Project Almanac

Year: 2015
Production Co: Insurge Pictures
Studio: Paramount
Director: Dean Israelite
Writer: Andrew Deutschman/Jason Pagan
Cast: Johnny Weston, Sofia Black-D'Elia, Virginia Gardner, Sam Lerner, Allen Evangelista

In what could be a spiritual sequel to 2012's Chronicle, Project Almanac uses a very similar style and approach. It's about photogenic teenagers, it's a sci-fi story with a pretty vibrant new look at a very old premise, and for reasons that don't really make sense (although it doesn't take as much away from the film as you fear) it's yet another found footage movie.

Mild mannered high school student attendee David (Johnny Weston), with the help of his friends Adam (Allen Evangelista) and Quinn (Sam Lerner, who might as well have a T-shirt that reads 'comic sidekick') are trying to get through high school unscathed and work on their MIT application project.

David's hot/nerdy sister Christina (Ginny Gardner) films everything, so whether it's goofing around with his friends or staring wistfully at classmate Jessie (Sofia Black-D'Elia), it's all on camera.

But when David and Christina find an old camcorder their Dad owned when he died years before in a car crash, there's suddenly something worth filming. On the tape still in the camera they find footage of David's 7th birthday party – with the present day David passing in the background.

Nobody knows what to make of it, but after they find a secret compartment in the basement, David and the gang learn his father was working on a time travel device for DARPA, complete with theories and schematics.

After a lengthy – but no less engaging – process of trying to get the machine to work, they all agree on ground rules so as not to screw up the spacetime continuum, and to David's delight (after they've hijacked her Prius as a power source), Jessie is now part of the group.

What's any self-respecting teenager to do but build it and change the past so as to win the lottery, buy cheap VIP passes for an old concert and go back to use them and any number of wish fulfillment fantasies?

There's a funny scene of Quinn going endlessly back to a science class to ace the answer when the teacher puts him on the spot, and everything seems to go especially swimmingly when the gang leaves their time for only 40 seconds to spend the day at a recent Lollapalooza festival.

The scene starts to go on a little bit long, but after awhile you realise it's where the trouble has really begun. After missing the perfect opportunity to make a move on Jessie, David breaks the group's agreed-upon rules by going back by himself for another crack at it.

When he returns home to find Jessie waking up in his bed it seems nothing could be better - until disturbing new developments start to show up, that is. The school football team has lost an important game after the team hero is hit by a car. As a (fairly convoluted) consequence, there's also been a terrible plane crash.

David starts to go back more and more, trying to cover up or fix whatever he changed the time before, all the while trying not to undo his music festival redo lest it mean he loses Jessie's heart.

In another new reality it's Adam who's in hospital. Then Jessie comes face to face with her former self and starts to fade out of existence, apparently the victim of the infamous paradoxical nature of time travel.

The hopes, fears and concerns are all a bit teeny (until people start getting hurt and planes start crashing, that is), but just like in Chronicle, it's a cool enough idea and the leads are attractive and enthusiastic enough to keep you interested.

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