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Although the movie isn’t perfect, writer/director Richard Kelly’s THE BOX ($36) is never less than an intriguing science fiction conceit wrapped around a morality tale. With THE BOX, Richard Kelly has fleshed out Richard Matheson’s short story Button, Button and added some THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL styled science fiction to add deeper ramifications for humanity. THE BOX is set in 1976 and opens in Richmond, Virginia… with a ringing doorbell awakening the residents of a particular household at 5:45am. Norma Lewis (Cameron Diaz) and her husband Arthur (James Marsden) venture downstairs to find a brown paper wrapped package on their front doorstep. Inside the package is a wooden box with a button protected by a glass dome, which is locked with a key. Accompanying the box is a note that advises that a Mr. Steward will come to call upon them at 5:00pm.

Leaving the box at home, Norma and Arthur venture off to their jobs, only to find themselves each facing a professional setback that will negatively impact the couple’s financial future. Norma is the first to arrive at home, and she is there to greet a horribly disfigured Arlington Steward (Frank Langella), who appears at the couple’s door promptly at 5:00pm. Getting to business relatively quickly, Steward offers Norma the following proposition: he will pay her one million dollars, tax free, and in cash, if she presses the button sealed inside the glass dome of the box. Of course, there is one catch: if she does press the button, someone that she does not know will die. Departing as quickly as he arrived, Steward gives Norma twenty-four hours to discuss the matter with her husband and make her decision; otherwise the offer will be withdrawn… and made to someone else. As you might expect, the moral dilemma is the least of the problems the couple faces as a result of the encounter with Arlington Steward and the box. The cast of THE BOX also includes James Rebhorn, Holmes Osborne, Sam Oz Stone, Gillian Jacobs, Celia Weston, Deborah Rush, Lisa K. Wyatt, Mark S. Cartier, Kevin Robertson, Michele Durrett, Ian Kahn, John Magaro, Ryan Woodle and Basil Hoffman.

Warner Home Video has made THE BOX available on Blu-ray Disc in a 2.35:1 aspect ratio presentation that has been encoded onto the disc with the VC-1 codec. In general, the 1080p presentation is quite satisfying and nicely recreates the film’s stylized look. As THE BOX was shot digitally with Panavision Genesis cameras, I would imagine the stylized visuals are the end result of post-production tinkering. Since THE BOX is set in the mid-seventies, the movie has a mildly retro look, but the filmmakers’ bag of tricks also employs mild diffusion, as well as high contrast and a slightly skewed color palette, which adds to the off putting qualities of the science fiction story. Additionally, the application of diffusion does take the edge off the level of fine detail, without the picture appearing overtly soft. Colors can be sometimes appear a bit cold and desaturated, but again, there is also something of a skewing of the hues towards a more a sallow seventies film color scheme. Black are pure and the whites remain stable, despite the push applied to the film’s contrast. Shadow detail is somewhat under whelming, but the effect appears to coincide with the overall stylization of the visuals. As this is an end-to-end digital production, there is no actual film grain in the image.

THE BOX is presented on Blu-ray Disc with a 5.1 channel DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack. Although there are science fiction elements throughout the film, THE BOX plays primarily in the talky mode, and hence much of the sound is localized toward the front. Still, the mix remains highly atmospheric and makes use of the outlying channels to convey convincing real world sonic environments. Of course, there are a number of nicely implemented moments, where the sound design becomes more complex and layered, but the track never becomes particularly showy. Fidelity is strong and the film’s musical score is rendered with marvelous sense of presence. The bass channel adds a bit of oomph, but is never overblown. Dialogue has a full natural timbre and is always easy to understand. French and Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 channel tracks are also encoded onto the disc, as are English, French and Spanish subtitles.

The interactive menus allow one access to the standard scene selection and set up features, as well as a few extras. Starting things off is a running Audio Commentary with writer/director Richard Kelly. Featurettes and other programs include the following: The Box: Grounded In Reality (eleven minutes), Richard Matheson: In His Own Words (five minutes), Visual Effects Revealed (four minutes) and Music Video Prequels: Exhibits A-B-C (nine minutes). A DVD and Digital Copy of the film are also provided, with both housed on the second disc of this set.

Writer/director Richard Kelly’s THE BOX is certainly an intriguing film, despite some flaws. The Blu-ray presentation does a fine job with the stylized visuals and should please fans. THE BOX is recommended to those who like films that don’t tie up things into neat little packages.



The Box [Blu-ray] (2009)


DVD & Blu-rayDisc reviews are Copyright © 2010 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.



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