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</script></div>{/googleAds}here was a time when Native Indians, alien invaders from space, or communist Soviets were the bad guys in American movies. Then, thanks to uprisings in the Middle East, the industry was given a new pool of enemies from which to choose. Why then, does Next feature generic French-speaking, Eastern European-looking baddies that aren't really that bad? Wouldn't radical Islamists with a rogue nuke strike more fear with audiences? Are cultural sensitivities running this high that we must generalize the enemy to avoid offending anyone, or is it just another poor decision amongst many by the makers of Next? I suppose it really doesn't matter in the grand scheme, but with so much going against it, we have to start somewhere.

The premise, a spin-off from author Philip K. Dick's short story The Golden Man, is the most interesting aspect of Next, and with a bit of loving care it could have been turned into a compelling story to rival the Jack Ryan series of CIA thrillers. It involves Chris Johnson (Nicolas Cage), a two-bit Vegas magician with the gift of precognition, or the ability to see into the future - but generally only for two minutes, and only his future. What occupation might you pursue if you could see into the future? A stock broker so you could make millions by buying a stock just before its meteoric rise? Compelling thought, but I'm certain "lounge act magician" would fall way down on anyone's list. Just one more example of lazy storytelling. Johnson does supplement his income by dabbling at the blackjack tables, which leads to an interesting escape sequence in a casino where he eludes the police after thwarting a robbery. This scene rivals the museum escape bit from 1999's Thomas Crown Affair for compelling filmmaking, but it happens early in the film, and it's all down hill from there.

Noticing his uncanny "talents" is tough FBI agent Callie Ferris (Julianne Moore), who gives chase, demanding that Johnson help the Bureau track down a missing A-bomb. But Johnson doesn't see much in the mission for himself after all he's waiting for Jessica Biel to show up in his life. Seems her presence is the one thing he's been able to see more than two minutes into the future. He spends his spare time waiting in a diner where he knows she'll eventually show up.

Watching the FBI attempt to catch Johnson is one of the most enjoyable parts of the movie. Especially since we know that not only can he see into the future, but can also "back up" when things go badly for him. It's kind of like playing a video game - when you die, you just do it over again until you get it right. It doesn't make much sense that Johnson can back up more than 2 minutes in time, but don't worry about that too much.

Once agent Ferris eventually catches up to Johnson, the whole thing pretty much goes down the drain. Obviously, logic must be suspended to buy into the sci-fi aspect of the story, and that's what makes it fun. But numerous questions go unanswered and too many implausibilities are glossed over or simply overlooked completely. For instance, how did agent Ferris first become aware of Johnson's special talents and how does she plan to use them to stop the nuclear attack? How do the terrorists know about his abilities? Who are the terrorists, and what do they want? Again, I guess we're not supposed to worry too much about that. This is usually what happens when too many people are involved with a script and that's exactly the problem here. The "screenplay by committee" loses its focus and director Lee Tamahori isn't able to get things back on the tracks. It turns out the film is just a one-trick pony. Sure, the trick is a pretty good one, but only for the first 30 minutes or so. After that, the filmmakers aren't able to make it feel like anything more than a paycheck grab for Moore, Cage, and even Biel.

Next has enough plot pedigree and adequate acting to be a good film. But poor script execution coupled with a lack of substantial thematic elements make the film's "trick" ending feel cheap and unimaginative. It keeps you interested just long enough to laugh at you because you cared as much as you did.


DVD

DVD Details:

Screen formats: Widescreen Anamorphic 1.85:1

Subtitles: English, French, Spanish

Language and Sound: English: Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround; English: DTS 5.1 Surround; English: Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo; French: Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo; Spanish: Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo

Other Features: Color; interactive menus; scene access.

* Featurettes -
o Making the Best Next Thing (18:16)
o Visualizing the Next Movie (7:48)
o Next "Grand Idea" (07:00)
* Interview
o Two Minutes in the Future with Jessica Biel (2:29)

Number of discs: - 1- Keepcase Packaging

{pgomakase}

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