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“The Box” {Blu-ray"
Reviewer:
Wayne Klein
Studio: Warner
Genre:
Horror
Release Date:
2/21/10
Special Features:

Commentary with director, featurette, deleted scene

Review:

What would you do for money, for power or fame? Would you condemn others and, in essence, sell your own soul in the process? Based on Richard Matheson’s classic short story, “The Box” should be part of the required reading and watching curriculum for CEO’s who have set into motion the worst depression since the Great Depression. We have people being laid off left and right without regard to tenure, years of service and what THEY’VE done for the “company”. These people now are treated as trash cast aside when their service is no longer needed because of misguided decisions by management or, worse, a global economy that doesn’t have an investment in the community it takes from any longer. There are consequences for everyone’s actions and these big wigs are insulated from those consequences receiving their fat salaries, bonuses (something that is obscene in this time of turmoil and economic hardship—the fact that bank executives GOT bonuses. It seems to me when you run your business in the ground and seek economic salvation from the government—which banks don’t want meddling in their fiancés in the first place—then you invite criticism for having screwed up priorities. I know most sales people who if they “produced” like these individuals did wouldn’t even have jobs at the end of the week much less a “bonus” check), special jets and other perks. They’ll never understand or see the damage they cause to the world and will blithely and ignorantly go on with their lives justifying reprehensible behavior. ***

That’s really what “The Box” is all about—consequences for your actions and those around you even if they are people you’ve never met. When Norma (Cameron Diaz) and Arthur (James Marsden) find a mysterious package waiting for them at home and, later, are visited by the creepy Mr. Stewart (Frank Langella) they end up getting their wishes as if from the proverbial Genie in a bottle. These wishes come with a price tag and gets more and more difficult to pay emotionally once they realize what they’ve done. You see “The Box” has a button and you can get, say, a million dollars when you ask for it and push the big red button but you also condemn someone else to suffer or die in the process. Obviously inspired by the experiments infamous experiments by Stanley Milgram during the 1960’s, Matheson’s tale looks at the spiritual and personal cost of compromising your own ethics for benefit once the consequences move from impersonal to personal. ***

Written for the screen and directed by Richard Kelly (“Donnie Darko”, “Southland Tales”), “The Box” manages to be riveting until the last third of the film where the film unravels; the melodramatic and increasingly unrealistic (ironic given that this IS a fantasy)twists and turns that the drama takes stretches the goodwill of the audience AND credibility that Kelly’s first two acts earns. ***

That’s too bad because Kelly remains a talented artist who makes films that often touch on personal issues and concerns while still appealing to a mainstream audience. Similar to “Knowing” the first two thirds of the film are powerful, moody and magnificent at times before stumbling with a complete shift of tone (“The Prestige” is the only film I’ve experienced in recent memory that managed to successfully complete that transition). Image & Sound:

“The Box” has a nice, sharp transfer that looks particularly good capturing the vintage “look” that Kelly was vying for with the film. Skin tones look extremely good, blacks are rich and good looking. Even though the film didn’t do well in theaters Warner has taken the time to produce a nice looking Blu-ray disc. ***

Audio sounds quite good throughout although I was a bit surprised at how one dimensional the mix is for this fine film. ---

Special Features:

We get the standard definition DVD and Digital Copy on the same disc. We also get a fine commentary track with Kelly discussing how personal the story is to him, CGI work done in the film, etc. ***

“Grounded in Reality” focuses on the elements of Kelly’s childhood that ended up in the film. ***

“In His Own Words” features author Richard Matheson (now 83!) discussing his experiences, the writing process and the story. Matheson is a well known writer who was a writer on the original “Twilight Zone” but also wrote fantasy/horror flicks such as “Duel” (Steven Spielberg’s TV movie), “The Night Stalker”, “The Night Strangler”, “Hell House” (based on his novel), I Am Legend (the basis for the film of the same name as well as “The Last Man on Earth”, “The Omega Man”). ***

Finally we get three music videos. ---

Final Words:

“The Box” starts off terrific but gets on slippery ground and veers out of control during its last act. It’s an entertaining movie and it’s a pity that we don’t have any alternate endings, etc. as part of the package. The ending will probably make this one film you’ll watch once or twice. Rent it.

 

 
 
 
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