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

March 2018 - The Oscars take place this month and I, your resident movie critic, am ashamed. I have not managed to see even one of the films nominated for Best Picture. So, here are two Oscar winning movies from the recent past.

In The King's Speech, Britain's Prince Albert (later King George VI) can hardly spit out a complete sentence until he takes speech lessons from a failed actor named Lionel Logue. This R-rated film from 2010 was nominated for 12 Academy Awards. It took home four, including Best Actor for Colin Firth, Best Director, and Best Picture. Geoffrey Rush as Logue and Helena Bonham Carter as Queen Elizabeth were nominated for their supporting roles but didn’t win.

The film is set in the late 1930s. Hitler's Germany is causing increased concern in England. When the domineering King George V dies, his oldest son, Edward (Guy Pearce), takes the throne. But, Edward is too wrapped up in Wallis Simpson and champagne to care what Germany is doing. If Edward abdicates, the throne would pass to his serious but stammering younger brother, Albert Frederick Arthur George, known as Bertie.

Bertie developed a stuttering problem when he was a little boy. Now an adult, he's expected to give speeches that the whole nation can hear on the radio. It's a toss-up as to which is more painful - Bertie giving a speech or having to listen to it.

Bertie has been to plenty of doctors in an effort to cure his stuttering. Finally, in a last-ditch effort, Elizabeth convinces him to see Lionel Logue, an Australian transplant who says he learned a lot by helping traumatized troops who came back from World War I. With war on the horizon and Edward off the throne, the newly crowned King George VI must make the speech of his life – and only Lionel can help him do it.

Overall review: Liked it. Despite the title, the king's speech is really not the main story here. Rather, the movie reveals a special friendship between a king and a commoner, and it's this relationship that makes everything else work.

In Gravity, a nice, quiet spacewalk turns into a fight for survival for Sandra Bullock and George Clooney. This PG-13 film from 2013 won seven Oscars, including Best Director. Bullock was nominated for Best Actress but lost out to Cate Blanchett in Blue Jasmine.

Bullock plays Dr. Ryan Stone. She's new to space, on her first shuttle mission to do medical research. Leading the crew is veteran astronaut Matt Kowalski (Clooney). The two are on a spacewalk with a third astronaut, when suddenly, space junk starts flying at them from every direction. It seems the Russians blew up a satellite.

One bad thing leads to another. Soon, Stone and Kowalski find themselves utterly alone with very little hope of ever getting back to Earth.

Overall review: Liked it. Bullock capably conveys the desperation of the situation. Having said that, Gravity is basically an action movie. That's not a bad thing, but trying to read more into it will only lead to disappointment.

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