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Posts Tagged ‘Sam Lerner’
Traditional wisdom has it that January is a dumping ground for bad movies.
“Everyone is broke after shelling out for Christmas presents,” the studios say. “The weather is crappy and anyone leaving the house is going to the gym instead of the movies,” complain the suits.
That’s why clunkers like One for the Money, a Katherine Heigl crime drama with a two per cent Rotten Tomatoes rating and Season of the Witch — which saw Nicolas Cage go all medieval on the forces of evil and strain his credibility as an actor — made the lives of critics and audiences miserable on long, cold winter nights in bygone Januarys. Why waste good movies when no one was likely to go?
Years ago studios threw the odd quality film into the January mix — Traffic, Good Will Hunting, Before Sunrise, Dr. Strangelove and Silence of the Lambs—but every good movie like Matinee (92 per cent on RT) was balanced out with a stinker like Body of Evidence and its paltry six per cent rating.
There is still that yin and yang as last week’s releases of The Boy Next Door and Mortdecai (two movies that will decorate Worst Of the Year lists) proves, but the tide seems to be changing. Perhaps that’s why Project Almanac, a time-travel drama from producer Michael Bay, moved from a prime July release date to the barren January slate. Surely Bay, as savvy a player as Hollywood has, wouldn’t allow his movie to be tossed out with the trash.
The reason given for the schedule move was that Bay himself wanted to sprinkle some of his Transformers’ fairy dust to pump up the film’s appeal to young audiences. But it’s also apparent that a micro-budget movie like Project Almanac, even with Bay’s name attached, could get lost in a summer filled with large-scale offerings like Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, so why not release in a less crowded, but increasingly profitable field?
What used to be a time to fill screens with borderline cheesefests has become a viable month to release a movie.
Last year big crowds braved the polar vortex to help the Kevin Hart comedy Ride Along set a January opening record. This year the Oscar-nominated Selma and Still Alice have opened wide in a month usually reserved for Golden Raspberry winners. Perhaps the biggest story of 2015 so far is the success of Clint Eastwood’s Chris Kyle biopic, American Sniper, which has raked in upwards of $170 million in just two weeks. The success of that film is as strong an indicator as Hollywood needs that January is no longer a no-go zone.
“Project Almanac” has a lot going against it. It’s a found footage movie with loads of nausea inducing wobbly cam, characters who deliver cheeseball lines like, “So you’re telling me dad left a time machine in the basement?” and an over-played climax that drags on too long but it gets one crucial thing right. And that’s enough to earn a recommend for young sci fi enthusiasts.
Boy genius David Raskin (Jonny Weston) inherited his smarts from his late father, an engineer who was working on a top-secret project at the time of his death. Buried away in the basement are the schematics for a time machine David and his best friends Adam (Allen Evangelista) and Quinn (Sam Lerner), under the constant camera surveillance of sister Christina (Ginny Gardner), discover and build.
After a few test runs they do what every teenage boy would do; they allow the most popular girl in school (Sofia Black-D’Elia) to talk them into taking a big risk with the new machine and use themselves as guinea pigs. It’s the power of the pretty girl to influence and shape the actions of teenage boys, and the movie gets this absolutely correct.
Do they use the machine to go back and kill Hitler? Nope. Save JFK? Nuh-uh. They do what young guys would do. They party at Lollapalooza, use their unique powers to get even with bullies and rig the lottery so they can win big, buy Ferraris and “hire Kim Kardashian to have my babies.” They may be geniuses but they are still concerned with the stuff of youth—girls and being popular—not changing the world.
The movie takes a serious turn in the last third when reality skews and the consequences of time travel become apparent. David must take things into his own hands, but even then, as sentiment and sci fi match and mingle, the movie doesn’t lose track of its teen origins.
Part “Groundhog Day,” part “Project X,” “Project Almanac” has all the annoying traits of found footage movies—“You’re getting all this, right?”—and screams out for a tripod, but for the most part is a zippy young adult sci fi story with equal parts brains and heart.