Project Almanac


Viewed – 27 June 2015  Online rental

A gifted college student (Jonny Weston) stumbles upon his late father’s secret project in the basement of his house, and soon realises he has a time machine in his hands.  So with the help of his sister, his two friends and the hot girl, the group embark on a dangerous experiment.

Project Almanac

I have always loved time travel movies, harking back to my complete admiration of the Back to the Future series and other titles like Twelve Monkeys and The Terminator.  It’s a very intriguing concept every time, and this entry is no different.  Yet putting such technology in the hands of a bunch of kids is er, risky at best – but one’s a gifted science student, so that’s ok then …. you’d think.  You see for all the good intentions and the following of the rules (don’t change too much, be careful who you interact with) it’s soon all about going to parties they missed, acting carelessly and handling the life changing (world changing?) consequences afterwards.

Shot in that already tired hand-held found footage style, this was certainly fun and at times quite exciting.  Some of the effects when the gang jump through time are very good, and the little differences and alterations they cause are implemented well.  Sadly then the focus on these students and their annoying, rushed, arguing behaviour let’s down what is otherwise an often enjoyable little movie.  They are only marginally likeable and even the main character proves his own worst enemy.  Some of the time travel details are also difficult to get one’s head around, and the ending just confused me.

For a time bending, mind bending piece of entertainment, this remains worth a watch… but the concept has been done better, many times before.

Verdict:  2.5 /5

Edge of Tomorrow


Viewed – 21 October 2014  Blu-ray

There’s something about Tom Cruise’s latest foray into blockbuster territory that feels like it’s late to the party.  Mech-suits – didn’t Avatar or Elysium do this already?  And don’t get me started on the Groundhog Day plot.  But I digress.  This has Cruise as a Major in the army who reports on the war against an alien race that has invaded earth.  On a routine visit to report on the latest onslaught, he suddenly gets shoehorned into battle against his will.  Only thing is once on the battlefield and seriously outnumbered by the enemy, Cruise (or Cage as his character is named) discovers that getting killed is only the start of the longest day of his life.  Along the way he meets up with war hero Emily Blunt who may just know why he’s repeating his day over and over again.

edge-of-tomorrow-tom-cruise-1

Cruise is decent in not a particularly demanding role…he gets to shoot aliens a lot and look sort of awkward in his mechanised suit, but surrounded by a group of clichéd ‘grunts’ he stands out (despite an entertaining Bill Paxton).  Better is Blunt, one of the more interesting and has to be said bad-ass of the current female acting crop and her presence means this movie had echoes of Looper what with it’s time-paradox storyline.  It’s not as clever as that movie though and lacks any real depth to the characters or especially the aliens who just look like throwbacks to The Matrix’s sentinels.  More interesting is the repeating day plot-device which director Doug Liman plays with wonderfully and at times the getting-it-wrong moments are quite funny (Cruise daringly rolls under a passing tuck … with a resulting splat). 

I would have liked more of a love story-angle to Cruise & Blunt’s partnership (it’s certainly hinted at) and maybe some more detail on the aliens … and just why the day is repeating all the time left me saying … er, what was that again?   However, the movie makes up for such shortcomings with several superb action sequences (the beach stuff is like a futuristic Saving Private Ryan) and on a decent set up, with a big screen and surround sound…this packed a punch.  Just a shame it’s fairly basic characterisation and copy-cat ideas prevent it from being a classic.

Verdict:  3.5 / 5

Looper


Viewed – 16 October 2012  Cinema

The trailer sold me on this.  The ticking pocket watch, a great concept and frenetic action.  This follows the story of ‘Looper’  Joe (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) a sort of hired assassin who kills mob targets who are sent back in time so there is no trace of them in the future.  Joe makes a living this way, quick executions, clean disposal and lots of silver bars to add to his savings.  Only one problem – one day a target is sent back, and it’s him – 30 years older.  Can he kill his future self (Bruce Willis), or choose not to and face the wrath of those he works for?

This is an intelligent and superbly played sci-fi thriller.  Gordon-Levitt may have a slightly odd Willis impersonation going on, but as a particularly gifted actor, still manges to pull it off, handling action, emotion and some brain-melting plot developments with ease.  Veteran Bruce Willis is also good; determined and somewhat ruthless in his quest … of which I wont spoil for you here, but just to say – he came back for a very good reason.  Additional support is also decent, with a sexy but wasted Piper Parabo as a hooker and Brit actress Emily Blunt almost steeling the show in the later stages.

Director Rian Johnson has delivered a damn clever and resoundingly fresh take on the age-old time travel subject, injecting shades of Mad Max, The Terminator and to some extent Cronenberg’s Scanners, whilst still retaining his own identity and flavour.  The action throughout is shot with attitude and style, and I even found some elements disturbing (telekenesis … shudder), making events really get under my skin – not expected.

One of the finest movies of the year.

Verdict:  5 /5

Twelve Monkeys


Viewed – 16 September 2009  Blu-ray

This really messed with my head when I first watched it on cinema. A clever, intricate exploration of time travel, apocalypse and madness starring Bruce Willis as reluctant ‘volunteer’ James Cole who in 2035 is offered a chance to go back in time and discover the cause of a deadly virus that wipes out 99% of the human population.  Yet of course things are never that simple, and on first appearing in the past, he is placed in a mental hospital where he meets unhinged rich kid Jeffrey Goins (Brad Pitt), who may or may not be connected to The Army Of The 12 Monkeys, strongly believed to be the cause of the outbreak.  Cole comes under the watchful eye of psychiatrist Kathryn Railly (Madeline Stowe) who sees more in him than a wild, violent mad man.

Terry Gilliam’s complex film is for me the best interpretation of the time-travel theme, with a wholly believable premise and some striking imagination at play, especially when the film tries to f*** with you and you start wondering if really the future is just all in Cole’s head and maybe he is nuts afterall – or is he?  I lap this kind of stuff up, and on say my fourth or so viewing it’s not as baffling as I first thought, and comes together perfectly by the closing credits – making this one of the best structured movies I think I’ve ever seen.  Add to this Gilliam’s incredible imagery, depsite a small budget, and three stand-out performances from the principle actors – and this is easily one of the best movies of the nineties.

The blu-ray is a mixed back.  Some times it looks striking and detailed, then other times it seems overly soft and out of focus, and even suffers from possible print damage (especially evident in background details).  Thankfully the image seems mostly free of artificial enhancements, but overall this is a movie that is in depserate need of remastering.  Thankfully the DTS HD Master Audio soundtrack fairs much better and is punchy and effective throughout, with dialogue especially clear.  Extras are carried over from the original DVD release, such as the fascinating documentary, and an invaluable commentary from Gilliam and producer Charles Roven, and we also get a photo gallery and a trailer – none of which are in HD.    Again then, another classic movie let down by poor hi-def treatment.

Verdict:  5 /5