2/01/2013

NATIONAL LAMPOON'S VACATION (AND MORE DANA BARRON CINEMA)

year: 1983 cast: Chevy Chase, Beverly D'Angelo, Dana Barron, Randy Quaid rating: ****
Perhaps Chevy Chase's best performance, brilliantly capturing the naive optimism of a corny suburban dad driving reluctant kids Anthony Michael Hall and Dana Baron, and wife Beverly D'Angelo, on a cross-country trip. The nightmare begins with the wrong car at the car lot, resembling a sick-green turtle with a Hefty air bag.

Our ever-optimistic hero remains stridently hopeful till exploding in a curse-laden diatribe; this after an unlucky string of adventurous stopovers at various tourist traps including a Wild West Town and (above and within) the Grand Canyon. Randy Quaid, as D'Angelo's white trash step-brother, takes things to another level: not only comically but, as Chase's polar-opposite, we see our put-upon hero more clearly.
Dana Barron and a Thin Lizzy album cover
Although hilarious through and through, there's a dark side to this VACATION. As bad luck piles on, Clark gets more and more annoyed at his family, who simply refuse to enjoy the trip: they would have rather gone to Hawaii anyhow. But Clark's blind determination never refrains, another reason Chevy Chase should be given more credit as an actor and not just a funny guy.

Supermodel Christy Brinkley, as a roaming babe in a convertible, is a memorable distraction: all leading to a wonderfully bizarre finale at their destination, Wally World. And not to forget the glorious Lindsay Buckingham theme song "Holiday Road," second only to Kenny Loggin's "I'm Alright" from a previous Chase vehicle, CADDYSHACK.
VACATION photos featuring Dana Barron
Anthony Michael Hall and Dan Barron
Dana Barron and Chevy Chase
Dana Barron, Anthony Michael Hall and Beverly D'Angelo
Dana Barron on a white trash seesaw
Dana Barron reacts to a boxful of grass
Like Bill Clinton, Audrey Griswold doesn't inhale
Dana Barron donning cool stoner cop shades
title: STAGEGHOST year: 2000 cast: Christopher Atkins, Dana Barron rating: **
In STAGEGHOST, a dark Western falsely promoted as a horror flick, Dana Barron plays good girl Renee Bloomer, who falls for bad boy Christopher Atkins as a character named Bronson, a bank robbing prisoner of world-weary U.S. Marshall Colburn. A gruff Edward Albert fits more within the cowboy genre yet he brings out something in Atkins, who’s constantly joking around – even when things get dire.

The film begins at a coach station run by John Vernon and Terry Moore. Directed by Stephen Furst, famous for Flounder in ANIMAL HOUSE, it’s neat that he’s cast his Faber College Dean but the two old-timers don’t last long. They’re important though, massacred by a mysterious wraith that left a note on a knife on the door, after which an empty stage coach filled with blood rolls up to the station: hence the title and thus our story begins.
Dana Barron in STAGEGHOST
For such a low budget with terrible nighttime lighting, it’s not such a bad movie. The action rolls with the ghost-coach as the characters go from one location to the next, haunted and/or picked off by a group of horse-riding marauders who wear neon skeleton costumes.  

It’s when we actually take part in the bad guy’s perspective that all suspense is gone. While our heroes are still unaware, the audience knows way too much, too soon. But then, narrowing onto a shootout climax, we learn that the real “antagonists” are still out there, resulting in a lame, politically-correct twist ending that involves Native Americans.

Dana looks great in the time-period costumes and even has a character-arc as she gets less uptight and even becomes part of the action.
Dana Barron in STAGEGHOST
Christopher Atkins and Dana Barron in STAGEGHOST
Dana Barron in STAGEGHOST
title: MAGIC KID 2 year: 1994 cast: Ted Jan Roberts, Dana Barron rating: ** 
The next Dana Barron outing came out a few years earlier and was also directed by Stephen Furst. Furst and Barron are cinematically related, as in, both co-starred in (the best) films produced by NATIONAL LAMPOON magazine: Barron as Chevy Chase’s daughter Audrey in VACATION and Furst as fat frat boy Flounder in ANIMAL HOUSE.

This is the sequel to an ultra low budget family karate film THE MAGIC KID, where Stephen Furst plays shifty but lovable Uncle Bob to Ted Jan Robert’s Kevin, a kid who can really kick some butt.
Dana Barron in MAGIC KID 2
In the first film he’s trained by Don the Dragon Steele and hangs around the Universal Studios lot with his uncle, acting as a pseudo tour guide and thus promoting the theme park (probably to help fund the project: the ultimate product placement). And in this sequel, with a higher budget but lacking the overall charm, Kevin is a hot young actor in a popular show called “The Ninja Kid.”

A fame-reluctant Kevin is forced into interviews and even goes to a nightclub with a sexy older woman, part of the nefarious producer’s plans to make him garner publicity, but since he works so hard he’s not learning much of the scholastic nature.

Thus his whiny in-studio teacher quits, making Kevin so guilty he runs away from his lucrative day job as Uncle Bob’s being chased by bearded bikers, that is, when he’s not playing poker with his former ST. ELSEWHERE cast members.
Dana Barron in MAGIC KID 2
Meanwhile, a brooding Kevin spends time with his tutor’s gorgeous daughter Maggie… that’s right, Dana Barron. Here’s another example of how young Dana Barron can make herself look. In VACATION you’d think she was around thirteen but she was sixteen or seventeen during filming, and here she’s hooked up with Kevin, who hasn’t even finished growing, and she’s in her middle twenties playing his teenage girlfriend.  

But as an actress, Dana not only looks young but she pulls off the sweet innocence of youth, and her scenes make up for the rest of the film’s convoluted plotline, or lack of. In other words, Maggie’s 11th hour relationship with Kevin means more than all the karate fights and frantic arguments leading up to that eventual romantic closure.
Dana Barron in MAGIC KID 2
Dana Barron in MAGIC KID 2
  title: CHRISTMAS VACATION 2 year: 2003 cast: Randy Quaid, Dana Barron rating: *1/2
That’s right, it's CHRISTMAS VACATION 2: COUSIN EDDIE'S ISLAND ADVENTURE, a sequel to a sequel where Eddie, played by Randy Quaid – that endearingly gross white trash slob from the NATIONAL LAMPOON VACATION universe – has his own straight-to-DVD movie, and it’s so awful you might just enjoy yourself.

Eddie works at a nuclear physics lab. He and a monkey are both used for testing and the monkey is smarter. Eddie loses his job and they keep the monkey. He goes back to complain and the monkey bites Eddie on the ass. Instead of pursuing a lawsuit, he gets a free vacation to an unnamed tropical Island. That’s the plot in a nutshell.
Dana Barron returns as Audrey Griswold
Much like Hawaii, there are beautiful brown-skinned bikini girls and… let’s back up a bit. Eddie lives in the snow-laden Chicago based Griswold house from the first CHRISTMAS VACATION film (the third in the franchise).

His patient and loyal wife Catherine (Miriam Flynn) is still around, and instead of an eclectically messy brood of children he has only one kid, an impatient thirteen-year-old boy who actually has a brain. This uptight jerk keeps riding dad on his lack of intelligence, and thus becomes the most annoying character, especially since he wants Eddie to be like everyone else.

Also on board is the original Audrey Griswold, played by the lovely Dana Barron, who, frantically brokenhearted over a boyfriend, joins Eddie, his wife, son, and grumpy grandfather (Ed Asner) on the island vacation that soon turns into a Swiss Family Robinson when their boat gets shipwrecked.
Dana Barron and Sun Hi Lee
Eddie has to learn to hunt wild boar and build a hut of leaves, and eventually fly a plane. There are but a few unsuccessfully signature moments that made Cousin Eddie famously sloppy from the previous films, especially because there’s no Clark Griswold (Chevy Chase) to act as a Felix to counter-balance Eddie’s Oscar. Plus, this is supposedly a Christmas Vacation, but there’s hardly any sign of Christmas anywhere.

One scene after another, the movie keeps getting worse, and yet, somehow, you won’t be able to stop watching. So let’s enjoy some more pictures featuring Dana Barron… She’s the reason this reviewer paid any attention at all…
Dana Barron's Audrey helps prepare a meal
Miriam Flynn and Dana Barron
Miriam Flynn and Dana Barron in a crashing plane
year: 1987 cast: Charles Bronson, Kay Lenz, Dana Barron rating: ***1/2
It makes complete sense that Charles Bronson’s iconic vigilante Paul Kersey, who works as an architect by day and, whenever a problem arises, takes care of business by night, would become a bonafide hit man. After three entire films he’s gotten so good at killing criminals, he's hired by a mysterious "millionaire" (John P. Ryan) to infiltrate a rival gang by any means possible.

For those new to the DEATH WISH franchise, Kersey’s wife was murdered in the first movie, his daughter raped – then in part two his daughter's killed and now he’s up against the mafia after his girlfriend’s teenage daughter, played by VACATION actress Dana Barron, takes a lethal dose of crack cocaine from a mob-connected street dealer. This death makes the millionaire's offer that much more lucritive.
Dana Barron in DEATH WISH 4: THE BREAKDOWN
Kersey's vendetta begins with the dealer himself, but this isn't as basic as it sounds. After being hired he doesn’t just go around offing bad guys. Upon every hit, the two targeted mob "families" fight amongst themselves. With a crooked cop in the mix, Kersey gets caught in-between. And then a third act twist puts our mustached hero on the run. 
The direction by Bronson collaborator J. Lee Thompson is tight and focused, but unfortunatly, instead of the urban-gritty Jimmy Page soundtrack of parts two and three, there’s a glossy saxophone score popular in the eighties and making the film, even in the best action sequences, feel like a straight-to-video release.

But directing and music doesn’t matter. As Bronson goes from bad guy to bad guy with interesting setups and/or missions for each hit, whether going undercover in a factory or sneaking into a high rise penthouse leading to a final shootout in an arcade, there’s much more involved than revenge: it's an actual job this time around.
Dana Barron in DEATH WISH 4: THE BREAKDOWN
Dana Barron in DEATH WISH 4: THE BREAKDOWN 
Dana Barron with Charles Bronson

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