(On Cable TV, March 2017) Sometimes, watching popular hits from decades past is enough to make you wonder what they were thinking back then. Some movies don’t age well, and for all of the box-office dollars that Flashdance accumulated in 1983, a lot of it just feels silly today. The premise itself seems like a jumble of words, as a welder-by-day and burlesque-dancer-by-night dreams of becoming a professional dancer. The only thing standing in the way of her dreams in a pre-YouTube era is an admission to a dance school. Much of the film is spent on the way from dream to reality, frequently interrupted by music videos. That last part isn’t much of an exaggeration: Director Adrian Lyne clearly aped then-new format of music videos in blatantly stopping the film for musical set pieces, hand-waving them as performance art in a burlesque club. It works up to a point, until we get exasperated that the simplistic story isn’t going anywhere. This focus on music videos is obvious from the wall-to-wall hit soundtracks—alas, it’s all early-eighties pop, which sounds terrible today. At least Jennifer Beals is very likable at the lead—she’s quite a bit better than the movie surrounding her. Flashdance is also notable for bringing together filmmakers who would then go on to have big careers, particularly producers Bruckheimer/Simpson and screenwriter Joe Ezharas. If you’re not watching from a historical perspective, the film is a dud—the story is linear, the interludes too frequent and the romance is bolted together out of narrative convenience. There are far better movies from 1983, and they have all aged much better than this one.
(On DVD, May 2008) Nicolas Cage is rarely dull even when he’s not very good, and Vampire’s Kiss is one of the first citations on the list of his oddball projects. While everything about the film suggests a supernatural connection between a man and the vampire seductress who bit him, the reality of the film is far more fascinating, portraying an unrepentant womanizer sinking deeper and deeper in madness after convincing himself he’s turning in a vampire. While it does have a number of darkly humorous moments, it’s one death too far to be a funny film. It’s not an entirely successful one either, as Cage overacts with a grossly annoying British accent in the middle of a script that’s not quite focused enough. Still, some of the scenes are showpieces (yes, this is the film in which Cage eats a live cockroach) and the unusual re-use of vampire mythology is enough to earn this film a dark little place in any horror fan’s heart. Special note much be made of the splendidly multicultural female casting in this film, from an early role for director Kasi Lemmons to Jennifer Beals (as the vampire) and Maria Conchita Alonso as Cage’s terrified office assistant. Plenty of subtle and not-so-subtle details hint at the film’s thematic ambitions, which may warrant a second viewing for viewers mystified by the entire experience. The DVD, fortunately, contains an enlightening commentary by Cage and the film’s director.