Next [HD DVD]
R0 - America - Paramount Home Entertainment
Review written by and copyright: Noor Razzak (2nd October 2007).
The Film

Director Lee Tamahori's career can best be described as a rollercoaster, bursting on the scene with his impressively brutal film "Once Were Warriors" (1994), the film is a pivotal and still important piece in New Zealand cinema however since then it's been a steady decline with one Hollywood action piece after the next all of which are uninspired and filled to the brim with brainless popcorn set pieces, and in-between delivering films like "Along Came a Spider" (2001), "Die Another Day" (2002) which must be the worst of the Peirce Brosnan Bond films and "xXx: State of the Union" (2005) you can also find him being arrested in drag as part of a U.S. prostitution ring. Wow, if you'd have asked me back in 1994 how Tamahori's career would have shaped up I would never have been able to guess any of what has happened. To think he had such a promising start. In an interesting parallel Nicolas Cage's career can also be described as a rollercoaster because for every "Wild at Heart" (1990), "Leaving Las Vegas" (1995), "Adaptation" (2002) and "Matchstick Men" (2003) there's horrible films such as "8MM" (1999), "Captain Corelli's Mandolin" (2001), "The Wicker Man" (2006) and "Ghost Rider" (2007). Unfortunately for these two "Next" is another in a line of disappointing films and now they can both share in its failure.
Based on yet another Philip K. Dick story "The Golden Man" (or rather very loosely based) "Next" tells the story of Cris Johnson (Nicolas Cage), a Vegas magician who has the power to see two minutes into the future. He uses this power to cheat at gambling and try to find a woman he keeps seeing in his visions when an FBI agent Ferris (Julianne Moore) tries to recruit him in order to help the bureau track down a nuclear bomb and stop it from detonating however Cris isn't interested in helping out mankind instead he's rather chase after Elizabeth (Jessica Biel), the woman he continues to see visions of in the future. But what Cris doesn't know is that the terrorists are also keeping an eye on him and Elizabeth becomes incorporated into their plans.
It seems that Philip K. Dick properties seem to be flavor of the month, his unique take on the future allows it to be perfect fodder for cinematic adaptation. It's a shame that "Next", which is loosely adapted is also loosely structured. The film's script has to be its weakest attribute (Nicolas Cage and Jessica Biel's acting seem to be a close second). This film is a high-concept film, which juggles sci-fi elements with action and romance, however these things are never juggled with precision as the film doesn't really know what it wants to be. For every uninspired and extremely hokey CGI action sequence there are long-winded and often inane character moments with Cris and Elizabeth that verge on the creepy and are almost always manipulative. By that I mean not in regards to the audience's emotions but rather the character of Cris uses his gift of seeing into the future to manipulate Elizabeth into falling for him. And it doesn't help that he looks like a potential date rapist, but of course as Hollywood films go she ends up actually falling for him later on so his tricky tactics supposedly lessen his overall creep persona and allows the audience to see the real Cris, blah! The action elements are also as tired and lazily pieced together, the immanent threat is yet another super-terrorist group that have their hands on a nuclear bomb and will use it against the United States. Suspension of disbelief is required with this film but there are some story lines that are so 'been-the-done-that' that whether the audience have the ability to suspending disbelief should not be your primary focus but rather elevating boredom must become the main issue and the filmmaker's have thrown a few CGI-filled action sequences that barely does the job.
I also had some character issues with Elizabeth, who in the middle of Cris' big manipulation scheme to spend time with her holds a discussion about fate and destiny as all sci-fi films with time travel themes seem to include, Elizabeth apparently doesn't believe in destiny but only a few scenes later she comments that she believes everything is possible, this character contradiction is very obvious and I sometimes wonder if the screenwriters check their own work or maybe the film was shot only after one draft? (it certainly feels like it). In any case the whole pre-conceived/destiny issue is so ham-handled in one scene and it begs the question why not just leave it out rather than even attempt to discuss it in such a off-hand way? It certainly adds very little to the overall film.
In regards to Cris' ability, there seem to be limitations to it, for example he can only see two minutes into the future and the future he sees only directly relates to himself. These parameters help define Cris' character and what he can and cannot do, for example after the two minutes into the future there's a window of opportunity when Cris cannot see anything coming. It was this window that enabled the FBI to track him and try to bring him in. But surely after he sees two minutes into the future the next two minutes should be able to roll over, right? No, in fact the filmmakers chose not to address this in detail which in a way justifies aspects of the script and basically gives Julianne Moore something to do.
I'm usually on the fence about Nicolas Cage, he's done some great work in the past and he's also done some rather embarrassing shit as well, and having been a fan of previous Philip K. Dick adaptations such as "Blade Runner" (1982), "Total Recall" (1990) and to a certain extent "Minority Report" (2002) I was somewhat looking forward to "Next" only to be disappointed with lackluster scripting, equally lackluster acting and too many fake looking action sequences that take you out of the film. The concept is there but the execution wasn't so good, in the hands of a better director this could have been a reasonably good film.

Video

Presented in the film's original theatrical ratio of 2.35:1 this transfer is presented in 1080p 24/fps high-definition and has been encoded using AVC MPEG-4 compression. The image is brilliantly crisp and clear displaying detail and colors with precision and is what you expect from a high-definition release. Texture and vibrancy are evident with colors that pop, natural skin tones and consistent shadow detail, a noticed some very minor grain and black levels were not always solid but overall this transfer stand well above the standard DVD release.

Audio

Four audio tracks are included in English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Surround mastered at 48kHz/24-bit/3.2Mbps, an English Dolby Digital-Plus 5.1 Surround at 768kbps as well as a Spanish Dolby Digital-Plus 5.1 Surround at 448kbps and finally a French Dolby Digital 2.0 surround track. For the purposes of this review I chose to view the film with its English Dolby Digital TrueHD track (through analog cables). The sound is much more robust than the standard 5.1 track on the DVD release, the aggressive nature of the track comes across with much more impact and gusto. The full nature of range from ambient to explosive is covered and makes excellent use of the 5.1 space. The track certainly gives the home theater a work out including the sub. Dialogue us crisp and clear and the film's score blares across the channels with force and impact.

Optional subtitles are also included in English, English for the hearing impaired, French, Portuguese and Spanish.

Extras

Paramount has released this film with a few extras including a series of four featurettes as well as a handful of bonus trailers. Below is a closer look at these supplements.

All of the supplements on this disc are presented in 1080p high-definition.

First up is "Making the Best Next Thing" featurette that runs for 18 minutes 16 seconds and is an EPK clip that only covers the basics including what the film is about, the character involved, adapting it from the source material as the cast talk about working with each other and the film's director. You are able to get a general understanding of the film as the producers tell us why it's so great and why you should see it...next.

"Visualizing the Next Move" is another featurette that runs for 7 minutes 48 seconds and takes a brief look at the visual effects for the film and how the crew achieved several sequences including the train crash, the pre-cog sequence, the nuclear explosion and the avalanche sequence. The participants don't go into too much detail instead they gloss over how they achieved those shots and in working with the director.

Following that is "The Next Grand Idea" featurette which runs for 6 minutes 54 seconds and takes a look at shooting in the Grand Canyon on an Indian Reservation and how that aspect of Elizabeth's character was explored, it also seems that it was all Cage's idea to shoot there so a big pat on the back is given to him as we also look into the logistics of shooting at that location.

The last featurette is entitled "Two minutes in the Future with Jessica Biel" and runs for 2 minutes 29 seconds, in this clip she talks about what it would be like to see into the future and weighs up the pros and cons of that.

Rounding out the extras is the film's theatrical trailer which runs for 2 minutes 25 seconds.

Overall

The Film: D Video: A Audio: A+ Extras: C+ Overall: C+

 


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