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Rings: Blu-ray + DVD + Digital HD Review

Rings (2017) movie poster Rings

Theatrical Release: February 3, 2017 / Running Time: 102 Minutes / Rating: PG-13

Director: F. Javier Gutiérrez / Writers: David Loucka, Jacob Estes (story & screenplay); Akiva Goldsman (screenplay); Kôji Suzuki (novel The Ring)

Cast: Matilda Lutz (Julia), Alex Roe (Holt Anthony), Johnny Galecki (Gabriel Brown), Vincent D'Onofrio (Galen Burke), Aimee Teegarden (Skye), Bonnie Morgan (Samara), Chuck Willis (Blue), Patrick Walker (Jamal), Zach Roerig (Carter), Laura Slade Wiggins (Faith), Lizzie Brocheré (Kelly)

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A remake of a Japanese film, 2002's The Ring was the rare horror movie to reach blockbuster status.
It did so with genuine thrills and organic word of mouth. It was a big enough hit to inspire a sequel three years later, but The Ring Two was not a big enough deal to inspire additional sequels. Still, franchises are all the rage these days, even revived ones that seem to have run their course. So, a year and a half after it was originally scheduled, Paramount released Rings, the third installment in a series few would have classified as active.

Rings opens with a prologue set on an airplane, as two attractive strangers make small talk through some turbulence. The guy admits he's recently watched an unsettling video tape rumored to bring death to those who watch it within a week. Needless to say, he doesn't make it past the prologue.

In "Rings", Julia (Matilda Lutz) goes looking for her missing collegiate boyfriend (Alex Roe) and finds he's deep into a disturbing game.

Jumping ahead two years, we next find a rummage sale of his possessions including a VCR with that fated cassette jammed inside it. It is acquired by Gabriel Brown (Johnny Galecki), a college biology professor who will come to feature as the film's tertiary lead. Our two primary leads are Julia (Matilda Lutz, doing a pretty good job of hiding her native Italian accent) and Holt Anthony (Alex Roe), a good-looking couple about to part ways for the start of a college semester. They vow to Skype nightly but shortly before they are to meet up on Columbus Day weekend, Holt ghosts her.

It is troubling and unexpected enough for Julia to show up at his campus looking for him. She finds an underground club run by the likable Gabriel, who has turned the death-bringing tape into a kind of sociology experiment. As you may remember from the original film, those who watch the tape of horse drownings, dimension-traversing flies, and various miscellaneous horrors are doomed to die in seven days...unless they make a copy and share it with someone else, a target Gabriel has coined "a tail."

Well, times have changed. Now copying is done without tape decks, as QuickTime files are dragged and dropped. But that process has become complicated by the inexplicable addition of some mysterious frames and difficulties copying files.

Vincent D'Onofrio plays Galen Burke, a blind man with a bit of a past.

Rings does a good job of recreating the look and tone of the original film, down to the green and yellow-tinted views of rainy Seattle. Its mystery, however, proves to be much less involving than the one that helped make Naomi Watts sort of a movie star.
It concerns the lineage of the spooky girl Samara from the original video, which leads Julia to a blind old man (a menacing Vincent D'Onofrio) and a new legend involving the girl, a well, and a religious figure.

Directed by Spain's F. Javier Gutiérrez and scripted by the random, uncollaborative trio of Oscar winner Akiva Goldsman (A Beautiful Mind), David Louka (2012's The House at the End of the Street), and Jacob Estes (The Details), Rings borrows from the Final Destination series and The Sixth Sense. It attempts some jump scares to minimal effect but occasionally flirts with some creepy atmosphere and suspense. It doesn't sustain that, nor does it ever keep you invested anywhere near as well as the 2002 movie did. But who would expect otherwise on an untimely sequel whose hopes for success rely on you knowing its brand but only chance of winning you over is you not having seen the better version of it?

Thoroughly unloved by critics, Rings opened in second place, narrowly trailing M. Night Shyamalan's Split, then in its third weekend. That ho-hum debut represented about half of what Rings would ultimately gross, ending with $27.8 million, a disappointment even in light of the modest $25 M budget. This winter release hits stores on the first Tuesday of May in a barebones DVD and the Blu-ray + DVD + Digital HD combo pack reviewed here.

Rings: Blu-ray + DVD + Digital HD combo pack cover art - click to buy from Amazon.com Blu-ray & DVD Details

1.78:1 Widescreen (DVD Anamorphic)
Blu-ray: Dolby TrueHD/Atmos 7.1 (English); Dolby Digital 5.1 (French, Spanish, Portuguese, English DVS)
DVD: Dolby Digital 5.1 (English, Dolby Digital 5.1 (French, Spanish, Descriptive Video Service)
Subtitles: English, French, Spanish, Portuguese; BD-only: English SDH
DVD Closed Captioned; Extras Subtitled
Release Date: May 2, 2017 / Suggested Retail Price: $39.99
Two single-sided, dual-layered discs (BD-50 & DVD-9)
Blue Eco-Friendly Keepcase in Cardboard Slipcover
Also available as standalone DVD ($29.99 SRP) and Amazon Instant Video

VIDEO and AUDIO

Utilizing every pixel available, Rings looks as good as intended on Blu-ray. The 1.78:1 presentation is sharp and atmospheric, while its only glitches are the deliberate kind used to convey source limitations (like the deadly video). The Blu-ray's 7.1 Dolby TrueHD/Atmos soundtrack should satisfy most viewers as well.

Actress Aimee Teegarden voices her excitement over the original remake in "Terror Comes Full Circle." A peripheral presence in the film, Bonnie Morgan is all over the bonus features, particularly "Resurrecting the Dead" which details her make-up transformation into Samara.

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS, PACKAGING and DESIGN

The Blu-ray's all-HD extras begin with "Terror Comes Full Circle" (12:37),

a featurette that places this installment into the context of the series. Cast and crew speak highly of the original movie and voice their excitement at being involved with this update while elaborating on what this does in terms of effects.

"Resurrecting the Dead: Bringing Samara Back" (9:19) delves into the make-up used to turn Bonnie Morgan into Samara, with the actress explaining what she underwent.

"Scary Scenes" (6:35) lets the cast describe some of the film's more unsettling moments. Why? I'm not sure.

Finally and most significantly, we get a section of fourteen deleted/extended/alternate scenes, which runs 18 minutes and 40 seconds altogether. These include some disturbing visions and an alternate ending.

Otherwise devoid of bonus features, the DVD opens with trailers for Transformers: The Last Knight and xXx: Return of Xander Cage and an anti-smoking spot. The disc's "Previews" listing runs trailers for Approaching the Unknown, Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension, and 10 Cloverfield Lane before repeating the other two. The Blu-ray opens with streaming trailers.

The static, quietly scored menu simply adapts the poster/cover artwork.

The two plain discs share an eco-friendly keepcase, topped by a glossy slipcover. A sticker on the sleeve promises Digital HD of The Ring and The Ring Two are included with your purchase of this. Indeed, a single code for the two predecessors is found on the back of the insert supplying the Digital HD with UltraViolet code for Rings.

Are Julia's (Matilda Lutz) days numbered after seeing that fateful video? You'll have to watch "Rings" to find out.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

Rings isn't bad enough to warrant its critical drubbing and public snubbing, but it also doesn't do much to excite you about a dormant horror franchise that probably would have been fine as one unsettling standalone film. Paramount's combo pack supplies good picture and sound, some decent bonus features, plus digital copies of the two previous movies, but it's not a set you'll need to own or even rent without a serious love of the genre.

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Related Reviews:
The Ring
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Blair Witch10 Cloverfield LaneParanormal Activity 3The Conjuring 2
Alex Roe: The 5th Wave | Johnny Galecki: HancockVanilla SkyIn Time
Vincent D'Onofrio: The JudgeRun All NightMen in Black | Aimee Teegarden: Prom
Written by Jacob Estes: The Details | Written by Akiva Goldsman: Winter's TaleAngels & Demons

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Reviewed May 1, 2017.



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