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A Las Vegas magician who can see into the future is pursued by FBI agents seeking to use his abilities to prevent a nuclear terrorist attack.
For more about Next and the Next Blu-ray release, see Next Blu-ray Review published by Martin Liebman on May 14, 2008 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.5 out of 5.
Director: Lee Tamahori
Writers: Paul Bernbaum, Jonathan Hensleigh, Gary Goldman (I)
Starring: Nicolas Cage, Julianne Moore, Jessica Biel, Thomas Kretschmann, Tory Kittles, Jessica Barth (I)
» See full cast & crew
Next Blu-ray Review
Welcome back Paramount.
Reviewed by Martin Liebman, May 14, 2008
Here's the thing about the future: every time you look at it, it changes, because you looked at it, and that changes everything else.
Next is another in a long and proud lineage of Philip K. Dick novels/short stories turned feature-length motion pictures. Minority Report, Total Recall, and A Scanner Darkly being amongst the better-known cinematic recreations of the famed author's writings. Next, similar to the basic theme of Minority Report and from Dick's short story entitled "The Golden Man," examines the possibilities, dangers, and advantages of precognition, or the ability to see or have some kind of foreknowledge of future events. In Next, the ability is not a universal one; the hero of the film cannot see any and all future events, only those that directly affect him, and only two minutes ahead. For example, he can foresee what cards he'll be dealt in a game of blackjack, but couldn't know that his car would be hit by a train some thirty minutes later (although he would know in 28 minutes). It's an interesting idea, reminding me a bit of the "Omega 13" device seen in the film Galaxy Quest. There, the device allowed the crew to go back 13 seconds in time and undo one costly mistake. Here, the hero has a built in, ever-running "Omega 120," for lack of a better term, one that doesn't rewind time, but one that does allow him time to correct any immediate mistakes ahead of time.
Cris Johnson (Nicolas Cage, Face/Off) is the man who can see two minutes into his future, except when it comes to a mystery woman he's been waiting to meet, Liz (Jessica Biel, Stealth). He can see further into her future than he can his own, and he awaits the time he foresees their first encounter. Meanwhile, his skills are becoming known to the FBI, agent Callie Ferris (Julliane Moore, Hannibal) in particular, who needs his help in locating and preventing the detonation of a nuclear weapon in Los Angeles. Cris' unique ability allows him to escape various moments of peril, evading security guards at a casino or seeing his own arrest and escaping it before even speaking with agent Ferris. When Cris finally meets Liz, her importance to Cris' life, and the fate of millions of people, becomes apparent. Cris must not only ensure Liz's safety but also chose whether or not to cooperate with the authorities and use his powers to stop an imminent threat to society.
The problem that plagues every time travel story is that the paradoxes always seem to become far too involved and confusing, and the plot never goes towards a logical conclusion that even the least intelligent could figure out. Why, in Star Trek: Generations, for example, did Picard choose attempt to stop Soran's work at a point where his weapon was about to launch? Why not go back to when he first met him on board the Enterprise? Needless to say, plot holes and stupidity abound in most time-travel movies, and that is perhaps why this one works slightly better than most. It's not your traditional time-travel story, but the elements are here, and equally confusing, this time due to lazy writing. Cris' powers, while fascinating, are inconsistent. For example, early in the picture, he becomes aware of a plot by Casino security to nab him. He looks up at the security camera just as they are preparing to chase him down. "So he doesn't have to be there to do it. Once you enter his consciousness, he can pick it up," Ferris says of Cris' abilities. Why, then, later in the film, does she believe she can convince Liz to slip him a drug, yet also believe Cris will not be aware of it (which, it seems, he isn't, at least not via his own powers)? Perhaps I missed a fine detail, but I re-watched the scenes in question, and they don't seem to stand up to a logical analysis. The plot is infinitely fascinating, and the material terrific, but far too many inconsistencies and questions arise as to just how far his powers can go; they seem to escalate as the film goes on with little to no rhyme or reason.
Plot holes aside, Next is a cool movie. I don't believe I've used "cool" before in a review, but it applies here. It's got a little bit of everything, from bullet-dodging akin to that seen in The Matrix to some exciting action sequences including a fantastic shootout at the end. The movie even comes with a surprise ending, one that makes infinite sense in the context of the story and definitely one I did not see coming. Next is one of those films where nothing is quite as it seems, and the plot does offer writers perhaps the easiest way ever out of any and every scenario, and Cris' powers are continuously put to the test. "Coolness" factor aside, Next is just not quite good enough as it is. The story is an excellent one. It's based on a Philip K. Dick novel, so we know the foundation of the story is going to be tight; it's up to the director, screenwriter, and actors to live up to the material. Next gets more right than it does wrong, but its meandering take on just how powerful Cris is leaves a bit to be desired.
Next Blu-ray, Video Quality
Next makes it long-awaited Blu-ray debut on a mostly good-looking 1080p, 2.35:1 framed high-definition experience. The movie offers viewers an AVC encode with a bit rate that generally hovers around the lower-to-mid 30s. It's not a surprise that a movie based on a short story entitled "The Golden Man" features a color palette tinted towards that shade. It's plainly obvious in the flesh tones of the characters who have a decidedly gold look to them. Even the jacket worn by Nicolas Cage is of a golden hue. The image is also a slight bit darker than the average film, but I found that I enjoyed the look of the movie on the whole. As to the actual transfer, it's a good one. Detail level is very high, especially in close-up shots. Several times we see Cage's hand fill the screen, and every hair and line is plainly visible. It's always easy to make out the smaller details and read signs in the background, and the disc's definition is sharp and clear. There are never any issues with a soft or out-of-focus image. Distance shots hold up very well, too. Las Vegas looks spectacular, from flyby shots of the city to the bright interiors of the casinos. An overheard flyby shot of a shipping yard in chapter nine also offers up some fabulous detail and color array. Blacks look just the slightest bit brighter than one would expect in some scenes, bold and perfect in others, but the lesser instances are by no means intrusive to the viewing experience. I really love wet street scenes in movies, and we have a few good ones here. The glossiness of the concrete that comes about when it is wet really brings out some nice looking detail and realism, and the ones we see in this transfer are top-notch. The image is almost grain-free. If it is there the layer is so fine that I couldn't detect it, but the image's strong use of color and slightly dark overtones still makes it look very cinematic. This disc just looks good. It's certainly not the best I've seen, but it makes for an exciting high-definition visual experience.
Next Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Next comes to you with a PCM 5.1 uncompressed track that is great, but decidedly not one step ahead of the best of the rest. My initial impression of the audio was that it sounded just a bit reserved, the surrounds not offering up much in the way of ambient noise, and when it is there it's just not quite as prominent and defined as expected. The track does liven up quite a bit, but it's still not as engaging as the highest rated tracks we've heard so far. When the action does pick up, this very good sound mix immerses us completely in the moment. A car chase in the streets of Las Vegas about 10 minutes into the movie is very exciting, the first time the soundtrack truly has the opportunity to shine. I was perhaps a bit worried as the film started off in a bustling casino, and ambient noise was barely noticeable, the action very front-heavy, but this car chase certainly lets us know the track means business. Bass makes its presence felt. It did seem to be just a bit subdued, but the louder, more raucous action sequences, such as a disastrous avalanche of machinery and debris in chapter 13, are a joy to listen to. Gunshots don't make quite the impact they could have, but they are heard all around during the film's climactic and rather lengthy shootout, one of the most exciting shootouts I've heard in quite some time. There is sustained gunfire coming from all directions, always a pop or a string of "bangs" or a ricochet in the rear channels. Dialogue reproduction was uniformly excellent in this track. This isn't the stuff of legendary high-definition soundtracks, but it gets the job done and makes for a fun 90 minutes of listening once the action picks up.
Next Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Next takes you into the future of Paramount Blu-ray discs with a few interesting supplements. You'll even see a spiffy Next icon, a la Sony and Disney titles, in lieu of the generic Blu-ray disc icon when you pop the disc into your Playstation 3. First up is Making the best Next Thing (1080p, 18:13), a standard look at the making of the movie, coming to you with interviews featuring the cast and crew intercut with scenes from the film. The interviews focus on Cris' power and why it is different from your standard-fare "see into the future" film, the origins of the story from Philip K. Dick's short story, and the moral implications of the story. Visualizing the Next Movie (1080p, 7:44) looks at the film's many special effects shots, and why CGI was more practical than real effects for the film. The Next "Grand Idea" (1080p, 6:51) examines the love angle of the story and some of the more beautiful locations as seen in the film. Two Minutes in the Future With Jessica Biel (1080p, 2:25) is a generic feature with the famed actress trying oh-so-hard to figure out whether she would want the ability to see into her future or not. Finally, the film's theatrical trailer (1080p, 2:26) concludes the extra features.
Next Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Next requires viewers to turn their brain off at the door more so than any other movie I've reviewed. Thinking about it too hard will reveal the stories warts, but accepting it for a fun 90 minute ride with plenty of action should leave you with a smile on your face. Not too shabby is this disc's technical specifications. The video quality is perfectly acceptable, the movie clearly benefiting from the increased resolution of Blu-ray, the film's style transferring well to the format. The same can be said for the sound quality. It won't knock your socks off or blow the roof off of your house, but its a fun and exciting listen nevertheless. The supplements left a bit wanting, but then so do the extras on so many other discs. Next may be the ultimate kick-off-your-shoes and relax movie, something to take your mind off the stress of your day while kicking back in your favorite chair with some refreshments. You don't (and shouldn't) have to think too hard about it to have a good time at the movies. Recommended, and welcome back Paramount!
Next: Other Editions
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Next Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Paramount Further Details Their Blu-ray Plans - April 30, 2008
Paramount Home Entertainment today revealed further details about their upcoming Blu-ray plans and in addition to releasing 'Bee Movie', 'Face/Off' and 'Next' on May 20th, they will also be releasing 'Blades of Glory', a quirky comedy about the competetive world ...
• Paramount Reveals Initial Blu-ray Titles - April 29, 2008
Paramount Home Entertainment have finally unveiled their long-awaited first wave of catalog and recent hit titles that they'll begin releasing May 20th. "We will have a strong slate of titles for Blu-ray release throughout the year, worldwide, and are enthusiastic ...
• Next Comes to Blu-ray - July 10, 2007
Paramount Home Entertainment has announced that they will bring the Nicholas Cage film Next to Blu-ray on September 25th, day-and-date with the DVD release. No specs have been released for the title, but expect a 1080p AVC video transfer with PCM audio.
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