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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The Purge: Election Year (2016)

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.

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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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Ben (1972) [Blu-Ray/DVD]

There aren’t many movies out there that offer audiences a sequel that is so drastically different in tone. The biggest comparison I can draw is the original horror thriller “Cat People” and dramatic “The Curse of the Cat People.” While “Willard” was basically a twisted thriller involving a dysfunctional young man’s self destructive relationship with rats, “Ben” is a more dramatic family film with elements of horror thrown in. It’s a very tonally confused and muddled melodrama that doesn’t do much to make Ben in to an interesting horror villain. To prove how utterly confused the movie is in terms of intentions, watch the final scene in which Ben stares in to the camera menacingly in the vein of the climax of “Willard” while the sappy “Ben’s Song” from Michael Jackson plays as the credits roll. So—what are we supposed to feel by this?

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House: Two Stories [Blu-ray] (2-Disc Limited Edition)

Arrow Video is easily one of the best movie distributors around, and if you ask certain movie buffs collectors, they’d argue that they’re the best, period. I can’t decide as Arrow Video has been on a mission for the last few years to deliver fans some of the most unique movie titles on blu-ray and DVD, and offer them in deluxe collector’s packages that would make most cineastes hyperventilate out of sheer excitement. Arrow Video has taken it upon themselves to offer fans the two tales of “House,” two films that were big movie rental fodder in their heydays and are now brought together for what is a heavily suggested anthology. Arrow Video combines two of the true “House” movies that are—ironically—about as different from each other as the last two “House” movies.

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X-Rated Alley: Virtual Encounters 2 (1998), 42nd Street Forever: The Peep Show Collection Vol. 20 (DVD)

“Virtual Encounters 2” is from Surrender Cinema, one of Charles Bands’ sub labels that specialized in the type of movie you’d usually find on late night Fridays and Saturdays on Cinemax back in the nineties. It’s always a good sign when you enter in to a new movie and the first thing you see are a woman’s erect nipples. “Virtual Encounters 2” is the okay sequel to the okay original film. The sequel follows a new group of characters, setting down on two dorm mates at Midvale College. Mel has wet dreams about the girl of his dreams and is discovered by his roommate Sam who actually can score with women. Sam convinces Mel to attend an art class with nude models and Mel is shocked to see one of the nudes are the girl of his dreams.

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Life’s a Beach: 10 Movie Collection (DVD)

Whether we like it or not, summer is right around the corner, and Mill Creek Entertainment is helping movie lover ring in the season with a marathon of ten great beach and summer movies. Well, great is a broad term, as most of these movies are goofy eighties nonsense and action schlock you can enjoy with some beers and nachos. At fifteen hours, this collection is compiled in to three DVD’s and packs in some new titles along with Mill Creek’s more prominent comedy titles.

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