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 2020 - We're now more than six months into the pandemic. Six months that often seem like one, never-ending month of March. It's almost as if we're living in the world of Bill Murray's 1993 classic Groundhog Day. Of course, Murray has made many more films since then. Here are two of them.

In 2003, Murray and Scarlett Johansson starred in the R-rated Lost in Translation from director Sofia Coppola. Murray scored an Oscar nomination for his performance, and Coppola took home a statue for her original screenplay.

Murray plays Bob Harris, a middle-aged American actor who's in Japan to shoot the latest ad campaign for a top-selling whisky. Bob used to be a big action star, and his movies are still popular in Japan. That's why he's being paid $2 million. He'd rather be home, doing local theatre, but his wife of 20+ years said take the money!

Johansson plays Charlotte, a recent graduate of Yale who's still trying to find herself. She's married to John (played by Giovanni Ribisi), who makes his living photographing rock and roll bands. He's in Tokyo for a shoot and Charlotte tagged along.

The movie focuses on Bob and Charlotte as they meet in the hotel bar then start hanging out and going to clubs around Tokyo. Neither one ever professes love for the other, but Charlotte is hurt when Bob has a one-night stand with a singer. In the end, Bob heads for the airport to fly home to a wife and a life that he doesn't like anymore. Charlotte disappears into the crowded streets of Tokyo.

Overall review: Liked it. There's really no plot here. It's just a slice of life about what can happen when two lost souls meet. For a while, they enjoy each other's company, but if all you've found is another lost soul, have you really found anything? The movie does leave you wondering, though, what happens to Bob and Charlotte after they say good-bye.

More than 10 years later, Murray received a Golden Globe nomination for his role in St. Vincent, a PG-13 film that also stars Melissa McCarthy and Naomi Watts.

Murray plays a curmudgeonly Brooklynite named Vincent. He blows what little cash he has at the bar, at the racetrack, and on his favorite stripper (Watts). So, when new neighbor Maggie (McCarthy) needs someone to watch her son, Oliver, after school, Vincent seizes the opportunity to earn some extra money.

Maggie worries that Vincent's bad habits and murky morals are rubbing off on Oliver. But the boy sees lots of good in Vincent. When Oliver's teacher assigns students to write about an "everyday saint," Oliver has no trouble choosing Vincent as his subject.

Overall review: Loved it. Murray gives a fantastic performance, McCarthy is very watchable in her supporting role, and young Jaeden Lieberher (Oliver) seems to have a very bright future (He's now known as Jaeden Martell). Overall, the movie serves as a reminder that people are complex and what you get may be a lot more than what you see.

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