Ringu is the japanese original, The Ring last year's American remake. Both are atmospherically spooky, but the remake's strangest elements are lifted directly, often shot-for-shot, from the original. Well, Naomi Watts's excellent performance is her own, and Gore Verbinski, whose last picture was the Julia Roberts-Brad Pitt disaster The Mexican, shows unusual sensitivity to the story's continuously shifting moods.
The plot concerns a mysterious videotape; whoever watches it will die seven days later. When four high school friends die simultaneously for no discernible reason, a reporter (Watts/Nanako Matsushima) goes looking for the cause, finds the mysterious tape and watches it, giving herself a week to solve the mystery and lift the curse.
The biggest difference between the films is that Hideo Nakata trusts his Japanese audience to make intuitive leaps with him. Verbinski and/or scenarist Ehren Kruger have no such faith in their American audience. In the original, a dead demon child is established, and it's a given.
In the remake, a lot of time is spent establishing the unnaturalness of the child and her ability to project images mentally, explaining how she could make a tape from beyond the grave -- and thereby dampening the impact of the film. The inexplicable is much creepier.
Both transfers are very good, but both discs are pretty much bare-bones.
I can imagine a Verbinski commentary: "We took this from the original; then we added that because we didn't think the audience would get it." For the Japanese original, I prefer the French DVD, which has a 20-minute interview with Nakata and a comparable transfer.
DVD EXTRAS The Ring has a 15-minute piece that functions as a non-linear version of the film, with footage not in the final product, and the "cursed" tape as an Easter egg in the main menu. Both films have French and Spanish dubs and English, French and Spanish subtitles. The Ring has a DTS soundtrack.
the weight of water (Lions Gate, 2000) D: Kathryn Bigelow, w/ Sean Penn, Sarah Polley, Elizabeth Hurley. Rating: NNNN
this adaptation of anita
Shreve's marital mystery drama has been sitting on the shelf so long that director Kathy Bigelow's subsequent Russian submarine epic, K-19: The Widowmaker, went to video before The Weight Of Water.
It's an unusually literate and literary project for action specialist Bigelow (Strange Days, Point Break), tracking the parallel lines of a decaying marriage in the present and one that ended in murder a century ago on a small island off Maine.
Bigelow's strengths -- her restless camera and associative, quick-cut editing style -- keep the picture from bogging down. On the other hand, she never slows down enough for the audience to grasp the thematic link between the two marriages.
Sean Penn is outstanding in the modern story as a noted poet tagging along and offering cynical observations on his wife's (Catherine McCormack) investigation. Sarah Polley is the star of the past story about a depressed immigrant wife. Her fondness for wrapped headwear, here and in Clement Virgo's Love Come Down, brings out her uncanny resemblance to Vermeer's Girl With An Earring.
DVD EXTRAS None. OK, the trailer, which shows that Lions Gate had no idea how to sell this picture. French dubbed version, English and Spanish subtitles.
das boot the director's cut (Columbia-TriStar, 1981-87) D: Wolfgang Petersen, w/ Jürgen Prochnow, Herbert Grönemeyer. Two discs. Rating: NNN
columbia releases a bunch of
catalogue titles in the "superbit" format this week, including Legends Of The Fall, The Dark Crystal, Labyrinth and From Here To Eternity.
The latter, a visually dull black-and-white film with a mono soundtrack, is least in need of this sort of high-tech transfer. It looks good, but no better than the Fox Studio Classics titles or the recent Warner issue of Mildred Pierce. Das Boot and Legends Of The Fall, with John Toll's Oscar-winning cinematography, benefit the most.
The director's cut of Das Boot is an hour longer than the theatrical cut, which at 145 minutes wasn't short. The story of a German submarine mission late in the second world war, Das Boot suffers from a certain genre familiarity. That is, all submarine movies are the same. Das Boot is an astonishing technical achievement -- and it may be the most claustrophobic movie ever made -- but it's still a submarine movie, where the key dramatic moments feature the crew sitting silently, sweating and bug-eyed, while depth charges blow up around them and the set shakes. It's easier for me to appreciate Das Boot than to enjoy it, but if you do like it this is the transfer to get.
DVD EXTRAS None. That's what superbit means: the entire disc is used for the film, a DTS soundtrack and a regular 5.1 stereo soundtrack. English, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Chinese, Korean and Thai subtitles.
the osbournes: the first season (Miramax/Buena Vista, 2001) w/ Ozzy Osbourne, Sharon Osbourne. Two discs. Rating: NNN
there's no question that the
adventures of Ozzy's foul-mouthed brood are funny; it's reality TV that breaks nicely into the form of the family sitcom. The essence of the show is its concept: Ozzy Osbourne, the prince of fucking darkness, as the befuddled descendant of Ward Cleaver.
But The Osbournes is assembled rather than written, and I suspect it won't have much repeat viewing value. No fabulous new details are going to emerge on multiple viewings. The extras add little. The commentaries are mostly Sharon and son Jack going on about things like "Whatever happened to that bowl?" Unlike the TV version, of course, we get to hear every single "fuck," though the audio option allows you to hear the series bleeped as it was on MTV.
DVD EXTRAS Cast commentaries, blooper reel, Ozzy translation subtitles, games, DVD-ROM content, cast interviews. English and French subtitles.
ringu (DreamWorks/Universal, 1998) D: Hideo Nakata, w/ Nanako Matsushima, Miki Nakatani. Rating: NNNN
the ring (DreamWorks/ Universal, 2002) D: Gore Verbinski, w/ Naomi Watts, Martin Henderson. Rating: NNN