Beatriz is a healer, a holistic health practitioner, whose car breaks down at a wealthy client’s house after she gave her a massage. The client invites her to stay for a celebratory dinner party her husband and herself are hosting that night. Like a fish out of water, Beatriz has dinner with three extremely wealthy couples with whom she has little to nothing in common.
Karl Thomasson is back and is still tortured by his days serving in the military. After flashing back to his old days with a military buddy named Macy who made him swear an oath before he died while imprisoned, he visits his Macy’s daughter. She so happens to be a teacher at a fictitious college where the dominant force is the school football team, all of whom are juicing up on some kind of experimental steroids. After she’s attacked by local drug dealers, Thomasson takes it upon himself to go undercover as a professor and begin investigating who attacked her. While trying to figure out the identity of her attackers, he uncovers a drug ring and begins learning about the dangers of steroids as players slowly either turn up dead or become increasingly violent.
I was surprised there was even such a thing as a “The Substitute 2” since the first film barely warranted a sequel if at all. Tom Berenger is a fine character actor, but the original film only grants a viewing thanks to some okay action moments. I initially thought the sequel series featured Berenger’s character on various adventures as an undercover mercenary playing a substitute, but thankfully the writers dodge that trap. “The Substitute 2” is a sequel in that it is set in the same universe as Berenger’s character. New character Karl Thomasson, as played by Treat Williams, served in the military alongside Berenger’s character O’Shea, and is helped by the surviving mercenary from the first film. Hey, that’s about all you’re getting.
In the tradition of films like “The Bad Seed” and “Devil in the Flesh,” Gabrielle Stone stars as Jennifer Stone, a young girl who happens upon a small town one fateful day. Alluring and often enigmatic, Jennifer manages to build the good will of a fellow traveler, and begins establishing herself in the small town of Chestnut Hill. Jennifer will do whatever it takes to build the life she wants, including lying, stealing, and murdering just about anyone. “Stray” is mostly a psychological thriller focusing on this truly complex but twisted antagonist who is oddly alluring but incredibly slimy from the first moment we meet her.
Sometimes during these survival films, we meet people that are either too dumb, or too reckless, but “47 Meters Down” chronicles the plight of two of probably the most unlucky women on planet Earth. A lot of what goes down in the film really poses a logical set up, because when we meet characters Lisa and Kate, they’re both anxiously trying to find an adventure and escape from the doldrums of their lives. Mandy Moore especially is the focal point of “47 Meters Down” where she plays a girl getting over a bad break up who literally has to muster up the will to live in an extraordinary situation. “47 Meters Down” is a pretty basic survival thriller, but it’s definitely helped by the very good performance by Mandy Moore.
Normally, this reviewer covers films, short and feature lengths, but this time and exception was made and a pilot for a hopeful TV series is being reviewed. Why the exception to this old curmudgeon’s habits? The short film “Survivor Type” by the same director was absolutely fantastic so viewing and reviewing more of his work had to happen.
If there’s any independent film that deserves to take off and be celebrated by movie lovers far and wide, it’s Anthony Stabley’s “Everlasting.” It’s a gripping, emotional, and gut wrenching tale of love, death, and the loss of innocence. Writer, Director and producer Stabley creates a compelling drama with a dash of the supernatural that feels very sincere and genuinely heartfelt right until the final tear jerking scene. Watching like a take on Paul Schrader’s “Hardcore,” director Stabley invokes a unique cautionary tale while successfully building two very flawed but absolutely brilliant protagonists. I cared about everyone involved in “Everlasting” and director Stabley implements every cast member well from his stars to notable supporting players like Pat Healey and Elizabeth Rohm.
Jeremiah Kipp and Jessica Blank’s “Pickup” is the incredibly uncomfortable portrait of an uneasy relationship where a woman is stuck in a perpetual cycle of self-destruction that promises to become very dangerous, if she isn’t careful. Director Kipp is very wise to lead us in to a final scene that is very ambiguous and leaves the audience wondering what will happen next, and I appreciated that. “Pickup” involves a horrendous situation where once it explodes, everyone will feel the pain. And it likely involves two people that know the explosion is coming and both of them are doing everything in their power to prevent it before they have no choice but to face it.