Next – DVD Review

Directed by:
Lee Tamahori

Starring:
Nicolas Cage … Cris ‘Frank Cadillac’ Johnson
Julianne Moore … Agent Callie Ferris
Jessica Biel … Elizabeth ‘Liz’ Cooper
Thomas Kretschmann … Mr. Smith
Tory Kittles … Agent Cavanaugh
José Zúñiga … Security Chief Roybal
Jim Beaver … JTTF Director Eric Wisdom

Paramount Pictures presents Next. Screenplay by Gary Goldman, Jonathan Hensleigh and Paul Bernbaum. Based on the short story “The Golden Man” by Phillip K. Dick. Running time: 96 minutes. Rated PG-13 (for intense sequences of violent action, and some language). Released on DVD: September 25, 2007. Available at Amazon.com.

The Movie


Nicolas Cage has gotten to a point in his career where I’ll watch him in anything. Every new movie of his has so many possibilities of how they can turn out that it would be a disservice to miss them. With more recent endeavors like Adaptation and Matchstick Men he’s proven to be capable of bringing his A-game when he wants. Then there are more recent choices like the Wicker Man remake in which he provided one of the most unintentionally hilarious performances of 2006. So with Next, loosely based off of a Phillip K. Dick short story, who knows what to expect or what the outcome may be.

Cage stars as Cris Johnson, a man who can see the future. The only caveat is that he can see only two minutes ahead of time and only things pertaining to his own personal future. He’s known by most as Frank Cadillac, the stage name he goes by for his Vegas magic act. Like most movies, he’s searching for a girl, but not just any girl. Her name is Liz and, for whatever unexplained reason, she is affecting his gift. Causing him to see her and other events days in advance. While trying to understand why this is happening, he’s being hunted down by Agent Callie Ferris, who is attempting to make him help the FBI locate a nuclear weapon set to go off somewhere.

With that, I’m sure you, like myself, have questions. But truth be told, they’re completely irrelevant. Next doesn’t hide its shoddy story or poorly constructed character development. Things like defining the bad guys who are harboring a nuclear weapon? Please, everyone knows it’s far more important to instead show Jessica Biel in nothing but a towel. That’s just common sense. And why would we want to know how or why Agent Ferris found out about Cris’ gift, of how she expects its limited time frame to help national security when we can see Cage avoid an avalanche of poorly rendered CGI mayhem? The point I’m trying to make here is that, if you take off your thinking cap before watching the movie, there’s a fun hour and a half of entertainment to be found here. Just don’t expect it to explore even a quarter of the possibilities such a story could investigate.


The biggest problem Next faces is that it shows all of its cards too early. A man who can basically be unstoppable because of this gift is a very intriguing premise. However, it’s a very tough balancing act in order to pull it off the way it needs to be presented for the audience to still be connected with the character and be held in suspense from start to finish. Because if the main character is unrivaled with no discernible weakness or adversary, the movie is essentially in the hands of the lead to carry the plot and show enough charisma and presence for viewers to still be brought along for the ride. Nicolas Cage, while certainly giving an above average performance here, never finds that equilibrium or elicit the charm that could elevate the poorly fashioned story.

For the first time in a long time Cage’s slightly off tilt performance style actually helps the story. It’s hard to pinpoint exactly why but the way he plays the role makes Cris Johnson believable. The opening scene in a casino where he uses his gift to maneuver his way around security guards aiming to apprehend him plays out flawlessly, or in another one where he is able to dodge every single bullet in the chamber of a 9mm gun are fun to watch. Yet in other scenes where his precognitive abilities are shown as a “swerve,” making the audience believe something and then revealing it was just him seeing in to the future are abused so much that the allure of it all fades before the midway point.

Jessica Biel is here mainly as a pretty face, but oddly, it works for the role. Her Elizabeth character is a very flat and one dimensional person but she’ the catalyst to the whole plot and it’s all based on her beauty. For that, Biel pulls off the role with ease yet could have been used to much better affect here. Moore, on the other hand, chews the scenery. Only with such little material for her to work with there isn’t much room for her to find a character that feels pointless from the very beginning.


With any action movie, the choreography, cinematography and CGI are all integral to creating a visually engrossing story on screen. None of which manage to come even remotely close to entertaining here. What comes across on screen is nothing more than cliche action style poses with camera work and special effects that never manage to rise above mediocre. Passable in every sense of the word, with nothing at all standing out as something we haven’t already seen done better elsewhere.

Having never read this particular Phillip K. Dick short story, there are certainly elements at work here that have his name written all over them. Specifically the distrust in government aspect that manages to find its way in to almost all of his works. In Next, we have Cris in fear of the agents because of his belief that the moment he provides them with his services he’ll find himself a prisoner; used as their personal secret weapon. Locked away from the world for the rest of his days and never to live a normal life ever again.

The DVD



Video:
(Presented in 2.35:1 Anamorphic Widescreen)
For a new release, the video presentation is almost without flaws. Details remain sharp through most of the film and colors are reproduced without a single problem. The film looks so good that its near perfect clarity only further shows the weakness in the CGI.

Audio:
(English, Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround, French 2.0)
While the available Dolby Digital 5.1 track is by no means a disappointment, the speakers aren’t used enough to make as immersible an experience that they could have. The subwoofer rumbles when needed and the rear channels used to create ambiance. Just what you need in an action movie.

Extras:

Making the Best Next Thing (18:16) – Is your standard studio produced featurette. Look, we already have watched the movie by this point, why add something like this where its soul purpose is to sell us on watching? But I digress… Writer Gary Goldman talks about this being the third P.K. Dick story that he’s worked on — even though 99% of his work on Minority Report was scrapped once Spielberg signed on. For what is basically a fluff piece that we’ve seen countless times before on other DVDs, the cast and crew talk about the movie passionately and don’t feel like they’re being forced to hype the ideas behind Next.

Visualizing the Next Movie (7:48) – I don’t know why the effects guys are talking here about making realistic, interesting and cutting edge material when nothing in the movie could even remotely be categorized as any of those things. In this featurette you get to see the anatomy of the effects in the movie and the troubles that the crew ran into while working. They do a good job of making sure to cover all of the big effect scenes.

Next “Grand Idea” (6:54) – Here the producers and other creative forces on the project talk about how important it was to let Cris and Liz have a part of the film to get to know oneanother. The only problem was finding the right environment for that to happen. They eventually all agreed on filming the scene near the Grand Canyon. The idea for filming the scene there came from Cage himself who talks about taking his wife on their first date together up in a helicopter, landing at the bottom of the canyon, going for a hike and then meeting Indians. Only Nic Cage folks, only Nic Cage. They all then talk about their experiences filming on location and all of the wonderful natives they met.

Two Minutes in the Future with Jessica Biel (2:29) – Have you ever sat around with friends and asked the question “what would you do if you could see the future?” That’s basically what you get here, with Biel saying the same things everyone else would: ease of knowing what’s to come, missing the spontaneity of life, cashing out in Vegas, etc.

Rounding out the disc are Previews (6:54) for Blades of Glory, Transformers and A Mighty Heart.

The Inside Pulse

I’d love to sit down with Cage one day and dissect the inner workings of his mind on how he picks role and how he approaches them. Next is a movie on a mission, we’re just never exactly told where or why. For such a unique and tantalizing premise, it seems to be a very bland and uninspired affair that never fully explores the possibilities presented. And that’s a shame. In terms of being a popcorn flick, you could do a whole lot worse.

The DVD Lounge’s Ratings for Next
CATEGORY
RATING
(OUT OF 10)
THE MOVIE

5
THE VIDEO

8.5
THE AUDIO

7
THE EXTRAS

4.5
REPLAY VALUE

5
OVERALL
5
(NOT AN AVERAGE)

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