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THE CELL ($25) is truly one of those movies that emphasize style over substance. Typically, I wouldn't find myself liking a movie with cardboard characters and a paper-thin plot, but there is something about the film's dramatic visuals that kept my eyes glued to the screen for the entire running time. Without question, director Tarsem Singh has an enormous talent that allows him to paint on the visual canvass, however I still would like to see what he would do with better-written material. THE CELL stars Jennifer Lopez as Catharine Deane, a psychotherapist who is utilizing new technology to enter the subconscious of a withdrawn child patient. While she is having limited success reaching her current the, Catherine is sure the technique will prove effective. Catherine's beliefs about the technology are put to the test, when FBI agent Peter Novak (Vince Vaughn) brings in Carl Stargher (Vincent D'Onofrio), a comatose serial killer whose latest victim is still alive. Since Catherine is the only one proficient with the technology, she is forced to enter Stargher’s mind to find where this deranged killer is keeping the young woman he just abducted.

Once the film ventures inside Stargher's mind, THE CELL becomes a combination of indescribable beauty and outright horror. The imagery is grandiose and haunting, yet it is also very bloody and violent. As I stated above, director Tarsem Singh works effectively in the visual medium and THE CELL is a showcase for his talents. The three leading actors do the best they can with underwritten roles, but only D'Onofrio is able to rise above the material. The cast of THE CELL also includes Marianne Jean-Baptiste, Jake Weber, Dylan Baker, James Gammon, Patrick Bauchau, Tara Subkoff, Catherine Sutherland, Jake Thomas, Dean Norris, Musetta Vander, Gerry Becker and Colton James.

New Line Home Video has made THE CELL available on DVD as part of its prestigious Platinum Series. THE CELL is presented in its proper 2.35:1 aspect ratio and the DVD features the anamorphic enhancement for playback on 16:9 displays. Image quality on the DVD is nothing short of stunning, which is not surprising for New Line. The film element used for the transfer is totally pristine and the transfer is immaculate. Razor sharpness and superb detail push the limits of NTSC reproduction and make this disc another title one may want to add to their arsenal of demonstration quality DVDs. Colors are richly saturated, especially the warmer hues, which are perfectly recreated without a bit of noise or bleeding. Blacks are inky, the contrast incredibly smooth and the level of shadow detail is highly impressive. Superior authoring has hidden all traces of digital compression artifacts. The Dolby Digital 5.1 channel soundtrack is another winner. Although aggressively mixed and forceful, the track also does well in producing subtle sounds with all their nuances in tact. Channel separation is excellent in both forward and rear soundstages, with the split surrounds being well utilized. Frequency response is terrific, without the slight harshness that occasionally appears in Dolby Digital soundtracks. The bass channel is rock solid and sometimes becomes almost explosive. Dialogue reproduction is very precise, so no one will miss a single utterance from any of the actors. Howard Shore's score is beautifully recorded and it maintains its full musicality in this superior mix. An English 2.0 surround soundtrack is also encoded onto the DVD, as are English subtitles.

Full motion video, animation and sound are deployed to enhance the DVD's interactive menus. Through the menus, one has access to the standard scene selection and set up features, as well as the DVD's nice complement of supplements. THE CELL features two separate running audio commentaries, the first with director Tarsem Singh and the second with Director Of Photography Paul Laufer, Production Designer Tom Folden, Makeup Supervisor Michelle Burke, Costume Designer April Napier, Visual Effects Supervisor Kevin Haug and Composer Howard Shore. Both tracks have their merits- the director's commentary is very informative with Singh talking about all aspects of the film in great detail. The group commentary adds more viewpoints and a lot more information for those interested in all aspects of filmmaking. The DVD also includes an additional audio track with Howard Shore's score isolated in 5.1 channels. Style As Substance: Reflections On Tarsem is a 12-minute featurette that includes interviews with all the principals. The Visual Effects Vignettes section utilizes the multiple angle feature to show how 6 separate effects sequences were achieved. In addition to multiple angles, this section uses multiple windows on the screen to show the sequences in various degrees of development, which is more informative than just having a single image on screen. Eight Deleted scenes with optional director's commentary have also been included on the DVD. This material is interesting, plus it looks and sounds a whole lot better than most things revived from the cutting room floor. There are also a couple of interactive features on the DVD; one is called Brain Map and the other is an Empathy Test. They are fun is you like messing around with your noggin. Cast filmographies, plus a domestic trailer and international teaser fill out the supplements.

THE CELL is eye candy that looks fantastic on DVD thanks to New Line Home Video's usual standard of excellence. Since the plot is threadbare, many will want to rent THE CELL before making an actual purchase.


The Cell - New Line Platinum Series


DVD reviews are Copyright © 2000 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.



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