Plot: What’s it about?
I was perusing through the Internet Movie Database the other day and started going through the list of films that Nicolas Cage has actually starred in. I thought that actors like Samuel L. Jackson and Morgan Freeman had been in quite a few films, but Cage has been here, there and everywhere for nearly twenty years now. Sure, there are his better roles like “Raising Arizona”, “Leaving Las Vegas” and, yes “The Rock” and couple those with his more forgettable roles like “Honeymoon in Vegas”, “Ghost Rider” and “Con Air” (though I actually enjoyed it) and he’s got quite the resume. Add to that he’s a member of the esteemed Coppola family, has an Academy Award to his credit and you’ve got yourself a bona fide movie star. With his latest effort, “Next” Cage once again finds his character back in Las Vegas and the story was yet another inspired by visionary Phillip K. Dick (“Blade Runner” and “Minority Report”) whose works are hitting the screen like rain during a storm. What would you do if you could see into the near future?
Cage plays Cris “Frank Cadillac” Johnson, a headliner of a one man show who claims that he can predict the very near future. The thing is that he really can, but only if it concerns him or those around him. He wins just enough money at the casino’s to avoid being noticed and is right at home sipping his martini’s at the local coffee shop. It seems that Cris has attracted the attention of the FBI and special agent Callie Ferris (Julianne Moore) is going to stop at nothing to get Cris’ help. Terrorists have hijacked a nuclear bomb and are planning to blow it up right in downtown Los Angeles unless Cris can help them see into the future and thwart the attack. He manages to escape Sin City with new cohort Liz (Jessica Biel) as the two head to Flagstaff, Arizona. Naturally the FBI does eventually track them down and we get to see if Cris can help others else southern California is toast.
I have to say that the inspiration for the story is somewhat intriguing. Cage’s character keeps repeating the line “I can see into the future and once that happens, it changes.” This is true, because once you see into the future you have the ability to change what happens. The possibilities are endless, to say the least but I felt it somewhat of a let down when the whole “terrorist with a nuclear bomb” sub plot came to fruition. There’s no doubting Cage’s talents and it’s him who makes the movie work. Julianne Moore and Jessica Biel are good in their respective parts but Biel’s character could have been played by any Hollywood starlet and I was constantly reminded of Julianne Moore’s turn as Clarice Starling in “Hannibal”; the roles were just too similar. All things considered, “Next” isn’t a bad movie, it’s certainly worth a watch. I felt the script could have used a bit of re-tooling but a strong performance by Cage pretty much saves the film. While it won’t (and shouldn’t) win any awards, it’s a good way to pass 90 minutes.
Video: How does it look?
“Next” is directed by a favorite director of mine, Lee Tamahori, who has directed a few of my recent favorite films: “The Edge” and “Mulholland Falls” and he’s got a real sense as to how shots look and look good on screen. “Next” is presented in a 2.35:1 AVC HD transfer that, for the most part, looks positively amazing (the HD DVD had a VC-1 transfer). I noticed no edge enhancement, colors seemed vibrant and strong and the detail level is absolutely amazing (you can read the meters on slot machines a couple rows away). There were a few scenes that seemed to have a bit of roughness to them and some of the CGI scenes seemed a bit “jumpy” but that might have just been me. On the whole, “Next” delivers a fine-looking transfer and viewers won’t be disappointed.
Audio: How does it sound?
While the HD DVD contained a Dolby TrueHD soundtrack, this Blu-ray version offers a PCM uncompressed soundtrack. First off, dialogue is very strong and crisp, the center channel handles this with no problem whatsoever. The surrounds seem to constantly hum along and add some extra emphasis where needed. There are a few key scenes, one at the Grand Canyon, where the sound is simply amazing. Cars are crashing, trees are falling down a hill and it’s quite the impressive display of surround sound if I do say. Again, viewers won’t be disappointed when it comes to how this sounds and it’s nearly identical to the TrueHD track found on the now defunct HD DVD.
Supplements: What are the extras?
Paramount has given us some fairly sparse supplements starting off with four featurettes that mirror the HD DVD and standard DVD. The range from the effects to the casting and the story to the standard “Making of” featurette. On a good note, they’re all presented in HD along with the original HD trailer as well.