why Cranky is in pain
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The Box

Starring Cameron Diaz, James Marsden and Frank Langella
Screenplay by Richard Kelly
Based on the short story "Button Button" by Richard Matheson
Directed by Richard Kelly
website: http://thebox-movie.warnerbros.com/

IN SHORT: Good idea falls flat. [Rated PG-13 for thematic elements, some violence and disturbing images. 115 minutes]

If you have made it to college and have taken a course in ethics  you have probably been presented with this challenge: "A stranger offers you a million dollars for which you, in return, have to push a button. Pushing said button will kill someone you don't know, somewhere in the world. Do you push the button?"

Consider that as you meet Mr. and Mrs. Arthur Lewis. It is 1976. Arthur (James Marsden) works for NASA, hoping to be accepted into the corps of astronauts that will fly the in-development Space Shuttle. Norma (Cameron Diaz) teaches. She also  has a crippled foot from medical malpractice and walking takes effort. You can't see pain on the big screen so make the assumption and go with it. One winter morning a package is left at their front door. In it is a wood box, with a red button under a locked, plastic dome, and a note saying there would be a visitor to explain all the next day.

The next day Mr. Arlington Steward (Frank Langella) shows up. He bears his medical problems in full view -- half of his face seems to have been burned away. We wll later learn it is from a lightning strike and CDs reaction will eventually play a huge part in the confusing mess that is the underlying story of The Box. But before that we need to get to the point . . . FL comes bearing a key and a crisp new $100 bill to compensate our  heroes for their time, while he makes his offer. The offer is this: take the key. Open the box. Press the button. Get a million dollars but, in doing so, someone somewhere in the world will die. No one (they) know, if that is any consolation.

Being of good moral fibre, the Lewis' are tempted but resolute in their decision not to take the offer. But then "the letter comes from NASA" bearing unexpected tidings. Other family bits amp up the frustration level to the point that Norma just lets the little red button have it. Somewhere someone dies -- maybe it's the victim in a murder case being handled by a friendly neighborhood police detective. Said detective is a bit suspicious when Arthur asks to have a look but it's a plot point left hanging, as are most of possibly interesting bits of story as it builds to its required surprise twist ending. Would writer/director Richard Kelly have penned a script that were as clever as what the true revelation of that plot twist (is), If he had, The Box could have been a fabulous sit. But it's not.

On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Ten Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to The Box, he would have paid . . .


Even in college, we came to the conclusion that "nothing comes for free."

[PS: Here's the catch... this screened in a screening room. When it hit real theaters, audiences actually boo'ed. That's why we try to watch with real people. It's also the thing about success doing this gig. We get invited to see what real people sometimes don't. We do our best.]

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