By the time Japanese horror director Hideo Nakata (who also directed the soppy supernatural chiller "Dark Water," poorly remade by Walter Salles which we'll get to in a moment) made his stateside debut with "The Ring Two," he had already directed two entries in "The Ring" franchise back in Japan. So it's not a huge surprise that "The Ring Two" felt so lazy and phoned-in, but what was truly shocking was just how awful the movie would be. Instead of the elegant weirdness that Gore Verbinski brought to the remake, it was replaced by meandering spookiness that felt like an odd mishmash of elegiac Japanese storytelling styles uneasily mixing with the more Western focus on narrative mechanics. The resulting film was neither fish nor foul, less a movie than a collection of limply realized scares draped over "Scream 3" author Ehren Kruger's anemic script (Verbinski's script had a huge, wholly un-credited assist from Scott Frank) and punctuated by long stretches when literally nothing happens. None of what made the original Japanese "The Ring" such a late night kick was present in "The Ring Two;" and returning star Naomi Watts looked like she was embarrassed to be there, something the audience could sympathize with.
Jesus. Where to begin with "The Tourist"? A prestige end-of-the-year thriller starring handsome movie stars Johnny Depp (in a rare recent role that sees him free of both prosthetics and wigs) and Angelina Jolie, it also marked the English language debut of German director Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck, who just a couple of years earlier, directed the Oscar-winning "The Lives of Others," a film that managed to elegantly blend edge-of-your-seat thrills with a deeply melancholic, emotionally resonant worldview. "The Tourist" (based on the popular French film "Anthony Zimmer," which we only assume is million times better) showed nothing of von Donnersmarck's considerable abilities, instead serving as a series of banal, loosely connected chase set pieces that involved a mysterious criminal and mistaken identity (or something) and always took place in obnoxiously glamorous locations. The script has a similarly pedigreed background, having been worked on by "Downton Abbey" mastermind Julian Fellowes, "Usual Suspects" screenwriter Christopher McQuarrie and von Donnersmarck himself, but all the king's horses and all the king's men couldn't put humpty together again. It's hard to tell where, exactly, "The Tourist" went wrong since it's such a complete and utter disaster, but we're fairly sure that the language barrier was the least of this thing's worries.