Judge Ryan Keefer wonders why on earth they would make a movie about a speed dating show on MTV. Wait. What?
If you can see the future, you can save it.
I don't even remember Next coming out in theaters, but then again when it's a film that didn't even make $20 million and had an Oscar winner in it to boot, Next seems like a cinematic mulligan of sorts. Why bother acknowledging it because it was so bad, you know? Onward and upward for all involved. But it wasn't so easy, since it was a title that received a staggered release onto the high definition formats, and now it comes out on Blu-ray? Vast est lost?
Facts of the Case
Next was initially based on a novel by science fiction writer Philip K. Dick, and adapted by Gary Goldman, whose last screenwriting efforts were in the 1990 epic Total Recall. Directed by Lee Tamahori (Die Another Day). Cris Johnson (Nicolas Cage, The Wicker Man) is an anonymous magician in Las Vegas who has an uncanny knack at premonition. However, his premonitions give him the ability to see two minutes into the future. So in a sense, Cage's character seems like a bad sketch from Saturday Night Live. But Cris has magically fallen for Elizabeth (Jessica Biel, Home of the Brave), in part because he can see a little further into the future, which is kind of cool. People want to harness Cris' talent, namely an FBI agent named Callie Ferris (Julianne Moore, The Big Lebowski). Apparently Ferris has been tracking him for awhile, for no real reason other than "he's got a talent we want to use" or something. But specifically the government has received a threat that there's a nuclear device that will be detonated in Los Angeles, and Cris has to find out where for Callie, or else.
While I was determining how to break new ground from the hundreds of words that have been devoted to Next by other Verdict judges, a funny thing happened to me the other day at work. Our boss says we're headed in a new direction at work, one that I strongly disagreed with and said so. When I was asked for a comment/opinion on an unrelated topic, I said, "whatever the group wants to do is what I'll do," and went from there. My boss and I talked afterwards and at the end of it, he asked if I was OK. I told him that I was never not OK, I voiced my concerns over the proposal, but if this is what we're doing, then I'll follow it to the letter, which is something he mentioned to us before all of this began. Which segues me to the first thing I noticed when I was watching Next; everyone involved in front of the camera really seemed to not like what they were doing or how they were doing it, but they were professional enough to do the job. They were essentially sulking through their lines (even Moore), and not really into what they were trying to pull off. And that goes to the basic guidelines of a fan or follower; if the leader doesn't buy what they're doing, then why should I?
Along with that are two other things I wanted to touch on real quick, the first being the film's effects. There's quite a bit of computer generated effects, particularly during a sequence where Cris, after hooking up with Elizabeth, has to run from the Feds, and he runs down a mountain, and the elements that might spell his doom, and the seams are plainly visible, even from the background side of things. It looks comical. Oh, and speaking of comical, you've got Cage's talent. He takes it so seriously and with this almost sullen aplomb (with fake hair), because the government has tried to exploit him, and he's tried to stay away from trouble, or else they'll find him and "torture him," But the torture device seems to be to watch the 24 hour news station with the device that Malcolm McDowell wore in A Clockwork Orange, which I guess would be torture, and the dialogue surrounding this is supposed to resemble some political message, which is amateurish, annoying and sad all in one.
One more thing on Cage's talent before I go; there's this thing he does in the third act, after improbably resolving his dispute with the FBI, so that they can both find out who set off the bomb and where it is, that, I guess you could call it a live-action version of Lemmings, except the character here is three dimensional and several times dumber than the one in the game. And the sad part is that this is another step in a compounding ending to the film that just doesn't work. My wife, who was more engrossed by the film than I was, said "they didn't have to do that" several times within the last ten minutes or so.
Technically, Next is presented on 2.35:1 widescreen and uses the AVC MPEG-4 codec. The disc possesses a solid level of detail and respectable blacks, though they do tend to be a little inconsistent at times. The background image depth is nonexistent, so there's not a lot of multidimensional looks in the film sometimes, even when shooting on the cusp of the Grand Canyon. It looks okay, just not all that great. The uncompressed 5.1 surround track is much better, with subwoofer activity throughout the feature and a decent amount of speaker panning. On the downside, there's not a lot of directional effects, and the dialogue seems to waver, so you've got to crank the receiver as a result, but this is quite the solid presentation.
Paramount has already released Next on HD DVD, so this Blu-ray release is basically to roll out what was already in production before the HD exclusive switch in 2007, before reverting back to Blu-ray in 2008. Gotta love that format war. But hey, the extras are in high definition, so that's commendable. Starting off you've got "Making the Next Best Thing" (18:13), which attempts to examine the production without being a traditional fluffy making-of piece. The cast shares their thoughts on the story and characters, while the crew (well, Goldman really) talk about pulling the story together for cinematic telling. And yeah, the cast discusses Tamahori and their thoughts on working with one another, and the crew discusses how lucky they were to get the cast they did. The action/stuntwork is covered by the cast and their thoughts on it, and it wraps up with some closing thoughts. Different but same is what I'd probably call this. "Visualizing the Next Move" (7:44) talks about the visual effects and the challenges in pulling it all off, while ample footage of animatics abounds during the key sequences are broken down by the crew. "The Next Grand Idea" (6:51) shows off the film's Arizona location and the inspiration to shoot there, while "Two Minutes Into the Future With Jessica Biel" (2:25) features the young hussy's, er, starlet's, thoughts on time travel and what she'd do with it. The film's trailer (2:26) closes the disc out.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
Conceptually, Next is interesting enough; the whole seeing into the future thing is nice, but the decision to make this film run a little over 90 minutes is baffling. There's no character background save for Cage's introductory voiceover, which sounded so sedated that I had a little lie down on the couch while the film was still in the first act. Callie's motivations should have been better dictated as well, and with all of this, the film would have been at least tolerable.
Next might seem interesting from the start, but the performances are remarkably flat, the storytelling falls apart, and the special effects border on the silly. I don't think you need to have the ability to see into the future to figure out what my final decision for the film is going to be.
If I could see the future, then I could have saved some of my past by skipping this turd.
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