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

November 2020 - Are two better than one? Is it better to have three or four? Or more? Well. When the thing that you're counting is the number of stars in a movie, the answer is up for debate.

Take for example Ocean's 8, a PG-13 film from 2018. Sandra Bullock leads an all-star cast of leading ladies in this heist movie that follows from the Ocean's Eleven series starring George Clooney. Here, Bullock assembles a crew that includes Cate Blanchett, Sarah Paulson, Anne Hathaway, Helena Bonham Carter, Rihanna, Awkwafina, and Mindy Kaling. James Corden has a small role, and look for cameos from Marlo Thomas and others.

Bullock plays Debbie Ocean, sister of Clooney's now dearly departed Danny Ocean. Debbie has just been paroled from prison, where she served five years or so for a con that her boyfriend framed her for. Debbie put her time behind bars to good use – plotting the perfect heist down to the very last detail. Now that she's out, it's time to put her plan into action!

What is that plan? Debbie intends to steal a valuable necklace during the upcoming Met Gala in Manhattan. To pull it off, she'll need help from Lou (Blanchett), her former partner in petty crime, along with several other willing accomplices. Each member of the crew lends her unique talents in exchange for Debbie's promise that this will be the last job they'll ever have to do.

Overall review: Ehhh, it was OK. All the star power makes the film easy enough to watch. It's also lovely to look at, with stylish sets and fast-moving scenes. But I can't help feeling snookered by the whole thing. Sure, Debbie Ocean is a charismatic mastermind, but the film is too clever by half. You root for Debbie and her crew to get away with the goods. But, you're also a victim of this two-hour long con job.

The music of the Sixties ties together The Big Chill, a film about college friends who reunite more than a decade after graduation. The all-star cast includes Kevin Kline, Glenn Close, William Hurt, and Jeff Goldblum. Lawrence Kasdan directs and gets a writing credit, too.

This R-rated film from 1983 is appropriately set in the early Eighties. A group of college friends from Michigan is brought together again when one of their own, Alex, dies by suicide. They gather in South Carolina for the funeral then retreat to the winter home of one of the friends for a weekend of reminiscing and reconnecting.

Roughly 13 years have passed since graduation. While their young idealism has largely been replaced by pragmatism and practicality, they still share the bonds forged all those years ago over sex, drugs and rock and roll.

Overall review: Liked it. For a film made more than 35 years ago (1983), it holds up remarkably well. While the clothes and technology are dated, the theme of friendship endures. And, so does the music. The soundtrack alone makes this movie worth watching.

All Columns

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