• Ozzy Osbourne - Ordinary Man (2020)

    At age seventy-one, the career of The Prince of Darkness who has recently been battling with serious health problems is slowly coming to an end. While other artists would have retired long ago or just released a nostalgic retrospective, the Godfather of Heavy Metal has just released its twelfth studio record. While this release might not be able to compete with his early classics, it sounds surprisingly diversified, dynamic and entertaining and is his strongest solo output since at least Down to Earth nineteen years ago.

    This is especially due to Andrew Watt's involvement as a guitarist, motivator and producer who helped Ozzy Osbourne release his first solo record in ten years. He also managed to hire an astounding number of highly talented artists who certainly rate this album up. 

    Guns 'N' Roses bassist Duff McKagan offers a vibrant yet diversified performance as he shines in the heavier tunes but slows things down in the more introspective ballads. 

    Red Hot Chili Peppers drummer Chad Smith also unleashes some furious rhythms here and there while also stepping back and performing with much feeling in the slower tunes. 

    Guns 'N' Roses guitarist Slash appears on the surprisingly powerful and refreshingly contemporary opener ''Straight to Hell'' and the numbingly introspective ballad and title track ''Ordinary Man'' which can be considered highlights of this record. 

    Rage Against the Machine guitarist Tom Morello makes a refreshing appearance on one of the record's quirkiest and most experimental tunes entitled ''Scary Little Green Men''.

    Elton John is simply being himself performing vocals and piano on this release's nostalgic ballad 'Ordinary Man''. His style fits perfectly is this melancholic tune. His clean and smooth vocals complement Ozzy Osbourne's nasal and dramatic voice perfectly.

    Popular rapper Post Malone had invited Ozzy Obsourne to sing on his melancholic hit song ''Take What You Want'' last summer and has now returned the favour by appearing in the crazy, energetic and unpredictable ''It's a Raid'' that can be considered the album's most experimental tune that might be tough to digest at first contact but ends up being a solid grower.

    The most rewarding element is though that Ozzy Osbourne even manages to shine brightest when no guest musicians, rappers or singers are involved. Retrospective single ''Under the Graveyard'' is a song for the ages filled with stunning melodies, great lyrics and highly emotional vocals. The haunting contemporary sound effects blend in perfectly and contrast the more retrospective wild guitar solo that concludes the song on a high note. It starts as a fragile ballad but ends up being a progressively more unchained heavy metal anthem that touches your soul, heart and guts. This is easily the greatest song on the album and one of the best tunes in Ozzy Osbourne's outstanding career.

    Ozzy Osbourne deserves nothing but warmth, respect and recognition and the great things is that he is absolutely authentic, aware of his flaws and calls himself an ordinary man not because of a marketing strategy but because he truly believes it. If Ordinary Man were meant to be the last release in his career, it would certainly conclude it on a strong note. This album should appeal to fans of old date as well as to younger audiences. It's a strong heritage that will be remembered for years to come. Ozzy Osbourne might see himself as an ordinary man but he is a living legend and I wish him all the best.

    Final rating: 80%

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  • Ringu 0: Bâsudei / Ring 0 (2000)

    Ring 0: Birthday is the fourth entry in the Japanese horror movie franchise but intends to be a prequel that explains the origins of the cursed video tape. The most important thing to know is that this movie isn't a horror movie. It's a teenage drama that turns into grisly tragedy at the end.

    In this movie, Sadako isn't a hateful spirit thirsting for revenge to make its story known. The film takes place about thirty years before the previous entries. Sadako is a shy student who has just joined an acting group, quickly replaces the deceased lead actress and starts a gentle romantic relationship with sympathetic sound director Toyama Hiroshi. However, strange accidents and even murders start happening in and around the group. Sadaka is soon declared the potential cause and culprit. The sound director's selfish girlfriend Tachihara Etsuko in particular tries to harm her rival by any means necessary. The play ends in a disaster and things frantically spiral out of control from then on.

    On the positive side, this movie is refreshingly different from the other entries in the franchise. It's an emotive teenage drama with pessimistic and optimistic anecdotes. Things turn more sinister halfway through the film when mysterious accidents and murders occur. The movie ends in an intense tragedy and especially the final third is particularly intense. The acting performances are stellar and the best so far in the franchise. The fact that the viewers discover a completely new side of Sadako here helps them empathize with the ill-fated youngster.

    The obvious disadvantage is that anyone who knows the franchise already realizes how this movie is going to end. Despite some creative ideas, this film is by far the least suspenseful in the franchise up to that point. The film's first half slightly overstays its welcome and the side story of an investigating reporter is completely unnecessary.

    In a certain way, this movie bares many resemblances to adaptations of Stephen King's Carrie. We meet a charming girl who only desires to be accepted, loved and respected but things spiral out of control when she gets pushed too far. If you like teenage dramas with a sinister twist, give this movie a try. Adults and horror movie aficionados might however have a hard time appreciating this unusual entry in the franchise which can be considered an acquired taste. Just as the controversial second entry in the franchise entitled Spiral, Ring 0: Birthday however deserves more acclaim, attention and time than it has received because it takes some experimental risks and should be considered everything but boring in the context of the franchise.

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  • Ringu 2 / Ring 2 (1999)

    After Ring's initial sequel Spiral was met with negative response, the director of the original film Nakata Hideo got back on board and quickly filmed this new sequel Ring 2. The movie is closely connected to the first film as several characters come back here. The protagonist and her son don't die off the screen as in Spiral but have vanished and appear halfway through the movie. Timid student Takano Mai isn't the secret lover of the deceased professor but rather his diligent assistant. She doesn't team up with a suicidal pathologist but rather with an investigative journalist to break the curse.

    This alternative sequel has more supernatural elements than the rather scientific Spiral. It deals with telepathy, possession and exorcism and the movie becomes more daring in these regards as time goes by. After a sluggish start, the final third in particular is truly creative, intense and scary as it lives up to the original film's potential. The movie was met with critical acclaim, not only because its supernatural horror elements grasp the essence of the original movie but because they are executed with wit, pace and intensity.

    Even though the creative, diversified and experimental Spiral might be the better film in itself, Ring 2 goes back to the strengths of the original film and redeems the new franchise among fans around the world. Without this movie, there wouldn't have been any franchise in the first place and that's why this film is perhaps its most important entry objectively speaking. While the first two thirds are of an above average quality, the final third is a definite highlight and those final thirty minutes are perhaps even the best in the entire franchise. My suggestion would be to watch the original movie first, followed by the experimental Spiral as a stand-alone film and finally the more conventional alternative sequel Ring 2.

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  • Rasen / Spiral (1998)

    Spiral is a direct sequel to Japanese cult horror movie Ring and both movies were released simultaneously which underlines the franchise's experimental, fresh and groundbreaking approach right from the start. While Ring has been met with critical acclaim at home and abroad, Spiral has been met with mixed to negative reviews and has almost been completely ignored abroad. As a matter of fact, an alternative sequel titled Ring 2 was hastily shot and released one year later. Spiral was criticized for its unusual scientific approach to the genre, the introduction of completely new characters and the fact that the lead character of the first film and her son die off the screen and have no significant role in this sequel.

    The movie focuses on suicidal pathologist Ando Mitsuo who examines the body of his deceased colleague Takayama Ryuji. He has mysterious visions while examining the body and finds a cryptic note in his colleague's stomach. He starts investigating and soon learns about the cursed tape that his colleague watched a week before his demise. Soon enough, his colleague's ex-wife and son perish in a mysterious automobile accident. Obsessed with the case, Ando Mitsuo contacts the shady boss of the deceased investigative journalist. He also gets in touch with his colleague's former student and secret lover Takano Mai. The two solitary souls soon develop a sexual bond. They are determined to destroy all existing copies of the cursed tape. However, they soon realize that things might be more complicated than they had initially anticipated.

    While Spiral wasn't met with critical acclaim, it's certainly an underestimated entry in the franchise that innovates instead of repeating patterns of its immediate predecessor. The film finds the right balance between new scientific approaches explaining the cursed tape and supernatural elements that conclude the movie on an otherworldly tone. The idea to develop the quiet student Takano Mai into the professor's secret lover and sidekick of the pathologist adds much depth to the story. The protagonist is also quite intriguing and turns out to be a haunted soul who attempts to commit suicide in the very first scene of the film which is quite shocking.

    Spiral has the same gloomy atmosphere and sluggish pace as the predecessor but differs in all other departments. The scientific explanations are baffling, the suicidal protagonist is rather creepy and the supernatural conclusion seems like an antithesis to the grounded introduction. The movie experiments a lot and not all ideas might end up working out. However, Spiral deserves acclaim and attention as it pushes an already experimental horror franchise even further. The movie is filled with stunning details that justify watching it on multiple occasions. It's certainly the most creative, daring and intellectual entry in the franchise. Ignore the surprisingly negative comments and revisit this forgotten gem of the Ring franchise to make up your own mind about this unusual entry.

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  • Ringu / Ring (1998)

    Ring is the first movie of the famous Japanese horror film franchise based upon Nakata Hideo's cult novel of the same title from the early nineties. The movie was released simultaneously with its direct sequel Spiral. The former movie was met with critical acclaim at home and abroad and led to the creation of a series of influential Japanese horror movies such as The Grudge, Pulse and Dark Water during the next few years.

    This movie is different from its more violent, fast and explicit Western counterparts of the nineties. Ringu has a slow and at times even dragging pace. It attempts to tell a detailed story with intriguing characters instead of focusing on bloodshed and visual effects. The movie relies on its sinister atmosphere and avoids predictable jump scares. Only the final thirty minutes quicken up the pace and conclude in the franchise's most memorable scene.

    The film deals with a cursed videotape that kills whoever watches it within a week. After the tragic death of her niece, investigative reporter Asakawa Reiko wants to get more information about the mysterious short film. She finds the tape in a remote cabin where her niece and her friends had stayed for a weekend. Intrigued by the gloomy urban legend, Reiko watches the tape herself and soon feels cursed, isolated and nervous. She asks her intellectual ex-husband Takayama Ryuji for help. Things become more tense when their son unsuspectingly also watches the cursed tape. The professor and the reporter must travel to the island of Izu Oshima where parts of the tape seem to have been recorded. They discover that a psychic who committed suicide and her mysteriously vanished daughter seem to be related to the tape but their family members react with open hostility towards the investigations. As time is running out for the mother, father and son, they have to solve the origin of the curse to save their lives.

    If you expect Ring to be scary, intense and brutal, you should avoid watching it. This is a highly atmospheric, character-driven and slow-paced horror movie. Its target audience are people who are interested in Japanese culture and prefer a more intellectual approach to drama, horror and mystery genres. Ring is certainly an unusual approach for Western audiences and can be considered an acquired tense. Despite a few lengths, Ring is however creative, detailed and profound enough to keep you watching until the very end. Thanks to its uniqueness, this film ultimately deserves its excellent reputation as pioneer movie that brought Japanese horror cinema to international acclaim.

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