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

September 2018 - Here we are in September. The summer is chugging right along, so here are my thoughts on two movies that involve trains in some form or fashion.

Clive Owen and Jennifer Aniston star in Derailed, an R-rated suspense film from 2005. Owen plays Charlie, a married advertising exec and dad to a daughter who has Type I diabetes.

The trouble starts when Charlie takes the train to work but doesn't have money for a ticket. A financial consultant named Lucinda (Aniston) pays for him. Charlie pays her back the next day, then calls her at work, then takes her to lunch, then out for drinks. Next thing you know, Charlie and Lucinda cruise around in a taxi looking for a hotel.

They find a suitably seedy place and are just getting busy when a thug bursts into the room. He beats up Charlie, rapes Lucinda and takes all their money. No sooner does Charlie get home with a cover story about getting mugged, when his phone rings. It's the robber wanting $20,000. Charlie pays, but the robber wants more - $100,000 - money that Charlie has saved for his daughter's medical treatment. He pays it but won't rest until he gets it back.

Overall review: Ehhh, it was OK … and that's being generous. Any man in Charlie's circumstances, who does what Charlie does, deserves what he gets. The film does have one truly surprising moment, but what's really surprising is that this film got made at all.

The Girl on the Train, based on a best-selling novel by Paula Hawkins, came out in 2016. Emily Blunt stars in this R-rated movie. The supporting cast includes Justin Theroux, Lisa Kudrow and Allison Janney.

Blunt plays Rachel Watson, the alcoholic ex-wife of Tom (Theroux). Since their divorce, Tom has gotten married to his mistress, Anna, and had a baby. Rachel, on the other hand, has overstayed her welcome at a friend's place. Every day, she rides the train into New York City. The route takes her past her old house, where Tom still lives. She takes every chance to get a glimpse into his new life. She also takes note of Megan and her husband, who live a couple doors down.

One day, Megan goes missing. Rachel wakes up covered in blood. She wonders if she could have killed Megan. The police (Janney) wonder, too. Rachel can't remember, so she starts getting close to the people in Megan's life in an effort to find some answers.

Overall review: Ehhh, it was OK. I haven't read the book, so I can't say how closely the film follows the book. But, the film is a bit of a mess. The storytelling seems convoluted, constantly alternating between past and present. Blunt seems to have just one expression, best described as a drunken glower. And, maybe I read/watch too many police procedurals, but Janney's detective seems to do very little investigating except for essentially threatening Rachel with a very bleak future if she doesn't remember what happened ASAP. Ultimately, there really isn't anyone here to root for.

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