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.
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.
Shane Meadows previously worked with Paddy Considine in the criminally underseen “A Room for Romeo Brass.” Considine is a man capable of playing many things, and someone without much of a mental balance is probably his best character yet. Paddy Considine is admittedly one of the most unorthodox choices for the lead in a very dramatic and powerful revenge thriller, but he’s a man who can lend a lot of menace and terror to someone who doesn’t quite look like someone who’d knock heads. When he first meets the men that tormented his younger brother, he lays the fear of God in to them by merely glaring at them when they attempt to crowd him. One scene even finds him rattle a power drunk thug in the middle of a crowded bar.
James DeMonaco’s second sequel to the exploitative and silly “The Purge” series reaches the masses in a very politically fueled year, and while DeMonaco and Blumhouse have the advantage of very much satirizing the current political climate, “Election Year” just continues the same routine we’ve seen with this movie series so far. It’s a lot of the same where there is an opportunity to offer a scary dark satire of America, but it backs off in favor of a lot of goofy plot twists and meandering sub-plots. Once again the annual the Purge is about to commence where every year for one night there is no such thing as law. So you can murder as you please, rape as you please, pillage, plunder, take a penny without leaving a penny, pick at a buffet without the sneeze guard, leave your trash with the recyclables included, walk on the grass, loiter like hell for hours on end, the sky is the limit.
You have to give Shout Factory credit for at least trying to connect “Willard” to “Ben” for audiences. In the original 1971 movie, Willard Stiles is dysfunctional man whose rat of choice is white and named Socrates. For some reason he harbors an adversarial relationship with Ben, first scolding him like an embarrassed parent and then lashing out at him violently time and time again. Ben is always a mysterious element in the tale of Willard Stiles, an animal that has a lot more to him than simply being a rodent. He’s sometimes a sentient and very clever animal that feeds Willard’s own sense of need for family. “Willard” is kind of a demented thriller that’s always been considered a horror classic. And though it’s not scary at all, it does bear elements of horror with an EC Comic bent in rare moments.
Richie Keen’s “Fist Fight” is pretty much just a remake of “Three O’Clock High,” this time around it’s amped up to a lighter tone and steeped in hazy intentions. “Fist Fight” could have an important message to tell, but the commentary about public education, class overcrowding, and the under appreciation of teachers is lost in a flurry of empty sub-plots, pointless gags, and under developed characters. “Fist Fight” could have worked since the film itself does garner some laughs every now and then, but it never can figure out if it wants to make a social statement, or if it merely just wants to show Charlie Day and Ice Cube engage in a huge fist fight by the climax. For all intents and purposes, “Fist Fight” works in some areas, setting itself up as a teacher’s nightmare fueled by anxiety of unemployment and poor work conditions.