Director Alex Proyas' "Dark City" was a fairly creepy and suspenseful sci-fi flick, which has become somewhat of a cult film. His latest, "Knowing," stars Nicolas Cage as an MIT astrophysics professor, John Koestler, who has raised the question of randomism vs. determinism with his class. He himself believes that stuff happens, although stuff isn't the word he uses.
John's wife died in a fire, leaving him with a good son, Caleb (Chandler Canterbury), to raise. He's out of sorts much of the time and overprotective of his son. Then Caleb brings home a letter with a string of seemingly random numbers on it, written 50 years before by a young girl and recently unearthed from a time capsule.
Like everyone else, John believes the writing is gibberish, but a random happenstance allows him to recognize that a group of those numbers … 09112001 … corresponds to Sept. 11 and soon realizes that major disasters … both natural and unnatural … of the past 50 years have been predicted in this letter. This revelation shakes John's lack of beliefs, and he sets out to find out about the girl who wrote the letter after another of the predictions comes true.
Questions of God and the possibilities of others in the universe get played out against a backdrop of doom. There is always a certain fascination in such stories. How much do we know, see, hear? (Caleb wears a hearing aid and picks up things normal people can't.) Merging sci fi with philosophy is always tricky and most times becomes silly.
Proyas doesn't manage to avoid all the pitfalls but does better than most, and "Knowing" is an honest effort and should be given credit for that.
On the other hand, another sci-fi film, "Push," is messy, overly complicated and basically dumb. Directed by Paul McGuigan ("Lucky Number Slevin"), it features people with telekinetic powers (movers), people who can bend other people's minds to their wills (pushers), people who can see into the future (watchers) and human bloodhounds (sniffs).
Dakota Fanning's punked-up tough cookie Cassie, with red streaks in her hair, is about the only thing that's interesting.
Otherwise, it's standard comic-book plotting with a clandestine government group trying to harness those with "special" powers to create a super army.
The action is a series of rapid unintelligible cuts. Most of the dialogue is so leaden that even the cranked-up soundtrack can't drown out the thuds. Fanning's turn is more odd than good, as if she tried to actually use her acting abilities, while the rest of the cast is waiting to be told to wake up and go home.
"Knowing" $26.99/ Blu-ray $34.99
"Push" $26.99/ Blu-ray $34.99
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