johnlink ranks PROJECT ALMANAC (2015)

Back when I was managing a movie theater, I had the opportunity to go to this big meeting of distributors and theater owners at Patriot Place in Foxboro. We saw dozens of teasers and trailers, and I walked away talking about a couple of smaller movies that previously had not been on my radar. PROJECT ALMANAC was one of those movies, though I tempered expectations due to the fact that it was produced by Michael Bay and couldn’t possibly have been as cool of a film as it seemed. Well, I finally got around to seeing it a year and a half later.


I watched PROJECT ALMANAC (2015) on 1.23.16. It was my first viewing of the film.

Usually, I like a movie about as much as IMDb’s public vote does. Even when I think a movie was better than I thought, it tends to come in at maybe a 7 or so when IMDb users have it ranked as, say, a 6.5 or a 6.6. Rarely am I over or under the mass opinion of IMDb users by more than a single whole number. There are exceptions, of course. Those are times, usually, where I hate a movie much more than the general public did. Rarer is it for me to highly rate a movie about which the public is blasé. Off the top of my head, only really the Elizabeth Olsen horror movie SILENT HOUSE comes to mind.

What I’m getting at, here, is that I absolutely loved PROJECT ALMANAC.

I didn’t think that would happen. I was hoping for an entertaining time travel story. I didn’t anticipate getting a film which combined the time travel sub-genre with the much larger (and often poorly done) teen movie genre. This is a movie told, also, in the found-footage style of filmmaking – which I am so all set with. But this never feels like it is using that style as an out, but rather uses it to its advantage. Within five or six minutes  it is easy to forget that this is found-footage. Only, that is, save for the moments where Director Dean Israelite makes a conscious choice to remind us so.

PROJECT ALMANAC concerns itself with David (Jonny Weston). He is accepted to MIT, only his scholarship is not sufficient for his family’s needs. In his backstory, his father had died young. Turns out that Dad also left the blueprints to a time machine in the basement. So David, along with his film-happy sister, Christina (Virginia Gardner), and his two best friends (Sam Lerner, Allen Evangelista), sets out to build the thing. David also has this girl he likes, Jessie (Sofia Black-D’Elia), who organically ends up with the group.


And that last thing is important. As much as this is a time-travel movie, this is a movie about the geeky David liking the desirable Jessie. And, sure, this movie is really careful to make the geeks accessible and the hot girl likable more so than might be real in a high school setting, but the story is well done. Even though Black-D’Elia was almost certainly cast in a way that Michael Bay was trying to channel Meghan Fox, Black-D’Elia proves a much more valuable asset than Fox ever did in a Michael Bay directed film. Her Jessie may be a little too sexy to believe as a high schooler yearning for the smart kid at first, but she is soon absolutely believable as the movie progresses. That is not a task easy to turn, and one that rarely happens in high-school set movies.

The time travel in this is never as smart as a movie like PRIMER. But by starting with a modest three-week limit and pushing it over a foreshadowed length of time, this movie also contains itself in a box which it never gets too big for. Even if the events which tell us that the crap is hitting the fan are events which feel a bit too dramatic, we at least are able to go along because all of these characters are so great.


And they are great. The dialogue gives this movie an authentic feel. These are a bunch of friend (and siblings) busting balls in the most believable way. There are a multitude of one-liners and off-handed comments which pass the authenticity test. This is a less produced movie than AMERICAN PIE, but it is probably the best comedic high school movie since. And that is saying something, due to the fact that this movie doesn’t set out to be that.

The last act of this movie is not perfect, but it does the best it can. The David-Jessie love story has a brilliant moment where David doesn’t even get to remember his ‘first time (a staple of the high-school movie) and all of the beats that follow feel genuine. I can’t even express how surprised I was to find this movie to be equal parts authentic and enjoyable.

PROJECT ALMANAC is my early favorite for being the most surprising movie I’ve seen in 2016. It may not be for everyone, but it certainly hit a cord with me.



The bonus point is for the best use of found-footage cinematography since the original PARANORMAL ACTIVITY. Solid ,unique, powerful work.


FINAL SCORE: 8.25 out of 10



~ by johnlink00 on January 24, 2016.

2 Responses to “johnlink ranks PROJECT ALMANAC (2015)”

  1. You know, I wanted to see this one. Your review encourages me more to see it.

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