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'Knowing'

'Knowing," an apocalyptic blend of sci-fi, horror and faith, is almost certain to be the most harrowing hooey you see in a theater this year.

"Harrowing" because director Alex Proyas ("I, Robot," "Dark City") and his effects team know how to stage calamities. And "hooey" because this is basically a cinematic defense of numerology, the practice of finding meaning in numbers that might to the rest of us appear random.

Nicolas Cage plays John Koestler, an MIT astrophysicist whose son comes home with a slip of paper he took from a newly opened time capsule.

It's covered with numbers. And dad, drinking to forget his dead wife, starts to see patterns in the numbers "09112996." That's 9/11 and the death toll from the Sept. 11 attacks, written on a piece of paper by a haunted little girl whose work ended up buried beneath a school 50 years ago.

He breaks the code, sees other disasters in sync with other numbers. And then he finds the dates of disasters that haven't happened yet. He seeks the child who wrote the note. She died, still flinging prophecies around, so he settles on her daughter, Diana (Rose Byrne). Can he change the future?

Cage, bless him, sells this material. As off-the-wall as "Knowing" gets, he never lets us see him doubt what he's playing.

(PG-13) (1 STAR)

PLOT Astrophysicist tries to figure out the meaning of mysterious numbers.

CAST Nicolas Cage, Rose Byrne

LENGTH 1:50

PLAYING AT Area theaters

BOTTOM LINE It's better not to know.

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