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Next (2007)

Paramount Home Entertainment
DVD Released: 9/25/2007

All Ratings out of
Movie: 1/2
Audio: 1/2

Review by Mike Long, Posted on 9/18/2007

Unlike many film fans, I don't get overly excited about specific actors being in the films that I watch. Sure, there are actors that I like more than others, but when I'm looking at the credits of a movie, I'm typically more interested in who's behind the camera. But, I must say that I enjoy Nicolas Cage when he's cast as the reluctant hero. When he can keep the overacting under wraps, he's been good in things like The Rock, National Treasure, and even Ghost Rider. Now, we get Cage tackling this kind of role again in Next.

Cage stars in Next as Cris Johnson, who performs in a low-rent magic and psychic show at a hotel in Las Vegas on the name "Frank Cadillac". But, Cris really is psychic, as he can see two minutes into his own future. He uses this ability to dazzle his audience in his show, and to make some spending money in the casinos. That is, until his luck runs out and casino security chief Roybal (Jose Zuniga) notices Cris, forcing him to flee the casino. FBI Agent Callie Ferris (Julianne Moore) is also interested in Cris, as she is working on a case involving a stolen nuclear device on wants him to assist in the search for the weapon.

But, Cris has other things on his mind. Aside from his immediate future, the only psychic flash that he's ever had involved meeting a woman in a diner, so he goes there everyday. Finally, Liz Cooper (Jessica Biel) enters the eatery and Cris introduces himself to her. Knowing that Ferris is on his trail, Cris tells Liz that his car has been stolen, and he accepts her offer of a ride to Arizona. Cris is finally with the woman of his dreams, but he knows that Ferris is coming for him. Despite the fact that Cris can see his own future, he is torn by how he should handle this situation.

When Next opened in April of this year, it debuted at number 3 at the box office and quickly disappeared. The movie reportedly cost $70 million to make and grossed around $17 million. I'm no mathamagician, but that sounds like a flop to me. My theory is that the movie's awful title threw casual moviegoers, who saw "Next" on a theater marquee and assumed that it had something to do with the movie opening the following week.

This is quite sad, as Next is a serviceable thriller. It's not great, but it has a lot of things going for it. First of all, we've got Nicolas Cage. Despite the awful hair that he sports in this (he should've tracked down his Ghost Rider toupee), Cage gives a good performance as Cris Johnson. He keeps his trademarked overacting to a bare minimum and portrays Cris as a guy who lives a life devoid of surprises, and simply passes his time performing, drinking, and gambling. (Although it isn't really gambling to him, it's simply playing cards.) Secondly, we've got Julianne Moore, who adds a touch of class to anything in which she appears. She plays Ferris as a truly no-nonsense woman -- her concern is finding the nuclear device and saving lives.

Finally, we have a story about a psychic which isn't a cop-out. My pet peeve with films in this genre is that we are introduced to someone who has precognition, but it typically only comes in fits and starts, and they always say the same line, "It doesn't work that way." Well, with Cris Johnson, it does work that way. Cris can always see his future and that makes him a very interesting character. At first, Cris uses his power sparingly and for his own gain, but by the end of the film (and I'm trying to not give too much away here), Cris has embraced his gift and become somewhat of a bad-ass. (Essentially, he can walk into any situation without fear, as he knows what's going to happen.)

There are some issues with Next though. The story is full of plot-holes. The movie was taken from a short story by Philip K. Dick and the writers of the film (Gary Goldman, Jonathan Hensleigh, and Paul Bernbaum) were most likely forced to create a script around this story. While watching Next, it's best if you ignore nagging questions such as, "If he's been fleecing the casinos, why did he get caught today?", "Why does Ferris expect to catch Cris when she knows he's psychic?" The movie also feels truncated. While there are no deleted scenes on the DVD, I had the feeling that we should have had more character development and explanations of how characters got from A to B. I also wasn't crazy about the casting of Jessica Biel as the love interest, and that's only party because she's 18 years younger than Cage.

Despite these problems, Next is a fun ride. Director Lee Tamahori has made a fast-paced picture which features some nifty special effects. The scenes in which we don't realize that Cris is seeing the future are interesting, and the finale takes on a super-hero like vibe which is a joy to watch. A psychic action hero may sound like a lame idea, but Nicolas Cage brings charisma to the role and Next, for all of its flaws, is one of the more exciting action films that I've seen recently.

Next sees itself coming to DVD courtesy of Paramount Home Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the transfer is enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. The image looks pretty good, but there is some mild grain here. Also, the image looks a bit hazy at times, and lacking in detail. But, there is no pixellation or overt video noise. The colors look fine and the transition from the nighttime of Vegas to a desert setting doesn't hurt the picture. The DVD has a Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track which provides clear dialogue and sound effects. This film has a nice sound design and this track does it justice. The action scenes produce a great amount of stereo, surround, and subwoofer effects. The scene in which the debris is rolling downhill sounds especially nice.

The Next DVD offers four featurettes. "Making the Best Next Thing" (18 minutes) offers comments from Cage, Biel, and Moore, as well as the writers and producers (but not the director). This piece looks at the cast and characters, the story and the stunts. In "Visualizing the Next Move" (8 minutes) the visual effects personnel discuss the use of CG in the film and give examples of how specific scenes were done. "The Next 'Grand Idea'" (7 minutes) shows the crew shooting in the Grand Canyon. And finally, "Two Minutes in the Future with Jessica Biel" (2 minutes) did nothing to convince me that this woman is a genius.

On May 20, 2008, Paramount Home Entertainment brought Next to Blu-ray Disc. The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the disc offers an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 30 Mbps. This is an excellent transfer, as the image is very sharp and clear. The image shows basically no grain and no defects from the source material. The image is very detailed and shows a nice amount of depth. It's never too dark or too bright. Simply check out the action sequence in Chapter 13 to see how smoothly this transfer runs. The disc contains a Linear PCM 5.1 uncompressed audio track which runs at 48 kHz and a steady 6.9 Mbps. As with the video, the audio is quite impressive. The dialogue is always clear and audible. The track offers a great amount of detail and the stereo separation is quite good. The surround sound and subwoofer effects are great and really draw the viewer into the movie. Kudos to Paramount on a nice technical offering on this title.

The extras on the Blu-ray Disc are the same as those found on the DVD.

Review Copyright 2007-2008 by Mike Long