PROJECT ALMANAC REVIEW

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21 and Over meets The Butterfly Effect. And believe me, I’m making it sound more interesting that it was.

It’s not all bad. In fact, it was quite watchable.

BUT then again . . . How many times have I used that old chestnut?

So what’s it about? A group of teens discover secret plans of a time machine, and construct one. However, things start to get out of control.

As soon as the opening sequence began with that inevitable and irritating shaky handheld camera, I sighed.

However, despite the disorienting camera work, it zipped along.

It established the geeky characters quickly with a humourous segment that you’d expect to see more on The Gadget Show than in a feature film.

The first 20 minutes was corny but set up Jonny Weston’s David (Chasing Mavericks) as he desperately tries to earn a scholarship at MIT while dealing with trying to woo the girl that doesn’t know he exists and blah blah blah.

Geeks trying to get laid and fall in love. The usual guff.

That is until . . .

David finds an old home movie of his 7th birthday party and catches his “present day self” walking in the background. Cue the rest of the movie.

“So you’re telling me. Dad left a time machine in the basement”.

The premise is ridiculous and full of plot holes BUT what I will commend is that the cast don’t take it too seriously. A weakness that strengthens this film and makes it a lot more fun.

Stupid BUT fun. The acting is a little bland. Ironically on some of the more serious moments of the film.

The guys’ breeze through the scientific mumbo jumbo as much as possible. Something about temporal relocation aided with endless time travel movie references (Terminator 1-4, Looper, Back to the Future).

Oh and of course, let’s not forget the infamous Time Paradox chalkboard that magically appears in the room when the present day has suddenly changed dramatically!

The film did focus another 20 minutes on the gang fixing said time machine. The geeky gadgetry sequences were interesting enough. The things you can do with an Xbox 360, huh?

The material hunting wasn’t bad with our nerds breaking into their own high school to steal hydrogen.

The only thing I thought was a little silly. David states to his sister to record everything. Is it a good idea to film yourselves breaking into public property and stealing expensive chemicals in the name of science? Hmmm . . .

The visual effects with the time travel tests was brilliant. Mini tornadoes in water. Tools melting. Various items fusing in the walls.

In total, it’s a good 45 minutes before the gang even actually time travel. Luckily it’s all easy going enough.

When they do time travel, the experience is quite disorienting. The camera work did my eyes in.

It does get a little corny but quite funny. The fact the gang are rejoicing that they travelled back to yesterday was hilarious.

Worried about distorting reality or changing the fabric of time? Nah, all they did was accidentally steal a dog.

Of course, being teenagers, they use time travel to pass exams. Sam Lerner’s Quinn was quite memorable. The numerous attempts he had to take to pass his science exam was funny.

The teacher inevitably changing every question each time he travelled back. Brilliant.

The lottery scene was well done. Who wouldn’t use time travel to try and win it? It was great when the gang realise they wrote down the wrong number and only (I say only) won 2 million out of a 128 million jackpot.

Things do get a little more interesting when they meet their past selves. That’s where the film seems to jump start from its jittery easy going crawl.

Inevitably, there are always consequences when people mess about with the fabric of time. Even if their intentions are good (or a little shallow in David’s case).

I felt the film threw in some little subplots to fill in the void that should have been a meaty story line. Virginia Gardner’s bully plot line came out of nowhere. “You know Christina’s got that bully problem?”

Uh, no. I didn’t. A little payback was rewarding BUT it would have been nice to know why Christina was doing it in the first place. The punchline was badass though.

I felt the romance subplot between David and Sofia Black-D’Elia’s Jessie was so cringey and corny. Any sweeter and I would have vommed.

It’s all done with enough fun and cheesy stupidity to be watchable. The last 20 minutes does get a lot darker and frantic with the paradox effect rearing its ugly head.

The only problem is that after so many classics; Back To The Future, Twelve Monkeys and Doctor Who, the same old thing has to happen. The ever predictable timey wimey guff coming to a nauseating finale (and that was without the aid of the shoddy camera work).

The ending was dire. And to add insult to injury, the main character has the cheek to look at the camera with the cringiest closing line ever.

Give it a go if you’re fed up of re-watching the time travel classics BUT otherwise watch the classics.

2.5/5

If that final scene wasn’t in it, I would have caved and gave this a 3 (Just)!

*OSCAR WINNER* WHIPLASH REVIEW

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The verdict is in. It may have won an Oscar BUT did it get a yes from the Mad Movie Ranter? There’s only one way to find out. Drum roll, please.

An intense psychological thriller + two stellar performances = one happy film goer.

One of the better ones. I have to say J.K. Simmons deserved that Oscar for Best Supporting Actor without a doubt. I originally banked my money on Edward Norton for Birdman. That was until I saw Whiplash.

So what’s it about? A promising young drummer (Miles Teller) enrolls at a cut-throat music conservatory where his dreams of greatness are mentored by an instructor (J.K. Simmons) who will stop at nothing to realize a student’s potential.

Impressive work all round. The leads were superb and writer/director Damien Chazelle pens an impressive feature breaking away from his earlier efforts (The Last Exorcism Part II). He will certainly be one to watch in the future.

Teller (21 & Over/That Awkward Moment) proved he could actually act and act well. I was afraid that I wouldn’t be able to take him seriously after 21 and Over, That Awkward Moment and Divergent. BUT he was fantastic.

Ironically, however, he was always going to play second fiddle to Simmon’s Fletcher.

I have always rated Simmons as an actor and desperately craved for him to get a meatier role than the tidbits he was given. Bar Spiderman, of course.

And at last, we got one. J. Jonah Jameson, no more! I couldn’t take my eyes off him (Not like that. Behave and eugh!).

The opening sequence perfectly established both characters. Teller’s Andrew, an isolated loner intent on perfecting his craft, the drums. Constantly trying to be faster and better. Pushing himself and his body.

Enter Fletcher from the dark hallway. Slick and charming. Passionate for music. One bad note and he changes in an instant. Storming out into the dark abyss.

Thus starting a psychological battle for ambition and perfection and one of the better films I have seen this year.

Fletcher’s volatile behaviour keeps you on tenterhooks throughout the film.

Smooth and calming one second, demanding and violent the next.

The volatility was intense. In one scene, he throws a cymbal at Andrew’s head and slaps him over and over until he can identify the mistake he has made.

Relentless, dark BUT hypnotic. Some of Fletcher’s earlier put downs were quite comical. Nothing more than any teacher you got in an 80s comedy BUT it soon brews into something much more.

You constantly question why Andrew continues to take such savage treatment from such a deluded instructor?

BUT the more you see of his daily routine and his dinner dates with his dad (Paul Reiser), you soon realise that maybe Fletcher isn’t the only deluded player in the game.

It is a great examination piece on the lengths that people will go to achieve greatness.

By the end, you wonder who the real monster was. Is it Fletcher the volatile perfectionist? Or Andrew the self-isolated masochist who constantly pushed himself until his fingers literally bled?

It was great to see Paul Reiser (Mad About You) back in the mix. He played Teller’s father well but there wasn’t enough of him to be honest. But I think that’s kind of the point. Probing and providing some sort of explanation into Andrew’s psyche and behaviour.

Melissa Benoist (Glee) and Teller had good chemistry together and made their couple seem quite real. Normally, you get the awkward cheesy guff BUT it was played down and done quite well. I wanted more of that dynamic.

The drum solo sequences do go on a little bit BUT that is coming from someone who is not a jazz fan. The songs (when NOT interrupted by the foul mouthed Fletcher dispersing insults or instruments) were very good.

The pace dipped a little halfway through the film UNTIL an unexpected moment. NO SPOILERS! I didn’t see it coming and the finale. Just wow! Everything coming to an explosive end, metaphorically.

It was tense, nail biting and riveting. I came out of the screen NOT wailing, like Fletcher, at another film for “NOT BEING ON MY TIME!” but pleasantly surprised and rewarded.

This gets a 3.5/5 BUT I may change this to a 4.

I am very hard to please (Steady now). To get a 3.5 is pretty damn good for a fellow art lover desperately seeking perfection.

If you want a suspenseful psychological thriller with two brilliant and extremely underrated actors, then I can’t think of many other titles. Invest.