Friday, January 30, 2015

Project Almanac

Project Almanac: PG -13 104 Minutes

1.5 stars

I have never been a fan of the “found footage” film.  This type of film bases its story on the fact that the characters in the film are recording their experience for posterity.  If you have seen “Cloverfield” or “The Blair Witch Project” you have experienced this type of film.  It is always a stretch for the story to explain why someone is filming the rest of the group.  I realize that lots of people use technology now to record their lives, but no one records so much that they could make a whole two hour film of themselves and make it a coherent story.

In the new film “Project Almanac” we follow the story of David Raskin (Jonny Weston) as he is trying to graduate high school and get himself into MIT.  Raskin’s late father was a scientist and has left many old experiments lying around in the attic and as David and his sister Christina (Virginia Gardner) are trying to find one that will help David get a scholarship.  In the process they find an old video camera and when they play the video of a birthday party they see a reflection of 17 year old David at his own 7th birthday.
David shows the video to his high school friends Quinn Goldberg (Sam Lerner) and Adam Le (Allen Evangelista).  They find a box in a cabinet in the floor of the basement.  Inside is a machine that will allow them to travel in time if they can successfully build it and power it up.  Dad has left instructions but can they do it?  As you can guess they do, and then find out time travel is not all it’s cracked up to be.

This film is a straight forward time travelling story.  Unfortunately it goes too long and the characters are really not that interesting.  This is partly due to being a “found footage” film and not having time to explore any of the characters.  Also the filmmakers decided that the actions of the group were more important than knowing the characters in the film.  As a result we are subjected to a protracted festival concert visit in the middle of the film.

Also not much of the film was believable.  Obviously the time travel is not real but things like using the car battery from a Prius to power the machine while the owner is across the street at a party.  This is how the final member of the group Jessie Pierce (Sofia Black-D'Elia) is recruited.  Although the unbelievable part is more that David knew the Prius had a specific type of batter y in it that was powerful enough to use.  Of course earlier in the film he had no knowledge of stripping wires, a basic function in building an electrical device.

There was some reality involved in the film.  Teenagers probably would have played the lottery to win money.  As long as they were old enough to do so legally.  Of course these students were smart enough to assemble the machine, but they couldn’t figure out that a teacher might ask more questions than you memorized from the day before during an oral presentation and so they had to go back many times.

One last thing was during the initial test of the machine the car they sent back in time ended up in the wall of the basement.  Yet when they traveled it was always safely and no one ended up blended into a wall or solid object.  Plus, Mom never did find out that they were experimenting despite the fact that they were making plenty of noise in the basement.  

This film feels long even though it is under two hours in length.  The upside though is during the concert you do get to see Imagine Dragons perform.  If you want to see them and its worth the price of admission go by all means.

Project Almanac: 3 points for parents

  •  Sexuality – Teenage boys shooting videos of girls working out in shorts making comments about their bodies. Teens dancing in water at a concert in bikinis.  Some are covered by t-shirts that are wet. Two teens are in bed after spending the night together. A girl removes her towel for a guy but her body is not seen.
  •  Language – Some uses of profanity typical of high school aged kids. Some calling of names.
  • Violence/Gore - A scene of bullying and one of getting back at the bully. Someone breaks a window with his hand and it is bloody after that.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014


Noah (PG-13, 2hrs 18Mins)

2.5 stars

With all the news coming out about “Noah” and the buzz that has everyone talking about it, it’s not surprising that it was the number one film last weekend.  It does have some merit to it.  Darren Aronofksy put his own version of the story on the screen.  The studio even made sure people knew this by releasing a disclaimer about the film before the movies debut.  Of course that did help the buzz surrounding “Noah” churn even more.

Aronofsky though decided on what he wanted to do and stuck with it.  I will give him credit for that.  The studio did take the liberty of doing some test screening s of different cuts of the film behind his back.  He was not happy about that but the eventual release of the film was Aronofsky’s version.

What he did was at times a beautiful and moving film but at other times just did not make sense.  I realize this is the director’s vision of the story, and I may be called narrow minded for my opinion, but if Cecil B. Demille can stick to the biblical account why can’t Aronofsky? 

If you are going to do a bible story people will want a representation of that story.  Aronofsky did stick to the story but deviated a little from time to time.  Noah did receive visions and I felt this was represented very well in the film.  Also the scenes of the animals coming to the ark were very well done.  They were what gave the movie an epic feel.  I know the animals were computer generated but the scenes of them coming to the ark were magnificent.

I don’t agree with some the interpretations that the director made though.  The giant rock creatures did not seem right to me.  They seemed to be more appropriate for a Michael Bay or Peter Jackson film.  But I can see past them.  There are “Giants” mentioned in the bible so that could be one interpretation of that.

I hate revealing plot point in films because they should be revealed on the screen as the director intended them to be revealed.  So I will only say that portions of the film do not agree with the biblical account of the story.  In fact they differ quite a bit.  This was a sore point for me as I was hoping there would be some return to the origin of the story.  That though was not the case.
If you choose to go see Noah, and many people have.  Go with the right frame of mind.  Do not expect that the director will stick to the biblical account.  In his defense it is a very small portion of the Bible and so he did have some gaps to fill.  Also remember the details you read in the bible are not necessarily going to be shown on screen.

I was intrigued by “Noah.”  I did enjoy a majority of the film and felt that at times I was watching something moving.  After seeing it though, I am not sure I would go back to see it again.  I feel conflicted by this film, but that does not mean this is a bad version of the story of Noah.

‘Noah’: 3 points for parents
Violence – In silhouette, Cain hits Abel and kills him.  Raiding parties kill as they wish.  Giant rock creatures kill humans with weapons.  Hand to hand combat with and without weapons.  Some people think it their right to kill as they wish.  Humans are traded for food.  Animal sacrifice is performed.  Some other animals are harmed.  None of them are real.  Babies are threatened with death.

Gore – Blood is shown in pools.  A girl has a large wound in her abdomen.  The ground a man is standing on is saturated with blood.  A weapon has blood dripping from it.  Bodies are shown underwater in a vision and in a pit in another scene.  A woman steps in a metal trap.  People are tossed about by flood waters.  There are some wounds shown.

Nudity – Only shoulders are seen as a woman and a man begin kissing and then get more passionate.  A woman sits up in bed showing her shoulders, but lower she is covered by blankets.   A man is lying face down on a beach, nude.  He is seen from a distance