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Reviews » Blu-ray Reviews » Project Almanac (Blu-ray)
Project Almanac (Blu-ray)
Paramount // PG-13 // June 9, 2015 // Region A
List Price: $39.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Oktay Ege Kozak | posted June 3, 2015 | E-mail the Author
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The Movie:

Project Almanac is a wholly misguided mess that attempts to cross Back to the Future with The Butterfly Effect for the Instagram generation. It was released under Michael Bay's Platinum Dunes production company and Bay's one of the film's producers, so of course it takes place in a fantasy high school where every single person, even the nerds, look like models. Regardless of the fact that the film is about a group of young scientists who build a time machine, every single male character acts like a dumb jock who only cares about getting laid, and every female character is a bimbo who's just there to look hot.

The movie opens promisingly, with MIT hopeful David Raskin (Jonny Weston) recording a video application about his awesome drone that can be controlled with tiny sensors. David gets into MIT, but has to pay for tuition out of pocket. As he looks around his dead engineer father's belongings for ideas to submit to MIT for scholarship consideration, David comes across a video camera with footage from his 7th birthday, the day his father died. To his shock, he finds his current self in a reflection in the video.

Convinced that he was able to travel in time, David eventually digs up his father's schematics for a time machine and decides to build it with the help of his fellow nerds Quinn (Sam Lerner) and Adam (Allen Evangelista). Once the machine works, the gang takes David's camera-obsessed sister Christina (Virginia Gardner) and Jessie (Sofia Black-D'elia), a popular girl David has a crush on, along for the ride.

The execution of the first act is not revolutionary, but at least it tries to present a minimum level of awe within the characters, as they are able to push the boundaries of space and time. Mind you, they are still insanely dumb, moving onto human trials after a disastrous test with an inanimate object, but at least there's a little bit of excitement in the air. Once the time travels begin, the second act turns into nothing but wish fulfillment filler, as the gang uses the technology to cheat on tests, get revenge on bullies, and go backstage at the Lollapalooza. I wish I was kidding about that last one.

There is a missed satire in there that could have shown shallow teenagers using such an awesome piece of technology for such pointless activities instead of, you know, prevent disasters and stuff, but the film's tone is shockingly self-serious. Once the Butterfly Effect elements kick in, as David screws up one timeline while he tries to fix another, the movie clumsily drags itself into an overly convoluted and nonsensical third act.

Project Almanac would have still been a bad movie if it was shot as a conventional feature. But as a found footage film, it's annoyingly bad. As usual with modern found footage films, the lighting, framing, depth, and detail that's supposed to come out of amateur camera work is distractingly professional, and consumer cameras can pick up professional level clear audio from any location, including two people talking quietly at a loud concert while the camera is five hundred feet away. This gimmick doesn't add anything to the story and turns out to be nothing but a distraction.

The Blu-ray:

Video:

Project Almanac looks very clean and crisp on the 1080p presentation, which is the film's main technical problem. By showcasing the visual quality of a multi-million dollar production, any attempt at found footage realism is thrown out the window. That being said, I guess it's a transfer that's loyal to the source, and those looking for a flat wannabe blockbuster look won't be disappointed.

Audio:

The DTS-HD 5.1 audio has clear dialogue and really shows surround presence during the time travel sequences, which will test the limits of your subwoofer. But again, why does a found footage film have such a professional grade sound design?

Extras:

Alternate Opening: This deleted scene shows a cheaper-looking MIT application video by David. The opening on the theatrical version is perhaps the film's only bright spot, so I'm glad they reshot this.

Deleted Scenes: Nine minutes of fluff deleted from a film that's already full of it.

Alternate Endings: We get two alternate endings, around two minutes each. The first doesn't change the theatrical ending much, and the second might be the dumbest twist ending since the 2001 Planet of the Apes remake's finale, which it very much resembles.

Final Thoughts:

Project Almanac is a waste of time even if you're a high school senior looking for a vapid wish fulfillment movie. The acting is stiff, the screenplay lacks focus and energy, and the execution is incredibly bland and predictable.

Oktay Ege Kozak is a film critic and screenwriter based in Portland, Oregon. He also writes for The Playlist, The Oregon Herald, and Beyazperde.com

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