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Tarsem Singh
Jennifer Lopez, Vince Vaughn, Vincent D'Onofrio, Marianne Jean-Baptiste, Dylan Baker, Jake Weber
Mark Protosevich

His Mind Is Her Prison Synopsis:
An FBI agent persuades a social worker, who is adept with a new experimental technology, to enter the mind of a comatose serial killer in order to learn where he has hidden his latest kidnap victim.
Rated R.

Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1
English DTS-HD MA 5.1
German Dolby Digital 5.1
Italian Dolby Digital 5.1
Castillian Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1
Latin Spanish Dolby Digital Stereo
Castillian Spanish
Latin Spanish
Supplements Subtitles:
Castillian Spanish
Latin Spanish

Runtime: 109 min.
Price: $14.98
Release Date: 7/7/2015

• Audio Commentary With Director Tarsem Singh
• Audio Commentary with Director of Photography Paul Laufer, Production Designer Tom Foden, Makeup Supervisor Michele Burke, Costume Designer April Napier, Visual Effects Supervisor Kevin Haug and Composer Howard Shore
• “Style As Substance: Reflections on Tarsem” Featurette
• Eight Deleted Scenes with Optional Commentary
• Special Effects Multi-Angle Vignettes
• Trailers


Panasonic TC-P60VT60 60-Inch 1080p 600Hz 3D Smart Plasma HDTV; Sony STR-DG1200 7.1 Channel Receiver; Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.


The Cell [Blu-Ray] (2000)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (July 13, 2015):

Back when music videos became a big deal in the 1980s, some directors tried to leap from that format to movies. This didn’t go too smoothly for the first generation of filmmakers, but for those who created videos in the late 1980s/early 1990s, the transition worked. Folks like Michael Bay and David Fincher came from music videos and turned into major players in Hollywood.

In 1991, Tarsem Singh created a sensation with his video for REM’s “Losing My Religion”, and he got his first shot at a feature with 2000’s The Cell. Psychologist Catherine Deane (Jennifer Lopez) uses an experimental virtual reality set-up to attempt to reach/treat coma patients. This demonstrates promise but remains an unproven method that shows no concrete results just yet.

Catherine gets a major challenge when serial killer Carl Rudolph Stargher (Vincent D'Onofrio) lapses into a coma. Authorities want to find his final subject, one who may remain alive.

At the urging of FBI Agent Peter Novak (Vince Vaughn), Catherine uses her skills to literally enter Stargher’s mind. We see how she attempts to navigate this dark environment and help save Stargher’s victim.

Going into The Cell, I thought I’d like it. I find serial killer stories to be fascinating, so I figured this one would be up my alley.

Unfortunately, the movie veers so firmly into “silly” territory that it never becomes more than a goofy flop. It doesn’t help that Cell wears its influences on its sleeve, as it feels like a mix of elements from Se7en, Silence of the Lambs and The Matrix. It melds these components together in an uneasy manner that fails to coalesce.

As much as Cell wants us to think it’s daring and novel, in truth it offers a pretty traditional serial killer story jazzed up with trippy visuals and a circa 1994 “virtual reality” gimmick. I still recall how obsessed Hollywood became with the early days of the Internet; that period produced a mix of movies that seemed dated about 20 seconds after they hit theaters.

Cell probably seemed out of touch with technology in 2000, and it hasn’t aged well over the last 15 years. The dream sequences feel like they belong in a Nightmare on Elm Street sequel.

Singh does bring his unusual visual style to Cell, and that means it can be interesting in that manner. However, the “nightmare scenes” seem laughable more than scary, and that tends to affect the whole movie. Cell needs to be much darker than it is.

A different cast would help as well. Lopez and Vaughn fare best in lighter fare, and they feel mismatched for Cell. This becomes more of a problem with Lopez, who seems feeble and insubstantial as our main character. She’s badly out of her element.

Somewhere down deep, there’s a good movie to be made of this material. Unfortunately, The Cell isn’t that movie. It’s a goofy hodgepodge.

The Blu-ray Grades: Picture C-/ Audio B+/ Bonus B+

The Cell appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.40:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. Given the movie’s age and budget, I was surprised at how bland the visuals looked.

Fine detail was an issue; parts of the movie offered decent sharpness, but they never became especially well-defined or concise. Sharpness ranged from pretty good to rather soft. I noticed no issues with jagged edges or shimmering, and edge haloes remained absent. Print flaws also weren’t a concern.

In terms of palette, the movie showed a somewhat sandy-orange sensibility. These hues lacked much range and seemed somewhat thick. Blacks were about the same. Those tones appeared decent to good, but they didn’t present great depth.

Shadows were usually acceptable but also not especially smooth or concise. Maybe the Blu-ray accurately reproduced the original film, but that seems hard to imagine, as The Cell looked awfully iffy for a fairly recent film from a big studio.

At least the film’s DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack proved to be more satisfying. With all the trippy material on display, the mix opened up to give us a lot of active, involving audio. More traditional “cop movie” elements like helicopters and cars moved around the room well, but the dream scenes fared the best. Those managed to use all five speakers in a dynamic way to place us in the action.

Audio quality also satisfied. Speech was distinctive and concise, while music appeared full and rich. Effects came across as accurate and dynamic, without distortion or other concerns. This became a strong soundtrack.

As we shift to the set’s extras, we open with two separate audio commentaries. In the first, we hear from director Tarsem Singh. He delivers a running, screen-specific look at sets, locations and design choices, music and audio, editing, cast and performances, story/character areas and related topics.

Given the dark, moody nature of his films, I figured Singh would offer a subdued, sluggish commentary. To my pleasant surprise, Singh displays a witty, bubbly personality and he digs into his movie with relish. He gives us a ton of good insights about his work and doesn’t hesitate to relate criticisms/disappointments. Singh makes this a very good chat.

For the second commentary, we find director of photography Paul Laufer, production designer Tom Foden, makeup supervisor Michele Burke, costume designer April Napier, visual effects supervisor Kevin Haug and composer Howard Shore. All were recorded separately for this edited compilation. As expected, we learn about sets/locations and production design, music, photography, costumes and make-up, effects and working with Singh.

Though it sags at times, this usually becomes a pretty solid piece. We get a good view of the technical areas and learn a fair amount about the production, though the track lacks balance. For instance, we hear a ton from Laufer and barely anything from Shore.

Still, the track holds together and gives us useful info about the film. In particular, Haug offers cool insights, such as when he discusses directors who are “dreamers” and those who are “shoppers”.

A featurette called Style As Substance: Reflections on Tarsem runs 11 minutes, 51 seconds and offers notes from Singh, Laufer, Haug, Burke, Napier, digital animator Richard “Dr.” Baily, and actors Jennifer Lopez, Marianne Jean-Baptiste, Vincent D’Onofrio, and Vince Vaughn. Some of this degenerates into general praise for Singh, but the inclusion of quality footage from the shoot makes it watchable.

Eight Deleted Scenes come next. We see “Trapped in the Cell” (1:04), “Despair in the Cell” (0:43), “Extended Raid” (3:30), “Early Exit” (1:55), “Novak and Ramsey” (1:32). “Stargher’s Room” (3:26), “Extended Confrontation with Carl” (4:18) and “Extended Carl with Victim” (3:36). These tend to be fairly minor additions, and I don’t think any of them add to the experience in a notable manner.

We can watch the scenes with or without commentary from Singh. He tells us a little about the sequences as well as why he cut them. Singh delivers some useful notes.

In addition to two trailers, the disc provides six Special Effects Multi-Angle Vignettes. These cover “The Hoist” (9:43), “First Entry” (17:00), “Second Entry” (18:47), “Novak’s Entry” (11:25), “Catherine’s World” (9:56) and “Edward’s World” (3:54). Those running times are deceptive, as they include various snippets repeatedly.

This means we first see interview footage for Haug, Burke and Baily on the left side of the screen while behind the scenes shots appear in the top right and storyboards show up in the bottom right. After that segment ends, we view the behind the stage material fullscreen and then the storyboards fullscreen; the comments from Haug, Burke and Baily still accompany these segments.

The visual quality of the footage isn’t very good, but the material itself boasts useful information. Haug heavily dominates, and as was the case during the commentary, he proves to be engaging and clear. The “Vignettes” become a good addition to the set.

Despite creative visuals, The Cell seems too derivative to take flight. The movie combines elements from superior films and never quite gains a personality of its own. The Blu-ray provides mediocre visuals with good audio and an informative set of supplements. I like this kind of movie but The Cell leaves me cold.

Viewer Film Ratings: 2 Stars Number of Votes: 2
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