About Double Feature

Double Feature is the title of a column that I write for the newsletter of Lehigh Pocono Mensa, the local group to which I belong. It gets published monthly in "Magniloquence." I used to belong to Central PA Mensa, so I offer the column to the editor of "Penn Central" and it shows up there pretty regularly.

As the title implies, each Double Feature column features brief reviews of two movies that I have seen. I try to find a connection between the two films - subject matter, stars, awards, etc. - but, since it's my column, I reserve the right to occasionally choose two films that have no connection to each other at all.

The reviews found in the Movies section of this Web site serve as the basis for Double Feature. I try to keep each column somewhere around 500 words (which fills about one page in the newsletter), so I usually have to edit the original reviews to fit into the space allotted.

If you'd like to read the individual reviews for the films mentioned in Double Feature, you can do so here.

The rating scales are a little different. The conversion chart is as follows:

  • **** = Loved it
  • *** = Liked it
  • ** = Ehhh, it was OK
  • * = Hated it

Current Column

July 2017 - Turn on cable news these days and it always seems to be about Russia, Russia, Russia! So, in keeping with the times, here are two Russia-centric movies from the 1980s.

In 1983's Gorky Park, William Hurt finds himself left out in the cold as he tries to solve a triple murder during a Russian winter. Lee Marvin, Joanna Pacula, and Brian Dennehy co-star in this suspense-filled, R-rated drama.

Hurt plays Renko, the top police detective in Moscow. When a patrolman discovers three bodies buried in the city’s Gorky Park, Renko gets the call. But, before he can even begin to investigate, the KGB show up. They hand the case to Renko, but he soon realizes that it's more than just a straightforward case of murder. It's a conspiracy that threatens to draw Renko into its deadly web of corruption.

Overall review: Liked it. I seem to recall seeing this movie when it first came out. I thought it was pretty good, but watching it years later, I feel like maybe that reaction was a little too enthusiastic. The film is long and convoluted. There's also the matter of the accents. For the most part, the actors who play Russians speak in British accents. I guess that's so they won't be confused with the actors who play Americans and speak in American accents. But, Hurt's "British" accent is weird and affected. I found it distracting.

A few years later, the drama moved to The U.S. capital of Washington, D.C. Kevin Costner runs around the city and the Pentagon in No Way Out, a fast-paced, R-rated thriller from 1987. Gene Hackman, Sean Young and Will Patton co-star. Fred Dalton Thompson has a small role as the CIA director.

Costner plays Lt. Commander Tom Farrell, a young, smart, and handsome Navy officer. He's buds with Scott Pritchard (Patton), the counsel for Defense Secretary David Brice (Hackman). At some inaugural ball, Pritchard introduces Farrell to Brice, but Farrell is more interested in Susan (Young), Brice's beautiful mistress. Fast forward a few months and Farrell is now on Brice's staff. He's supposed to get the dirt on a new stealth submarine which Brice feels won't be very stealthy at all.

That mission changes when Brice kills Susan in a fit of rage over her affair with another man. No one knows that Farrell is that other man, so Pritchard convinces Brice to go along with the story that Susan's lover was a Russian mole named Yuri and that he's the one who killed her. Farrell is assigned to find Yuri. For everyone involved, the cover-up is definitely worse than the crime.

Overall review: Liked it. The movie is just shy of two hours long, but snappy dialogue and a couple of chase scenes keep the film from dragging. Those elements also help to overcome a somewhat convoluted plot. The movie holds up well despite obvious Cold War overtones and what is, by today's standards, primitive computer technology. About the only thing I didn't like was the music over the opening titles. It was a little too "suspenseful" for aerials of DC and Arlington.

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"No good movie is too long and no bad movie is short enough." »» Roger Ebert