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(2007) * 1/2 Pg-13
96 min. Paramount Pictures. Director: Lee Tamahori. Cast: Nicolas Cage, Julianne Moore, Jessica Biel, Thomas Kretschmann, Peter Falk.

Next—a bit of fantasy nonsense very loosely based on Philip K. Dick's short story "The Golden Man"—is about a guy who keeps checking his watch and can see a couple of minutes into the future. Sounds like a movie critic. But no, Cris Johnson (Nicolas Cage)—a.k.a. Vegas magician Frank Cadillac—mostly uses his mysterious ability to supplement his income at the blackjack table and to dodge the authorities dying to exploit his talent.

Chief among these is unscrupulous federal agent Callie Ferris (Julianne Moore), who believes Johnson is the key to stopping terrorists intent on blowing up Los Angeles. Cris isn't interested in being indefinitely hooked up to electrodes for government study; besides, he's busy chasing the one future vision that exceeded a couple of minutes—a beautiful girl (Jessica Biel) walking into a diner. When he finds the girl, Next rips off one of the most famous stage pieces ever (David Ives' "Sure Thing") as Cris tries out a succession of pick-up lines before settling on an approach.

Naturally, the girl, Liz, becomes embroiled in the standoff between Chris, the feds, and the terrorists. They're a bunch of poorly motivated, totally-80s bad guys with accents (Thomas Kretschmann, get a better agent) and a stolen Russian nuclear munition. Screenwriters Paul Berenbaum, Gary Goldman and Jonathan Hensleigh conspire to muddle up the script, which—in the hands of Lee Tamahori (Die Another Day)—turns downright laughable. The earnestness of Cage and tough-as-nails Moore backfires in the face of godawful dialogue and a very poorly established central conceit.

Obviously, one must suspend one's disbelief enough to accept that Cris can see into the future, a couple of minutes at a time. Furthermore, we're asked to accept that he can do so with no loss of time and as often as likes in split-second succession; thus, he can whip up a skillful plan of attack for whatever he's about to face. But how exactly does he have the precision to dodge bullets by millimeters just because he can see, in advance, someone shooting at him? Now we have to accept that Cris is some kind of GPS savant.

Making Cris an infallible superhero with an ultimate power over time creates a bigger problem than credibility: an utter lack of narrative tension. Anything bad that happens is sure to be reversed instantly by the film's reset button, and Cris can't lose as long as he keeps leapfrogging into the future. The trick quickly gets old, but I suppose the point is moot, as Next is the sort of movie rightly spoofed in other movies as cinematic dreck. Just try to keep a straight face as puppy-dog-eyed Cage romances Biel or Moore grimaces, barks orders, and flies off in a helicopter. Don't these people think about their futures?

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Aspect ratios: 2.35:1 Anamorphic Widescreen

Number of discs: 1

Audio: PCM Uncompressed 5.1,Dolby Digital 5.1

Street date: 5/20/2008

Distributor: Paramount Home Video

Back in the Blu-Ray game, Paramount is serving up discs that not only present the films in high-definition, but also the extras, which is a thrill for early adopters who have had to settle for standard-def bonus features. Next is no exception. For starters, the transfer is sterling; the film is not a natural-looking one to begin with, but the disc renders its source material faithfully in a clean and sharp transfer with a PCM uncompressed 5.1 surround track that envelops the audience in the action.

The featurettes, all in sparkling HD, kick off with "Making the Next Best Thing" (18:13). Participants Nicolas Cage, Jessica Biel, Tony Kittles, writer Gary Goldman, executive producer Jason Koornick, and producers Todd Garner, Norman Golightly, and Arne Schmidt discuss the origins of the project and what drew them to the material, as well as covering the characters and production. "The Next Grand Idea" (6:51) focuses on the canyon sequence in the film, the location's remoteness and inhabitants, and why Cage suggested the very personal spot for the film.

"Visualizing the Next Move" (7:44) is the obligatory special-effects featurette, with visual effects supervisors John Sullivan and Dion Hatch, lead compositor Marco Recuay, and digital artist Nicholas Lund-Ulrich talking us through the key effects sequences and displaying them in various stages of development and broken into their various components. "Two Minutes in the Future with Jessica Biel" (2:25) amounts to table scraps from Biel's interview for the making-of doc, but fans will lap up Biel's thoughts about what she would do with precognition. Lastly, Paramount includes the Theatrical Trailer (2:26).

Troubled filmmaker Lee Tamahori is briefly feted by his colleagues and glimpsed on set, but he's not among the interview participants, and doesn't provide a commentary track. Despite that awkward omission, this is an all-around solid special edition, especially in glorious high-def.

Review gear:
Panasonic Viera TC-P55VT30 55" Plasma 1080p 3D HDTV
Oppo BDP-93 Universal Network 3D Blu-ray Disc Player
Denon AVR2112CI Integrated Network A/V Surround Receiver
Pioneer SP-BS41-LR Bookshelf Speaker (2)
Pioneer SP-C21 Center Speaker
Pioneer SW-8 Subwoofer

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