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.
The result is that we in the audience experience these various alternate timelines with Cris, but whereas he knows that they lie in the future, we assume—at least the first few times—that we are experiencing the present. So when Cris hits his personal "reset" button, the rug is pulled out from under us. And throughout the earlier parts of this film, at least, it gets pulled again, and again, and again.
To be fair, the film has some fun with this conceit. When Cris wants to introduce himself to a girl—more on her in a moment—he visualizes multiple ways of walking up to her and getting her attention, most of which end in failure. We assume his first effort to meet ...1