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

October 2021 - Remember the old "Coffee Talk" skit on Saturday Night Live? Mike Myers as Jewish mom Linda Richman took your phone calls. When Linda got a little verklempt, she composed herself while viewers talked amongst themselves, discussing topics such as whether the Holy Roman Empire was neither holy nor Roman nor an empire. And that's kind of how I feel about Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark. It's not scary and there's not much of a story. Let's discuss.

This PG-13 film from 2019 lists among its producers Guillermo del Toro, the force behind the horror film Crimson Peak and fantasy films The Shape of Water and Pan's Labyrinth. Scary Stories employs elements of both horror and fantasy. It features a cast of young actors who have credits under their belts but have yet to break out.

Zoe Colletti plays Stella, a high schooler growing up in the rural community of Mill Valley, Pennsylvania. It's Halloween, 1968. Stella and her friends meet a stranger, a young man named Ramon. They all end up at the spooky, abandoned mansion in town. Legend has it that a girl who once lived there, Sarah, was kept locked away by her wealthy family but told scary stories that other children could hear from outside. Stella and friends explore the house and Stella makes off with the book where Sarah wrote down all her stories.

Soon enough, new stories start appearing in the book. Stella realizes that, with each new story, one of her friends meets an untimely end. Stella and Ramon must find out what Sarah wants and stop her before they themselves become the unfortunate subjects of her stories.

Overall review: Ehhh, it was OK. Not a horrible film, but if you're looking for horror, you won't find it here. All you get is a series of short stories that aren't very scary.

Scarier in many ways is The Machinist, an R-rated film from 2004. Before bulking up for Batman, Christian Bale dropped more than 60 pounds for this role. Jennifer Jason Leigh co-stars in this film, which is also known by its Spanish title, El Maquinista.

Bale plays Trevor Reznik, an emaciated man working as a machinist at a factory somewhere. He used to play cards with the guys, but these days, he spends his time hanging out with a hooker (Leigh) named Stevie and leaving outrageous tips for a waitress at the local coffee shop. At home, he's constantly leaving notes for himself to do things like pay the electric bill. Maybe he needs the notes because he hasn't slept in a year.

Things really start to fall apart when a post-it with a game of hangman on it appears on his refrigerator. About that same time, Trevor starts seeing a biker dude named Ivan everywhere he goes.

Overall Review: Liked it. To say more about this intriguing film would be to say too much. For most of the film, the viewer is as confused as Trevor, but things become clear in the end. As mentioned previously, Bale lost more than 60 pounds for this role. The result is so dramatic that it's almost too difficult to watch.

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