Those who crave something with a bit more bite have several options to choose from. First is “The Box,” from “Donnie Darko” director Richard Kelly. Kelly was kind enough to invest his time in a week-long guest editorship on MTV Movies Blog last week, and he got us very hyped for the “Box” release in the process. The story follows a married couple (Cameron Diaz and James Marsden) who receive a mysterious package in the mail, containing a box equipped with a large red button. A stranger (Frank Langella) shows up to inform them that they’ll receive $1 million if they press the button, though a stranger somewhere in the world will be killed as well. Sounds perfectly weird to me and like yet another cult-friendly winner for Kelly.
In direct competition with “The Box” — or perhaps perfect double-feature fodder, if that’s your bag — is “The Fourth Kind.” The based-on-true-events story is set in Nome, Alaska, where a higher-than-average number of missing persons are reported each year. The running theory is that these disappearances are related to alien abductions — so-called “extraterrestrial encounters of the fourth kind” — and the movie explores that with what has been described to me as an atypical presentation. I haven’t had the pleasure of catching this one yet, but I hear it’s excellent.
There are also some first-class options in the realm of limited releases, for those who can catch them locally. “The Men Who Stare At Goats,” based on the non-fiction book by Jon Ronson, explores the existence of a U.S. military program involving psychic spies. It features a dynamite cast, including Ewan McGregor, George Clooney and Jeff Bridges. The other major limited release dropping this week is “Precious,” based on Sapphire’s novel “Push.” This one is a strong Oscar contender, with standout performances from newcomer Gabourey Sidibe and Mo’Nique.
But wait! There’s more! “Endgame,” a political thriller set around the fall of apartheid in South Africa, is another of the week’s limited openings. I caught this one at Sundance 2009 and loved it, though it is very dense, dry material, so be sure you know what you’re getting into before you purchase a ticket. Also opening this weekend in select theaters are “Splinterheads,” which looks to be an offbeat relationship comedy, and “That Evening Sun,” a drama which notably features “Alice in Wonderland” star Mia Wasikowska.