Review: Next (dir. Lee Tamahori, 2007)

You know how movies sometimes make you think certain things are happening, and then one of the characters wakes up and realizes it was all a dream? Used once or twice, this device can be pretty effective, but used too often — or too excessively, like the time the writers on Dallas decided that an entire season’s worth of episodes never took place — it can be the most groan-inducing of gimmicks.

That isn’t exactly what happens in Next, the latest film to be based on one of Philip K. Dick’s trippy, mind-bending stories (in this case, The Golden Man), but it’s pretty close. The film stars Nicolas Cage as Cris Johnson, a man who can see up to two minutes into his own future — and if he doesn’t like what he sees, then he can change his course of action and bring about a different future. But Cris does not merely see his future, as though he were observing it from a distance; he seems to actually experience his future, and it is only after he reaches a bad end that he mentally hits the “reset” button and decides to do things differently.

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Review: City of Angels (dir. Brad Silberling, 1998)

Film buffs cringe whenever an American studio tries to remake a European classic, but they tend to turn a blind eye to the more subtle ways in which movie distributors cater to American sensibilities.

Consider the fate of Heaven Over Berlin, an austere art-house flick about angels who ponder the nature of human existence. Never heard of it? That may be because Wim Wenders’ masterful 1987 film was rechristened Wings of Desire for English-speaking viewers who, apparently, prefer a hint of sensuality to anything quasi-religious.

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