Christmas and becoming Santa. He even keeps a book of all the good and bad kids around town. Dressed as Santa, Harry begins to go on a rampage around town to right all the wrongs he’s witnessed in various ways. The difference about this film and other Santa slashers is that Harry is actually playing a moral judge, he’s just not going around hacking up everyone in his path.

In the horror sub genre of Christmas or Holiday horror films, there aren’t too many that are worth revisiting. Christmas Evil is the type of perennial classic that you can go back to in the same way you re-watch A Christmas Story and How The Grinch Stole Christmas every holiday season. Every time I watch it I wonder why it hasn’t been labelled the quintessential Christmas horror movie yet. Is Silent Night Deadly Night better? I don’t think it is and neither do my fellow bloggers:

“It’s one of my favorite film endings of all time, the absolute perfect end cap to what is a madly magical film.” – Freddy in Space

“…the pedigree of most holiday-themed slasher movies isn’t very high, but Christmas Evil is pretty exceptional.” As perfectly summed up at Marcus’ Movie Life

And while I disagree with his Silent Night Deadly Night sentiment, I tend to agree with Charles Tatum’s Review overall which states that “Christmas Evil belongs just below Gremlins and Black Christmas and well above Elves and the moronic Silent Night Deadly Night when it comes to the unique Christmas horror genre.”

After a little girl says to him “Santa, your shirt’s dirty,” Harry replies “There’s a…a lot of pollution between here and the North Pole.” That sure is true, and although it’s never claimed outright in the film, the story itself takes place in suburban New Jersey. At least from my countless viewings over the years, aside from a couple of glimpses of NJ license plates, Christmas Evil doesn’t mention the state except for thanking Montclair and Glen Ridge in the closing credits.

Also check out Christmas Evil at one of our favorite horror blogs, Kindertrauma!

Dania Ramirez is August’s Garden State Playmate!


Did you know there was a made for TV prequel to Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion? Well, Dania Ramirez did because she was in it, proving that actors have to take the crap roles to get to the better ones. Now, this Dominican dame can look back and laugh at some of the movies she starred in like Romy and Michele: In the Beginning and Fat Albert.


I first saw Ramirez as A.J’s Dominican girlfriend Bianca in The Sopranos and was surprised to find out that she went to college in New Jersey. Ramirez graduated Montclair State University in 1999 where she was a standout volleyball player. During that time she continued pursuing her dream of becoming an actress and model. Before gaining mainstream notoriety, Ramirez appeared in several music videos including ones from Jay-Z and LL Cool J.

Early in her career Ramirez appeared in the film 25th Hour starring Ed Norton which lead to several larger roles. Eventually, she became well known with fanboys/girls when she played Caridad in the last season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Callisto in X-Men: The Last Stand, and Maya on NBC’s Heroes. Also, if you’re a fan of HBO’s Entourage you will recognize her as Alex, Turtle’s girlfriend.

It looks like Hollywood’s next craze will be late ’90s and early 2000’s nostalgia flicks. What makes me think that? Well, next for Ramirez is a part in the next NOT straight to DVD installment of American Pie: American Reunion.

Zombies + Rocky Horror = Killer Saturday Night!

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C8f84gmUQXc?rel=0]

Do you have plans on Saturday, and if so, do those plans involve transvestites, time warps, and zombies? There’s a good chance that they don’t so you should pencil in The Home of Happiness’ Rocky Horror ZOMBIE NIGHT at the Bellevue Theater in Montclair! New Jersey’s very own Home of Happiness Rocky Horror group is based out of Montclair, and if you ever planned on attending one of their shows but just didn’t get around to it, then Saturday night June 18th is the night you want to go! Zombies and Rocky Horror, yup, the forces have finally combined! There’s going to be a zombie costume contest, as well as themed costumes and dance numbers. It sounds like it’s going to be complete MADNESS! If you’re not convinced yet, the trailer posted above will seal the deal. The awesome preview video was created by Paul and Dana from The Home of Happiness.

If you do attend, please let me know how it was! As I previously mentioned, my Saturday night is all booked up so unfortunately I’m going to miss it. Vince McMahon’s got me by the balls again, but this time I’m corrupting my 6 year old nephew with WWE action!

RSVP on Facebook

Rocky Horror fans may also like this from The Sexy Archives:

NJ T-Shirt Tuesday 22: The Home of Happiness


Buzz F’n Aldrin’s “Rocket Experience”

In honor of the 40th anniversary of Apollo 11 landing on the moon, I present to you Buzz Aldrin’s “Rocket Experience” rap, straight from FunnyorDie.com! At first, Aldrin’s rap skills may seem rudimentary, but after a couple of listens and a hefty helping of freeze dried ice cream, you’ll come to respect his skillz. Assisting Aldrin on his “Rocket Experience,” were Qunicy Jones, Snoop Dogg, Talib Kweli, and Soulja Boy.

Buzz Aldrin is from Montclair, New Jersey and attended Montclair High School! Thanks for reppin’ Jersey on the motherf’n MOON, Buzz!