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Project Almanac (2015)
Paramount Home Entertainment
Blu-ray Disc Released: 6/9/2015
All Ratings out of
Review by Sydny Long, Posted on 5/28/2015
We get it: popularity sells. When The Blair Witch Project achieved unprecedented fame as one of the first of many found footage movies, the genre became absolutely deluged by a torrent of mediocre reprises. These films came to dominate the horror genre and exhaust moviegoers as they were subjected to endless shaky cam and jumpy editing. Unfortunately, this trend has yet to die out, although it has mined a few diamonds in the rough (Cloverfield, Chronicle) that go beyond the standards for the genre. Will Project Almanac, the latest in both the found footage and teen adventure genres, be one of these rare winners? Or will we find ourselves checking our watches for the time?
The movie opens with a video application to MIT, starring high school science geek David (Jonny Weston), his best friends Quinn (Sam Lerner) and Adam (Allen Evangelista), and his younger sister Christina (Virginia Garnder). While David is accepted into his dream school, he isn't given enough financial aid and his single, unemployed mother (Amy Landecker) is forced to put their house up for sale to pay for David's tuition. David begins to search through his deceased father's old experiments, hoping to find something he can use for a scholarship, and finds his old video camera. The camera's footage of David's seventh birthday party reveals his present self in the background, prompting David, Christina, and their friends to investigate the basement downstairs, where they find the blueprints for a time machine initially drawn up by David's father. After successfully building it and using the car of high school hottie Jessie (Sofia Black D'Elia), the group finds themselves able to jump back in time at ease. While this begins as a tool to repair their problems, it soon spirals out of control and leaves them racing against time to fix their mistakes.
Moviegoers who had the opportunity to watch 2012's much better Chronicle will be quick to spot the similarities here. Three high school boys find themselves graced with unfathomable power and are eventually overwhelmed by the repercussions of their actions (oh yeah and there's also a girl thrown in there). What made Chronicle such a successful and entertaining venture was its simple, streamlined story. That's where the similarities between the two end.
Project Almanac begins promisingly with enough boyish, teenager humor to keep the audience entertained and a cast of likable characters to carry the plot along. However, the "hey, is that me at my seventh birthday party?" premise starts to lag once the film reaches the forty minute mark of its bloated, one hour and forty-five minute running time and the kids have only just finished building the time machine. It picks up again when they start using their new ability to their advantages by making smart, fun plans such as buying the winning lottery ticket and traveling to the Lollapalooza they missed.
This lighthearted, time-travel romp is ruined by the last thirty or so minutes of the movie, which turns into a convoluted, frustrating mockery of Chronicle's final showdown. For those unfamiliar with the Butterfly Effect (Jeff Goldblum would be ashamed!), the film takes it to ridiculous lengths by having one little kiss cause fires, injuries, and a plane crash in the future. All attempts to repair this misstep only trigger more and more strife in the present day. The movie finally crashes and burns in a massively disappointing and confusing ending that leaves a bitter taste in the once hopeful audience's mouth.
Like most movies about time travel, Project Almanac does its best to establish rules that later are blatantly broken for plot convenience. While I personally enjoy time travel stories, I lost track of who had gone back in time when and, after a while, stopped caring. People remember they have traveled back in time, then forget. A future caused by one action is replaced by another where the same thing happened. The plot consistencies could be tolerated if the film didn't insist on touching on every time travel cliché ever devised. Even if you had just woken up from a coma and never watched a movie before in your life, I guarantee you would find yourself thinking: Wait… that seems familiar.
This isn't to say Project Almanac isn't a bad movie. It has its real moments, such as the anxiety surrounding college tuition fees and the allure of popularity, and does offer some laughs in its first act. The actors and actresses do a fine job as carefree teenagers (although the splendor and lax dress code of their high school left me cold). My only complaint here is that the film does little with its two female characters, relegating one to the role of David's crush and sticking the other behind the camera. Maybe if the three protagonists had been girls, we would have gotten a different, less complicated movie.
Project Almanac convinced me that my camcorder doesn't hold a charge long enough courtesy of Paramount Home Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 35 Mbps. The image is sharp and clear, showing no overt grain and no defects from the source materials -- save for those inherent in found footage movies. The colors look very good and the image is never overly dark or bright. The picture is very crisp, showing very good detail and definition. The depth is notable as well. The Disc carries a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 4.5 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The stereo effects show notable separation, and sounds constantly move from side-to-side. The same goes for the surround effects, which provide detailed, individual sounds. The subwoofer is also very active, most notably during the time-jump scenes and from the in-film music.
The Project Almanac Blu-ray Disc is decidedly shorn of extra features. The Disc contains eight DELETED SCENES which run about 9 minutes. These are actually new moments, but the only truly new thing introduced here is that Adam plays baseball. Otherwise, they simply reinforce ideas seen elsewhere in the movie. The "Alternate Opening" (3 minutes) has the same idea -- David's video for MIT -- but it's far less dynamic. The two "Alternate Endings" (5 minutes) further prove that the makers had no idea how the end this movie, as both are similar to the finished film and neither work.
Review Copyright 2015 by Mike Long