Project Almanac (2015): A group of teens discover secret plans of a time machine, and construct one. However, things start to get out of control.
Ahhh January releases. You gotta love 'em. The latest installment in lovely January releases that I have time to take a look at is Project Almanac. Project Almanac is....is a wildly mixed bag of goods. Some good, and some bad. On the one hand, you have a relatively interesting story with time travel that only has a few holes in it sporadically. But, on the other hand, one of these holes is the ending. The ending and really the entire third act kind of sucks. I think at right around the 60 minute mark of the 106 minute film, director Dean Israelite realized that he and his crew had completely lost control of the story and as a result just said f*ck it, we'll do it live! On one hand, you have decent acting from all parties involved. But, on the other hand, you have a hooooooribly written and cringe-worthy love story. And then you have the "found footage" parameter. Look for a discussion on that in a bit. But, let's jump into it shall we?
First off, here's what the movie gets right. For the first two acts of the film, I was really following along and having a good time. Project Almanac initially created a somewhat interesting premise that had me going along with it for a time. The acting was pretty good, led by relative newcomers Jonny Weston and Sofia Black-D'Elia, but nothing to write home about. This is particularly true because of absolutely nonexistent chemistry between these two actors. God was this frustrating! The love story between these two characters was SO BAD. But I digress. Additionally, this was an MTV Productions film, and as a result the music selections were current and quite good. At one point the crew stumbles upon an Imagine Dragons concert at Lollapalooza and I found myself dancing along in my seat.
So everything from a technical standpoint is defined by the decision to make this a "found footage" film. For those that don't know what that means, a "found footage" film is a film that puts the viewer in a first person view for the entirety of the film. This first person view is as a result of the footage you're seeing being taken by the characters involved. This often leads to a significant amount of shaky-cam, which personally doesn't work for me more often than not, and is always a huge risk that is taken by the director. After all, "found footage" does greatly hinder the viewpoint of the audience, and more often than not this is a bad thing. With "found footage" films, these films often fluctuate between really good and really bad. Really good uses of "found footage" include the original of the genre, The Blair Witch Project, along with others like Cloverfield and Paranormal Activity 1 and 2. (Just 1 and 2 mind you-With the freaking placing of the camera on a spinning fan one of the most creative uses of first person ever conceived within the "found footage" genre in Paranormal Activity 2. Seriously! That was indescribably scary and tense.) However poor uses of "found footage" include Project X, Chronicle, (though it did use it rather creatively in the third act, but the rest was very unnecessary) Sinister, (lol this movie) and now Project Almanac. There was absolutely no need for found footage in Project Almanac, as I honestly felt the director Israelite used it simply because he felt like experimenting with the genre. This film would've likely been a whole lot more intense and technically impressive had they shot it in the third person and not in the first person. Let this be a warning to any director who is considering using the "found footage" style: it is not a style to be taken lightly, and it will define your entire film whether you want it to or not. So if you're thinking about using it, chances are your film will be better if you don't. There you go. Free advice from Enter the Movies. Betchya didn't expect that when you started reading this did you? Also I'm about to graduate so if you're looking for someone to hire....
Anyway, I wanted to throw my thoughts of "found footage" films in this review because this might be the only time it's relevant for a while. Moving on....there really isn't anything else to talk about in this film. It is, like every other film in the genre, defined by its "found footage" style. Oh! Here's something! So this movie is really geared towards high school-aged (aka adolescent) boys more than anyone else who just discovered that girls are actually attractive and don't have cooties. Why do I say that? Well, there is a disgusting amount of child-like women objectification in this movie that kind of pissed me off. At the end of the day, it doesn't really define the film, but women absolutely have a right to get upset at the amount of times we find the holder of the camera zooming in on tits or ass or something. But that may also be a result of the fact that MTV produced the movie. You never know. But ya. That's all I got. At the end of the day, Project Almanac is an average film. Interesting premise, bold undertaking, and poor execution. Wait. Shouldn't that be my critique?
The Critique: Interesting premise, bold undertaking, and poor execution. Project Almanac delivers a few thrills smuggled between lots of cringe-worthy moments.
The Recommendation: find a friend, Redbox it with some alcohol, and have a good time. 'Nuff said.
Rewatchability: Moderately Low
The Verdict: 5/10 Average.
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