New To DVD Today: The Box and Cirque du Freak

Hitting the shelves today is the DVD version of The Box, starring Cameron Diaz, James Marsden and Frank Langella. The Box is a lesson in reading the fine print. Norma (Diaz) and her husband Arthur (Marsden) seem to have a happy life. They have a nice kid, a nice house in the suburbs and are both professionals (she's a teacher and he's a NASA engineer). Into their life comes a box, with some simple instructions: Open the box, press the button and win $1 million.

But here's the catch, if they press the button, someone they don't know will die.

Norma accidentally pushes the button, and somewhere, a person drops dead. (Lots of Eve and the apple overtones here.) They get their money -- and a lot more. Now they're in the game. The box goes to someone else and depending on whether that person pushes the button or not, Norma, Arthur or their son will drop dead. Ouch.

The couple goes through test after test, sometimes she's the bait, sometimes he is, and cruelly, sometimes their son is (imagine that the only way to keep your young son from going deaf and blind is to shoot your wife through the heart?).

At every point the rules change. No one is exactly who they seem to be, and every sentence has a bit of a lie in it. (What if he shoots his wife and his kid still goes deaf and blind? Kinda late for renegotiations, isn't it?) Who's good? Who's bad? Who's telling the truth? And most importantly, how far are they willing to go for $1 million?

Diaz turns in an understated performance, exploring more of the characters faults and flaws than usual. Frank Langella, as the man who controls the box, is sufficiently creepy and out-of-touch. (You can't be too in tune to your feelings if you're walking around getting people killed.)

The Box earned $15 million at the box office during its American theatrical release (we're hoping 15 people didn't drop dead somewhere because of it).

The title hints that the film is going to be a hodgepodge of borrowed ideas. Reference Cirque de Soleil? Check. Borrow liberally from every bloodsucker novel/film/television show from Conversation with a Vampire to The Vampire Diaries? Check. Got an ordinary teen dropped into a world he never knew existed and pit him against all the evil in the world? Check.

Chris Massoglia is Darren, a teen who exchanges his human existence for the strange existence of a half vampire in order to save his friend's life. Double crosses, plot twists, change allegiances and too many meaningful glances to keep up with, Cirque du Freak was directed by Paul Weitz.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer fans, Vampire Diaries devotees and True Blood followers will find Cirque du Freak familiar enough to be comfortable, but different enough to be interesting.

The DVD includes extras such as a behind-the-scenes look at the movie sets, deleted scenes and Guide to Becoming a Vampire, a look at making the film.

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Olivia Flores Alvarez