The Substitute (1996)

Tom Berenger is not here for your shenanigans.

Playing a tough-as-nails Vietnam War vet who still runs covert ops, he morphs into a teacher after his girlfriend is attacked while working at a school where cocaine deals far outnumber academic decathlons.

Facing down gang bangers and weaselly admins, Berenger cleans up his classroom in a hail of punches and don’t-mess-with-me grimaces.

Trash, but entertaining trash which knows it’s trash and leans into it, hard, this launched a series of semi-decent straight-to-video films, but you only get Tom the Two-Fisted Wonder in this first chapter.

Accept no substitutions.

One Million Years B.C.

Something for every demographic.

This wild ‘n woolly 1966 adventure flick offers Raquel Welch in a fur bikini, plus Ray Harryhausen’s stop-motion dinosaurs terrorizing the prehistoric landscape.

Are you not entertained?

Some might quibble with the fact humans and dinosaurs are living in the same time period, which seems to fly right in the face of historical reality, but the filmmakers couldn’t care less.

“We didn’t make it for professors,” Harryhausen said. “Who probably don’t go to see these kinds of movies anyway.”

Well, except for the professors who wanted to study the physics of Raquel’s physique, that is…


Clear and Present Danger

“You are such a boy scout!!”

The words, said by a weasel of the highest order, sting, but are dead-on, with Harrison Ford playing a man whose rigid posture owes to his spine being made of the strongest material.

Ensnared in a murky world, acting CIA Deputy Director Jack Ryan finds himself caught between vicious Colombian drug cartels and a compromised US president.

There are three ways out — sacrifice his morals, take a bullet to the temple, or hitch up his big boy pants and go in guns blazing.

This is Harrison Ford. You know which route he’s taking.


The Count of Monte Cristo (2002)

Revenge, sweet revenge.

Betrayed by friend and foe alike, straight-arrow Jim Caviezel longs for payback in one of the better versions of an often-told Alexander Dumas tale.

Topping his list of dudes cruising for a bruising is a silky, slithery Guy Pearce, who was born to be bad, positively reveling in each underhanded action, each sniggering sneer.

The star of L.A. Confidential and Memento is by far the best thing in this version, and, while we might not root for his ass-hat to win the day, we can admire how deeply he enjoys his evilness.

At least a bit.


When the legend becomes fact, print the legend.

Yes, 150 British soldiers, many injured, did successfully hold off 4,000 Zulu warriors at the Battle of Rorke’s Drift during the late 1880’s.

Now, did the two sides honor the other’s bravery through song near the end of the bloody conflict?

It’s a movie, and one of the more goosebump-inducing final scenes in film history, so give director Cy Endfield some leeway.

I mean, has there ever really been a 100% correct historical epic in the annuals of cinema? Not likely.

Sometimes, you just nod, say, “Good job, chaps,” and marinate in the moment.