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Project Almanac Review


The found footage genre has come a long way since The Blair Witch Project proved it was a viable gimmick to feed to the cinema going public, with, in recent years, super hero movies and teen comedies getting in on the action. Now, it's the turn of the time travel movie to the found footage with Project Almanac (which went through a few name changes from Cinema One, to Almanac, to Welcome to Yesterday), which follows a group of friends who find a working time machine, and, being teenagers, use it for personal gain, from winning the lottery to going backstage at a music festival. But, wouldn't you know it, their tampering with the time line has unforeseen consequences.

From the off, you can clearly see that director Dean Israelite is trying to pull off exactly what Josh Trank did with Chronicle, with Project Almanac having a structure and tone similar to Trank's super hero movie. And for the most part, Israelite pulls it off. The found footage angle feels organic and suits the story been told, even if at times we do question why the camera is there in the first place. But those questions soon leave your head as the movie sucks you into the story. Our heroes, led by aspiring inventor David (Jonny Weston), are likable bunch, and watching their back and forths are entertaining while the story is set up around them. Once the story kicks into gear, spurred on by the discovery of a video tape showing the seventeen year old David at his seventh birthday party, the fun really begins, and the way the kids use their new control of time and space are a blast, including several do overs of an important chemistry test that will raise several chuckles. The effects on display are quite impressive and stylish for a found footage movie, with several scenes taking a page out of Chronicle's book, even writing in a plot device that gives us some more traditional shots. It also goes takes it's cue from several found footage movies from recent years, showing an increasing trend that sees them slightly break the rules set out by their gimmick to deliver a more cinematic experience. In this case, it's the use of subjective sound in the aftermath of time travelling. Thankfully, it doesn't break the illusion set up by the movies premise, and actually adds a lot to the experience.

After a fun first and second act watching David and friends abuse time and space for their own needs, the need to get back to the story kicks in, and unfortunately, this is where Project Almanac falls down. Plot threads set up in the early scenes, and not really mentioned again, are awkwardly resurrected going into the third act, which suffers from jarring change in tone which replaces the frivolous goings on from before replaced with something darker. Sure, you mostly believe the stakes, but it all just seems to come out of nowhere, leaving you feeling that they are there just because the movie needs an ending (one that is painfully predictable, I might add). Also, every time travel movie needs rules, and most of the time it's pretty easy to convey them to the audience, but the rules here are never fully explained, and most of what transpires here doesn't really make sense. It's slightly frustrating, because for most of the films early scenes, Project Almanac seemed to get it so right.

There is a lot to like about Project Almanac. It is a entertaining take on a pretty well known genre, and it's gimmick amounts to more than just a gimmick, but it is severely hurt by some rushed and  predictable storytelling. Good for one viewing, but maybe not one to wind back the clock to see again and again.

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The Movie Bit: Project Almanac Review
Project Almanac Review
The Movie Bit
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