Dir: Dean Israelite. US. 2014. 106mins
Time traveling high schoolers set the hyperactive tone for Project Almanac, a found-footage thriller produced by Michael Bay for Paramount’s micro-budget Insurge label. The aggressive style and likeable though relatively unknown cast might not count for much at the box office, but they could earn this frenetic sci-fi-ish outing a decent teen audience on other platforms.
Director Dean Israelite goes all out with the found footage conceit, giving the proceedings a relentlessly shaky style and a breathless feel, with overlapping dialogue, plenty of slangy jargon - both teen and high tech – and a smattering of effects.
Held over from this time last year, the film gets a wide US release on January 30 (a week before the more specifically sci-fi Jupiter Ascending), with worldwide distributor Paramount enlisting the marketing help of sister company MTV Films. The lack of star power will be a drawback when Almanac hits international markets in February and March.
The teens at the centre of the action are top student David (Jonny Weston, from 2012 surfer story Chasing Mavericks), his nerdy friends Quinn (Sam Lerner) and Adam (Allen Evangelista) and his would-be girlfriend Jessie (Sofia Black-D’Elia, from TV’s Gossip Girl).
When they discover a prototype time machine that David’s late dad has hidden (thanks to a vaguely explained backstory) in the cellar, the friends start jumping back in time – to retake fluffed school tests, pay back some bullies, win the lottery (sort of) and visit a music festival.
In his feature debut, South African director Dean Israelite goes all out with the found footage conceit, giving the proceedings a relentlessly shaky style and a breathless feel, with overlapping dialogue, plenty of slangy jargon - both teen and high tech – and a smattering of effects.
The story doesn’t go anywhere much dramatically until David starts time-hopping on his own to seal his romance with Jessie, leading to the inevitable reunion with Dad and the delivery of the ‘no second chances’ moral.
Production companies: Insurge Pictures Presents, Platinum Dunes
International distribution: Paramount Pictures
Producers: Michael Bay, Andrew Form, Brad Fuller
Executive producers: Josh Appelbaum, André Nemec, Vicki Dee Rock
Screenplay: Jason Harry Pagan, Andrew Deutschman
Cinematography: Matthew Lloyd
Editors: Martin Bernfeld, Julian Clarke
Production designer: Maher Ahmad
Main cast: Jonny Weston, Sofia Black-D’Elia, Sam Lerner, Allen Evangelista, Ginny Gardner