UP and away with Pixar/Disney's new 3D winner (Opens Friday, May 29)

A few days ago, I saw a preview of 'Up' the new Pixar movie. It brought back some vivid memories from my younger days, and much of what has transpired since that time. During my senior year in high school, I saw a short French film called 'The Red Balloon.' If you've never seen it, this surreal movie is about a handsome young boy followed around Paris, France by a single red balloon. It trails him here and there until the boy is finally carried away by the red balloon -- tied in with all its "cousins" -- straight up into the stratosphere. That's where the story stops.

'The Red Balloon' won an Oscar for Best Screenplay and several other awards for Albert Lamorisse in 1957. Touching and sweet, you are able to believe what you wish about the main character in that film. What's clear is that UP is always better than DOWN and it's that way for a reason. After all, there are Heaven and Hell -- the fresh sweet breezy blue sky with white clouds versus the dark and gloomy ground. We dare not even mention the underground.

The long awaited Pixar/Disney film 'Up' seems to have evolved from a similar ultra-simple tale. I believe Monsieur Lamorisse would have loved it! 'Up' is a very pleasing potpourri of charming and devilish characters, lavish images, transcendent music, and magnificent backgrounds. The story plays out very well in two unique realms. For me, it was a sentimental comedy. One minute I was sniffling as the elderly main characters find each other, live and love as they play out their structured life, dreaming of adventure somewhere along the road. But life itself interferes as it will, and the couple never gets to fulfill their joint dream.

Especially touching -- during this week of my 70th birthday on 5/31 -- is the square-faced, elderly character of Carl Fredrickson, a balloon salesman, voiced by the gruff-and-funny character actor Ed Asner. Clearly, Asner enjoys the whole thing. The other voices are also recognizable are Christopher Plummer (no longer the handsome Captain with seven children, but still going after all these years) and John Ratzenberger (the postal employee from 'Cheers').

After a life-altering situation occurs, and the movie switches gears. Then it becomes a comical "buddy roadtrip" with some intensity in the later action. Kudos to the decision to use a decidedly rotund animated Asian character for the cuddly young Wilderness Scout who accidentally accompanies Carl in his late-life adventures. Jordan Nagai is extremely talented with a voice that clearly captures all of the emotion of this key character.

'Up' has quite a few jokes. Between my eight-year-old grandson laughing on my left side, and a well-known and admired writer/film reviewer chortling on the other side, I probably missed a few. This movie will be a must-see for the second time.

It's only mid-year, and 'Up' takes its rightful place at the top of the picture-perfect pantheon of Pixar movies. It will be hard to imagine another movie outpacing this one for best animation awards in 2009.

So, my advice is to take the ride. See it in Disney 3-D if you can, which adds to the experience. Know that you can help guide the balloons of your life where you wish to go. If you are lucky, you might be able to fulfill most of your dreams right to the very end. There really is no other choice. Life will sweep you up anyway, and you must go with it, even if you have to deal with downdrafts along the way.

I'm pleased to give 'Up' an 'A' on Ellen's Entertainment Report Card.

Official website and trailer: http://disney.go.com/disneypictures/up/

Genre: Animation/Adventure
Rating: PG for some peril and action. (Parents: Be aware that the movie contains allusions to a woman's infertility and a brief death sequence. This is handled in a very acceptable way for most people.)
Runtime: 98 minutes
Director: Pete Docter
Co-Director: Bob Peterson
Composer: Michael Giacchino

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Me 'n' Larry King -- "My Remarkable Journey" (Book release May 19, 2009)


Larry, I know your new book "My Remarkable Journey" will be out in bookstores in a few days. I hope to read it, and I'm sure there are no footnotes about me in it! But I did cross paths with you briefly in the late 50s, and then again in 1971. My life changed dramatically because I reached out to you.

For years, I've had a lot of fun with this quote: "I dated Larry King, but never married him. Of course, he never asked me!"

This message is heartfelt. I just want to thank you for being in my life in the early times and offering me encouragement. We had one rather forgettable date in the 1950s, when you were on radio at WAHR with your alter-ego Captain Wainwright, the crooked Miami cop on filter mike -- I loved that character!

I was on television at Miami's WTVJ Channel 4 with "Skipper" Chuck Zink on "Popeye Playhouse," the local live children's show that ran from 1957 to 1979. I was the first "First Mate" on the show while in my first year of college (1957-58). Larry, you and I were introduced by WTVJ salesman Frank Boscia, who thought we might have something in common. You are five years older than I am, and we are both from Jewish backgrounds. I think we ate at the drive-in restaurant Pickin' Chicken, but don't recall much else. I already had fallen in love, but not with you...

In 1962, I graduated with a B.A. in Communications with honors from the University of Miami and moved to New York City. I had a successful career as a production assistant at NBC's "Tonight" unit, working for Dick Carson, Johnny Carson's brother, who directed the show at that time. Later, I worked with NBC's documentary news division. I was On-Air Promotion Supervisor at WPIX Channel 11, and did copywriting for several advertising agencies. One production job was with Barry Gray at WMCA, who was credited as the first talk host to put telephone calls on the radio in the early 1960s. I had no idea at the time that I would ever perform on TV -- or radio -- again!

I married classmate Peter R. in 1963. He had emigrated to New York as a small boy with his parents. They lived in Washington Heights. Peter was an aspiring TV producer and film director with a degree from UCLA. Peter achieved a responsible job with ABC, working with the program development group and then with the Wide World of Sports unit. We had a beautiful daughter born in October 1968. Peter's dreams of success in his chosen field were not to be. He became disillusioned, but he had one final job offer with Reela Films in Miami, working on documentary fillms. We moved back to Florida in March 1969 with our tiny daughter. I got pregnant almost immediately. Our second child, David, was born at Miami's Mercy Hospital in December 1969. The Reela job evaporated. After Peter's career crisis, two children, and eight years of marriage, he chose to divorce me. My parents were unable to help, and I had to support myself, the two kids, and a dog. Peter remarried another woman in April 1971, three weeks after our divorce.

Larry, I reconnected with you in the summer of 1971. I was divorced and working some very menial jobs for little pay. I had the two tiny children to care for, and a monthly home mortgage to cover. One early morning, I was driving from Miami Beach to Opa Locka. You were on WIOD radio and you called out for someone to PLEEZE bring you doughnuts and coffee. I stopped at a local shop and bought the refreshments you requested. Although you didn't remember me from our brief encounter in the 1950s, you invited me to stay and screen your calls before they went on the air. I kept dropping in and you promised that you would talk to the program manager about some compensation for my work. One day, I began to supply you with hour-long "woman in the mall" cassette tapes when you started to fall asleep at the microphone. Somewhere along the way, a listener re-named me "Ellen Rainbow" which is just a few letters added to my ex-husband's name.

You kept me busy, interested, and even laughing for those difficult months in the fall and winter. But a few days before Christmas 1971, you were gone -- caught in a legal monetary tangle that I barely understood.

I have not seen nor spoken you from that day to this. Of course, I know your career reignited on Westwood Radio and then on CNN for years. I was so happy you were back!

These are some newspaper clippings which I recently recovered:

After you were gone, WIOD Program Manager Elliott "Biggie" Nevins hired me do the night show shift three times a week, while they looked for a male host to replace you. He paid me $50 each night I hosted. I might have ended up who-knows-where if I had not had that income.

In the first few months of 1972, I did a show with Larry Johnson in Chicago via WATS lines. Then, we patched in with Bruce Lee on Boston's WEEI-AM. (No, not THAT Bruce Lee!) Bruce saved the tape and called me. He said CBS was looking for a woman to do 10 AM to 2 PM. I had to make the first contact with Program Manager Dan Griffin, because if they called me, it would be "talent raiding." At the time, WEEI was owned and operated by CBS and a union shop. WIOD was affiliated with NBC. WEEI management flew me to Massachusetts for a marathon interview on April 28, 1972. It was a glorious spring day that will live in my memory forever. Barbara Trombley, one of my former WIOD guests, took me around to see Boston sights. I was immediately enchanted by this historical city and the beautiful temperate weather.

Dan Griffin offered me the job a few days later. I gave my children to my ex-husband and his wife temporarily, and told them I would let them know when I was settled in an appropriate living space. I packed up my Volvo and my Cocker Spaniel dog, drove to northern Florida, boarded the Autotrain, got off in Virginia, and headed up to Boston.

On May 15, 1972, I started a brand new gig as the first woman with a daily, four-hour radio talk show in Boston. At the beginning, I worked six days each week, four hours a day Mon. thru Sat. on "Boston Forum with Ellen Kimball." Imagine! I was talking for 24 solid hours each week. It was a crushing schedule, but I kept it going for months. Finally, management relented and newsman Ben Farnsworth took over the Saturday show. My show was eventually renamed "The Ellen Kimball Show."

A few years later, another Boston station, WMEX AM, hired me after WEEI changed their format:

I met a widower with three older children in June 1972. He is from a Jewish background, and five years older than I am. His first wife had died at age 34 from cancer. He was trained as an electrical engineer, and later became a software analyst. We married on February 4, 1973 and we will celebrate 37 years of marriage in 2010.

Our wedding day. Daughter Linda is one year younger than Larry's daughter Chaia. Son David is 14 months younger than his sister.

My husband and I moved from Boston to Portland, Oregon eleven years ago. I will be 70 years old on May 31st, and my husband will be 75 on June 23rd. It has been a full life. Yes, there have been stepfamily setbacks, but we are now enjoying worldwide travel, photography, swimming, Broadway musicals, and having fun with our young grandchildren. I review entertainment for www.KGW.com, the website of Channel 8, the NBC-TV affiliate in Portland. It's a volunteer job for which I receive no compensation.

Thanks for being who you are, and for helping me along my remarkable journey.


Ellen Kimball (Radio_Lady)


Tweet me! @Radio_Lady
Larry is on Twitter @kingsthings

PS. In 2006, I called Steve Z., the radio engineer with whom Larry and I worked at WIOD. Steve is a charming and wonderful guy, now retired from Cox Broadcasting and living in Venice, Florida. He entertains me daily with a hefty array of fascinating emails and we speak by telephone quite frequently.

Larry with his wife, Shawn Southwick. and their two young boys, Chance and Cannon:

Friday, May 15, 2009

"Star Trek" arrives in local theaters! Beam us up, Gary Wolcott!

I was planning a two-week trip to Utah with my husband at the beginning of May, so I passed up my chances to preview the new Star Trek film. I ended up sending my spouse on a "MALE BONDING" trip with my son and our two grandsons. Will have to see the film when he gets back. I'm taking the opportunity of chiming in here with Mr. Movie, Gary Wolcott's excellent review. Thanks for all the good work you do, Gary.

Gary Wolcott's "Mr. Movie" column has appeared in the Tri-City Herald in Washington state since 1992. The Tri-City native now lives in Portland, Oregon, and watches about 250 movies each year. He believes movies are made to be seen on theater screens and should be seen there and not on television screens.

Stardate 1905.08. Red alert. In local movie theaters, a Romulan vessel looking more like a giant squid than a space ship, has invaded Federation space. An intense, dramatic, brilliantly shot and edited battle scene develops. It ends with the birth of James T. Kirk.

Star Trek is back at the beginning.

Since Star Trek: The Next Generation left television for big screen failure, the franchise has been sputtering through the cosmos on impulse power. Most fans were convinced that Voyager and the last nail in the coffin Enterprise, doomed the late Gene Roddenberry’s futuristic saga to its final resting place in a black hole.

Only the most rabid of fans left the neutral zone when the announcement came that there would be an 11th Star Trek movie. A few more converts beamed aboard when Lost and Alias creator/producer J.J. Abrams said he’d take the helm.

It turns out to be a great choice.

Abrams kicks his film into warp drive and boldly goes where the Star Trek actually has gone before. Only better.

Twisting time, shifting characters, making them the same but different, undoing then redoing Star Trek history, Abrams reinvention of the franchise stretches series creativity to a whole, new level. From the mind-boggling opening scenes to Leonard Nimoy’s fond, fitting, and quite familiar farewell, Star Trek is more fun than a night spent tickling tribbles.

Twenty-five years later, the same Romulan ship pops into Federation space again and attacks Spock’s home planet Vulcan. Kirk and what will become the crew of the U.S.S. Enterprise are in training at Star Fleet Academy. With the fleet in another part of the galaxy, the trainees are drafted into battle.

Two things make this movie a blast. The first is a cast that will have you pointing at the screen, laughing and whispering to the person in the next seat. Abrams and the producers did their homework and found actors with facial features close enough to the original cast to be believable. It’s not pitch-perfect, but you can see enough of the characters in these young actors to buy the possibility.

Chris Pine is James T. Kirk. He has more fun than anyone as a nod-and-a-wink, larger-than-life caricature. The film’s funniest scenes are between Pine and Karl Urban, who does an equally entertaining Dr. Leonard McCoy.

The best look alike is Zachary Quinto’s Spock. Though not as gaunt as Nimoy, Quinto’s facial features, dark eyes and the combed-forward hairdo make him look so much like a young Nimoy that it’s spooky. Dialogue delivery, facial expressions and vocal tone complete the transformation.

The actors looking least like the original cast are Anton Yelchin’s Chekov and Simon Pegg’s Montgomery Scott. Both make up for facial feature failure with dead-on imitations of Walter Koenig and James Doohan’s voices.

Plus No. 2 is the story. Star Trek is as much satire as it is straight-ahead storytelling. Writers Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman have a blast with the plot. The retrofit of the series’ legendary characters is cemented with the recycling of one hilarious cliché Star Trek line after another.

And like Star Wars George Lucas who was able to convince you that a galaxy long ago, and far, far away was a real place, Abrams and his writing team add dimensions to Star Trek that make it seem as though you are really there.

Abrams is a superb director whose mixture of light and shadow and effects that redefine state-of-the-art with a near-perfect script will put Star Trek at the top of many “best-of” lists for 2009.

A sequel is a no-brainer.

Until then, to Abrams, cast and crew: Live Long and Prosper.

Mr. Movie rating: 5 stars -- Gary's highest rating.

Rated PG-13 for mature themes, some violence. Now showing. Check your local theater listings for locations and times.

NEWSPAPER LINK: http://www.tri-cityherald.com/1190/story/570574.html

Saturday, May 8, 2009