Film Review: The Ring (dir by Gore Verbinski)


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(SPOILERS BELOW!)

This weekend, I will be seeing Rings, the second sequel to the 2002 film, The Ring.  (Of course, The Ring itself is a remake of the Japanese film, Ringu.)  Since it’s been a while since we’ve had a new installment in the Ring franchise, I decided to rewatch the first film tonight.

I have to admit that I had a few concerns before I rewatched The Ring.  When I first saw The Ring, it scared me to the extent that I actually had nightmares afterward.  Even after all these years, the image of that little girl emerging from the well and then crawling out of the television still makes me shiver.  But even with that in mind, I still found myself wondering if The Ring would live up to my vivid memories.

After all, it’s been 14 years since The Ring was released and, since that time, it’s been copied and imitated by literally hundreds of other PG-13 rated horror movies.  Would the shocks still be effective, now that I knew they were coming and that I would no longer be surprised to learn that the little girl in the well was actually evil?

Add to that, there was the question of technology.  In 2002, it seemed all too plausible that people could be trading back and forth a cursed VHS tape.  The Ring was made at a time when DVDs were still considered to be exotic.  When The Ring first came out, YouTube didn’t even exist.  But today, both VHS tapes and VCRs are artifacts of another era.  DVDs have been replaced by Blu-rays and Blu-rays are in the process of being replaced by streaming services.  For The Ring to work, you had to be able to relate to people watching a VHS tape.  Today, all of these people would be too busy watching cute cat videos on YouTube to fall into The Ring‘s trap.

In short, would The Ring still work in the age of Netflix?  And would the film still be as scary as it was when it was first released?  These were the question that I found myself wondering as I sat down to rewatch The Ring.

And the answer to both questions is … for the most part, yes.

Here’s the good news.  All the important things still work.  The performances of Martin Henderson, David Dorfman, Amber Tamblyn, and especially Naomi Watts hold up well.  Gore Verbinski’s direction is still effective and, as I rewatched the film, I was surprised to see how many odd and quirky details that Verbinski managed to work into the film.  (I especially enjoyed the magic-obsessed desk clerk.)  The cursed video was still creepy and compulsively watchable and I still felt uneasy while watching Anna Morgan (played by Shannon Cochran) comb her hair in that mirror.  Even more importantly, the little girl in the well, Samara Morgan (Daveigh Chase), was still incredibly frightening.

Admittedly, The Ring is dated and some of its effectiveness has been diluted by imitation.  Unfortunately, that’s something that happens with any financially successful horror film.  Beyond that, as effective as the entire film was, there were parts of The Ring that did feel undeniably silly.  There’s a lengthy scene in which Naomi Watts, while on a ferry, attempts to talk to a horse and the horse reacts by jumping into the ocean.  I understand that the scene was probably meant to establish that, as a result of watching that videotape, Watts was now cursed.  But, still, I kept wondering why Watts was bothering the horse in the first place.  I mean, I love horses too but I know better than to disturb one while on a ferry.  As well, the film’s opening sequence — in which Amber Tamblyn is menaced and ultimately killed by Samara — no longer felt as effective as it did when I first saw it, largely due to the fact that it’s been copied by so many other horror films.  Imitation may be the ultimate compliment but it does tend to dilute the effectiveness of horror.

But, in the end, The Ring held up well enough.  The film’s storyline — characters watch a cursed video tape and then, seven days later, are killed by Samara — was simple but enjoyable.  And, when David Dorfman delivered his classic line: “No.  You weren’t supposed to help her,” I still felt a chill run down my spine.

Will Rings hold up as well as The Ring?

I’ll find out this weekend!

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A Movie A Day #33: Two-Minute Warning (1976, directed by Larry Peerce)


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For the longest time, I thought that Two-Minute Warning was a movie about a gang of art thieves who attempt to pull off a heist by hiring a sniper to shoot at empty seats at the Super Bowl.  As planned by a master criminal known as The Professor (Rossano Brazzi), the sniper will cause a riot and the police will be too busy trying to restore order to notice the robbery being committed at an art gallery that happens to be right next to the stadium.

I believed that because that was the version of Two-Minute Warning that would sometimes show up on television.  Whenever I saw the movie, I always through it was a strange plan, one that had too many obvious flaws for any halfway competent criminal mastermind to ignore them.  What if the sniper was captured before he got a chance to start shooting?  What if a riot didn’t break out?  The sniper spent the movie aiming at empty seats but, considering how many people were in the stadium, it was likely that he would accidentally shoot someone.  Were the paintings really worth the risk of a murder charge?

Even stranger was that Two-Minute Warning was not only a heist film but it was also a 1970s disaster film.  Spread out throughout the stadium were familiar character actors like Jack Klugman, John Cassevetes, David Janssen, Martin Balsam, Gena Rowlands, Walter Pidgeon, and Beau Bridges.  It seemed strange that, once the shots were fired and Brazzi’s men broke into the gallery, all of those familiar faces vanished.  When it comes to disaster movies, it is an ironclad rule that at least one B-list celebrity has to die.  It seemed strange that Two-Minute Warning, with all those characters, would feature a sniper shooting at only empty seats.  For that matter, why would there be empty seats at the Super Bowl?

That wasn’t the strangest thing about Two-Minute Warning, though.  The strangest thing was that Charlton Heston was in the film, playing a police captain.  In most of his scenes, he had dark hair.  But, in the scenes in which he talked about the art gallery, Heston’s hair was suddenly light brown.

Recently, I watched Two-Minute Warning on DVD and I was shocked to discover that the movie on the DVD had very little in common with the movie that I had seen on TV.  For instance, the television version started with the crooks discussing their plan to rob the gallery.  The DVD version opened with the sniper shooting at a couple in the park.  In the DVD version, there was no art heist.   The sniper had no motive and no personality.  He was just a random nut who opened fire on the Super Bowl.  And,  in the DVD version, he did not shoot at empty seats.  Several of the characters who survived in the version that I saw on TV did not survive in the version that I saw on DVD.

What happened?

The theatrical version of Two-Minute Warning was exactly what I saw on the DVD.  A nameless sniper opens fire and kills several people at the Super Bowl.  In 1978, when NBC purchased the television broadcast rights for Two-Minute Warning, they worried that it was too violent and too disturbing.  There was concern that, if the film was broadcast as it originally was, people would actually think there was a risk of some nut with a gun opening fire at a crowded event.  (In 1978, that was apparently considered to be implausible.)  So, 40 minutes of new footage was shot.  Charlton Heston even returned to film three new scenes, which explains his changing hair color.  The new version of Two-Minute Warning not only gave the sniper a motive (albeit one that did not make much sense) but it also took out all of the violent death scenes.

Having seen both versions of Two-Minute Warning, neither one is very good, though the theatrical version is at least more suspenseful than the television version.  (It turns out that it was better to give the sniper no motive than to saddle him with a completely implausible one.)  But, even in the theatrical version, the potential victims are too one-dimensional to really care about.  Ultimately, the most interesting thing about Two-Minute Warning is that, at one time, an art heist was considered more plausible than a mass shooting.

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The Party’s Over: Dean Martin in MR. RICCO (MGM 1975)


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It’s an older, more world-weary Dean Martin we see in MR. RICCO, a fairly gritty but ultimately unfulfilling 70’s flick that would’ve made a decent pilot for a TV series (maybe in the NBC MYSTERY MOVIE rotation with Columbo and McCloud), but as a feature was best suited for the bottom half of a double bill. This was Dino’s last starring role, though he did appear in two more movies (THE CANNONBALL RUN and it’s sequel), and this attempt to change his image from footloose swinger to a more *gasp!* sober Martin doesn’t really cut it.

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Dean’s a defense lawyer, a “lily white liberal” who gets black militant Frankie Steele (Thalmus Rasulala ) off a murder rap. When two cops are blown away in an ambush, the witness provides a description of Steele, causing friction between Ricco and the police, especially his friend Detective Captain Cronyn (Eugene Roche, an underrated character actor who’s really good here). The…

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Music Video of the Day: I Got You Babe by Cher with Beavis and Butt-Head (1994, dir. Tamra Davis & Yvette Kaplan)


It sure is Groundhog Day. I won’t make the joke that I am sure you’ll hear all day.

As for this video, I had a different one planned originally. I was going to go with another duet that Cher did for a love song. Then I thought it would be worth checking to see if she had ever done a music video for this song before I started writing. Yep! This exists. Why does this exist? Apparently Cher did this for the album The Beavis and Butt-Head Experience. I think I may be traumatized for life now that I’ve heard Cher ask Butt-Head if he feels lucky. Why did she do this? I don’t know. Maybe it was for a comeback after the 1980s were over.

This was co-directed by Tamra Davis and Yvette Kaplan. Davis directed around 40 music videos. She’s also directed numerous films and episodes of TV Shows. Kaplan has mainly worked in animation. She’s done work on other things, but the majority was as a supervising director for the run of Beavis and Butt-Head. She also worked on the movie Beavis and Butt-Head Do America (1996).

Enjoy this bizarre trip down memory lane. I swear I didn’t pick this out in advance. It fell into my lap at the last minute.