AVS Forum banner
1 - 20 of 21 Posts

·
Blu-ray Reviewer
Joined
·
15,080 Posts
Discussion Starter · #1 ·


The Review at a Glance: (max score: 5 )

Film:


Extras:


Audio/Video total rating:

( Max score: 100 )

79






Studio and Year: Warner - 2009
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Feature running time: 116 minutes
Genre: Drama/Thriller

Disc Format: BD-25
Encoding: VC-1
Video Aspect: 2.35:1
Resolution: 1080p/24


Audio Format(s): English DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio, French/Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1
Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish
Starring: Cameron Diaz, Frank Langella, James Marsden, James Rebhorn
Written & Directed by: Richard Kelly
Music by:
Based on the short story Button, Button by: Richard Matheson
Region Code: A

Blu-ray Disc release Date: February 23, 2010







"You are the experiment"



Film Synopsis:


Push a red button on a little black box, get a million bucks cash. But there's a catch: Someone, somewhere - someone they don't know - will die. Cameron Diaz and James Marsden play a couple confronted by agonizing temptation yet unaware they're already part of an orchestrated an - for them and us - mind-blowing chain of events.



My Take:


I thought that The Box had good potential based upon what I had seen from the brief snippets contained in the trailer. Based upon the short story Button,Button by Richard Matheson it tells the story of an ominous stranger appearing at the door of a middle class couple wielding a black box with a large single red button. The stranger, Arlington Stewart (Langella), offers a million dollars if they would be willing to push the button. There is a caveat that should they push the button, somewhere, someone, that they don't know, will die. Should they elect not to push the button they will receive $100 as a consolation. He gives them 24 hours to make a decision before the offer expires. Norma and Arthur Lewis (Diaz/Marsden) are a happy couple living is a suburban Virginia community with their 12 year old son. Arthur is an engineer with NASA and Norma is a school teacher. Happy as they are, like most families, life has presented them with challenges. She has a physical impairment that causes her to limp, and he has aspirations for acceptance into the space program but can't pass the psychological analysis. Finances are tight and the program at Norma's job (a private school) that allows their son to go there for free has just been terminated. Enter Mr. Stewart and his black button unit. Arlington has a disfiguring burn scar on his face which makes him an imposing sight and provides some insight into who he may be. Arthur sees no legitimacy in the box or the offer while Norma ponders over the possibility. With the deadline drawing near Norma presses the button while telling herself and Arthur that it's just a button. Arlington shows up right on time, acknowledges their acceptance of the terms, and presents them with a briefcase containing the cash. The Lewis' start to ask questions about what is going to happen and who may have been affected by their act. Arlington takes the black box back and tells them that he will not divulge any further information other than the fact that the next person that he turns the box over to will most assuredly be someone that they don't know...

The original short story's elements didn't have the substance to completely flesh out these characters so writer/director Richard Kelly developed the screenplay using parts of his parent's lives as a guide. I thought that this worked well as it served to help draw them as realistic and sympathetic people that could easily be identified with. This was essential to the film because the other aspects of the story have a fragmented feel like pieces of a puzzle that when formed don't present a complete picture. On the surface it has a Hitchcock style theme but underneath is rooted in a Rod Serling type science fiction that speaks to our sense of morality. It takes place in the mid 1970's and uses some of the historical events of the time as a foundation. It is clearly obvious that Richard Kelly is a fan of the short story and knew how he wanted to convey his interpretation of it. The problem for me is that there are unanswered questions that disturb the story's flow. I don't think that it degrades the core elements which is where its strength lies but leaves it seeming a bit pretentious and over indulged. I liked the characters and appreciated the performances by Diaz, Marsden, and Langella. I didn't care for the ending but then again I am not a fan of films with too much inexplicability. I purposefully avoided going into detail regarding the film's specifics because there are things that need to be learned as you watch and revealing them here would spoil that. The Box isn't a bad film, it is a film with excellent potential that unfortunately is never fully realized. I plan on giving it a second viewing to see if it resonates deeper because it has enough substance to warrant it.



Parental Guide:


The rating is for thematic elements, some violence and disturbing images.





AUDIO/VIDEO - By The Numbers:
REFERENCE = 92-100 / EXCELLENT = 83-91 / GOOD = 74-82 / AVERAGE = 65-73 / BELOW AVERAGE = under 65

**My audio/video ratings are based upon a comparative made against other high definition media/blu-ray disc.**


(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)


Audio: 78


  • Dynamics:

  • Low frequency extension:

  • Surround Sound presentation:

  • Clarity/Detail:

  • Dialogue Reproduction:






Video: 80


(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)

  • Resolution/Clarity:

  • Black level/Shadow detail:

  • Color reproduction:

  • Fleshtones:

  • Compression:

The Box comes to Blu-ray disc from Warner featuring 1080p VC-1 encoded video that has an average bitrate of 23 mbps and lossless DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio sound that has an average bitrate of 4.3 mbps.

Shot using digital video this film has a noticeably soft aesthetic that tends to leave it appearing drab and occasionally flat. The stylized nature of the film is intentional however there were times I found it distracting. Blacks are fairly deep with delineated shadows and strong depth. Colors are cleanly rendered with bright primaries that are noticeably subdued and a limited palette of secondary colors that aren't visually engaging either. Fleshtones have a balmy tonal quality that leaves them lacking in variety and looking a bit lifeless. Contrast and brightness is well balanced with bright scenes tending to fare a little better than darker ones but the overall visual style remains intact. Images are rendered cleanly with strong resolution and discernible refinement that is appreciable but not definitive. The video has a blemish free and non filmic pristine quality that some may appreciate while others may not care for. This is essentially a dialogue driven film however there are aspects of the presentation that make effective use of the rear channels to expand the soundstage. Dialogue is crystal clear with discerning vocal description and refined texture. The mix relies heavily upon the front three channels. Separation, imaging and directional spacing are excellent as the mix of dialogue, music and recorded sounds are clearly articulated. The LFE channel is used primarily for subtle impact and for upper bass frequencies associated with the film's music. This is not the kind of track that is designed to be boisterous but it worked well with the source material and sounded fine.



Bonus Features:

  • Director commentary

  • (HD) The Box: Grounded in reality - 10 minute featurette

  • (HD) Richard Matheson: In his own words - 5 minutes

  • (HD) Visual effects revealed: Examines 3 FX segments - Arlingtons face, The water coffins, transforming Richmond

  • (HD) Music video prequels - 3 segments totaling 9 minutes

  • Bonus DVD of The Box

  • Digital Copy which provides a code that allows a standard version of The Box to be downloaded to a portable media playback device





Final Thoughts:


The Box is an average thriller that fails to live up to the strength of its premise. Writer/director Richard Kelly pours quite a bit of himself into the script which works both for and against the outcome. I appreciated the basis of the main characters on his parents and felt that it enlivened them. The film's convoluted narrative is never thoroughly fleshed out which leaves it lacking cohesiveness and feeling less than satisfying in the end. It isn't completely without merit and that coupled along with the performances by the cast keep interest from waning. Its debut on Blu-ray Disc from Warner features admirable audio/video quality and an average compliment of bonus supplements that include Blu-ray Disc exclusive content. If youre curious this is worth throwing in your rental queue.















Ralph Potts
AVS Forum Blu-ray Reviews





Reference Review System:



JVC DLA-RS20 1080p High Definition Front Projector (Calibrated by Jeff Meier)

Stewart Filmscreen - Studiotek 130 G3 100 16x9 Screen

Anthem AVM50v THX Ultra 2 Preamp/Video Processor

Sherbourn Technologies - 7/200 Seven Channel Amplifier

Oppo BDP-83 Universal disc/Blu-ray Player (HDMI Audio/Video)

Toshiba HD-XA2 HD DVD Player (HDMI Audio/Video)

Sony Playstation 3 Blu-ray disc Player (HDMI Audio/Video)

Oppo 970HD universal disc DVD Player (480i HDMI)

Philips TSU9400 Pro Series Touch Panel Remote Control

Canton "Ergo" Series speakers

Axiom Audio QS8 Quadpolar speakers

SV Sound PB-13 Ultra (Rosenut finish)

APC AV S15BLK Power Conditioner/Surge Protector

Furman SPR-20i Stable Power Regulator

Wireworld, VizionWare, Audioquest, Best Deal Cables - Audio/Video/Speaker Cabling

Cool Components - CP-CP102 cooling package
 

·
Banned
Joined
·
1,292 Posts
Too bad they didn't include the Matheson-penned TWILIGHT ZONE episode as an extra. Looking forward to seeing if the film's ending is more akin to the original story than the TZ version was. (Although I liked both.)
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
1,190 Posts
This was definitely a intriguing movie to say the least. Especially at the very ending when things start falling into place. Since this is also somewhat of a sci-thriller i'd have to collect this one.


Cheers
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
57 Posts
I thought this movie started off strong plot wise, but by the end of the film I was confused and dissappointed. I felt like I was riding a train with no final destination. Being left with several unanswered questions is frustrating.
I would definitely recommend renting this movie first rather than blind buying it.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
959 Posts
I am a huge fan of Matheson's writings so I'll certianly rent this and perhaps buy it if I like it enough to watch more than once.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
688 Posts
The Box is one of the most underrated films of 2009 IMHO. It's just sad that most reviews don't show that. It was really well done and often misunderstood.


As for the video being soft, it was actually accurate to what Richard Kelly wanted to accomplish. He wanted to capture that 70's movie look.


Anyhow, this is just my opinion but I think it's well worth a watch if nothing else. You might be surprised.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
3,945 Posts

Quote:
Originally Posted by GioGambino /forum/post/18182373


The Box is one of the most underrated films of 2009 IMHO. It's just sad that most reviews don't show that. It was really well done and often misunderstood.


As for the video being soft, it was actually accurate to what Richard Kelly wanted to accomplish. He wanted to capture that 70's movie look.


Anyhow, this is just my opinion but I think it's well worth a watch if nothing else. You might be surprised.

When a Director gets the brilliant idea to intentionally degrade pq to a certain period, how about selling the movie at the prices in effect during that time period?
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
688 Posts

Quote:
Originally Posted by aydu /forum/post/18182904


When a Director gets the brilliant idea to intentionally degrade pq to a certain period, how about selling the movie at the prices in effect during that time period?

Haha I can't comment on that. It wasn't my decision and nobody is forcing you to buy it.


Just as an aside, High Def Digest rated the video 4 1/2 out of 5. I guess it's just in the eyes of the beholder. I haven't seen the Blu Ray yet so I can't comment.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
3,945 Posts

Quote:
Originally Posted by GioGambino /forum/post/18183935


Haha I can't comment on that. It wasn't my decision and nobody is forcing you to buy it.


Just as an aside, High Def Digest rated the video 4 1/2 out of 5. I guess it's just in the eyes of the beholder. I haven't seen the Blu Ray yet so I can't comment.

Many reviewers rate the video based on it being accurate to the source. When a Director decides to mess with the look of a film that seems to count as being accurate if the Blu-ray shows it that way.


I've seen some films that I consider looking very bad on Blu-ray. I find films with desaturated colors very distracting. When skin tones are off, or all look the same, I find this detracts from my ability to get into the story.


These films often get remarks about the Director making a multi million dollar film look like it came out of a cell phone camera, but give it high scores as that is the way it was "supposed to look".


Good to always look at the ratings and read the reviews, especially if you plan to buy the title.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
1,425 Posts
I found this to be quite an engaging and entertaining film, but wasn't very satisfied with the ending.

I was pleasantly surprised with the sci-fi aspect of the film, as I basically thought it was just a suspense thriller having not read any reviews.

I don't know if these abrupt hanging endings are an artistic trend in many recent films, but I personally like a more fulfilling conclusion.

Thanks Ralph for the review.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
463 Posts

Quote:
Originally Posted by GioGambino /forum/post/18182373


As for the video being soft, it was actually accurate to what Richard Kelly wanted to accomplish. He wanted to capture that 70's movie look.

70's movies have a soft look? news to me.
 

·
Banned
Joined
·
2,411 Posts
This is a mix of Twilight Zone and Outer Limits. TZ would have paranormal psycho-drama and OL would have sci-fi with aliens, etc. And throw in a little 2001 Space O' too. So we start exploring beyond Earth (Mars) and aliens decide to test us if we are ready (like in 2001..., Day the Earth Stood Still) or maybe we should just die off. It's a somewhat used theme.


Then enter the morality play with the box--huh--I remember the TZ episode--in fact saw it just a month ago on one of the rerun channels--but while it suggested some other worldly context it did not dwell there.


I remember back in the late 70's the idea of Langley being the base where Area 51 aliens were shipped to and "kept" in the early 70's. This story jumbles that idea with lightening thrown in to cause an earthling to be an alien vehicle for running the show.


Then we throw in some stages of afterlife, mind control, and a few great special affects. Wow, they spent a lot on sets--inside NASA, the wind tunnel (now taken over by this alien?), and Langley. I'm waiting for Box 2-Revenge of the Earthlings. Surely that was the idea: Create a cult classic and make it into a franchise. Too bad it just didn't get enough steam to get off the ground.
 

·
Premium Member
Joined
·
12,977 Posts
I viewed the rental version and unfortunately, it lacked any extras. It was just the film and an alternate sound track for language.


As a film stand alone, I enjoyed the story but I wouldn't buy this one. It is a good view for a rental but when it's over, don't try to analyze it. Just a nice watch with decent acting.


It did bring back memories of the TV series many years ago called The Millionaire.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
362 Posts
I for one hope no future films are based in the 70's. Everything was sooo tacky! Except for the Stingray.


It reminded me of my mom making me wear polyester and oversized collars.


It seemed to me as some scenes explaining the mars and alien parts were either left out or were not expounded on for some reason.


It was worth a watch and maybe a second view if there is more material in a Director's Cut.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
1,347 Posts
Great review Ralph, most of your comments are right there with the thoughts I had after watching this one.


Finished this one up last night, and I really enjoyed it. I had forgotten about this film until I was at Blockbuster exchanging a movie and saw it there.


Glad I picked it up. I didn't know of the short story, or the fact that there was a similar Twilight Zone episode.


I found the film very intriguing. The idea of the button and the consequences of pushing it or not pushing it, are immediately thought provoking and capture you in the moment.


I'm going to watch this one again tonight to see if I can pull some more of the unanswered questions from the story. The actors did very will with their roles, and I found the story very engaging. Unfortunately, it leaves you wanting to know more, but not providing answers. I didn't mind the ending at all; I just wish more of the central story was filled in.


I would recommend this to friends, as I think most folks would enjoy this one, even with the gaps.


PQ 3.5 out of 5, SQ 3.5 out of 5, Film 3.5 out of 5


Dan
 

·
Banned
Joined
·
1,292 Posts
Finally got around to watching this and enjoyed it. The first 35 minutes or so is basically a remake of the TWILIGHT ZONE episode (with the same endindg, which is slightly different that the original short story). After that, it's all Kelley's extrapolation. As for the ending, I had no problem with it, since the fates of nearly all the characters are resolved. I just have one question...what happens to the kids?
 
1 - 20 of 21 Posts
Top