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 2017 - If you ever need a good idea for a movie, go back to high school. The potential plotlines are tried and true. And, the high school theme has resulted in some classics, including Fast Times at Ridgemont High. Unfortunately, as this month's column shows, not every movie about high school makes the grade.

One film that definitely does is Summer School. Before he joined NCIS, Mark Harmon paid his dues by teaching a rag tag group of students in this PG-13 comedy from 1987. Fellow teacher Kirstie Alley tries to pretend she doesn't like him. And Robin Thomas is the mean, ol' vice principal. Director Carl Reiner is on screen just long enough to set the plot in motion.

Harmon plays Freddy Shoop, the laid-back gym teacher at a high school in southern California. Just as the final bell rings, Reiner, who was supposed to teach summer school, realizes he's won the lottery and takes off. The uptight Vice Principal Gills frantically tries to find a fill-in and corrals Shoop before he can leave for Hawaii with his girlfriend. With tenure on the line, Shoop has no choice but to spend his summer teaching remedial English to the school's misfits – and they all have to pass the final exam.

The students are the stereotypes you might find in any high school – the dumb jock, the pretty dreamer, the nerd, the class clown. As much as Shoop needs them to learn enough to pass, they all need him for something, too. Shoop uses the situation to his advantage, only to realize that there are some drawbacks.

Overall review: Liked it. This is one of those movies that I watch whenever I come across it. It's entertaining, filled with physical comedy, and Mark Harmon gets to flash his adorable smile. And, despite being made 30 years ago, I think it holds up well. It's not a great movie, but it's better than you might expect.

A lower grade goes to Drive Me Crazy, a PG-13 comedy from 1999. Melissa Joan Hart and Adrian Grenier star.

Hart plays Nicole Maris, a senior who's definitely in with the in-crowd. Grenier is Chase Hammond, the boy next door. Chase and Nicole used to be close when they were younger, but now Chase hangs out with the alternative crowd so he can date cool chicks.

Nicole is the point person for a big dance to celebrate the school's 100th anniversary. She hopes that Brad, the star basketball player, will ask her to be his date, but it never happens. He's fallen for a cheerleader from a rival school. So, Nicole calls on her old buddy Chase to help her make Brad jealous. But, in order to make their relationship appear real, Chase needs an image makeover.

Overall review: Hated it. Hart is best known for playing Sabrina, the Teenage Witch on TV. But it would take more than a twitch of the nose to save this movie from being, like, totally lame.

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