November 6, 2009, - 4:46 pm
The new offerings this weekend are nothing to write home about . . . or on which to waste ten bucks. I did not see Disney’s animated 3D version of “A Christmas Carol.” Of what I did see, all three had a paranormal/science fiction element key to their plots, and all of them were lackluster:
* “The Box“: I was really looking forward to this creepy science fiction/moral dilemma thriller, which appears to be based on a past “Twilight Zone” episode. But “Twilight Zone” it isn’t. Where TZ episodes were tight half-hour programs that were masterfully begun and finished with a specific point to them, this was not. It began, like many movies, as an enjoyable promising story with a great premise. But it quickly degraded into endless dead-end plotlines that went nowhere and had little to do with the main story, itself a mess. You’ll be disapointed that you wasted two hours and ten bucks on something pointless that goes nowhere.
The movie takes place in the 1970s, and President Ford is the Commander-in-Chief. While the ’70s kitsch of sideburns and wide collars is cool at first, it becomes an unintentional source of laughter and hilarity at points that are supposed to be scary.
A haggard-looking Cameron Diaz plays a teacher at a private school, with her husband, James Marsden, an aspiring astronaut who works at NASA, where he develops various mechanisms and machines for space exploration. One morning, a mysterious box is dropped off on the front step. Soon, a mysterious man with a disfigured face (Frank Langella, who is far better than this movie) shows up and tells Diaz that if she pushes the button, someone else in the world will die and she will collect a million dollars.
They are financially struggling, but, like every other husband in the movie, Marsden is against the killing at any price. Like every other wife in the flick, Diaz wants the million and doesn’t seem to care about the life at stake, despite her own physical misfortune. A side story of her deformed foot begins in the movie, but never really develops and is an ultimately irrelevant dead end.
Like I said, the movie had a great premise–to push the button or not, but once the decision is made, the rest of the movie is dreck. Every possible angle is thrown in but he kitchen sink. The moral dilemma is pushed aside in favor of a weird science fiction outer space angle with NSA involvement, plus zombie-like spies who are put in the desperate couple’s life to spy on them. There are silly, laughable sequences with water columns and a library filled with weird-looking people in 1970s-style long hair, sideburns, ugly glasses. They looked like the cast of an old Schlitz or Pabst Blue Ribbon beer commercial, and instead of scaring me, I couldn’t stop laughing. And that should be no surprise because the movie escalates into the laughable, when it’s supposed to be a dramatic thriller.
The movie looks good from the trailer, but after the first 20-30 minutes, it’s a joke. Skip it and rent some old “Twilight Zone” episodes instead. Those were classy and interesting. This is schlock. Rod Serling is wondering from the grave how people made millions with crap like this, and he died with almost nothing.
Don’t open this box. Return it to sender.
* “The Men Who Stare at Goats“: Don’t let the presence of uber-lefty George Clooney dissuade you from this movie. It’s a funny movie, and he’s funny in it. You might like it, and I did at first. It just wasn’t for me. After the first half-hour or so, it was like “The Box”: a complete mess to the point of absurdity and boring. There was nothing wrong or much offensive about it. It just wasn’t my cup of tea. If you like dark, droll comedies that make fun of the government and military incompetence, you might like this. I wouldn’t waste $10 on it, or–more importantly–one-and-a-half hours of my life.
A young reporter (Ewan McGregor) in a dead-end job at an Ann Arbor, Michigan newspaper loses his wife to his much older editor and boss. He finds his life slipping away and is desperate for a good story after covering nutjobs claiming psychic powers nurtured in a secret government program. So, he decides to go to the Middle East to cover the War in Iraq and find an interesting scoop.
Soon, McGregor finds himself at a bar with George Clooney, a legendary government agent involved with the secret program developing psychic powers to fight the enemy. And he discovers the story he covered in Ann Arbor was true after all. He heads with Clooney to Iraq, where the man who developed the program (Jeff Bridges) is missing and an evil and less talented psychic in the program (Kevin Spacey) is using it for his own improper, self-aggrandizing ends.
* “The Fourth Kind“: More like “The Worst Kind.” One of the most stupid, boring, science fiction, alien abduction movies I’ve seen in recent memory. A total waste of time. And don’t believe the movie’s claims that it’s based on real people and a true story. If you do, they punked you (though you already got punked at ticket-buying point of the process). Moreover, the movie employs a silly gimmick in which they use two actors to play each character, trying to punk you into believing that one of the sets of actors is comprised of real life people in a video documentary. So what? Who cares? That means the mess of this movie is double messy and equally as stupid.
Milla Jovovich plays a psychologist in Nome, Alaska, who videotapes patients that claim a scary monster or alien that looks like an owl has abducted them and/or their family members. The city of Nome has seen many people disappear after UFO sightings, and she believes that alien abduction (“the fourth kind” of close encounter) is happening. She says the same thing happened to her husband, who was killed. But all of the videotape of the aliens doing anything is mysteriously made blank by the aliens. Gee, whatta coincidence! Oh, and did I mention the psychologist has her own psychologist who follows her around? Not that you care or should care. Sooo boring. Whatta waste. Dumb and skipworthy.
Tags: Cameron Diaz, Ewan McGregor, Frank Langella, George Clooney, James Marsden, Jeff Bridges, Kevin Spacey, Men Who Stare at Goats, Milla Jovovich, Movie Reviews, The Box, The Fourth Kind