Movie Review: Project Almanac (2015)

June 11, 2015 in Movie Reviews, Reviews


Found-footage movies just need to die. Not next year, not tomorrow. Now. The gimmick isn’t not fooling anyone anymore and hasn’t for a long time, and any perceived benefits are heavily outweighed by the forced and nonsensical execution, the vomit-inducing shakiness and the way it cheapens the overall feel.

And so it’s not hard to guess that I think the found-footage approach ruins Project Almanac, an otherwise barely-passable teen travel movie. There are some interesting ideas early on, though when you break it down it’s really a fairly pedestrian effort that doesn’t offer anything we haven’t seen before in the genre.

Directed by Dean Israelite, who has reportedly been selected for the new Power Rangers reboot, Project Almanac  tells the story of high school inventor David (Jonny Weston), who discovers the blueprint to build a time machine in his basement left behind by his late father. After some trial and error, David and his sister (Virginia Gardner), his friends (Allen Evangelista and Sam Lerner), and the girl he pine after (Sofia Black D’Elia) start using the machine to go back in time and fulfill their dreams.

The best way to describe Project Almanac is a mix between Chronicle and The Butterfly Effect. The film wants to capture the slick style of Chronicle with the found-footage approach and the change the teen characters go through as they struggle to deal with the inheritance of a grew power (and thus responsibility). It also takes, quite directly, the time-travel concept of The Butterfly Effect in that every decision we make creates ripples we might not expect.

All that is fine; there are almost no truly original films these days anyway. The problems with Project Almanac have more to do with the script and the execution. I don’t need to discuss how annoying the found-footage thing is again. It doesn’t add to the realism and is a complete distraction. It just makes no sense why they would film some of the scenes that exist in the movie.

Secondly, the film wastes far too much time testing the time machine. It’s pretty obvious they’ll eventually get it to work, or else that would make one very lame movie, so what’s the point of showing us failure after failure — other than padding time and showing off special effects?

Thirdly, the film gets bogged down by a toothless and predictable romance. It’s embarrassing that something so boring and cringeworthy could end up being such a pivotal device in the film, and what makes it worse is that the human reactions to it make zero sense, especially for people who are supposed to be intelligent.

Fourthly, there are some obvious logic gaps in the time travel concept that are never explained. Time travel movies usually involve actually changing the past and thus changing the future, or finding out that time is a loop you may think you are changing but can’t. Project Almanac inexplicably adopts both.

The one thing I will give the film credit for is the way it depicts that exhilaration of discovering you have he ability to change the past, and how the characters first decide to take advantage of this power. Think about what you might do if you were an American teenager, and it’s probably not that far off. I found this part of the film, at least at the start of it, rather satisfying, and it’s a shame the plot later descended down the wrong path.

Project Almanac is not without its moments, but on the whole there are just too many flaws that bring it down, with the annoying found footage gimmick being arguably the biggest culprit.

2 stars out of 5

Movie Review: Looper (2012)

December 6, 2012 in Movie Reviews, Reviews

I love time travel films, and one of my favourites of all-time also had Bruce Willis in it (Twelve Monkeys, of course). Given that I have also recently developed a man-crush on Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Looper appeared to be a tailor-made film for me.

The movie is set in the year 2044 and the future of that future is 2074, a time when time travel has finally been invented (I still have a chance to live to that day, so fingers crossed that this is based on a true story). Unfortunately, time travel is outlawed then but is still being used by criminal organizations, which need a “looper” to help them in the past when they transport things back over from the future. Gordon-Levitt is a young looper. Bruce Willis is him in 30 years. I can’t say why, but they don’t like each other.

It may sound complicated but I actually found Looper to be a really straightforward time-travel movie. The mechanics and laws of time travel in the film’s universe are sufficiently described in the beginning and there’s not much to be confused about, which is why I was really confused by all these reviewers saying that the film was confusing. Some even compared it to Christopher Nolan’s Inception, which I found strange because they are nothing alike apart from the fact that both star Gordon-Levitt.

Looper is an unusual and unusually clever time-travel film in the sense that it’s more of a character movie about how people deal with the effects of time travel rather than the time travel itself. From that perspective it means less trying to figure out what’s going on/pointing out gaps in logic and more just enjoying the movie for its action and freaky futuristic stuff.

It’s always hard to review a movie like this without slipping in unnecessary spoilers, so all I will say is that it also stars Emily Blunt and is in part related to genetic mutations which occur naturally in the human body at some point in the future (I am begging for this to be based on a true story).

Some people have criticized the decision to use prosthetics and make-up on Gordon-Levitt to make him look like a young Bruce Willis. I thought it was awesome. I have to admit, the thin-framed Gordon Levitt is one of the last actors I would have pictured playing John “Yippee-ki-yay” McClane, but the prosthetics made me believe he could have eventually grown to look like him. He still looks like Gordon-Levitt but it also reminds you a little of Bruce Willis – I don’t get what the big deal is.

Despite my praises, I think there is something missing from Looper that prevents it from being a time-travel classic like Twelve Monkeys, Back to the Future, Terminator 2, and so forth. The film has a great premise, interesting characters, solid action and enough twists and turns to make it a highly enjoyable experience, but perhaps it lacked the grand vision and scale that would have pushed it to that next level.

4 stars out of 5!

Movie Review: Hot Tub Time Machine (2010)

April 27, 2010 in Movie Reviews

When I first heard there’s a new movie called Hot Tub Time Machine, I almost rolled my eyes.  Sounded like one of those horrible, straight-to-video, B/C-grade films from the 80s.

However, that was before I glanced past some seemingly favourable reviews and read that John Cusack stars in it.  John Cusack!  There’s no way he could be in something trashy.

And so, against all preconceptions, I went to watch Hot Tub Time Machine, and actually expecting something good.

The name of the film is pretty self-explanatory, so there’s no need to go too much into the plot.  Three 40-something men (Cusack, Craig Robinson and Rob Corddry) and a nephew of one of these men (Clark Duke) somehow find themselves in the titular device and are transported back to 1986.

As with most time travel movies, much of Hot Tub Time Machine focuses on the “what could have been”, and asking the question “if I could live my life again, what would I do differently?”  That is the current underlying the film and there’s a bit of poignancy to be found in there, but on the surface it’s all craziness and gross-out laughs, and of course, making fun of the 80s.

A lot of the jokes are very 80s, if that qualifies as a description.  Kind of zany and outrageous, sexually charged but extremely homophobic.  When the humour hits the spot it can be pretty fun, and it’s quite astounding when you realise how much fashion, technology and attitudes have changed over the last 20 years or so.  But there are also plenty of jokes that fell horribly flat, especially when you can tell they were going for some big laughs but just couldn’t channel the right punch line.

John Cusack’s talents are somewhat wasted as Adam, the least comical of the foursome, and Clark Duke (Kick-Ass and Sex Drive) is not fully utilised as his geeky, socially reclusive nephew Jacob.  The standouts end up being Rob Corddry (The Heartbreak Kid, Harold & Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay), who plays Lou, a depressed alcoholic and really the central character of the story, as well as Craig Robinson (Pineapple Express, Zack and Miri Make a Porno), who plays Nick, a pussy-whipped former singer.  Chevy Chase’s minor role failed badly in my opinion, but Crispin Glover as the hotel bellhop was pretty awesome.

Hot Tub Time Machine is funnier than the title suggests, but it’s very very hit and miss.  And there’s just too many misses to make it a consistently enjoyable film.

2.5 stars out of 5!

%d bloggers like this: