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The Box: Does It Smell Like A Turkey?

by Anne Thompson
September 29, 2009 4:32 AM
15 Comments
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Thompson on Hollywood

You tell me.

Richard Kelly has gone from Donnie Darko to the execrable Southland Tales to studio movie The Box. The thriller stars Cameron Diaz and James Marsden as a suburban couple with a young kid who receive a wooden box. Frank Langella drops by to tell them they can win $1 million by pushing a button--but they should know someone else will die if they do. It's based on the Richard Matheson short story, “Button, Button."

I was unimpressed by the footage Warners screened at Comic-Con. The trailer is below. What do you think? Early word on the street is pretty negative. We will see:

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More: Video, Trailers

15 Comments

  • Moi | October 16, 2009 6:36 AMReply

    Also, make sure to check out the website for the movie:

    http://thebox-movie.warnerbros.com/

    This is one creepy and atmospheric website lol. GREAT soundtrack that underscores some really stellar imagery.

  • Moi | October 16, 2009 6:32 AMReply

    "Early word on the street is pretty negative", eh?

    For the record, there have been many reviews of the Paris preview of "The Box", and ALL of them have been extremely positive, giving ratings of 4 stars out of 5, 9 stars out of 10, and 19 stars out of 20. I've read exactly ONE review that was completely negative (the same review that connor stumbled upon), but other than that this movie has been getting some decent feedback.

    A few samples:

    "...(gives) a true rise to the level of the anxiety in scenes orchestrated with dazzling virtuosity (the anniversary, car accident, marriage, conclusion). With The Box, Richard Kelly raises the bar prodigiously by reassuring those which had been disappointed by Southland Tales, while confirming with the others all the hopes placed in him since Donnie Darko. 9/10"

    "The Box is one of those films that has incredible power to plunge the viewer into an almost hypnotic state, a progressive immersion based on a haunting atmosphere and an economy of dramatic effects. 19/20"

    "As always with Matheson, this story here is more psychological rather than purely "science-fictive", but that's exactly what Richard Kelly needed as a "draft", to make another great movie full of implications and references. 9/10"

    "The Box is a film posed, like its 70's references, prefers to raise the tension, calmly but surely, rather than seeking the effects of a movie sprinkled with action twists. The film thrives on tension, dull discomfort, a palpable faintness...The Box is definitely not a movie made by it's pulsating action. But the force of its strength is more vibrate, and exciting to experience, though, it will perhaps not make many waves at box office, and it's not perfect but its very personal, and intellectually stimulating."

    "Beware of the "American" trailer (do not watch), which gives the wrong impression of a bad action movie: The Box is a film that is applied, thoughtful, educated, and belonging to the genus science fiction minimalist of films like Pi, Memento and Donnie Darko. Even if the film does not reach these levels, it still has the same taste and flavor is a valuable and still quite rare."

    "Despite making you approach it much more than it's prepared to come towards you, ''The Box'' is a very successful exercise in mood and tone. Win Butler's rambunctious soundtrack combines with a great sense of the mid 1970s to create a sense of menace that will keep you close to the edge of your seat, and though you're never as sure as you want to be of what's going on, the cinematic technique is brilliant. 4/5"

    Not sure where you're getting your sources for the "early word on the street", but the actual reviews are sounding promising at the very least.

  • Frances Willington | October 2, 2009 8:56 AMReply

    I watched the trailer for Kelly's THE BOX and I disagree with you. He is delving deeper into the unconscious morals of a so-called ordinary family, (celluloid familes can never really be ordinary), seeing if he can turn a rather borning, suburban, couple, down on their luck into paid killers. Can he sustain the psyholigical horror that generates....we won't know until the whole film is released.

  • Sfingali | September 29, 2009 9:30 AMReply

    The script is excellent. I suspect the reason it keeps getting a distribution date moved around is because it's difficult to genre classify; they're trying to sell it as a horror, which it is, kinda, but it's much more than that.

    It's very disciplined, which Southland Tales wasn't, but retains the elliptical qualities that took Donnie Darko to another level.

  • AoC | September 29, 2009 8:01 AMReply

    Again, call me a fanboy if you want. I don't care. And I'm not going to jump on this lady for writing a blog about a movie she hasn't seen, because honestly, it's the internet.

    I think I made some good points, but apprently, they never hit home for anyone. Oh well.

  • Crow T Robot | September 29, 2009 7:50 AMReply

    Come on, Annie, you're supposed to be the sane blogger.

    Hyping a film good or bad before you see it is unethical for a film critic. It could damage the (always delicate) distribution process... for small films especially.

    I'm no fan of space cadet Richard Kelly but even his flicks deserve a fair shake.

  • AoC | September 29, 2009 7:36 AMReply

    Well, Joe, I don't think I was rambling or not making sense in my little rant. And I stand by everything I said.

    You're calling Southland Tales an ego trip? That makes me laugh. Nothing says ego trip like a science fiction movie starring a clusterfrick of actors all taken out of their usually roles and made to do something totally different. Sometimes it worked(The 4 main leads were great, Wallace Shawn was great) sometimes it didn't (Cheri Oteri and Amy Poehler).

    You want to talk about an ego trip, then we could debate whether or not "There Will Be Blood" was anything other than cinematic masturbation. If Paul Thomas Anderson has made Southland Tales and Richard Kelly had made TWBB, then Southland would have been awarded with Oscars and such, while TWBB would be panned for being self indulgent.

    You can call me a fanboy or whatever you like of Kelly's work, but I'm just saying it like it is. He definitley needs to improve as a director, but his writing skills are top notch, and I'm able to see past mistakes made behind the camera for the actual message being relayed on screen.

    The last thing I want Kelly to do is to abandon the people who got him where he is today. Kevin Smith, Quiton Tarantino, and several other directors stick with the same producers almost their entire career, and have turned out fine.

    Even if you think I'm rambling, think on this final statement. When Richard Kelly makes a film, there is one thing you can be certain about: It will be as close to his vision as he is able to get it. Now, if it turns out bad or good, one thing is certain, and that is that you are watching HIS movie. And I, for one, respect the hell out of him for that.

  • Connor | September 29, 2009 7:29 AMReply

    true so I did some more digging...& i apologize for being a prick. I read a negative review from fantastik fest in sweden, it was harsh.

  • Connor | September 29, 2009 7:21 AMReply

    where the fuck is all this negative talk you've heard about? that comment sounds like you pulled it out of your ass...I cant find one review on the net except for one that was written like year & half ago after they screened a very early edit of it...& it was positive. link something to back your claim up or dont write this trash.

  • Joe Valdez | September 29, 2009 6:24 AMReply

    I hope The Box works, Anne, but it probably says something that I have no desire to look at that trailer and won't see this in a theater unless it gets rave reviews. And about the only thing "AoC" raved that made any sense is that critics will probably scratch this.

    Richard Kelly is a talent, but needs to be working with strong, professional producers -- as opposed to sycophants or bong buddies -- in the way Tim Burton has his entire career. Otherwise you end up with massive ego trips like Southland Tales.

  • AoC | September 29, 2009 5:46 AMReply

    SHOCKER

    People don't like Richard Kelly's new movie! omgz!1!

    I bet I will at least like it, if not love it. Talk about a guy who doesn't give a damn what people think of his stuff. Darko is Darko, everyone is in agreeance that it was great, but now that everyone knows about it, who cares? It doesn't make you cool anymore.

    I, for one, love Southland Tales. It's a bold movie that gracefully handles many issues. Flawed but fearless, it's a movie I would watch many more times than Transformers or G.I. Joe, which are just cardboard cutout, copy and past films.

    The Box will probably get bad reviews. I will see it, I will like it, and there will be a core group of people who love it. Then, 5-7 years later, as with Darko, and also, as I believe will happen with Southland, people will rediscover it, and critics like Ebert will be forced to go back, and rewatch, and then change their reviews, ala Darko and Fight Club.

    BTW, Darko was critically panned when it came out as well.

  • Alan Green | September 29, 2009 3:32 AMReply

    have to agree. i love this type of material. to me (i know this won't make any sense) the box and surrogates have the same vibe. it's the type of entertainment i like. spacey, out there, cool, fun, escapist, improbable but neat to imagine. unfortunately, neither of these movies seem to have much promise. i watch the trailers and want it to be good but know it's going to (probably) be bad, tired, hokey, embarrassing on some level to some degree, and ultimately a disappointment.

    on the flip side, i'll buy each of these movies on disc. -- not at full price though --

    on another subject i have to wonder if it is ethical or correct to indicate on your blog the general timbre of opinion you may have encountered regarding movies that people haven't seen? that is, is an internet blog the proper venue for voicing opinions about movies which have yet to be seen? should a person be allowed to voice their opinions before the fact? perhaps it would be better to wait until your opinion, or that of other people, could be taken as fact -- that is, until after the person offering their opinion as actually seen the movie and knows whether it's good or not, knows whether they liked it or not, and is not guessing in a haphazard and unreliable prospective manner about a film which they have not yet seen. it seems to me to be clear: an opinion about something which has not been experienced should be considered suspect -- just so much 'smoke and mirrors' as it were. only opinions about things which have been experienced by the person offering said opinion may be considered worthy of merit or consideration, or 'opinionated fact' free from wild conjecture.

    that being said, perhaps you have committed some offense in conveying the nature of comments you have heard (in person) about movies which the people who made these comments had not yet seen at the time they made such opinions known, and publishing such opinions in a venue as public an internet blog, for all to see.

    of course, by that 'logic', i too (in my statement of opinion found directly above) have committed a similar offense. a crime. a transgression. for i, myself, have not seen either 'the box' or 'surrogates', and yet i have offered an opinion about these two movies as if i had seen them and, therefore, were an expert on the content and execution of these movies. if that be the case, then i ask for a pardon for my crimes. although ignorance be not a defense, i didn't know.

    (sorry, couldn't help myself)

  • arich47 | September 29, 2009 3:07 AMReply

    I have to say I am intrigued by the trailer and will probably go see it, but for anyone who has read the original story, it could be a tough adaptation. The story "Button, Button" is only about 10 pages long with, what I thought, was a terrible ending. It has potential though if Kelly makes the idea his own.

  • Slappy | September 29, 2009 2:30 AMReply

    Watch out, Anne, the Richard Kelly fanboys are on your tail! I agree with your assessment. The film looks pretty awful, and the script shows a complete lack of understanding of Matheson's story (and yes fanboys I have read it).

    Donnie Darko is an okay film, but doesn't hold up much to scrutiny. All of Kelly's other efforts be it his scripting of Domino or his cinematic laughing-stock Southland Tales, show that in this case the emperor has no clothes.

  • Anne Thompson | September 29, 2009 1:11 AMReply

    I'm sharing my reaction to the Comic-Con footage and the trailer, as well as the bad word I've heard (on twitter and god forbid, in person). And I'm soliciting your response as well. As I indicated, we will soon see. If the movie turns out to be good, I will write about that too.

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