The movie GHOST TOWN rocks!! Also, it's vacation time -- right here at home!

Woo-hoo! Yes, folks, I'm taking a little break from my cooperative life with my husband. He's going to a local Residence Inn by Marriott hotel and I'm staying home for two whole days. (It's a reward, believe me!) He's taking our seven-year-old grandson with him and they're going to the Portland Pirate Festival! What fun!

In the meantime, my husband and I saw a preview of the new movie "Ghost Town" a couple nights ago -- and we loved it! It opens wide on Friday, September 19, 2008. I've put the text of Portland film reviewer Kimberly Gadette's review because I respect her and enjoy her writing style. (I don't know what she will say, and that's the fun of it!) Seems we both agree on this one! I'm giving it a B+ on Ellen's Entertainment Report Card.

Here is Kimberly's review at

Some films open with a bang. This one starts off with a colonoscopy. An end to the means — in more ways than one.

An idea expounded by Ghost Town's filmmakers is that when you sneeze, you've just passed through a ghost. Another idea: Import a middle-aged, first-class funny man from England to play loner dentist Dr. Pincus (Golden Globe winner Ricky Gervais of the original The Office and HBO's comedy series Extras). With Greg Kinnear channeling a persona similar to the natty Cary Grant in Topper, acting as an other-worldly Cyrano of sorts, he persuades the dentist to romance his widow, the lovely Egyptologist Gwen (Téa Leoni). Even harder than turning an awkward, hair-challenged pudgy man into a charmer is the fact that Pincus openly admits to hating people: "Not so much the crowds, as the individuals in the crowds."

1993's Heart and Souls had a similar premise, but rather than Robert Downey Jr.'s handsome yet cold businessman acting as the ghosts' go-to go-between, it's Ricky Gervais' goofy-looking yet even colder dentist who's forced to do the honors. But while Downey ultimately gave us heart, soul and charm, Gervais has us howling in the aisles.

If not for Dr. Pincus' botched colonoscopy, he wouldn't have died for seven minutes during the procedure. If not for that temporary death, he wouldn't have changed from dour man hating the intrusion of corporeal strangers to dour man hating the intrusion of all strangers, corporeal or not.

Post-op, he's chased all over town like a rock star, haunted by unhappy haunts begging him to do just one little thing for each of them. But Pincus won't be moved. Not until dead, smooth-talking Frank (Kinnear) comes along with a deal that the dentist can't refuse — if Pincus will intervene in the impending second marriage of Frank's widow Gwen, then Frank will get the other ghosties to permanently vanish.

Perhaps due to the fact that writer/director Koepp has worked primarily in drama, he allows each of the three leads to let their masks slip, giving us glimpses of their individual pain underneath the funny.

And speaking of funny, hats off to Gervais in his first leading role, a sly imp of a man who sidles up to his lines, a deft sidestep here, a quiet utterance there. He rises to the challenge of portraying a misanthrope who secretly longs for love. We see his struggle, cheering for him to unlock his imprisoned heart. Without a comic actor of Gervais' depth, Ghost Town would not have worked.

Kinnear turns in another smooth performance as the cad who finally connects with his soul long after it matters, and Leoni, a modern-day Carole Lombard, sparkles. When Pincus surprises her with his oddball brand of humor, she fills the screen with a merry, irresistible luminescence. What today's cinema needs is even more Leoni — she is a treasure, one of a select cluster of star actresses who handle screwball comedy as if she was to the manner born.

In support of the three leads, we're treated to delightful turns by the likes of Kristen Wiig as a barely competent doctor, The Daily Show's Aasif Mandvi as Pincus' colleague who gently schools him in a different kind of dental care, Dana Ivey's pushy poltergeist of a mother, and Billy Campbell (Once and Again), having great fun with his humorless human rights activist.

Also having great fun is cinematographer Fred Murphy, taking a vibrant autumn in New York and exploding it with fantastical hues. The fall foliage is bathed in color so sharp it almost hurts, a reminder of the mercurial beauty of life that cries out to every last one of us, begging us to take it all in while we can. Before it's too late.

Given Gervais' poor gag reflexes, member-of-the-mummy jokes and a 200-pound Great Dane puppy, this isn't your usual rom-com. Like Dr. Pincus, it stands alone.

From ghost to ghost: With wonderfully comic actors, a delightful plot and effervescent direction, this film is a boo-tifully spirited comedy.

Official movie site is at:

Here's the plot outline without spoilers:

In the romantic comedy "Ghost Town," Bertram Pincus (Ricky Gervais), is a man whose people skills leave much to be desired. When Pincus dies unexpectedly, but is miraculously revived after seven minutes, he wakes up to discover that he now has the annoying ability to see ghosts. Even worse, they all want something from him, particularly Frank Herlihy (Greg Kinnear) who pesters him into breaking up the impending marriage of his widow Gwen (Téa Leoni). That puts Pincus squarely in the middle of a triangle with spirited result.

Here's a great photo of Kimberly. She's scrumptious, svelte -- and married, you fiend.

More later...

Kimberly Gadette

Movie Review: "Burn After Reading" (Opens 9/12/08)

Burn After Reading

“Burn After Reading” is the new comedy written and directed by the formidable brothers Joel and Ethan Coen. This is a very funny film rendered all the more amusing by zany comedic performances from several unexpected sources -- Brad Pitt, George Clooney, and Francis McDormand in particular.

The plot has footprints in several genres and there are some darker aspects to it – such as divorce, adultery, blackmail, murder, and such, but never mind. It’s all wrapped up with shiny and spot-on fun stuff. From what I have seen of other Coen brothers films, they actually like it mixed up that way. Most of the time, their double-entendre, genre-bending scripts work quite successfully. However, if you follow my reviews, the Coens’ last effort -- “No Country for Old Men” -- was too dark for me although it amassed a huge following. I bow to those of you who predicted it would be a hit. After the on-screen bloodletting and questionable ending, that movie soaked up a clutch of Oscars, much to my chagrin.

So, I went to the screening of “Burn After Reading” with some trepidation, but this one really tickled my funny bone. I predict you will be ‘guffawing while watching’ and still ‘chuckling after viewing.’ In the case of every comedy, the actors are at their best when they have straight foils as their adversaries. Credit John Malkovich (absolutely fabulous at chewing the scenery), Tilda Swinton (bright red hair and just gorgeous in this outing), and rest of an excellent supporting cast – all of whom provide this element in abundance.

The goofy plot – featuring many exteriors in New York, New Jersey, and Washington, DC – is actually a collection of intricate and interacting subplots. They revolve around a mixed-up Central Intelligence Agency, messed-up marriages, a couple of dumbed-down employees of an exercise facility, self-centered men, and a woman eager to go under the cosmetic surgery knife. These very odd individuals help spice up the cinematic brew. The script is fast moving and left me wanting a second showing so I could fully appreciate everything that is going on.

“Burn After Reading” starts out somewhat seriously but with an undercurrent of humor as CIA Agent Osborne Cox, played by John Malkovich, is confronted with a demotion for a rather spurious reason -- he drinks. (Gee, why doesn't he go into rehab like all the other government flacks do?) Osborne goes off the deep-end in anger…and effectively quits his job. Throughout the rest of the flick, he supplies a necessary comedic ingredient with his extreme, manic posturing as he is confronted with comic innocents that confuse and irritate him. One of these is Chad Feldheimer, (Brad Pitt), a sports-gym coworker of Linda Litzke (Frances McDormand). Pitt’s portrayal is an over-the-top gem, equaled by McDormand’s. She is obsessed with obtaining what she feels are expensive cosmetic surgeries -- which she cannot afford.

George Clooney triumphs also in the creation of the womanizing Harry Pharrer. The plot is too nutty for me even to begin to describe, but it will make you forget all those stupid "Oceans 11 - 13" movies, and maybe even "Syriana." Suffice it to say that “Burn After Reading” manages to hold together amid all of the crazy mayhem that takes place. I’m pleased to report that the result is classic.

Go see “Burn After Reading” and, if you don’t find it to be one of the best laugh riots ever, don’t blame me, you grouch!

For all normal people, I rate “Burn After Reading” a solid “B+” on Ellen’s Entertainment Report Card.

Rated: R for pervasive language, some sexual content and violence

Link here for

Ground Zero Retrospective -- From our photos

A Ground Zero Retrospective View for September 11, 2008

The Attacks on New York -- NEVER FORGET!

It was a day of madness and terror -- September 11, 2001.

My husband and I have always loved New York City. I lived there with my ex-husband from 1962 to 1969. He lived near W. 181 Street and Wadsworth Avenue, in Washington Heights. He won a scholarship to Stuyvesant High School - which required a long daily commute down to the area where the World Trade Towers were eventually built.

My current husband's mother was born in Brooklyn. Although the family was based in Boston, both his mother and father had family in New York City. Many of his memories are of visiting with his aunt, uncle and first cousin in New York.

Over the years, we drove from Boston to NYC and stayed there for many vacations. Our pleasant visits included theater performances, great restaurants, and other enjoyable activities.

When 9/11/01 took place, we had moved from Boston to Portland, Oregon. I remember stirring in the bed when our radio alarm went off very early -- and I thought I was dreaming -- something about buildings burnings. I fell back to sleep.

But I learned an hour later that it was no dream -- I turned on the television set and saw Katie Couric, Matt Lauer, Peter Jennings, and later, CNN's Aaron Brown, telling the horrific story hour after hour.

What we saw made our blood run cold. I remember cleaning the house all day in a daze (I do that when I am stressed out). I watched TV. I made a bunch of telephone calls. My stepson in Boston, whose birthday is 9/11/58, is said to have been reduced to tears of raw emotion, and threatened to drive to New York just to help out.

In November 2001, we had preexisting plans to go to NYC. We were welcomed in the city with open arms. Of course, my husband insisted on going to the site to see what we could see.

My husband posted a slideshow for all to see:

This series of photographs above blends a previous visit from 1999 with some views of the Towers as we experienced them in previous visits. There are also our photos from 2001, and the second link was of another visit we made in 2006.

If you have time, you are invited to view the two slideshows (above and also here):

The controls are at the bottom -- your cursor activates the sequence and allows you to stop, pause, and choose a speed for viewing.

In peace,


"Hey, mister, wanna buy a wash?" Portland author rants on Teen Charity Carwashes

(Ellen's edits: It's strange, but I cannot recall ever discussing this subject in all of my broadcasting career. Your comments would be appreciated. Thanks so much.)

Teen Charity Carwashes
by Kimberly Gadette

"Hey, mister, wanna buy a wash?"

For the past month at the intersection of Baseline and Cornelius in Hillsboro (OR), weekend days have been filled with the sights and sounds of scantily clad teenage girls calling out to motorists, holding hand-lettered signs reading "Car Wash Today!"

The young ladies are members of Century High School's dance team. Their assignment: to sing out, dance, jiggle, wave, dressed in a work uniform of sorts -- if you want to call string-tied halter tops and shorts cut-down-to-there-while-up-to-here the appropriate dress code of the day. The desired result: to raise funds for their club by enticing drivers, primarily male, to pull into a grocery store parking lot for a charity carwash. As the vehicles clean up, so does the dance team. Just like windshield wipers working both ways: Everyone wins.

This isn't just happening in Hillsboro -- fundraising carwashes are sanctioned by churches, schools and youth clubs from Portland, Ore., to Portland, Maine. If the carwash fundraiser is now as American as apple pie, and if Hillsboro represents a piece of that pie, perhaps we should rethink the dessert -- underage cheesecake, anyone?

These teen queens' acts of solicitation are more than merely tolerated. They're often fully sanctioned by the girls' teachers, ministers and parents. If this is the charity that begins at home, perhaps it's time to call in child services.

'Though I knew they wouldn't be able to hear me over their sing-song shouts, I wanted to say, "Careful, girls, watch all that jumping around -- the goal is to be 'arresting,' not 'arrested.' " Instead, I spoke to the mom in charge. It seems that though the Century dance team had placed third and fourth in previous state competitions, this year the girls are bent on capturing first place. To win, the mom explained, the team needs additional funds for better costumes, an outside choreographer and a rental bus.

Was the mom concerned about the girls dressed in sexy outfits, literally working this particular street for the almighty dollar? "It's a learning experience" -- she paused, struggling for the right word -- "in advertising. After all, they're always going to have to market themselves." She smiled broadly. "Besides, the girls are so pretty, people want to help the kids."

Pretty girls, yes, but it was the parents who washed the cars -- the teens were simply used as bait. "You should see how the guys' faces fall when they pull up and see it's us instead of the girls," the mom laughed.

I didn't know which was worse -- the girls expected to service strange men's cars, acting out sudsy fantasies that are the realm of porn/naughty YouTube videos, or the same girls emboldened with the knowledge that because they possessed the requisite desirable anatomy, they only had to parade themselves while others did the dirty work. Ignorant of the fact that it's the very act of parading, strutting, luring that is, in itself, the dirty work.

I wondered at the far-reaching effects of this particular school lesson. And what about the girls who were physically rejected, who didn't make the cut? Were they grateful, ashamed or a mix of both?

Not that there aren't objections raised about these do-it-yourself carwashes. But the concerns are primarily environmental, objecting to the problems of untreated water runoff discharging into the storm water system, eventually integrating into nearby rivers and lakes. If only there were a similar outcry as to a whole other pollution: that of the highly impressionable, adolescent brain.

With Madison Avenue/Hollywood continually bombarding the confused adolescent, often the only voices that cut through the media morass belong to her personal authority figures: her teacher, her minister, her parents. But when they, too, send a mixed message as clouded as the runoff from the carwash, then it's time for them to rethink their priorities . . . and clean up their act.

Kimberly Gadette is a local and national freelance writer based in Hillsboro. Her weekly film reviews can be found on

Original post:

True romance! New York author Tara Bray Smith finds her mother... and a new husband!

Baby Tara with her mother, Karen in beautiful Hawaii

I had the pleasure of interviewing author Tara Bray Smith by telephone on Oregon Public Broadcasting a couple of years ago. Although her book came in with the usual weekly array of fiction and non-fiction books, something about the photo on the cover and the Hawaiian theme -- plus the fact that my ex-husband had left me with two small children in the 1970s -- made me curious about her story. "West of Then: A Mother, a Daughter and a Journey Past Paradise” (Simon & Schuster, 2004), is both a memoir and a history of Hawaii. The book just touched my heart.

Tara's life quest has been very difficult. After Tara was born, her mother Karen became ill and unstable, and then followed a downward path into homelessness and drug addiction, all with the background of the beauty of tropical Honolulu and the other gorgeous Hawaiian islands. For Tara and her younger sister, life was a nightmare. They lived in deplorable and dangerous situations as her mother struggled with mental and physical difficulties. Eventually, Tara's father and stepmom took over, and she was able to obtain reliable and stable parenting in their home.

Later, Tara moved to New York City to attend college, and she graduated from Colunbia University. At the end of the book, Tara was still trying to find her mother, and spent much time flying between Honolulu and New York, but had been unsuccessful in her quest. Her mother might be dead, but Tara had to find her. Sensitively written by this very vulnerable young woman, "West of Then" stayed with me. I recommended it several times to other people. I had to know -- the rest of the story.

A perusal of her web site showed that she had written another book. But it also appeared she was living in Germany. I didn't know why -- and didn't pursue it. Yesterday, her New York telephone number popped up on one of my lists of guests. I dialed it apprehensively...Tara answered and we chatted as if no time had elapsed between our first conversation and this one.

Tara told me she found her mother still alive. Her mother was trying very hard to make a life for herself. She was finally diagnosed with bipolar disorder and was receiving treatment. She has also been able to find her own small home in Hawaii. Currently, she things are better for her.

Meanwhile, this beautiful young author has met and married a loving and accomplished older man -- whom she richly deserves. This is the link to their wedding story in the New York Times. I love romance and this article filled in the details. Her husband is an accomplished photographer. I'm pleased to see they were married in the Unitarian-Universalist faith -- I go to the fellowship here in Oregon and find it welcoming of all peoples, as I did when we lived in Massachusetts.

Here is the wedding announcement.
"Now, we know...the rest of the story..."

Book information at: or you can find it at

To Tara and Thomas -- all the very best to you both for a long and happy marriage.

Blessed be,

Ellen Kimball and husband Al in Oregon