HTF HD-DVD Review: Next

Discussion in 'Blu-ray and UHD' started by PatWahlquist, Sep 14, 2007.

  1. PatWahlquist

    PatWahlquist Supporting Actor

    Jun 13, 2002
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    Next (HD-DVD)

    Studio: Paramount Home Video
    Rated: PG13 (Intense sequences of violent action and some language)
    Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
    HD Encoding: 1080p
    HD Video Codec: MPEG-4 AVC
    Audio: English 5.1 Dolby TrueHD; English, Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital Plus, French Dolby Digital Plus 2.0
    Subtitles: English, French, Spanish, Portuguese; English SDH+
    Time: 96 minutes
    Disc Format: 1 SS/DL HD-DVD
    Case Style: Keep case
    Theatrical Release Date: 2007
    HD-DVD Release Date: September 25, 2007

    Cris Johnson (Nicholas Cage) has the ability to see two minutes in the future. He is using his power to star in a show as “Johnny Cadillac”, a Las Vegas show where he wows the audience with his feats of mentalism. When he needs some quick cash, he wanders into the casino and plays some blackjack. Cris has somehow come to the attention of FBI Special Agent Callie Ferris (Julianne Moore), who wants to use him and his power to avert a brewing terrorist plot to set off a nuke in Los Angeles. Cris has also been having visions of a girl who he will meet in a diner, and she will allow him to see two hours into the future. When Cris’s power shows him a casino robbery, he uses his ability to stop it, but it puts him on the run from casino security, and soon enough, Callie.

    Cris’s power saves him from close calls to get him to his hideout and his friend Irv (an underused and unusual casting choice in Peter Falk). Soon enough, before Callie finds him (in one future), Cris splits. He figures his destiny is to meet Liz (Jessica Biel) in the diner, so he goes there. Liz walks in and the multiple scenes play out, with Cris eventually going with Liz to Arizona. Along the way, they stop at the Grand Canyon for Liz’s work and the pair finally hooks up. Callie is close behind and she explains to Cris why they need him after a couple big action pieces. Oh, did I mention there’s some goings on with the terrorists as they have figured out what Cris can do and they want to eliminate him so they may execute their sinister plot? After some soul searching and emotional turmoil, Cris makes a decision that may not only affect his life, but those close to him…and the entire world.

    I was amazed to discover that this picture was based on a Phillip K. Dick story, and it was adapted by the same writer who adapted Dick’s stories to make Total Recall and Minority Report, Gary Goldman. Not only is this the weakest of three adaptations (if you want to lump them together), the plot closely resembles any given season of 24. While I watched the picture, I was hoping Jack Bauer was going to show up, kill Cris, and go after the terrorists himself. The idea of “cogging”, as Cage calls it in one of the bonus features, is standard sci-fi stuff, and Goldman and director Lee Tamahori, really don’t add much to the drama. At a very lean 96 minutes, the picture could have very easily spent an extra few minutes to flesh out the supporting characters and give them a bit more depth (especially the curious use of Peter Falk’s Irv, Moore’s Clarice Starling-in-training Callie, and the terrorists). Tamahori, who is responsible for the Bond flick Die Another Day and xXx: State of the Union doesn’t seem to have gotten any better with his action scenes or his willingness to hang shots on his leading man. Cage does his usual emotive gesture of peaking his eyebrows and making his eyes look oh-so-soulful, but it only comes off as wimpy. I could continue to go on about the problems with this picture, but I’d hate to subject you to such vitriol.

    Note: I am watching this title using a Marantz VP 11-S1 DLP projector, which has a native resolution of 1080p. I am using a Toshiba HD-A1 for a player and utilizing the HDMI capabilities of both units. Since the Toshiba has a maximum resolution output of 1080i, the Marantz is responsible for the up-conversion to 1080p.

    Next is encoded in the MPEG-4 AVC codec at 1080p with a 2.35:1 aspect ratio. The video presentation is solid, but not spectacular. Most every scene in the picture is very warm and seems almost bathed in golden light. When some outdoor scenes come up (such as when Chris makes an escape from the hotel), colors are rich and lifelike. Flesh tones are basically accurate, but tend to take on the influence of their surroundings quite easily. They also seem to show off the make-up on the actors, something I’m not sure Hollywood gets yet when it comes to HD home theater. Sharpness and detail are good, especially in close ups of the actors faces. Black levels were excellent, showing fairly good detail. Occasionally, the picture tends to show some depth, particularly in the Grand Canyon scenes, but otherwise, the picture lacks any real depth of field. This is a very recent picture, so I was not surprised to have an image that is perfectly clean and clear of any debris or dirt, edge enhancement is not noticed, nor were there any compression artifacts.

    The Dolby TrueHD soundtrack was attained by a 5.1 analog connection.

    The Dolby TrueHD soundtrack is very well balanced between all the channels, encompassing the viewer in the soundstage. Fidelity is excellent producing a clean and clear presentation that is free from any distortion. Bass effects come alive in the action scenes, obviously, but they do not overshadow the rest of the soundtrack. Surrounds are very active when they pop up, again, during the actions scenes, but they are not too lively otherwise. The surrounds add a great sense of spaciousness to the soundstage. Voices are natural sounding but ADR is noticed in a couple scenes, even to the point of off syncing the track. In SD material, I tend to favor DTS soundtracks because they give more depth, richness and cohesiveness to a soundtrack. I am hearing the same type of things in these Dolby TrueHD tracks but with the enhancements a lossless codec provides.

    Bonus Material:
    With the advent of HD-DVD, we are faced with several different audio and video codecs being used on each disc. Due to this, I have begun adding the encoding details as part of the explanation of bonus features when applicable and relevant. For this release, the extras are in MPEG4-AVC encoding unless otherwise noted.

    Making the Best Next Thing (18:14): this piece is an EPK if I ever saw it. The production team and actors discuss their theories on fate, destiny and the fight we have between them. Curiously, Tamahori does not speak on any of the extras, but just about everyone else does.

    The Next “Grand Idea” (6:51): cast and crew talk about the Grand Canyon scenes and the indigenous culture who reside there.

    Visualizing the Next Move (7:46): pre-vis and the effects are highlighted here. I was hoping we’d get an explanation as to why the effects were so…noticeable in the feature, but that didn’t come up.

    Two Minutes in the Future with Jessica Biel (2:27): Biel goes into depth (or as much as she can in two minutes) about if she’d choose to know her future if given the option. I will not ruin the surprise for you here.

    Theatrical trailer.

    A weak picture is coupled with a basic set of extras and an average home video presentation.

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