Because what the hey, mang –
The Box is, at least, a return to form for Richard Kelly after the aural/visual assault that was Southland Tales – although, it’s not, really. This isn’t a film that bares any real similarity to Donnie Darko, in intent or aesthetic outside of the period context that doesn’t really affect the story all that much – here is something much more quietly sinister. Something horrifying – continuing Kelly’s fascination with personal deterioration through the frame of a deceptively simple moral dilemma: “Would you press the button, if given the chance?” The film comes from an old Richard Matheson story previously dramatized on The Twilight Zone, although – as Kelly presents it – I can’t imagine such a story lending itself to televised format too easily. There’s something unspoken running through the whole film that seems to be present long before Frank Langella’s unnervingly scarred Mr. Steward arrives at the family’s door. And, if Kelly continues to try and confront this unseen sense of foreboding as he has in this and to some extent in Donnie Darko, he may yet strike on something even more uncomfortable to look at – a more narrative centered David Lynch, is the comparison that best comes to mind. With tamer hair.
Although, I have to say, it’s striking how James Marsden has ended up playing this same kind of, disconnected, well-off, semi-punchable guy in tightly knit sweaters three or four times in a row, the unintentional subversion in Bryan Singer’s Superman Returns notwithstanding – although, this may have been on purpose, given that it was Singer who seems to be the one who started Marsden on this long, unending path.
John Hamburg’s I Love You, Man is probably just a smidgen better than whatever Papa Apatow has put out, recently – and, it’s very strange to see Paul Rudd playing the straight man in a film like this, given his role(s) in Knocked Up and The 40 Year-Old Virgin – and, he carries such a thing well, actually. It’s a pretty standard and formalized story, but the film moves along on the strength of the chemistry between Rudd and Segel, and the eschewing of the tropes that come along with what, at first, seems like an overly familiar romantic comedy – the gradual growth of their relationship, awkward at first, and eventually playing and moving off of each other in riffs and pats.
Steve Barron’s initial adaptation of Eastman and Laird’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles really is one of the better comic book adaptations yet made, and it’s a little strange to watch, just now – after Laird has sold the characters’ remaining rights to Nickelodeon so recently, and all. And, really – given the comic’s strongly independent origins, it’s fitting that it was given to a director and a studio known mainly for their small, low-budget independent films. While there is some effort to reconcile some of the more familiar elements of the homogenizing cartoon of the late eighties and early nineties, the primary focus is on the stark-yet-humorous tone and plot of those first twenty or so issues of that first volume of the comic series, before it became what basically amounted to an anthology magazine for a couple of years, albeit an interesting one – the discovery and defeat of the Turtles and their forced exile to a farm in Massachusetts at the hands of The Foot, and their eventual return. There’s a real visceral quality to it, in Barron’s use of scrappy, punchy editing and fast-tracking cameras not only during his numerous fight sequences, but in emphasis of moments of extreme personal anguish for the character who seem to be the focal point for the first half of the film, sai-wielding Raphael; and, in the few flashbacks that occur in the film, Barron reverts to a grainy, distinctly Chiba-esque type of cinematography that seems to pay as much homage to those films as the comics did to Frank Miller, initially. There are a few places where the tonal distinction between the elements of the comic and the cartoon clash together unsuccessfully, but these are relatively few. More like this – obviously.
Also of note – something LOST writer Damon Lindelof posted on his Twitter, just a little while ago: a seven part review of The Phantom Menace that must be heard to be comprehended.