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

August 2018 - Summer is a good time to watch action movies. They're generally entertaining and you don't have to think too hard about the plot. So here are a couple of decent action movies from "back in the day."

In F/X, a special effects whiz gets asked for some real-life help from the FBI and ends up having to use his talents to save himself. The cast of this R-rated flick from 1986 includes Bryan Brown, Brian Dennehy, Cliff DeYoung, Jerry Orbach, and Mason Adams.

Brown plays Rollie Tyler, an Australian import who's handling special effects for a film being shot in New York City. He runs his business out of a bread truck with F/X painted on the side. He also mixes business with pleasure by carrying on an affair with the movie's leading lady.

Everything's going great until FBI agent Martin Lipton (DeYoung) shows up and says the Federal government needs his help. They want him to stage the murder of a mob boss-turned-informant (Orbach) so that he can safely be put into witness protection. Tyler carries out the fake hit as planned. But, when the FBI considers him a "loose end" that needs tying up, Tyler must use his special effects skills to save his own life and turn the tables on the bad guys.

Overall review: Ehhh, it was OK. Tyler's resourcefulness makes him more than a match for the crooked, too-smart-by-half FBI guys. Overall, the movie holds up well despite a lack of cell phones and pre-Windows computer technology.

Mel Gibson gives as good as he gets in Payback, an R-rated film from 1999 (although the film looks as though it could have been made in 1989 or even 1979). In the movie, Gibson gets to kill quite a few big names, including William Devane, James Coburn and Kris Kristofferson. The cast also includes David Paymer, Maria Bello, Lucy Liu and Gregg Henry.

Gibson plays a robber named Porter. As the film opens, he's having bullets pulled out of his back by a doctor of very questionable capability. We learn that Porter was shot by his drug-addicted wife and left for dead; his partner, Val (Henry), took the money they had just stolen from an Asian gang and used it to get back in good with "the Outfit," the crime syndicate that runs the city. Now, Porter is out to get revenge and to get his share of the take from that last robbery. Porter's only friend is Rosie, the high-class hooker he used to drive around back in the day. They had a thing once, but now she, too, works for the Outfit.

Overall review: Liked it. The plot had a Get Shorty kind of feel to it as Porter wound his way through the city's underbelly, going from one shady character to the next as he works his way to the top men at the Outfit. The film's gritty, generic city brought up memories of Tim Burton's Batman movies. But, there's enough originality and humor to give Payback some separation. Lucy Liu, especially, seems to revel in her role as the Asian gang's dominatrix leader.

All Columns

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