Thursday, April 30, 2015

Ramblings of Ryan Volume 5

Well, it's been a while and there is a lot of stupid shit to talk about. I'm probably going to upset fanboys/girls quite a bit so hold onto your butts. Typically I'm happy with new, dorky things getting public notice, but something has gone seriously wrong in geek culture as of late. Is it pandering? Attempts at making things feel inclusive? I don't know what it is, but things I'd typically be excited about have me laughing and/or sighing in embarrassment.

First, let's go over the progressively more moronic-looking "Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice." I can't believe that trailer got dorks all wet. It looked like fucking shit! Dude, I love Batman--A LOT--but, please, dorks, shut the fuck up about how great he is and how can beat anyone. He cannot, and could not, ever defeat Superman. "Uhh but with the right planning and uhhh..." seriously, just stop. This is getting pathetic at this point. Plus, weren't these the same people swearing Superman could beat Goku? Let me get this straight...fanboy logic is Batman > Superman > Goku?!! So a guy in a cape with a few toys can beat a god-like alien who in turn can beat one of the strongest fictional beings ever imagined? Sounds legit. But besides geeks fighting each other, let's be honest, we all know how this will turn out. Batman and Superman will be kept evenly matched--somehow--as they realize they were pitted against one another (probably by Mark Zuckerberg). They will then team up and beat whatever villain as they semi-establish the beginning of the Justice League; since, apparently, they really want to rush this to rival the Avengers. If this sounds great to you, then by all means, stay positive. For me, I think I'll be sticking with the animated "Justice League" series.

And before I stray too far with the topic of DC...are you shitting me with Jared Leto as the Joker?!!
This is ironically exactly how I looked after viewing this photo. Who the hell is doing the casting for these DC movies?! Please, punch them in the face. Speaking of punchable faces...Jared Leto is easily one of the most pretentious douchebags in Hollywood; I love the Jesus-chic look he rocks too. My goodness. What the fuck is DC thinking? At least I can watch that scene in "Fight Club" to vent my frustration.

As for another worrisome topic: the new "Star Wars" trailer. I'll admit, this trailer has restored my hope for the film as a whole, but it doesn't look or feel like SW. The devil is in the details, and, say what you will about Lucas, he maintained a consistent tone between all 6 films. I don't see that here what with the weird camera angles, dark color scheme, and apparent introduction of flashbacks. I know most won't care about these facets, but SW is a special phenomenon that can't be replicated as easily as people think. Also, please don't tell me these new characters are taking center stage? If one of them is a Solo or Skywalker child, then fine, but this franchise is about the Skywalker family and that should be continued. That villain, Kylo Ren, better be awesome too since he/she looks to be a straight up Revan wannabe. I think that the story will be good, but I suspect the feeling will be...this is a good film but a bad SW sequel. I do hope I'm wrong in that regard however.

Moving on to more bullshit. Sigh. A new Dragon Ball show? Really? Can't good things just stay untarnished? DBGT was already a travesty so what makes people think this will be better. What, because Akira Toriyama is coming back? I think people fail to realize Toriyama never considered DB to be his best work and genuinely wanted to do other things. He's admitted to forgetting so much about the franchise over the decades to boot. If the "Battle of Gods" movies are any indication of the next DB series, we should all be worried--they suck! I mean, really, Frieza returning and being a legitimate threat? Whaaaat?! And don't get me started on Beerus and Whis appearing out of nowhere. DB is infamous for pulling overly powerful enemies out of their ass. I guess this series is meant for the new generation of fans who will lap up whatever shit is thrown in front of them. I'll check out an episode or two, but my expectations are beyond low. They should have went the "Sailor Moon" route and just rebooted the story if they feel the need to milk the franchise this badly.

Can you feel the nerd rage building? Well, let's end this with something just completely idiotic. Sandra Bullock as the most beautiful woman in the world?! In HA! No, seriously, who is it really? You're serious about this? Ughhhh. They did this before with Jennifer Aniston too. Come on, people, this is absurd--even Sandy said it was ridiculous as well! I don't even like "mainstream" chicks, but you're honestly going to tell me Sandy is better looking than the likes of Kate Upton, Olivia Wilde, Zoe Saldana, etc.? I could literally name you a thousand girls more beautiful (and sexier) than Sandy...and that would be just warming up with Japanese girls. I can't help but laugh at this article. You go, girl! them how much sexier you are, please!

Thursday, April 23, 2015

The Ring Two Review

Disclaimer: Contains spoilers!

Plot Summary: Samara is back, I guess, to do...something...or whatever her plan was supposed to be.

Review: Going from the best entry in this franchise to its worst--I present "The Ring Two." I once vowed to never watch this piece of shit ever again, so this is going to be the last time I swear. I'd rather watch "Rasen" on loop for seven days straight while trapped in a well before watching this again. What on earth were they thinking?! Okay, before I get ahead of myself, I want to address two things: the first is that there was a short film called "Rings" that was released shortly before this movie hit theaters. "Rings" establishes how the cursed tape spread as a kind of drug for teens as they saw Samara's visions as a new high. The ending of this short leads directly to the opening of this movie whereby a kid is trying desperately to make someone watch his copy before his seven days are up. Although you get the gist of what was probably happening without watching this short, it would have been better had more people watched it. At the same time, the short is significantly better than "The Ring Two." The second thing I wanted to mention is that they are planning to release another entry in this franchise annoyingly called "Rings." You really couldn't think up a different title? That is going to make discussing the short a pain in the ass. And where is there to go with the material? Ughhhh....

So what makes this the worst entry in the series? Simple--it's beyond stupid. Other than decent cinematography, the returning soundtrack, a few cool scares, and moderate acting, this film fails epically. I knew something was amiss when Daveigh Chase didn't want to come back as Samara; I think they claimed she was too big now but nice try. Besides sucking ass, the problems are further exacerbated by its comparison to how amazing "The Ring" was! This makes the experience that much more noticeably shitty and lackluster. The most glaring offense is the nonsensical story. Let me get this straight--Samara is mad Rachel destroys her (apparent) last cursed tape. This makes Samara decide she will possess Aidan magically and suddenly develop mommy issues simultaneously. Once possessing Aidan, Samara's game plan switches to watching cartoons for the rest of their lives since she can't sleep. O...k...ay? I like how Samara keeps saying Samara-like phrases as if Rachel will neeeeever suspect something is wrong. Rachel meets Samara's real mom who reveals that the only way to free Aidan is to drown him as Samara's one weakness is conveniently water. HUH?! So she's an alien from "Signs" now? After drowning Aidan, which doesn't kill him somehow, Rachel goes into Samara-land where she shuts the lid on the well...and that traps Samara...I guess. The end?! Whaaaaat?

Seriously, how is Samara's weakness water? Whenever she appears, water is everywhere. If anything, it has become intertwined with her own psychic abilities not the reverse. And what exactly are they trying to say is Samara's origin? My best guess was Samara was an already existing evil spirit that possessed some lady's baby. Besides that being retarded, and not making sense, why would Samara look like Samara in general? If Samara possessing Aidan still looks like Samara in photos, shouldn't pictures of Samara look like whatever the hell she was before possessing the baby "Samara?" Hell, if they wanted to have some fun with this shit, they should have said Samara's mother was Sadako! Or do something with the 67+ miscarriages plot line regarding Anna Morgan. Now deer freak out around Samara like she's the antichrist? Hello, you dumb fucks, the plot line with the horses was that Samara was killing them as her way of hurting her father for loving them more than her...not that she hates animals! Plus, the CGI on the deer looked like horseshit (see what I did there? Heeee!). If all this weren't bad enough, Samara looks lame due to fast motion and inferior CGI to the first film. Finally, if Samara can arbitrarily possess someone, why is she messing around with VHS tapes in the first place? Doesn't this plot line essentially defeat the purpose of the franchise?

And now some random things I hated. What's up with that chickadee at the beginning? So if you cover your eyes while the cursed tape is playing it can't hurt you? Uhhhh no. Way to dodge everything with Noah's death by mentioning him like, what, one time? I can't believe they thought they could add a new love interest. Oh man, that's a good one. Mercifully that was deleted for the most part. I also like how that asshole's house gets flooded and he doesn't bat an eye. How was there only one cursed tape left at this point? "Rings" gave the implication like this was a whole underground movement. And really, Lumbergh is in this movie?! SAY HELLO TO LUMBERGH FOR ME!!! Speaking of which, Lumbergh is the realtor for a house on an island where we've already established everybody knows everyone. So why is this jackass lying to Rachel? Who cares though, we've got to go down to the convenient basement to find the contrivances we're looking for! That part at the beginning, with Rachel pathetically foreshadowing going into Aidan's dream, was embarrassingly moronic. Lastly, Rachel's one-liner at the end is the cherry on top of a pile of shit. It made me laugh for all the wrong reasons.

I HATE this movie. It actually starts off halfway decent until you see Samara crawl out of the well; way to completely cheapen the impact of the first film. From that point forward, this movie is a disaster in every regard. The story is total trash and makes absolutely no sense. They ruin the Samara character, and her origin story was pointlessly vague in, what I'm sure was, an attempt to sequel-bait. Although the look and feel of the film is still strong, technical aspects alone cannot salvage this mess. And what a way to end this franchise out--on a terrible note. Technically the "Sadako 3D" movies were made afterward, but I'm still holding out for my porno version, "Sadako 3DD." To sum it up: only watch "Ring" and "The Ring." If you want just a slight taste more, maybe humor "The Ring Virus," but avoid the rest of the series that's for sure.

Notable Moment: "I'm not your fucking mommy!" Oh, good lord...

Final Rating: 4/10

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Updated Review #8: The Ring (American remake)

Disclaimer: Contains spoilers!

Plot Summary: A romantic comedy about an average, quirky, 30 something, strong, independent, single mom being proposed to by two men vying for her affection...but which will she choose?! Oh wait, no, it's about a cursed tape that kills your candy ass seven days after watching it.

Review: Now we come to my favorite, and the best, entry in this whole franchise. I know, to a lot of Asian horror fans, that preferring this remake to the original is tantamount to heresy but fuck 'em; they're probably the same idiots voting "Jaws in Japan" an 8/10! Other than personal preference toward the story, there is no reasonable argument to make against this remake surpassing the original in literally all technical aspects. Then, when we compare the stories, this entry has been streamlined yet still manages to focus and expand upon the best plot points of the original. This remake does not cheapen the original nor try to merely cash-in as pieces of shit like the "Shutter" remake did. I don't understand how any Asian horror fan can make that kind of association. In fact, I don't hear these purists whining about how the "original" is actually a remake too. Plus, why no crying about the Korean remake? Now, did this film open the floodgate for too many shitty remakes? Yes, but that was never the intention. Finally, preferring this entry does not take away from "Ring's" importance or greatness. Everyone knows it's the biggest J-horror legend and Sadako does exemplify the quintessential ghost girl to people who never even saw the movie. I would say "Ring's" impact and legacy are well intact so relax.


So before I delve in, I like to tell my story regarding my first experience watching this film. I was sleeping over my best friend's house, who had many siblings, when his sister came home from seeing "The Ring." She was noticeably shaken and kept saying how scary the movie was and how it got into her head. We thought she was dicking around, but, when she declared it was the scariest movie she'd ever seen, we HAD to see it for ourselves! My best friend and I gathered up his brothers, and we headed straight to the movie theater for a little midnight showing. At this point, I had only heard of "The Ring" in passing from a commercial. I didn't know anything about it except I thought it starred Jewel, the singer (come the fuck on, Ryan!); I obviously mistook Naomi Watts for Jewel. Anyway, the moment the movie began, I was instantly intrigued by the notion of a killer VHS tape, but when I first saw Katie's dead body, I knew this movie was going to be creepy. Oh god, I still remember my friend's brothers getting that look on their faces like they were in waaaaay over their heads. Sure enough, they were closing and covering their eyes and looking down during scary parts (light weights). I'll admit, I jumped, I think, three times which is impressive; those times being: when you see Katie's body, Samara grabbing Rachel in the well, and when Samara teleports toward Noah. I remember there was some guy trying to act tough toward the end of the movie, yelling at the screen, and when they did that fast montage of the cursed tape, that little bitch ran out of the theater. Speaking of which, A LOT of people (mostly teens on date night or whatever) ran, screaming, out of the theater at various points of the film. I'll never forget it--my mom had always mentioned people running out during "The Exorcist," and I couldn't imagine it until I saw it for myself. When the film was over, I was definitely freaked out, but my friend's brothers looked as though they were about to piss themselves! When we got home, the brothers were on edge and, humorously, wanted to all sleep near me and my best friend. There was also a point when someone had put on the TV without anyone realizing it, and the brothers almost lost their shit right there. The next day I immediately told my sister about the experience and then we went to see it again. She was so scared that we had to take our parents to see I ended up watching the film 3 times in a row. Even though "Shutter" is the scariest movie I've ever seen, nothing compares to this unforgettable experience watching "The Ring." I absolutely love it!

Gotcha, bitch!

Okay, on with this review for realzies. At this point, I've explained this plot line endlessly, so I'll address the changes first. Besides being localized to the USA, which includes all new character names and settings, the cursed tape is longer with more disturbing imagery--something akin to a snuff film. The Sadako equivalent, Samara, has been made a little girl permanently which disregards all the shenanigans with her being an actress, hermaphrodite, and the desire to reproduce. Samara is also more blatantly evil with ambiguous origins despite what stupid "The Ring Two" claims. Along with this, the mom is no longer a failed psychic and Samara appears to be significantly more powerful than her other incarnations; she performs more feats than the others as well as the ability to affect many people simultaneously. There is no crazy doctor character and the mom is the one that kills Samara instead of a half-brother (who is also removed). Other than that, the remaining changes are more nuanced and connect toward the ways the story has been enhanced and focused. I know this can appear as a huge departure to some, but shouldn't the goal of a remake be to do something different while not alienating the original audience?

As for the improvements, let's take a look at the most glaring one: the production value. Of course Hollywood is going to have an overblown budget, but you notice the difference immediately. The cinematography is top notch, and you cannot deny that Hans Zimmer providing the music is awesome. To put it simply, the film looks and sounds amazing. As I mentioned with "Ring: Kanzenban," you sometimes need that higher level of quality to convey the story to its fullest potential. That wet and gloomy look to every scene plays up the emphasis on water as a theme. In fact, water imagery is displayed prominently which I'm surprised none of the Japanese films played with beyond a little bit of "Ring 2." Considering Sadako/Samara's connection to water, I'm glad this entry integrates that aspect more directly. The pacing has a better flow as well as the mystery unfolds similarly to a classic ghost story--which is what helped the original to be so successful. Suffice it to say, any technical aspect you want to pick in film making, the remake beats all the other entries in that regard.

As for our dear girl, I prefer Samara to Sadako. A hermaphroditic, psychic actress killed by her horny half-brother which creates a sci-fi virus when combined with small pox feels beyond ridiculous. I mean, really, reread that sentence! While Samara is more simplistic than Sadako, mostly being nothing more than an evil little girl, they left room to explore with her; they kept her motivations and thoughts deliberately vague. Maybe she could have been good, maybe not, but she was betrayed by her own mother who left her for dead at the bottom of a well. Her bitterness feels almost sympathetic if it weren't for her desire for vengeance and to make others experience her suffering. Daveigh Chase does a great job with the performance and nails that creepy as fuck vibe perfectly. It also helped that her makeup effects were genuinely frightening especially when comparing each incarnation of Sadako. Finally, Samara is more central to the plot and active than Sadako ever was. It's hard to explain, but "The Ring" makes Samara's spirit feel more restless than Sadako by stressing the "she never sleeps" angle.

The rest of the cast turn in solid performances especially Ms. Watts who looks as though she was in the running for milf of the year. I will admit, the Aidan character being creepy and somehow having psychic-like powers himself was weak, but he's not that important to the plot; all I can ever think of when I see that kid is "let me in, grandma!" anyway. The secondary characters help add a bit of realism as they have unusual quirks that only the Korean version wisely included. Beyond that, the drama and relationships feel more relevant and substantial compared to the Reiko and Ryuji versions who didn't seem to give a fuck. Oddly enough, the only other caring parent was the original Asakawa who has been cut from all versions but "Ring: Kanzenban."

The last thing I'll go over are the random improvements that just add up to a better and well-rounded experience. One huge aspect most entries did not touch on was the dual nature of what the ring actually represents. Sure, it's a cycle similar to a chain letter that keeps spreading, but this is the only entry that beats in the idea that the well is another kind of ring. And, come on, don't even tell me you don't love that tagline: before you die, you see the ring?! Marketing brilliance right there. Obviously I thought the dead bodies of Samara's victims look way better than the other counterparts. Although the soundtrack to the cursed tape in "The Ring Virus" was a little corny, this film found a better balance by tossing in a kind of metal churning noise when the tape plays. As such, the usage of TVs, their connection to Samara, and her ability to psychically create images have more emphasis; though it would have been nice to include the blinking within the tape, I get that they were going more with the images coming from Samara's mind rather than memory. The notion of the seven days also worked a lot better here and with Samara personally calling you to deliver the bad news. Man, everything just works!

Overall, this is one of the scariest movies out there and was the best to me for years. The amount of imitators that were produced as a reaction stand as a testament to this film's impact and success. Great scares, surprising twists, and wonderful acting--this film gives you it all and so much more. The tape and Samara are iconic and stay with you long after the credits have finished rolling. There is nothing but praise I can offer toward this movie. The only real problems are the dated nature of VHS and maybe a slight annoyance with Aidan. If you haven't watched this yet, I recommend it incredibly high above most others as it's still probably my second favorite horror movie. Just don't listen to the naysayers who want to act tough like they weren't scared or the pretentious purists who would outlandishly claim the likes of "The Doll Master" as classics.

Before you die, you see this lovely, not even a mother could love, face!

Notable Moment: When Samara comes out of the TV. Aww, that little, soggy, bundle of joy!

Final Rating: 9.5/10

Monday, April 20, 2015

The Ring Virus Review

Disclaimer: Contains spoilers!

Plot Summary: Sadako's long lost Korean cousin decides she wants to take a dip in the well.

Review: So, yes, this is the Korean remake of "Ring," but they don't do much to differentiate themselves from the Japanese films. Essentially, they cherry picked ideas from the various entries and overlapped them onto the basic "Ring" plot. For the most part, this does work and the added layer of polish to the production was certainly welcomed. They did manage to make the story feel more concise and to the point, yet, the running time somehow increased. Huh? The only major change you will notice is that the Ryuji character has become some kind of pathologist who loves puzzles. Other than that, the Reiko equivalent has a daughter now instead of a son for whatever reason. There are tiny details that add some spice to the mix, but, at this point, I think we all have the gist of how this story will play out.

You'd think with everything in place, including a better presentation of the material, that this would be superior to the original but it's not. There is a shallow feeling to the experience whereby important aspects are skipped over in favor of playing up unnecessary plot points. For example, how Eun-suh (the Sadako equivalent) is killed by the half-brother, thrown in the well, and the resort area built over it, are all brushed over. Meanwhile, we get emphasis on the most cornball, cliche as fuck, romance between the Reiko and Ryuji equivalents. Come on, dude...there is no chemistry there. Considering this film even calls itself "The Ring Virus" they don't stress that plot point at all. This Reiko equivalent is the weakest of all her incarnations as she is a crybaby, doesn't figure jackshit out, and seems to care the least about her kid; this didn't sit right with me especially when that character is supposed to be a guy anyway. Eun-suh coming out of the TV still looked pretty good, but her appearance is the least intimidating between her, Sadako, and Samara; was adding lame, green tint to the screen necessary too? Speaking of the the worst additions...this is, by far, the lamest of the cursed tapes. I mean, really, what was supposed to be unsettling about the images? You'd see scarier shit after taking one hit from a bong. Also, what's up with the cursed tape having a little soundtrack?

Despite confusion in what ideas to focus on, this film is decent nonetheless. If this were a standalone film it would have felt great, but as a remake it is simply above average. Certain aspects are better than the original, especially in the production value, but other ideas are a step down such as the romance and the bullshit ways they uncover the mystery. There aren't really a lot of scares, however, the classic ghost story vibe remains intact. Between the three remakes, I'd rank this last with the caveat that it's better than all the sequel entries.

Notable Moment: When that one guy was playing spin the bottle with himself. Whaaat? It was a funny little nuance.

Final Rating: 6/10

Friday, April 17, 2015

Ring: Kanzenban Review

Disclaimer: Contains spoilers!

Plot Summary: Before the first "Ring," and, seemingly before Japan discovered air conditioning, comes...whatever this is.

Review: Seriously, why is everyone so sweaty in this movie? Anyway, have you ever wondered what "Ring" would have been like as a made for TV movie from 1995? Well, search no further, because it actually exists and is about as shitacular as you'd imagine. To be fair, this did come first and the "original" Ring is the first of the remakes (followed by the Korean and American ones). Also, to this film's credit, it does come the closest to following the book's plot over all the other incarnations. This is either going to be a good thing to you or a huge departure from the story you typically associate with "Ring;" though, the core concepts do remain intact. For me, the main detriment was the horrendous production quality. I mean, "Ring" hides its age well except for the VHS aspect. This film, on the other hand, looks like the worst episode of "The X-Files" while high on ecstasy. When I couple this headache-inducing cinematography with the unexpected appearance of that first chick's potato pancake areolas...I'm about to lose my lunch.

You get the gist of the story at this point...Sadako is swimming in her little well, makes the cursed tape, and shenanigans ensue. Things that are more alike to the book, but new to casual fans, would be Asakawa being a man with a wife instead of that whole divorced/single mom drama. Ryuji is simply Asakawa's associate this time around though they still tone down his eccentric behavior. The cursed tape, while not being remotely scary, does depict the scenario of the book with Sadako's memories accompanied with instructions on how to continue the curse rather than it being ambiguous. Speaking of our girl...Sadako is depicted as a powerful psychic who tries to become an actress before being killed. As such, her death is almost the way it was in the book with the one doctor being enraged by her being a hermaphrodite and throwing her into the well. She also runs around topless or naked instead of her iconic yurei appearance. Finally, there is no Sadako coming out of the TV. Sorry. You have to keep in mind that this franchise is a lot more sci-fi oriented than horror; there are few, if any, scary moments in the film's entirety.

While this movie does offer up material fans might be unfamiliar with, I feel like you're taking too far of a step back. Even a purist fan of the book would be unimpressed by the lack of quality I would imagine. Everything feels so cheap with terrible lighting, unbearable film grain, pathetic special effects, and every scene looking so humid I start to sweat alongside the actors. This demonstrates how you can take a good story and it can come off laughable when the production capabilities cannot meet the scope of the plot. If you're a J-horror veteran you may want to check this out, but I would recommend casual fans to stick to whatever entry resonates with them rather than back-peddling to this shaky beginning. It's a modest attempt, but even the TV shows about "Ring" felt a little less cheesy.

Notable Moment: When Asakawa first watches the cursed tape. What a perfect example of how shitty the cinematography was back then. No wonder you have the "1995 style" meme.

Final Rating: 4.5/10

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Rasen (aka Spiral) Review

Disclaimer: Contains spoilers!

Plot Summary: After being cooped up in the well for too many years Sadako has become very HORNY!

Review: Hmm, how to properly explain "Rasen" and the shenanigans surrounding this franchise? Well, for some reason, they decided it would be a good idea to release this film and "Ring" alongside one another. This could have worked in their favor had the two films complemented each other, but they are as alike as night and day. I think this is where you are going to get some division among the fans as this is a more faithful adaptation of the books but a terrible sequel to "Ring." The problem is that the first movie and the books are not comparable realistically. The book series is more sci-fi whereas the movie and subsequent sequels are traditional horror. The books have Sadako as nothing more than the progenitor of the Ring Virus while the films have Sadako as an ongoing antagonist that must be overcome and is actively killing people. Confounding the issue is the fact that the collaboration in producing the two films appeared to be shaky with questionable communication. Another thing I want to note is the idea that the "Sadako 3D" films follow this entry. That's misleading to say the least. They share a common character and more elements from the book series, but they also employ Sadako as an unkillable Freddy/Jason-esque villain.

When watching this movie, one must ask themselves: is there a "Ring" inspired porn parody out there? I mean, hell, it almost writes itself. You have a cursed, amateur porn tape where the ghost, coming out of your TV, will bang you for seven days after watching it! Someone make this NOW! Anyway, this Sadako is all horny for whatever reason. Following the events of the first film, a friend of Ryuji, named Ando, becomes the main character. Somehow he becomes involved in the investigation into Sadako's precious little tape as well. They do address Sadako being an actress, but they keep her degree of evil vague; judging by her photo I don't know if she's insane or that's the horny levels spiking. Ando mopes around a lot after the death of his son which Ando blames himself for. This is probably the main detriment to the film as the genre is essentially drama with extremely light horror and sci-fi elements. You must imagine watching "Ring" then going to see this film and you're like "what the fuck?!" I don't care what anyone thinks, the movie franchise went with the right choice of favoring a malevolent spirit rather than dealing with a sci-fi virus.

Honestly, trying to explain the plot is a nightmare as so many things have to be accepted at face value. It would appear people become infected with a supernatural virus after coming into contact with Reiko's journal or something; I don't know--it doesn't entirely make sense. Speaking of Reiko, she and the son are written out of the plot which sort of makes sense given that Reiko was a male character in the books. Then we come to Sadako trying to hump people who watch her little tape...which wouldn't be too bad really. There is something about Sadako being reborn from Ando screwing Ryuji's assistant who they finally declare was his girlfriend. But Sadako looks like the assistant still...while claiming she is the assistant...but the assistant is definitely dead...oh whatever. Sadako busts out bargaining skills for whatever reason as she promises to resurrect Ando's dead son if he helps her spread the Ring Virus. He obliges and this magically brings Ryuji back from the dead too for the lulz. Wait, are they really trying to turn this into a take over the world scheme?! Fake Sadako and Ryuji try to get all philosophical as if they're bringing peace to the world despite Sadako saying she just wants people to experience her suffering. You bitch. Don't even get me started on the endless plot holes if you want to believe Ryuji foresaw all of these events (I'm choosing to ignore that nonsensical aspect for peace of mind). The movie ends by annoying the fuck out of me, but the ending theme song was pretty good--definitely more enjoyable than the movie itself.

So what are you really getting with this film? In essence, this is an even more boring drama than "Ring 0: Birthday" except you don't have the romance to spice things up. Oh, sure, this film has a horny Sadako, but don't forget Sadako is a hermaphrodite in the books so down, boy. There are no scares, the plot makes little sense, and I don't think it would be unfair to say the story was bordering on pretentious toward the end. There are things that could have salvaged this mess, but, as it stands, you've gotta be a pretty hardcore fan of the books to enjoy this film. Casual fans will be lost and probably feel cheated. And if you thought the shenanigans were finally concluded, hold onto your butts, because there are surprisingly plenty of more entries in this franchise to come.

Notable Moment: When Sadako appears, naked, to grope Ando. See...if this was all Sadako wanted to do to the people who watch her little porn tape there wouldn't be so much trouble!

Final Rating: 4.5/10

Friday, April 10, 2015

Ring 0: Birthday Review

Disclaimer: Contains spoilers!

Plot Summary: The adventures of Sadako trying to be an actress...what could possibly go wrong?

Review: Birthday, huh? What birthday?! I can see it now...Sadako crawling out of her well to eat some cake and hit the pinata. You've got Kayako, Natre, the slit-mouthed woman, and that freak from "Rattle Rattle" all cheering Sadako on. Wouldn't that be nice? Suffice it to say, there is no birthday in this movie nor any reference to why the title would be as such. Instead, we get an awkward, romantic drama as a prequel to, what many believe is, the scariest movie ever. How the hell do you screw this up? In fact, the reviews for this film perfectly illustrate why I don't take the English-speaking fanbase seriously anymore. Check out imdb with people claiming that, not only is this film scary, but it might be the best and scariest of the whole franchise! That's laughably absurd, but the coke they're snorting must be phenomenal. While part two was boggled down by a convoluted plot, it at least attempted to be scary. This entry decided to bitch it up (need to start saying that more) and make Sadako a sympathetic character who wants to find love just like all of us! sweet. This might have even worked, on some level, had the movie at least made sense...but it doesn't. In the process, they also fuck up the continuity; I think now we can understand why there wasn't a sequel made for over a decade after this.

So where did they go horribly wrong? The most glaring problem is that, I swear, every single character's thoughts, motivations, and actions are contrived beyond comprehension. No one does anything logically but only because the script demands it; it's bad writing at its finest. For example, Sadako loves some dude and he loves her...why? They share so little dialogue together, and, when they do, it is usually a couple of words like "are you okay?" And I love the longing stares, but that can't be the only damn thing between them! I kept wondering why am I supposed to believe this is some next level, across time and space, eternal love bullshit? The movie sure doesn't give you a reason to be invested with the story. Good thing they dropped the plot line, from the books, about Sadako being a hermaphrodite or else that cherry popping would have been AWKWARD. But the contrived nature of it all isn't confined to just the main characters. All the background characters draw conclusions and figure shit out magically. Like they keep saying things have changed since Sadako showed up...uhh, how? This is a visual medium, son, show us how things have changed! This entire movie is riddled with these situations as they attempt to pathetically make Sadako out to be a tragic character of some sort.

You may find yourself enjoying the romance--somehow--but you think things stop there? Hell no! They decide to introduce the notion that there are two Sadakos: one bad and one good. Riiiight. The main girl we see is the good Sadako and the little girl version is the bad one. Despite the fact that the little girl version is trapped in an attic, she can magically kill people while the good Sadako can heal people. Oh goodness gracious...this is the fucking "Exorcist II" equivalent of this franchise! You think the shenanigans stop there? We also have to contend with a dumbass reporter who wants revenge against Sadako for apparently killing her fiance. Don't even get me started on Sadako going all Carrie White when she's at that play. How did Reiko not discover any of this during her research on Sadako? Hmm. By the end, somehow the two Sadakos have merged and that's supposedly why the ghost version is evil. Wait a minute, what was the point of introducing the notion of two Sadakos if you're going to merge them only minutes later? Oh, right, so that you can have the plot of this movie to begin with. If you're wondering how the hell could a story this ridiculous lead to Sadako being thrown down the well by that doctor from part's contrived, of course! But...uhhh...if the evil Sadako can seemingly teleport why can't she get out of the well?

It may sound like I'm being extremely harsh on this film, but it's not that bad per se. If it were some kind of stand alone film unrelated to the "Ring" franchise, it could have worked to a degree. The actress playing Sadako, Yukie Nakama, is kind of cute--a little too cute to be Sadako really--and she does a decent job with the material. The cinematography was a step up over part two, and the drama is okay for what it is. But I can't simply ignore that this is supposed to be a "Ring" entry, and, therefore, it fails miserably--especially in regards to being a horror movie; there are virtually no scares to be found. The contrivances are the main detriment to the film, however, since they are practically at every turn in the story. You can choose to ignore them if it helps, but, if I'm supposed to be touched by a romance, it would be nice if the characters shared moments together that made me understand why they felt the way they do. Not just: stare, stare, are you okay, stare, stare, I love you, stare, stare, dead. Still a better love story than "Twilight" though, am I right? Right? That meme is dead? Fuck. And if you thought the shenanigans were over with this entry, oh baby, there are plenty to come.

Notable Moment: At the end when we see the Sadako form we all know and love. Though...was the electric slide and, seemingly, breakdancing supposed to be scary?!

Final Rating: 5/10

Monday, April 6, 2015

Ring 2 (aka Ringu 2) Review

Disclaimer: Contains spoilers!

Plot Summary: As others continue Reiko's investigation into Sadako, and her killer VHS tape, shenanigans ensue.

Review: With the enormous success of the first film, it was a no-brainer that sequels were going to follow, but there's a reason why nobody mentions the rest of the "Ring" franchise when discussing J-horror legends. At first they figured they would follow the story in the books with the "Rasen" film (which I'll get to). That turned into a debacle so they tried to create something original with "Ring 2." Surprise, surprise...that failed as well. The main problem is that nothing makes any damn sense, and, instead of expanding upon the mythos, we are left with more unanswered questions. Sadako is also vastly underutilized which was an obvious misstep. The only real highlight (for me at least) was that not only do we get cute background nurses...cute background schoolgirls...but now we got a cute background cop! Heeeeeee...

Dude, I'm serious, I don't know what the hell was happening here. Reiko and the son are hiding out after the first movie as the ex-husband's assistant is trying to figure out what happened. Reiko's flunky coworkers are continuing her investigation into the cursed tape, and, of course, screw everything up--getting one particularly cute schoolgirl, named Kanae, killed. You son of a bitch! The son now has psychic powers similarly to Sadako--I'm assuming they claim comes from the dead ex-husband. Reiko is ran over by a truck at one point but not before we see an awkward scene of her entering the afterlife or something. Totally needed that scene. Sadako is hanging out in Kayako-land for the majority of the film as we learn she was actually alive in the well for 30 years. Yeah, okay. The cops are now also investigating this shit as the movie keeps bouncing back and forth between 3 groups trying to figure this plot out. I did like how the cops are okay with letting the assistant take care of Reiko's son after she dies. Fuck relatives! Oh I forgot, there's a fourth subplot regarding forensic scientists reconstructing Sadako's face from her skull and Sadako's uncle giving her a burial at sea. It's almost as if they deliberately set out to make this story as convoluted as possible.

They continue to keep things ambiguous regarding Sadako's father possibly being a demon, spirit, or whatever else lurks beneath Japan's water; could have been the Kraken for all I know. This ambiguity is further made confusing when they discuss how water can channel Sadako's power somehow as if to further stress she's not fully human. Some doctor thinks he knows a way to disperse Sadako's rage, which I guess is her spirit, out of existence or something. I really don't know. All hell breaks loose as Sadako materializes--not in a cool way unfortunately--and she teleports the assistant and Reiko's son into that precious well. You think that there will be some kind of spiritual showdown as Sadako goes after them but nope. All the background characters appear to be killed in the madness, Reiko's son and the assistant magically survive unscathed, and Sadako is...uhh...killed? Brazenly believing this asinine movie was good enough to possibly get a sequel, they end things with a terrible zinger where, I'm assuming, the curse is continuing but with that schoolgirl, Kanae, as the embodiment. I DON'T KNOW! She's definitely hotter than Sadako's soggy ass so there's that.

There's really no single source for this film's problems; they rushed the production or something. I mean, between the various TV shows, the book series, and the many remakes, they were setting themselves up for disappointment in order to milk the franchise dry. As stupid as the "Sadako 3D" movies are, at least they allowed time for audiences to breathe. This film lacks a proper sense of self, is devoid of scares, and wastes one of horror's most iconic characters. It does have decent cinematography and succeeds in technical aspects but that is overshadowed by the glaring flaws inherent in the story. I can appreciate the attempts to recapture the atmosphere and ominous tone, but nothing turned out as it should have. Oh's not like this franchise can get any more convoluted, can it? Oh fuck...

Notable Moment: When Sadako is climbing the wall of the well, and she is wearing that mask. If only they had done something more with this idea rather than favoring zany antics.

Final Rating: 5/10

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Ring (aka Ringu) Review

Disclaimer: Contains spoilers!

Plot Summary: A reporter tries to solve the mystery surrounding a video tape that kills the viewer seven days after watching it.

Review: It's probably been long overdue, but now we come to the franchise that started it all and launched Asian horror into international success and appreciation. Although J-horror had been around for decades, the success of "Ring" helped stir a revitalization as well as establish other Asian countries to blossom their own industries and styles. The influence and impact on horror, as well as cinema in general, is impossible to deny. In fact, the look of Sadako--a ghost girl dressed in white with hair covering the face--has become the quintessential image of a ghost all over the world; even people unaware of the origin seem to be frightened by this visage. Now, due to the convoluted nature of this franchise, I will kind of just review the various sequels and remakes in my own order rather than a strict sense of continuity. I do want to stress, however, that I'm not going to redo the "Sadako 3D" movies as I'm satisfied with those reviews, and I have little left to add beyond that they're mediocre and gimmicky; you can still check out those reviews if you feel so inclined. Okay, let's dive headfirst into this series, shall we!

I'm not going to explain the story, since I think we're all aware of it at this point, so let's go over what worked first. Obviously we have to acknowledge the elephant in the room: Sadako coming out of the TV. Even if you've never watched this movie, you've more than likely seen a clip, recreation, parody, or some form thereof of this scene. Is it awesome? Yes! It's one of the absolute creepiest things you could possibly imagine. Was "Ring" the first to propose an idea such as this? No, but they were the first to instill the true level of fright others wanted the audience to feel. Then you have the shot of Sadako's pissed off eye, and you have the recipe for a legend. Beyond this scene, the story feels like an old school ghost story that relies heavily on atmosphere and dread over in your face action or cheap jump scares. The mystery enhances this atmosphere as the audience is engaged and intrigued by what direction the story will go. As for Sadako herself, she is iconic and has become embedded heavily into the horror mythos. She looks creepy as fuck, and intimidating to boot, considering she's just some little Japanese girl with surprisingly nice legs. Finally, in retrospect, the shitty video quality actually goes a long way in giving the film a visceral style with its dingy lighting and drab sets. I guess this is an indirect win for pathetic VHS transfers to DVD?

As for where the film failed, there are more moments than you'd think. These problems aren't that substantial, but this is far from the greatest J-horror film out there despite what some biased fans may claim. I do applaud the use of atmosphere over scares, but that doesn't mean the film needs to be this barren. Other than Sadako coming out of the TV, there aren't many other scary moments which hurts the pacing. The ex-husband having psychic powers was seriously lame. I have never liked this plot device, because it takes away from the mysterious nature of Sadako if others casually have similar powers. Speaking of the ex-husband, the scene with him emptying the well by bucket was presented poorly when it's supposed to be a climactic moment. By extension, Reiko keeling over due to her being a frail woman is laughable especially when she gets bitch-slapped following it. The music is lacking as well with many instances where it just sounds like somebody fell into the orchestra pit (the music does pick up at the end however). The last thing I will say is that there are tiny details that feel empty when in comparison to the American remake (yeah, I'm going there).

Overall, this film holds up remarkably well despite VHS losing all relevance--after all, this film isn't a legend for nothing. It may not be as scary as it gets hyped to be, but the story, originality, and innovation more than present a film worthy of any viewer's expectations. Sadako is an icon and rightfully so as she demands notice with such an unsettling presence; she's just as notorious and famous as the likes of Freddy, Jason, etc. Sure, this franchise would go on to make less and less sense, but this doesn't deter from the original. "Ring" does have its flaws, but one cannot deny its tremendous influence--inspiring countless other films and reestablishing the horror genre in multiple countries. I certainly know this film established my interest in Asian horror, leading me to discover many gems including my all time favorite horror film, and for that I have great respect.

Notable Moment: When Sadako comes out of the TV. I mean, could there really be any other moment?

Final Rating: 7/10