Flashdance is an exercise in Cinderellaesque teenage female wish fulfillment so preposterous that it shoots right over the top and is ultimately richly entertaining in spite of its ridiculousness. All you have to do it get past the main message, which is that finding success in life is not just about your talent. It's about your talent plus your ability to snag a rich and powerful boyfriend and put out. With production values courtesy of the legendary Simpson and Bruckheimer and a screenplay co-written by the polymorphously perverse Joe Eszterhas, you know you're in for quite a ride.
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Barely connected, the middle segment is Walken's -- cleverly titled "The Hustle" -- as he plays a gigolo working three different women, each with different needs and different issues. Walken hadn't created his signature speaking cadence yet, and it's shocking not only to hear him deliver lines in a relatively normal voice, but also with such a large pompadour. This is also Walken's first film where his masterful dancing is on display (see also 1981's Pennies from Heaven) -- and fans of "Weapon of Choice" will definitely want to check out a little vintage Walken high step here.
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The plot is somewhat predictable, but it's what you do with it along the way that counts. Keyes did a lot. Unfortunately, the film version (renamed Charly) doesn't do much beyond the obvious. As Charly gains intelligence, we're supposed to see the world develop through his eyes, but mostly we just see him studying and having boring conversations with love interest Claire Bloom. Robertson won an Oscar for the role, but his portrayal of the mentally disabled Charly seems crude by today's standards and inconsistent in tone - at times he's suspiciously aware, other times unrealistically slow. Robertson does better with Charly the genius, but this part of the film doesn't last that long and feels like an Outer Limits episode, with Robertson talking about the dehumanizing future and walking around in a lab coat narrating silly "scientific" dialogue.
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