Movie Review: “(500) Days of Summer” (2009): Sweet yet solemn PG-13 romantic comedy with a realistic view of how love can be and often is.

Fox Searchlight has enriched the summer season immensely with a quirky and ultimately uplifting romantic comedy. If I had enough time and a couple glasses of wine, I could cite 500 reasons for going to this film. Suffice it to say that on a predicted hot weekend in Portland, Oregon, I’m going with my gut feelings. Suggest you buy your tickets now for this touching roller-coaster ride love story.

Handsome actor Joseph Gordon-Levitt (whom I have adored since his days in the TV hit “3rd Rock from the Sun”) plays Tom Hansen. Zooey Deschanel (beautiful and talented with those gorgeous eyes) plays his illusive love named Summer Finn. Tom is a hapless greeting card copywriter and hopeless romantic who once considered a career in architecture, but let it slip away. Summer becomes his office romance just briefly, but then dumps him. The timeline in the film shifts back and forth during their 500 day romance as Tom tries to unravel the Gordian knot and figure out what went awry. How he extracts himself from his situation is quite heart-rending. Ultimately, he reflects about his life until the final resolution. The path of love is meandering and unpredictable. Each relationship has its place in a lifetime of affections.

This is definitely not a formulaic romantic comedy and therein lies its charm. You’ll find the story prickly yet expansive, funny and sad. I ached for both main characters, laughed at their friends trying to help them. The film hits just the right note: a realistic, meandering chronicle of love’s highs and lows. The movie definitely doesn’t quite go where an audience might think it will. Even a yuppie senior curmudgeon can love this film.

I wish I could ask director Marc Webb why there are brackets around the number 500. I’ll use them without an explanation here. This movie deserves an ‘A’ on Ellen’s Entertainment Report Card.

MPAA rating: PG-13 (for sexual material and language)
Cast: Zooey Deschanel, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Geoffrey Arend, Clark Gregg, Chloe Moretz, Minka Kelly and Rachel Boston
Director: Marc Webb
Writers: Scott Neustadter and Michael Weber
Running time: 1 hour, 36 minutes


Ellen Kimball is a TV and radio pioneer. She was selected as a co-host of a local, live children's television show at WTVJ-TV. Ch. 4 in Miami, Florida, during her freshman year in college. She has been working in communications for more than five decades. Ellen is one of the first women in the U.S. to host her own daily radio call-in talk shows at major market stations in Miami and Boston. Ellen and her husband moved to Beaverton, Oregon eleven years ago. She currently contributes her reviews on films, theater and other entertainment to, the website of Ch. 8, the NBC-TV affiliate in Portland, Oregon.

Friday, July 24, 2009

CLASSIC MOVIES: 'The Little Prince' (1974)

'The Little Prince' is a fragile allegory in book form by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. Millions of copies of the book have been sold in multiple languages. In college, our student group spent hours discussing it. It was my ex-husband's favorite book. The message it delivers is subtle, thoughtful and delicate. The illusive quality of the book is translated to film in this musical version by writer Alan Jay Lerner.

In the movie, the little prince is played by a handsome, pint-sized English child named Steven Warner with an ethereal voice. He's a beautiful blond boy and dressed up in his princely costume, he has a commanding presence. As far as I know, Steven Warner never pursued a career in theater or movies.

Actor Richard Kiley plays the wandering earthman. Kiley uses his robust voice on songs with precious lyrics that are sometimes caught up in unusual rhyme rather than reason. But Kiley's gorgeous baritone can be astounding and inspiring.

The story itself preaches the cause against wars and artificial borders between people. The peaceful allegory is not particularly easy to understand. Much of it deals with the problem of accepting responsibility. That's a tough thing to explain, especially to young children. Adults who have read the original book may form a cult following for this film, but if you take a child under twelve years of age, parents should be prepared to do some explaining of the film's message.

Best song in the movie is sung by Bob Fosse, who directed "Cabaret" and the movie "Lenny." Fosse sings and dances the part of "A Snake in the Grass." He's a slithering, sibilant, black-suited soul with snakeskin spats. Fosse's dancing is accurate and inspired. It comes like an oasis of fresh, realistic spirit in the parched, imaginary desert of Saint-Exupéry's mind.

Production values are excellent, with Christopher Callis' flawless photography, Norman Reyonolds' art direction, and Johny Barry's production design handled in fine fashion. Producer Stanley Donen might have taken a cue from the book's primary message. "It's only with the heart that one can see clearly. What's essential is invisible to the eye." That's a very difficult premise to work out in a visual film. The movie is now available on DVD for those who wish to experience it. It's probably an acquired taste, and I still treasure it for personal reasons.

I give this movie a B- on Ellen's Entertainment Report Card.

For more information on 'The Little Prince' (1974), please link to:

(After the movie was gone from theaters, I purchased a vinyl recording of the music, which my husband transferred to audiotape cassette. The score to 'The Little Prince' became a favorite of mine for years, perhaps because I had a cute little son. I played that tape so many times, it because unusable. A few years ago, I purchased a VHS copy of the film from a seller at My two grandchildren watched it once and they were both very bored! Perhaps this is a children's story for adults, if there is such a category!)

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Classic Movies: Living Free (1972)

'Living Free,' which I attended in a preview tonight at Wometco's Miracle Theater, is somehow muted in comparison to its predecessor, 'Born Free.'

The director must have realized the power of the original, since many minutes of the film's opening are taken up with footage from 'Born Free,' together with a blend of tonalities from the award-winning song. But that echo, that excitement just didn't seem to provide the required emotional involvement when it got down to the brass tacks of the 'Living Free' story.

Elsa, the mother lioness, has died from infection, leaving three orphaned cubs that must be taken from the area because they are stealing domestic animals from villagers. There was little personal involvement with the three cubs, perhaps because of the vow that Joy Adamson made not to interfere again with their wile and free lives. And so we are witness to a long round-up and corral of the three cubs to transport them to the Serengeti Ntional Forest, where they will presumably be living free again.

Nigel Davenport and Susan Hampshire, while both fine actors of good reputation, did not mesh together like the husband-and-wife acting team of Bill Travers and Virginia McKenna. Miss Hampshire was radiantly perfect in face and diction, and she seemed almost too courtly to be in Africa at all. The story line left wide questions about actual wildlife practice. Would two dedicated experts not even experiment with tranquilizers or other advanced methods to capture the lion cubs, rather than try to catch them with a rather crude triple cage method that involved three cubs going into three separate cages at precisely the same moment? It reminded me of the children's hand game where the little marbles have to fall simultaneously into the clown's eyes, nose and mouth in order to win. Nevertheless, to all people who loved 'Born Free,' you will find moments of tenderness and laughter, tears and playfulness. The scope and beauty of Africa is still there. It's just hard to have to compare a good film to a great one.

I give this film a 'B' on Ellen's Entertainment Report Card.

(Film opened on Friday, March 10, 1972 in Miami, Florida.)

Link here for Internet Movie Database page:

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Latest 'Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs 3D' a summer blast for all ages

By ELLEN KIMBALL, Special to

I want to confess. Surely you know confession is good for the mind and the soul (if there really IS a soul). It’s refreshing, and it seems to be all the rage this summer.

I loved every cotton-pickin’, chicken-pluckin’ minute of “Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs 3-D” now playing in theaters. Loved the idea, loved the two other films very much, and thoroughly enjoyed the 3-D effects. This movie is all I wanted it to be.

You won’t be able to dissuade me from my point of view because I like what I like. Now, don’t go all cerebral on me! I could pick the script apart if I wanted to, and there were pieces of the film that could have been improved. Offhand, I can’t think of one, so sue me.

It’s a summer film in a genre which I have always thoroughly enjoyed.

Another confession. Ray Romano can do no wrong in my book. Maybe he sounds like the two New Yorkers to whom I was married. Now I’m married to a Bostonian whose Brooklyn mother -- reminds me of Ray Romano. His self-deprecating family humor tickles my funny bone and it has for many years. So I was primed to see this film.

The “Ice Age” intro was great fun, as always, with the Scrat the squirrel, voiced by Chris Wedge, trying to save his acorn from destruction. In this film, there’s a new female squirrel called Scratte (I think there should be an accent mark on that final E so it sounds like “Scrat-TAY”). Their hysterical antics as they scrap over that single acorn defy verbal description.

I took my eight-year-old grandson to the preview screening. If he hadn’t loved “Ice Age 3-D” right away, I’d try to cajole him to see it again.

That wasn’t necessary; my grandson loves it, too, just like he loved the other two films. He says the best part is where the animals find themselves in the green toxic atmosphere. It doesn’t hurt them, but it alters their voices to a higher register, making them sound as if they are breathing helium, much to everyone’s great delight.

Memo to Grandma Ellen, a former children’s live TV co-host in the late 1950s: I have to get my grandson a helium balloon so he can actually try this!

Now, the big pats on their furry backs to the whole voice cast, including Ray Romano (Manny the Mammoth), Queen Latifah (Ellie the Mammoth, expecting a BABY), Denis Leary (Diego, the old saber-toothed tiger, feeling as if he is slowing down), John Leguizamo (Sid the Sloth as a reluctant but loving single father to three cutie-pie dinosaurs). How DOES Leguizamo do the voice of the lisping sloth for line after line? I tried it and it’s NOT easy!

There is a long list of other voice parts and a couple of special newcomers: Simon Pegg as Buck the Weasel (sounding like Johnny Depp in "Pirates of the Caribbean") and Karen Disher as newcomer Scratte, the female squirrel.

The film is a treasure trove of exquisite computer renderings of characters and scenery, neat dialogue, saucy retorts, and some sweet romance.

There are double-meaning jokes and sly low-brow innuendoes. Scenes of ice and snow are beautifully rendered, and when the group goes “down under” to a jungle setting with dinosaurs and volcanos, it’s another kind of gorgeous. The new song, “Walk The Dinosaur" is delightful.

It’s a busy week just before the July 4th holiday. If you have time, take the family to see this film. It’s rated PG. I just want you to see the film. I’m giving it an “A” on Ellen’s Entertainment Report Card.

Directed by: Carlos Saldanha

Cast: Ray Romano, Denis Leary, John Leguizamo, Simon Pegg

Running Time: 1 hr 35 mins

Rating: PG

Release Date: July 1, 2009

Background: I’ve been mesmerized by animated movies since Mommy carried me out of the theater in 1940-something. I was watching “Bambi” when I became terrified and started to scream after Bambi’s mother was killed. Who knew that this early trauma would set the stage for a lifelong devotion to animated films? Watching cartoons on Saturday morning at the Rosetta Theater in Little River, near Miami, Florida, became an obsession. I loved every minute of these precious short films.

This was the time when animators actually drew on cells made of celluloid. I’ve observed the process in film school and tried my best to update my little stick figure drawings to something more.

But I didn’t have much talent, except for drawing a pretty good palm tree. I lived in Florida for 28 years. So, for most of my seventy years, I’ve followed animation and just enjoyed it. I'm not old enough to remember Steamboat Willie (precursor to Mickey Mouse), but did study that cartoon in film school.


Ellen Kimball is a TV and radio pioneer. She was selected as a co-host of a local, live children's television show at WTVJ-TV. Ch. 4 in Miami, Florida, during her freshman year in college. She has been working in broadcasting for more than five decades. Ellen is one of the first women in the U.S. to host her own daily radio call-in talk shows at major market stations in Miami and Boston. Ellen and her husband moved to Beaverton, Oregon eleven years ago. She currently contributes her reviews on films, theater and other entertainment to, the website of Ch. 8, the NBC-TV affiliate in Portland, Oregon.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009