Sunday, January 24, 2016

Project Almanac

***DISCLAIMER*** The following review is entirely my opinion. If you comment (which I encourage you to do) be respectful. If you don't agree with my opinion (or other commenters), that's fine. To each their own. These reviews are not meant to be statements of facts or endorsements, I am just sharing my opinions and my perspective when watching the film and is not meant to reflect how these films should be viewed. Finally, the reviews are given on a scale of 0-5. 0, of course, being unwatchable. 1, being terrible. 2, being not great. 3, being okay. 4, being great and 5, being epic! And if you enjoy these reviews feel free to share them and follow the blog or follow me on Twitter (@RevRonster) for links to my reviews and the occasional live-Tweet session of the movie I'm watching!  Gotta go back in time...and maybe not watch this one...or at least wait a lot longer before I do.



Project Almanac – 2 out 5


If you follow the blog and are a loyal reader of my silly little reviews, you might have gathered that I’m not the biggest fan of the “found footage” sub-genre and you might have noticed that I remind everyone of this fact literally every time I review one.  There was a time when you couldn’t escape these damn things and thanks to the insane success of the first Paranormal Activity, a “found footage” horror film was seemingly released about every hour for a good few years.  Rarely do you see this sub-genre take existence in realms that aren’t meant to scare you so it comes as a breath of fresh air when that does occur.  When I saw the trailer for Project Almanac, I thought it looked pretty cool and was hoping it would be a slick, non-scary approach to the often formulaic and too often underutilized fertile ground that exists in “found footage.”  Eh, sadly, my expectations were kinda dashed.

Pictured:  Time travel...I guess.


This picture will travel through time and post itself later
in the review.
David (Jonny Weston) is a brilliant high school student who has a bright future ahead of him but a financially troubled family next to him.  He hopes he can get a scholarship to an excellent school because his mother can’t afford to pay for his education but things don’t look so well when he gets accepted into the school he wants but the financial aid doesn’t come through.  However, the answer to his problems arrive in a very unconventional way…in their basement, they discover that his wayward father had invented a time machine but wasn’t able to perfect it and get it working.  Using the help of his mighty brain and with the assistance of his sister Christina (Virginia Gardner), his buddies; Quinn (Sam Lerner) and Adam (Allen Evangelista) and the woman he has a crush on; Jessie (Sofia Black), the group figures out the machine’s secrets and they proceed to party with time itself and it seems that David is going to get everything he wants.  However, they soon learn that their meddling has some repercussions and creates a ripple effect through time, leaving death and terror in the new timeline they’ve created.  Now it seems that David is left with a choice:  Correct everything they’ve done and lose what he’s gained or leave it as is and see what other damage has been done.

Why are all time travel devices made from easy to get items?  What is hiding in my
junk drawer that I can use to travel back in time with?


The movie starts off fun enough and it seems like the movie might be enjoyable.  However, as the film progresses, the story becomes less enjoyable as the movie focuses too much on teenagers trying to have a good time with time travel than it is with worrying about having a conflict the group has to overcome.  Granted, unlike other time travel films (and this movie will forcefully remind you of every, single, solitary time travel film ever made), Project Almanac showcases the small, petty things a normal person—especially a teenager—would do if they had access to a time machine.  The kids go back and use their knowledge win the lottery, make bullies look bad, party at a concert and just go back and fix missed opportunities that would otherwise normally just become memories of regret that only show up when you are trying to get to sleep at night.  This part of the feature is amusing and a sorta realistic approach to time travel when in the hands of kids who aren’t of the legal drinking age but it’s clear that this dynamic is the main focus of the film and it starts to get tedious and makes the film feel like it is going nowhere.

At least they are wearing proper goofy sci-fi personal protection equipment.


The film also loses points for having characters that lack depth.  Each character is barely developed beyond their one-dimensional skill set for the group.  David gets the honor of being the smart one and the one that gets the girl so he gets a little more depth than the rest but the other members are basically the sister, the friends and the crush.  Throughout the movie, we learn very little about them and only learn a fractional more about David's and his sister’s background.  The story already feels like it has no weight or importance due to the emphasis on partying so adding characters that feel one-dimensional, bland and flavorless made it extra difficult to fully invest in the action and it made the already cheesy and forced love angle that is being played out feel all that more pointless.

Told ya.


Additionally, like so many other “found footage” films, the element of having everything play out through the perspective of the teens’ POV and through their cameras feels superfluous.  There are a few minor times when it makes sense like when they are documenting the time travel experiments or filming David’s video he’s sending with his college application but, overall, this element feels unnecessary.  Too often events are completely incomprehensible due to the shaking of the camera and it raises too many questions—the sorta “I’m looking too deep into this narrative but it’s bothering me" type of questions.  Questions like who actually found the footage and edited it together?  And speaking of editing, did they bring along microphones to isolate audio because there are a lot of times when natural sound and dialogue is captured perfectly during chaotic and choppy sequences and shots filmed from a few dozen feet away?  Why did they feel a need to “document” scenes of David courting Jessica since that had nothing to do with the experiments of traveling through time?  More importantly, how on earth is the camera capturing memories when the kids travel back in time?  And if these aren’t memories but edited in footage done in post, why did the mysterious person who edited this and released it presumably on the internet take the time to create this bit of emotional narrative?  Now, I fully realize these are nitpicky complaints and some of them are things only a guy who knows too much about movies or has editing experience would even notice and that is true and I won’t deny that.  I have a history of sound editing (I use to work for the dying medium called commercial radio) and these things do stand out but they do affect my ability to completely submerge myself in the story.  These little mistakes and plot holes make it really hard to suspend my disbelief and one of the biggest reasons I just can’t get into “found footage” films.

The hardest part to believe was the fact that he didn't draw a dick on his past self.


For all my complaints and the tedium that I started to feel while watching the film, there were elements that I enjoyed.  For example, even though the characters aren’t written with much depth, the actors are all doing a very good job.  Finally, the special effects in the film are fantastic!  However, aside from this, I just didn’t see that much in this film.

In the pre-digital age, being erased from time just meant fading away.  Now, with smartphones,
social media and toilets with Bluetooth technology, even disappearing from time gets digital.


With all my nitpicking about Project Almanac, I did see some promise in the film.  There was definitely a flashy and fun film hiding in the final product but it was lost in a boring story, lifeless characters, a lack of an interesting conflict and a presentation that was more distracting than it was helpful or conducive to compelling story telling.  I had hoped for something from this film but, in the end, just found a film that held potential but just ended up boring me.

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