In the slick, sick and silly new movie The Cell, Jennifer Lopez is a sort of supermodel psychiatrist. Through the miracle of modern technology, suspended in a body glove connected to cameras and computers, she slips into closed minds to visualize their guilty secrets.
So when federal agent Vince Vaughn needs to know where a comatose serial killer stashed his latest female victim, he asks Lopez to go unconscious, instead of undercover, for the FBI.
If you know the work of director Tarsem Singh, you will not be surprised that the unconscious looks a lot like a music video for R.E.M. or a commercial for Isuzu, with some sacrilege thrown in for kinks.
The serial killing villain of The Cell is Vincent D'Onofrio. He abducts young women and videotapes their drowning. Alas, just as the FBI is closing in, he has a major speechless seizure. Vaughn talks Lopez into a hardwired Vulcan mind mold, meaning lurid dreamscapes and much symbolic menace.
Things get so hairy that the FBI goes in after the therapist. But not before a psychedelic trip that is equal parts of gothic art, kabuki theater, Russian surrealism, Oriental porn and D.H. Lawrence of Arabia.
There is a lot I'm not showing you, and you probably prefer not to see the therapist talk to the killer's abused inner child dressed up as a Virgin Mary. But it's hard enough, ordinarily, to get Jennifer Lopez out of my head, nevermind a new technology that plants her there without my permission.
This is why I turn with relief to a TV movie Sunday on Showtime cable. In Final Appeal, set 76 years from now, technology is against the law.
In a future that's banned cars, computers and science itself after a nuclear war, Amanda Plummer is sentenced to death for building a time machine. Defended by Kelly McGillis, prosecuted by Michael Moriarty, she appeals to a Supreme Court of Charlton Heston. Swoosie Kurtz, Hal Holbrook, Cicely Tyson and Robert Loggia.
Plummer has not only gone back in time to save an earlier self, but also seen a future destroyd by a virus because there's no medicine. In court and flashbacks we see transplants, nanotechnology, mutations from Mars and the human genome project. As the Supremes pro and con, Loggia seems most to miss the spirit of adventure, Holbrook prefers the 19th century.
Just when the court's about to decide, they are interrupted by Wallace Langham as the prophet Ezekiel, an ecoterrorist so opposed to all technology that he threatens to blow up the world with a couple of bombs.
I wouldn't lie to you. While they discuss important stuff, there's more bad acting on Showtime than I've seen since the original Star Trek series. It must be deliberate, some sort of homage to '50s sci-fi, as if bumbling were the ultimate proof of sincerity.
But it still beats arty serial killers any day. My biggest complaint about Final Appeal is that on its list of terrible technologies, it neglects to include music videos, TV commercials and movies like The Cell.
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