The Substitute 3: Winner Takes All (1999)

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.

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The Substitute 2: School’s Out (1998)

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.

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Beauty and the Beast (2017)

It’s surprising how well Disney adapts their own version of the shockingly beloved fairy tale “Beauty and the Beast.” While their Oscar winning animated version reigns supreme, Bill Condon manages to deliver his own interpretation that tweaks the tale here and there for new audiences with a great effect. I was quite stunned at how enjoyable “Beauty and the Beast” ended up being. While it has the familiarity of the 1991 movie, it’s also a unique experience that allows for a new angle on songs that are now deemed legendary. Condon approaches the live action remake/adaptation with a well balanced tone of whimsy and dread, allowing for a very subtle romance between Belle and the Beast.

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Horror Shorts from the 2nd Final Girls Berlin Film Festival 2017: Part 1

I was lucky enough to be able to review many of the short films that played for audiences at the 2nd 2017 Final Girls Berlin Film Festival. The festival which runs from June 9th to June 11th features a wide array of horror films, horror shorts and horror programs fueled by creative female voices, from writers, and directors alike. This year, they ran the anthology “XX” and a myriad new female powered genre titles, along with a big block of short genre films with specific themes. These are a few of the shorts that played.

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Everlasting (2016)

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.

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Unseen (2017) [San Francisco Documentary Film Festival 2017]

In Cleveland, a murderer and rapist is accumulating victims while people do not seem to care about the missing women.  This documentary explores his victims, through surviving family members and, most importantly, through surviving victims.  This is done with interviews, court footage, and information written on the screen.

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Alien: Covenant (2017)

With “Prometheus” Ridley Scott met the other side of his “Alien” mythology by visiting the very early dawn of his universe that saw the very evolution of his xenomorphs. After it hit with a thud resembling a wet diaper smashing in to a garbage can, Scott hits the other extreme by delivering a movie in the vein of “Prometheus” that’s just as flat and just as stupid. Director Ridley Scott has lost the grasp of his own film and has really failed to learn how to deliver a well measured and compelling horror tale teeming with themes about sexuality and human biology. Instead now he gets to literally have his cake and eat it too, by offering up a ham fisted goofy prequel that feels like a glorified fan film. All the while also continuing his descent in to pseudo-intellectualist allegories and on the nose metaphors about God, the Devil, Heaven, Paradise, evolution and birth.

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