Skip to main content

Review: The Box


Before I get started, let me get this out of the way. I hate when period pieces use the Benadryl haze to make it appear in the past. Public Enemies and No Country for Old Men both worked as period films without using the crutch of cinematography tricks. There, it had to be said.

Norma (Cameron Diaz) and Arthur Lewis (James Marsden) are a teacher and NASA employee in Richmond, VA. They don't make a lot of money, but they do what they can with what they have.

They are awoken one morning to find a box sitting on their front stoop. Once it is opened, the box informs them Arlington Steward (Frank Langella) will meet them at 5 p.m. the following evening.

Arlington Steward arrives and his appearance initially frightens Norma because of the massive burns that have erased almost half his face. Steward presents the deal: press the button and two things will happen 1) you will receive a cash sum of $1,000,000 and 2) someone they do not know will die. The deal is only available for twenty-four hours and then he will return to claim the box.

Initially, Arthur assures Norma that the whole deal is a hoax and the joke will be revealed at Norma sister's wedding. When pressed for money after their son's scholarship has been dropped and Arthur's application to become an astronaut is declined, the decision to press the button becomes much more than something to shrug off.

Anyone familiar with Richard Kelly's work (Donnie Darko, Southland Tales) knows that sometimes he veers into the realm of weirdness for only its own sake. But for once the weirdness in The Box makes sense and the film really takes off with the moviegoer gripped in suspense not quite putting it all together.

Frank Langella, while not given the material of another outstanding lead such as Frost/Nixon,
steals the show right out from Diaz and Marsden's feet. He makes this film very compelling for what could have been a throwaway villain.

Richard Kelly is an intriguing auteur because while his ambitions may sink him, you know he will never trot out a G.I. Joe or Transformers film. This film is probably most efficient as a scathing look about morality and the repercussions of greed in America, but it also succeeds as a thinking-man's horror film. With The Box's very split reactions, the film is just about critic-proof, you'll have to see for yourself.

**1/2 out of ****

Popular posts from this blog

Solo: A Star Wars Story

Viewer: Han, bubbe, you don't have to explain every small detail of your backstory that was mentioned in the original trilogy.
Han: I was named Solo by an Imperial recruiter.
V: Wait, didn't you detail your father's entire career building Millenium Falcons? How do you not know your last name?
H: ...
V: ...
H: There's a prequel cameo in the third act.
V: Yeah, I'm just going to go ahead and leave, alright?
H: I have a good feeling about this.

Herman Melville and Office Space

Just from gleaning the surface of Office Space one would assume that there isn't anything simmering below the surface except for a raunchy work-comedy, but they would be wrong.
After the harsh critical reception of his greatest work Moby Dick Melville wrote a collection of short stories called Bartleby and Benito Cereno perhaps the greatest slam at the time against industrial America. Bartleby is the story of a Wall Street copyist who has his three employees proof-read and copy law forms. Shortly into the story Bartleby starts responding to work commands with, "I would prefer not to." Frustrated by his employee's subordination the Narrator tries to have him fired but Bartleby refuses to leave the office. The Narrator comes back the following morning to find Bartleby living inside his office. Bartleby becomes increasingly less apt to perform basic functions as eating after he is jailed for trespassing and dies in a jail cell. What at once starts out as a comedy has …

Paprika vs. Inception

Months before Inception hit the theaters forums were alive with rumors that Christopher Nolan either accidentally or intentionally stole some details from another film, the Japanese anime Paprika. The biggest point of comparison for some bloggers and forum runners was the fact that both of the films featured a device that allowed a person, or people, to travel into another’s dreams and delve into their subconscious.
Minor points of comparison include scenes in Paprika where the character Paprika breaks through a mirrored wall by holding her hand to it, as well as a scene where a police detective falls his way down a hallway. Claims have been made that Inception abounds with imagery similar to or exactly like the anime movie, but with the recent release of the film on DVD and Blu-Ray, and with Paprika available for several years now, an examination of the two plots can be made more fully.
Let us begin with the primary claim—Inception stole the idea of a dream machine from Paprika. It …