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The F*cking Black Sheep: Philip K. Dick's Next (2007)

08.02.2012by: Ryan Doom

THE BLACK SHEEP is an ongoing column featuring different takes on films that either the writer HATED, but that the majority of film fans LOVED, or that the writer LOVED, but that most others LOATH. We're hoping this column will promote constructive and geek fueled discussion. Dig in!

Next (2007)
Directed by Lee Tamahori

“Next works just dandy perfectly blending action, humor, drama, and sci-fi.”

Philip K. Dick has had quite a run over the last few decades. For a dead guy, dude sure has ruled the mind-bending category of science fiction for a long time with Blade Runner, Total Recall, and Minority Report. However, what sucks for Mr. Dick is that he never lived to see that success. Poor guy died thinking he was only a dime store novelist. (Hey, it was a long time ago. Things were cheaper then.) Lucky for his family, Hollywood keeps adapting his material. Sometimes even twice as the new Total Recall shows.

Actually, he’s had around 12 movies made from his work, yet sometimes the public might not realize they were Dick’s stories, which might be the case for Next starring Nic Cage, a man who has seemingly had the opposite career. Cage’s career hit fast and rose fast only to slip into DVD oblivion. Once a great indie actor. Then a top box office draw. Then…he got just a bit too weird for the public. His face got waxy. His hair got Trumpish. And his acting got…stranger. Over the last eight or so years I’ve watch Cage devolve as an actor as he seems to take any script handed to him as long as it was typed on paper. Hell, maybe he’s taken a few scripts rolled on paper towels too. Who knows, but it’d be an interesting way to read a script.

Regardless, what’s sad is that people might miss the quality work hidden beneath the piles of steamed poo. Knowing worked damn well. Lord of War is pretty badass. Hell, even Bangkok Dangerous plays nicely. Next, for instance, is an effective action/thriller that fits what Cage does best: quirky, dramatic, and hiding inner pain (or whatever).

Based on Dick’s 1954 novella “The Golden Man,” Cage plays Cris Johnson, who can see his own future (and only his future) two minutes ahead of time. The thing is…he doesn’t know what to do with the gift. He works as a lousy Vegas magician until Special Agent Julianne Moore shows up, believing in said gift. That’s all he really needed. A little encouragement to save the world even though he really doesn't want to. Who can blame him? Seems like a lot of pressure. Next deals with many of the same themes that nearly all Dick material does with alienation, identity, false realities, and controlled society. However, the novel dealt with mutants, superhuman powers, and odd skin problems, so consider this a loose adaptation.

Though Next works just dandy perfectly blending action, humor, drama, and sci-fi, it isn’t without fault, which namely come from two sources: directing and casting. I’ll leave Cage out of it for a moment, but casting blew it when it came to the antagonist because Next lacks a definable villain. Yeah, so some Euros wanna blow everything up with a nuclear bomb. I get it, but there’s no memorable bad dude. He’s faceless, without personality or interest. In fact, I’m watching the movie now and I can’t remember which one is the heavy and which one is the sidekick. Either way, both villains look more like a soccer dads than international human equivalent devils. At least give the guy an eye patch or a cowboy hat. Spice things up.

And then there’s director Lee Tamahori, whose work always come off generic looking. Look through his list of movies. They all border on cheesy and cheap looking, even when they cost an ass load of money. His best work was The Edge, which came out decades ago. How did he ever get a James Bond movie?

That’s not to say Next doesn’t have actors. Julianne Moore and Jessica Beal both look great and act great. They can do a lot of good for movies, especially when Beal lounges around in a towel and makes out with Cage (really?). Also, there’s Peter Falk in one of his final roles. He’s not in it much, but old Columbo always adds calm and professionalism. As for Cage, it’s a shame his hair looks so, so bad. I’m not sure if he’s bald, balding, or just asks his barber for the rich-guy-meth-head-cut, but it’s distracting. Regardless, if your eyes can stray away from his follicle area, you’ll find Cage still has it even if his hair doesn’t. He can still control the screen while creating likeable heroes when they could easily be anything but. He’s on his game and even dialed the nutty back a few levels. Now someone needs to remind him he's an actor first, nutbag second.

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