THE ADRIENNE BARBEAU BLOGATHON – Day 1 Recap

With nearly all of our blogathon participants posting their entries on the very first day, our chest is swelling with pride as we present

Adrienne-Barbeau

Click on each of the participant’s blog names to read their individual entries.

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Realweegiemidget Reviews critiques Adrienne’s performance as a seaside town’s velvet-voiced DJ in The Fog.

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Old School Evil shows further appreciation of Adrienne’s sultry tones, in her voicework as Catwoman in “Batman: The Animated Series.”

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Movie Rob discusses Adrienne trading insults with Rodney Dangerfield in the comedy Back to School.

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And last but certainly least, your faithful correspondent takes a long, lingering look at Adrienne’s bouncy performance as the love interest of Swamp Thing.

We’re still awaiting two more blogathon entries, so keep us clutched to your bosom — er, that is, bookmarked over the weekend!

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SWAMP THING (1981) – A guilty pleasure…named Adrienne Barbeau

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The following is my entry in this (my) blog’s Adrienne Barbeau Blogathon, being hosted Sept. 29-Oct. 1, 2017. Click on the above banner, and read bloggers’ tributes to the many facets of this actress-writer’s show-biz career!Poster

Usually when I write a movie review, I try to make it as professional as possible. But when it comes to Adrienne Barbeau in the 1970’s and early ’80s, all decorum goes out the window, and I reach for the drool bucket.

Purists will tell you that Swamp Thing is based on a DC comic, it’s about a scientist who accidentally gets a potent chemical spilled on him and he becomes the title character, etc., etc. But look at the poster for this movie. Is the Swamp Thing the first thing your eyes are drawn to?

Admittedly, the movie is kind of fun on its own terms. It’s rated PG, so the violence and language aren’t terribly off-putting. And the romance between Alice Cable (Barbeau) and the Swamp Thing is actually kind of sweet.

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It’s not easy being green.

But all that aside, writer-director Wes Craven realized that when you’re shooting on a minimal budget, you go for whatever special effects you can muster. And in this case, he had the mother lode of natural special effects. In the pre-cable-TV 1970’s, how many teenagers got through puberty via their weekly viewing of Adrienne Barbeau bouncing across the set on “Maude”?

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Big oranges.

Lest you think I’ve lapsed into tastelessness, I must warn you that I’m not the only one to ga-ga over La Barbeau. More than 30 years since the movie’s premiere, I still recall The Village Voice raving, “Adrienne sloshes through the swamp, arms flailing, wet T-shirted breasts bouncing…” And Joe Bob Briggs devoted an entire evening to his comments about Adrienne’s pneumatic qualities when he showed the movie years ago on TNT. Click here to watch his entire Swamp Thing commentary on YouTube, if you dare.

“I’m gonna get my agent for this.”

So let’s cut to the chase. Adrienne spends most of the movie in tight-fitting T-shirts (wet whenever possible), a low-cut evening gown, and even topless (just a sideboob view in the U.S. version of the movie; an entire minute of her frontal view in the European version). Adrienne’s natural assets (and that includes her acting) have never been shown to such advantage in any movie since this one.

So dads, rent the movie for your kids. It’s harmless enough that they’ll think it’s mindless sci-fi. Only you will know the truth.

Wow. Just, wow.

Wow. Just, wow.

THE ADRIENNE BARBEAU BLOGATHON is here!

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This is one blogathon where I’d like to begin by acknowledging the upcoming contributions of the ‘thon’s stalwart entrants. Even though, surprisingly, participation in this ‘thon is as skimpy as Adrienne Barbeau’s costuming in Swamp Thing, we’re gonna party like Adrienne dancing around bralessly on “Maude”!

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Seriously, La Barbeau has had a multi-faceted show-biz career that’s based on not taking herself too seriously, and it is in that spirit that we honor her with this blogathon. If you’re just here for the read, bookmark us and keep checking back over the weekend for some fun entries. If you’re a blogathon writer, please post your ‘thon’s URL and the name of your blog in the “Comments” section below, and we will link to it as soon as possible. Now…on with the show(-it-all)!

Here are the participants — click on their blog’s name to link to their entries:

Movie Movie Blog Blog – Adrienne in Swamp Thing (1981)

Realweegiemidget Reviews – Adrienne in The Fog (1980)

The Dream Book Blog – Books written by Adrienne

Movie Rob – Adrienne in Back to School (1986)

Moon in Gemini – Adrienne in The Great Houdini  (1976)

Old School Evil – Adrienne as the voice of Catwoman in TV’s Batman: The Animated Series

 

THE ASSASSINATION OF RICHARD NIXON (2005) – Interesting tale of a sad nobody

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The Assassination of Richard Nixon is a very well-made film, with the usual superior acting from Sean Penn — and I never want to see it again.

The plot is based on the real-life story of Samuel Bicke (Penn), a man who (at least as portrayed here) is the very definition of the word “loser.” He has a dead-end job as an office-supply salesman (at which he almost strives to do poorly), he is separated from his wife, and seemingly his only friend in the world is Bonny Simmons (Don Cheadle), a black garage mechanic who indulges Sam’s half-baked idea of starting a car-tire delivery service.

But events not only don’t happen quickly enough for Sam — they usually fail to happen at all. When Sam applies for a small-business loan for his delivery idea, he is told that the approval process will take six to eight weeks. But Sam thinks he can get quicker results if he pesters the loan supervisor to death about his application. Sam’s estranged wife Marie (Naomi Watts) is polite to Sam but is clearly eager to move on from him, but Sam keeps bothering her at her job, whining and begging for a second chance at the marriage.

Worst of all is that, rather than facing up to reality, Sam is eager to blame “The Man” for all of his problems. He pesters Marie about the short skirt she has to wear at her job as a cocktail waitress. And while Bonny is surprisingly agreeable about his fate in life, Sam keeps trying to convince Bonny that because he’s black, anyone who doesn’t indulge him is automatically a racist.

Assassination fairly obviously uses Taxi Driver as a template for its story. Where Taxi‘s Travis Bickle has only a faint association with his fellow workers to bolster him up, Sam’s only friend is the extremely patient Bonny. Where Travis kept a diary for his supposedly deep introspections, Sam records audio tapes that he intends to mail to his hero, composer Leonard Bernstein.

As noted, Penn offers another of his unflinching portraits of people’s darker sides. Indeed, there’s not a bad performance in the entire cast. Where the movie falters is that it’s so eager to punch home Sam’s alienation that it leaves a lot of ciphers behind. Sam’s sales boss obviously looks down on Sam and does everything to prove what an inferior salesman he is, yet he appears extremely surprised when Sam finally quits his job in a huff, as though the boss hadn’t been baiting him to do exactly that to start with. We never really learn why Bonny indulges this man who is obviously going nowhere, or what Sam’s ex-wife ever saw in him to start with. The result is that the movie is often just off-putting — you end up cringing as though you were one of the guys getting cornered by Sam for an endless conversation.

And yet, the movie is tightly, professionally accomplished. (In particular, the final scene perfectly encapsulates Sam’s bitterness at being a non-entity in life.) And as always, Sean Penn digs into his character and brings out every nuance. So watch The Assassination of Richard Nixon at least once — and then be grateful for your comparatively decent lot in life.

THE ADVENTURES OF ROCKY AND BULLWINKLE (2000) – Hey, Rocky, watch me pull a minor miracle outta my hat!

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It seemed impossible, but The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle is the first feature-length movie that has translated the wacky spirit of Jay Ward’s great TV cartoons to the big screen. Other such movies usually dwelled on dumb physical comedy or throwaway gags that should have been thrown away. But this movie breezes along, barely stopping to acknowledge some of the terrible puns that are posted on buildings and streets as though they were old Burma Shave ads.

I’ve also not seen a movie that could get away with spending a full 90 minutes of jokes referring to itself as a movie (even Wayne’s World didn’t get this carried away). The entire movie is based on the premise of Rocky and Bullwinkle escaping out of their TV show and into the “real world” after spending 35 years in reruns. (I swear I can hear Jay Ward chortling somewhere.) They enter the real world because Fearless Leader (Robert DeNiro!) and his flunkies Boris and Natasha (Jason Alexander and Rene Russo) are using a cable-TV network to hypnotize America into thinking that they should vote for F.L. as our next president. (Heck, I’m not so sure I wouldn’t vote for him these days, even without hypnosis.)

Yes, the whole movie is just about this literal, and it doesn’t entirely succeed. As a helper for Moose and Squirrel, the movie employs a doe-eyed FBI agent (Piper Perabo) who is improbably named Agent Sympathy. This entire character, much like her name, is one of those jokes that doesn’t quite come off. And when the plot requires Bullwinkle to get a bogus degree from his old university (don’t ask), it’s hard to figure out why the university’s students are protesting the award when nearly everyone else in the movie is gaga over meeting their favorite cartoon character.

On the other hand, the movie makes you laugh at some of the obvious jokes and even harder at the less obvious ones. I laughed when Robert DeNiro did a flaky dance to his country’s national anthem. I laughed when Sympathy told her boyfriend he could hold her hand during a movie and he debated the merits of doing so while holding lots of refreshments. Most surprisingly, Jonathan Winters — not one of my favorite zany comics — appears in three different roles, and I laughed at all of them.

The voice work is wonderful. June Foray returns as Rocky — a little the worse for wear after 35 years, but she’s still got it. Bullwinkle’s original voice having long passed on, Keith Scott does the work here (doing double duty as the flustered narrator) and does it admirably.

The cartoon-cum-live-action characters are nice enough (though DeNiro does a scenery-chewing job on a par with Jack Nicholson’s in Batman). But the stand-out is Rene Russo. She gets Natasha’s voice down perfectly, and she’s proof that you can take sex appeal and dress it up in a purple wardrobe and cartoony writing, and it will still be sexy.

Charlie Chaplin’s THE GOLD RUSH (1925) – The mother lode of Chaplin comedy

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The following is my entry in The Colours Blogathon, being hosted at the blog Thoughts All Sorts on Sept. 8 and 9, 2017. Click on the above banner, and read bloggers’ reviews of movies with very colorful titles and themes!

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(WARNING: Spoilers abound!)

There’s not much praise that hasn’t already been bandied about for The Gold Rush, but I’ll add my two cents’ worth anyway.

If you want to introduce Charlie Chaplin to someone who has never seen his work, this one has it all. There’s, of course, Chaplin’s Tramp (here dubbed “The Lone Prospector,” trying to survive during gold- and cold-strikes in Alaska); a lovely heroine (Georgia [Georgia Hale], a dance-hall girl with whom Charlie becomes smitten), and villains big (Black Larsen [Tom Murray], one of those great, wordless silent-movie villains who exists just to be mean), medium (Jack [Malcolm Waite], who thinks he deserves Georgia more than Charlie does), and small, at least threat-wise (Big Jim McKay [the wonderful Mack Swain], who starts out tolerating Charlie and then takes him to heart).

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The movie also has set pieces that are now silent-film folklore (the boiling of the shoe in lieu of a Thanksgiving turkey, Charlie entertaining his guests with a “roll” dance) and a roll-call of memorable gags (gotta love Chaplin doing the chicken). And the pathos is perfect here, never done to excess (Who couldn’t feel for Charlie, all alone on New Year’s Eve when Georgia had half-heartedly promised she’d visit him?).

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Countless critics have complained about Chaplin’s cheapness, how he often spared a buck to do a realistic special effect. Have you ever noticed that nobody complains about cheapness for The Gold Rush? There’s probably little of this movie that couldn’t be done just as effectively on stage as a play. But when Charlie and Big Jim are about to go over the cliff inside their cabin in the movie’s climax, I don’t care if that cabin is a model or not, you feel every inch of that potential fall. (My favorite moment in the entire movie is when Big Jim, having made his way safely out of the tottering cabin and found his lost gold stake, suddenly breaks out of his reverie when Charlie yells for help. Cut to a wide-eyed Charlie, beckoning a single finger to Big Jim, as if he was just asking for help cleaning up the cabin.)

Some movies go straight past the logical side of your brain and head for that primal spot where the kid in you still resides and responds. When such a movie fails or goes over-the-top, you find yourself embarrassed to look at the screen; when the movie is operating on all cylinders, it’s something like The Gold Rush.