REVIEW: THE RING TWO

CAST

Naomi Watts (Insurgent)
David Dorfman (The Singing Detective)
Sissy Spacek (Carrie)
Elizabeth Perkins (Weeds)
Gary Cole (Crusade)
Ryan Merriman (Final Destination 3)
Emily VanCamp (Captain America: Civil War)
Kelly Overton (True Blood)
Daveigh Chase (S.Darko)
Kelly Stables (Two and a Half Men)
Michael Chieffo (Roswell)

In the coastal town of Astoria, Oregon approximately six months after the events of the first movie, and continuance from Rings, Vanessa is seen encouraging Emily by nodding vigorously when she is making her decision to go to Jake, so she may have known about the rings beforehand. Jake asks Emily to come over to his house, under the guise of studying together; however, his motives are actually centered on having her watch Samara Morgan’s cursed video tape, as his seven-day deadline is fast approaching. Emily plays the tape while Jake waits in the kitchen, but when he returns to the living room, it is revealed that she covered her eyes throughout the tape, and thus didn’t see any of it. As she failed to perpetuate the guidelines of the tape’s curse, Samara crawls out of the television and kills Jake in front of Emily.
Rachel Keller (Naomi Watts) and her son Aidan (David Dorfman) have moved from Seattle to Astoria. Rachel begins a new job at the Daily Astorian, a local newspaper, working for Max Rourke (Simon Baker). Before long, there is news of the teenager’s death in town. Rachel investigates, finding the dead boy’s face shows a twisted expression of horror just like the previous victims of Samara Morgan’s tape. Upon finding the boy’s corpse, she also has a vision of Samara grabbing her and declaring “I found you.” She goes to the police station and persuades the girl who witnessed the boy’s death to tell her where the tape is. She takes the tape deep into the woods and burns it.
Aidan has a dream in which he comes down to the T.V. room without Rachel home, and is pulled into the screen by Samara when the videotape starts. Back at home, Aidan starts to develop hypothermia, and his body is suddenly covered with bruises. At a county fair, Aidan takes pictures of himself in the bathroom mirror, with a blurred Samara standing behind him. His behavior grows increasingly odd and distant, and while Rachel and Aidan drive home from the fair, a deer attacks their car, nearly killing them. This event was apparently mysteriously foreseen by Aidan, who warned Rachel of impending danger seconds before the deer came out of nowhere. Strange occurrences within their house (including visions of Samara, a burn mark in the wall which resembles the tree from the cursed video, and seeming poltergeist activity) frighten Rachel, leading her and Aidan to flee. Rachel subsequently asks Max if he can take care of the increasingly sick Aidan at his house.
Max says that Aidan’s condition merits a trip to the hospital, but Rachel, knowing that his illness is unnatural, is adamant that traditional doctors cannot help him. When Rachel attempts to give Aidan (who suddenly develops a mysterious fear of water) a warm bath at Max’s, a series of paranormal events leads to Rachel seeing Aidan’s body replaced by Samara. Max walks in when she attempts to drown Samara, and sees her trying to drown Aidan instead. Suspicious, he insists on taking Aidan to the hospital against her wishes, stating, “You wanted my help, now you’re getting it.”
Based on the bruises on Aidan’s body, the hospital staff, particularly psychiatrist Dr. Emma Temple (Elizabeth Perkins), suspect child abuse on Rachel’s part, because Rachel reveals she suffered from postpartum depression, and won’t allow her to be near her son. Desperate for answers, Rachel flees the hospital and returns to the Morgan Ranch (which is now being sold) to dig deeper into Samara’s past. Knowing that Samara was not Richard and Anna Morgan’s biological child, she tracks down Samara’s birth mother, Evelyn (Sissy Spacek), who tried to drown Samara as an infant and has been living in a mental institution ever since. Meanwhile, Samara (in Aidan’s body) inflicts a psychic assault on Dr. Temple, forcing Dr. Temple to commit suicide so that Samara (in Aidan’s body) can escape the hospital.
Evelyn advises Rachel to “listen to your baby” when she seeks advice on how to deal with Samara. Max goes to Rachel’s house to check on her, only to find Aidan watching TV alone. He attempts to surreptitiously capture Aidan on film in order to reveal Samara, as Aidan had before Samara possessed him. Aidan/Samara notices the camera. When Rachel returns home, she finds Max’s truck parked outside and his dead body inside with the same twisted face of Samara’s other victims. Disturbed and unsure of what to do, Rachel goes inside to face her possessed son. Rachel falls asleep and dreams of Aidan telling her how to release Samara from his body. After waking, Rachel tells Aidan/Samara that he should go to sleep. Aidan responds that he never sleeps. She crushes sleeping pills in a sandwich, and after eating, Aidan falls asleep.

Rachel fills the upstairs bathtub with water and holds an unconscious Aidan underwater. Aidan suddenly wakes up, telling Rachel that he is still Aidan. Rachel then drowns Aidan and Samara’s spirit leaves his body, and Rachel is then able to revive him. However, Samara attempts to come back into the house through the TV set. Rachel grabs onto Samara as she is emerging, and is pulled into Samara’s well inside the world of the cursed video. Looking up, Rachel realizes that the well lid is always left open. Rachel begins climbing the side of the well. Halfway up, Samara emerges from the water below and also ascends in a very inhuman fashion. Rachel climbs out of the well just as Samara cries ‘”Mommy!”‘ in an inhuman voice. Rachel responds angrily that she’s not her mother and pushes the lid shut, trapping Samara in the well.
As Rachel wanders the monochromatic world of the cursed tape, she hears Aidan’s voice and walks toward it, only to come to the cliff where Anna Morgan jumped to her death. She hears Aidan calling her name below. Determined to follow Aidan’s voice, Rachel jumps off the cliff and ends up back in her living room with Aidan, where they embrace. Aidan calls Rachel ‘”Mommy”‘, and she asks him to just call her Rachel. The film ends when the camera pans out of the house, views the sky, where a crescent moon can still be seen in the distance. The shot shows the street, and the scene cuts to black with the sounds of flickering heard, and the credits roll.This film isn’t quite as good as the first movie but it is still a great sequel nontheless. Plenty of scary moments and Naomi Watts and David Dorfman are one again perfect in the lead roles. A decent followup.

 

 

 

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REVIEW: CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR

CAST

Chris Evans (The Losers)
Robert Downey, Jr (Sherlock Holmes)
Scarlett Johansson (Lucy)
Sebastian Stan (The Covenant)
Anthony Mackie (The Hurt Locker)
Don Cheadle (Traffic)
Jeremy Renner (The Bourne Legacy)
Chadwick Boseman (Gods of Egypt)
Paul Bettany (Legion)
Elizabeth Olsen (Silent House)
Paul Rudd (Role Models)
Emily VanCamp (Revenge)
Tom Holland (The Impossible)
Frank Grillo (The Purge 2 & 3)
William Hurt (A.I.)
Daniel Brühl (Inglourious Basterds)
John Slattery (Mad Men)
Martin Freeman (The Hobbit)
Marisa Tomei (The Fighter)
John Kani (Coriolanus)
Hope Davis (About Schmidt)
Alfre Woodard (Star Trek: First Contact)
Jim Rash (That 70s Show)
Stan Lee (Avengers Assemble)

In 1991, the brainwashed super-soldier James “Bucky” Barnes is dispatched from a Hydra base in Siberia to intercept an automobile carrying a case of super-soldier serum. In the present day, approximately one year after Ultron’s defeat in the nation of Sokovia at the hands of the Avengers, Steve Rogers, Natasha Romanoff, Sam Wilson, and Wanda Maximoff stop Brock Rumlow from stealing a biological weapon from a lab in Lagos. Rumlow blows himself up, hoping to kill Rogers. When Maximoff tries to displace the blast into the sky with telekinesis, it destroys a nearby building, killing several Wakandan humanitarian workers.
U.S. Secretary of State Thaddeus Ross informs the Avengers that the United Nations (UN) is preparing to pass the Sokovia Accords, which will establish a UN panel to oversee and control the team. The team is divided: Tony Stark supports oversight because of his role in Ultron’s creation and Sokovia’s devastation, while Rogers has more faith in his own judgment than that of the government. At a conference in Vienna where the accords are to be ratified, a bomb kills King T’Chaka of Wakanda. Security footage indicates the bomber is Barnes, whom T’Chaka’s son, T’Challa, vows to kill. Informed by Sharon Carter of Barnes’ whereabouts and the government’s intentions to kill him, Rogers intends to bring in Barnes—his childhood friend and war comrade—himself. Rogers and Wilson track Barnes to Bucharest and attempt to protect him from T’Challa and the authorities, but all four including T’Challa are apprehended.
Helmut Zemo tracks down and kills Barnes’ old Hydra handler, stealing a book containing the trigger words that activate Barnes’ brainwashing. Infiltrating the facility where Barnes is held, Zemo recites the words to make Barnes obey him. He questions Barnes, then sends him on a rampage to cover his own escape. Rogers stops Barnes and sneaks him away. When Barnes regains his senses, he explains that Zemo is the real Vienna bomber and wanted the location of the Siberian Hydra base, where other brainwashed “Winter Soldiers” are kept in cryogenic stasis. Unwilling to wait for authorization to apprehend Zemo, Rogers and Wilson go rogue, and recruit Maximoff, Clint Barton, and Scott Lang to their cause. With Ross’ permission, Stark assembles a team composed of Romanoff, T’Challa, James Rhodes, Vision, and Peter Parker to capture the renegades. Stark’s team intercepts Rogers’ team at Leipzig/Halle Airport, where they fight until Romanoff allows Rogers and Barnes to escape. The rest of Rogers’ team is captured and detained at the Raft prison, while Rhodes is partially paralyzed after being inadvertently shot down by Vision, and Romanoff goes into exile.

Stark discovers evidence that Barnes was framed by Zemo and convinces Wilson to give him Rogers’ destination. Without informing Ross, Stark goes to the Siberian Hydra facility and strikes a truce with Rogers and Barnes, unaware they were secretly followed by T’Challa. They discover that the other super-soldiers have been killed by Zemo, who shows them footage from Hydra’s archives; it reveals that Barnes killed Stark’s parents during his mission in 1991. Enraged that Rogers kept this from him, Stark turns on them both, dismembering Barnes’ robotic arm. Rogers disables Stark’s armor and departs with Barnes, leaving his shield behind. Satisfied that he has avenged his family’s death in Sokovia by irreparably fracturing the Avengers, Zemo attempts suicide, but T’Challa stops him and he is taken to the authorities.

In the aftermath, Stark provides Rhodes with exoskeletal leg braces that allow him to walk again, while Rogers breaks his allies out of the Raft. In a mid-credits scene, Barnes, granted asylum in Wakanda, chooses to return to cryogenic sleep until a cure for his brainwashing is found. In a post-credits scene, Parker tests a new gadget.

The best Marvel film to date: great, charisma from the leads delivered through fantastic action that’s actually driven, for once, by a tight, believable and interesting storyline.

REVIEW: CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER

 

CAST

Chris Evans (The Losers)
Samuel L. Jackson (Jurassic Park)
Scarlett Johansson (Lucy)
Robert Redford (The Sting)
Sebastian Stan (Spread)
Anthony Mackie (The Hurt Locker)
Cobie Smulders (How I Met Your Mother)
Frank Grillo (The Purge 2)
Maximiliano Hernandex (Warriors)
Emily Vancamp (Revenge)
Hayley Atwell (The Duchess)
Toby Jones (The Hunger Games)
Stan Lee (Avengers Assemble0
Alan Dale (Lost)
Chin Han (Arrow)
Garry Shandling (Over The Hedge)
Steven Culp (Jason Goes To Hell)
Gary Sinise (Deception)
Thomas Kretschmann (Dracula)
Elizabeth Olsen (Godzilla)
Danny Pudi (Powerless)
Aaron Taylor-Johnson (Kick-Ass)

Two years after the Battle of New York, Steve Rogers works in Washington D.C. for the espionage agency S.H.I.E.L.D. under Director Nick Fury, while adjusting to contemporary society. Rogers and Agent Natasha Romanoff are sent with S.H.I.E.L.D.’s counter-terrorism S.T.R.I.K.E. team, led by Agent Rumlow, to free hostages aboard a S.H.I.E.L.D. vessel from Georges Batroc and his mercenaries. Mid-mission, Rogers discovers Romanoff has another agenda: to extract data from the ship’s computers for Fury. Rogers returns to the Triskelion, S.H.I.E.L.D.’s headquarters, to confront Fury and is briefed about Project Insight: three Helicarriers linked to spy satellites, designed to preemptively eliminate threats. Unable to decrypt the data recovered by Romanoff, Fury becomes suspicious about Insight and asks senior S.H.I.E.L.D. official Alexander Pierce to delay the project.
On his way to rendezvous with Maria Hill, Fury is ambushed by assailants led by a mysterious assassin called the Winter Soldier. Fury escapes to Rogers’ apartment, and warns Rogers that S.H.I.E.L.D. is compromised. After handing Rogers a flash drive containing data from the ship, Fury is gunned down by the Winter Soldier. Fury dies in surgery, and Hill recovers the body. The next day, Pierce summons Rogers to the Triskelion. When Rogers withholds Fury’s information, Pierce brands him a fugitive. Hunted by S.T.R.I.K.E., Rogers meets with Romanoff. Using data in the flash drive they discover a secret S.H.I.E.L.D. bunker in New Jersey, where they activate a supercomputer containing the preserved consciousness of Arnim Zola. Zola reveals that ever since S.H.I.E.L.D. was founded after World War II, Hydra has secretly operated within its ranks, sowing global chaos with the objective of making humanity willing to surrender its freedom in exchange for security. The pair narrowly escape death when a S.H.I.E.L.D. missile destroys the bunker, and realize that Pierce is Hydra’s leader within S.H.I.E.L.D.Rogers and Romanoff enlist the help of former USAF pararescueman Sam Wilson, whom Rogers befriended, and acquire his powered “Falcon” wingpack. Deducing that S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Jasper Sitwell is a Hydra mole, they force him to divulge that Zola developed a data-mining algorithm that can identify individuals who might become future threats to Hydra’s plans. The Insight Helicarriers will sweep the globe, using satellite-guided guns to eliminate these individuals. Rogers, Romanoff, and Wilson are ambushed by the Winter Soldier, who kills Sitwell. During the fight, Rogers recognizes the Winter Soldier as Bucky Barnes, his friend who was captured and experimented upon during WWII. Hill manages to extract the trio to a safehouse where Fury, who had faked his death, is waiting with plans to sabotage the Helicarriers by replacing their controller chips.
After the World Security Council members arrive for the Helicarriers’ launch, Rogers broadcasts Hydra’s plot to everyone at the Triskelion. Romanoff, disguised as one of the Council members, disarms Pierce. Fury arrives and forces Pierce to unlock S.H.I.E.L.D’s database so that Romanoff can leak classified information, exposing Hydra to the public. Following a struggle, Fury kills Pierce. Meanwhile, Rogers and Wilson storm two Helicarriers and replace the controller chips, but the Winter Soldier destroys Wilson’s suit and fights Rogers on the third. Rogers fends him off and replaces the final chip, allowing Hill to take control and have the vessels destroy each other. Rogers refuses to fight the Winter Soldier in an attempt to reach his friend, but as the ship collides with the Triskelion, Rogers is thrown out into the Potomac River. The Winter Soldier rescues the unconscious Rogers before disappearing into the woods. With S.H.I.E.L.D. in disarray, Romanoff appears before a Senate subcommittee and Fury, under the cover of his apparent death, heads to Eastern Europe in pursuit of Hydra’s remaining cells. Rogers and Wilson decide to find the Winter Soldier, while Rumlow, who was a double agent for Hydra, is hospitalized following the Triskelion’s destruction.
In a mid-credits scene, Baron Wolfgang von Strucker, at a Hydra lab, proclaims that the “age of miracles” has begun as scientists examine an energy-filled scepter and two prisoners: one with superhuman speed, the other with telekinetic powers. In a post-credits scene, the Winter Soldier visits a Bucky memorial at the Smithsonian Institution.

Seeing Cap and Black Widow banter about his dating life,  plays on the established chemistry between Evans and Johansson, working both the humor and the inherent pathos that defines their roles. That Mackie and Redford both effortlessly slide into this established dynamic is testament to what skilled performers they are. There is also some nice continuity to having the same writers return from The First Avenger to craft its sequel. There are plenty of parallels and callbacks here. when  watched back to back, you not only get to appreciate the original more, but enjoy how they connect.