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Film / Project Almanac

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Project Almanac is a 2015 found footage sci-fi teen adventure film directed by Dean Isrealite in his directorial debut, and written by Jason Harry Pagan and Andrew Deutschman. Michael Bay additionally served as a producer. The film stars Jonny Weston, Sofia Black-D'Elia, Sam Lerner, Allen Evangelista, Virginia Gardner and Amy Landecker.

High school senior and aspiring inventor David Raskin (Weston) discovers the blueprints for a time machine in his basement hidden by his late father, along with his friends Adam Le (Evangelista) and Quinn Goldberg (Lerner) and his sister Christina (Gardner). The gang, joined by David's crush Jessie Pierce (Black-D'Elia), build the machine and use it for personal gain, only to discover that their actions greatly affect the lives of those around them.

Although the film was shot in 2013 and scheduled for release in 2014 under the title Welcome to Yesterday, its title was changed and its release was postponed to 2015, reportedly so the film's distributor Paramount could partner with MTV Films to refine the marketing strategy to reach a bigger teen and college-age audience.

This film contains examples of:

  • Applied Phlebotinum: The glass box. It's the "heart" of the time machine, and how it works is never explained. The only thing we know is that it consumes a lot of power and hydrogen to work.
  • Broken Record: Anyone who locks eyes with their past or future selves. They begin repeating exactly what the other said over and over as they phase in and out of reality, eventually being erased altogether. This almost happens to Quinn. And does happen to Jessie.
    • A more literal example also occurs:
Jesse (on footage being scrutinised by David): "Before the world ends, I have to fall in love... I have to fall in love... love... love... love..."
  • Butterfly of Doom: Right, David. You've had a great time a Lollapalooza, your sister is now friends with her former enemy and your mom has a job. But you lost the girl. Go back and patch that up, but now the school basketball team didn't make the playoffs, mom's out of work again and an airliner has crashed. Go back and save the team's star, but your friend Adam's in hospital. Go back again, accidentally bringing your girlfriend, and she erases herself from reality. But Adam's fine.
  • Cannot Spit It Out: Jessie and David are clearly crazy about each other, but David seems to have a real problem making it official. During a moment at Lollapalooza where it looks like they might kiss, David flubs his chance and their relationship becomes awkward as a result. He goes back in time to fix this, but this somehow starts a chain of temporal Disaster Dominoes that just keeps getting worse.
  • Common Place Rare: The machine needs hydrogen to work, which they resort to stealing from the school. Technically you can get it by running a current through water, but pressurizing and bottling it would be rather difficult.
  • Cover Up Purchase: Almost averted. The gang are buying innocuous electrical accessories, and Christina asks a shop assistant:
"Excuse me, sir, but where is your time machine section?"
  • Didn't Think This Through: David goes back in time alone so he can kiss Jessie and make it so they're a couple. This ends up seriously screwing with the future. Now, from David's point of view, his reasoning didn't seem that bad. But he's also dealing with something that has never been seen before, so he doesn't know if changing something so trivial could prove so disastrous. Of course, David wasn't thinking about any of that at the time.
  • Dumb Blonde: Christina is a downplayed example. She's not unintelligent but she lacks the science smarts of David or Adam or (to a much lesser extent) Quinn and she comes across as less perceptive and witty than Jesse. She is also The Watson of the group meaning if any concept or technology has to be explained, it is mostly done to Christina (“Can you guys speak English?").
  • Dying Declaration of Love: Downplayed as Jessie didn't know she was about to die, and it isn't a "death" in the actual sense of the word. But in the second half of the movie, Jessie accidentally travels back in time with David when he attempts to correct the past. After a brief argument, they embrace and she admits that she loves him, just before her past self shows up and sees her, causing both versions of her to be permanently erased from the timeline.
  • Failed a Spot Check: An attempt to go back in time and win the lottery gets them a much smaller payout due to getting the last number mixed up.
  • For Want Of A Nail: The major conflict of the second half of the movie. When they first fired up the machine, it blew the power on the street which caused the school's star basketball player to get run over and get his leg broken. Since he was benched, the team never made it to the championship, and those that would have attended went elsewhere instead. One particular parent was a pilot, who ends up crashing a plane and killing a lot of people as a result. David's frantic attempts to correct this only further makes a mess of things.
  • From Bad to Worse: David chickens out on admitting his feelings to Jessie the first time around, which causes their relationship to become very awkward. In order to fix this, he goes back in time and kisses her, leading to a future where they're a couple with a healthy relationship, and Jessie's parents approve of her boyfriend. However, his time meddling led to a chain of events that caused an airliner to crash, killing hundreds of people. His attempts to then go back and fix that incident only proceed to make things much, much worse.
  • High-Heel–Face Turn: After returning from the concert, Christine is suddenly part of Sarah Nathan's clique, despite their being enemies previously.
  • Hitler's Time Travel Exemption Act: The group ponders about going back in time to kill Hitler, but Adam quickly shoots down the idea by pointing out that none of them can speak German and the time machine can't send them back that far in time.
  • Idiot Ball:
    • The whole group, filming themselves breaking into their own high school and stealing boxes full of bottled hydrogen.
    • David, who keeps making decisions by himself (decisions which break his own rules) and time-travels alone to "fix things" despite being the one who set the rule "always jump together". This ends up making things worse.
  • I Hate Past Me: Quinn, taking Christina's word for it that class is cancelled.
"What a douche!"
  • Jumped at the Call: Jesse only wanders into the experiment by accident but quickly becomes very excited to be part of it and is the first to propose sending themselves back in time.
  • Let's Dance: Said by a cocksure Quinn to his chemistry teacher, expecting to walk his presentation - only to be asked about what he didn't study.
  • Little Black Dress: Jesse is wearing one at the party she goes to before getting involved in the time machine.
  • Male Gaze: Christina is prone to this several times courtesy of the camera itself, especially when Adam's holding it. Also Jessie, whenever David is holding the camera (and at times when Chris has the camera but is watching Adam ogle her).
  • Ms. Fanservice: Both Jesse and Christina. Christina spends the entire Lollapalooza montage running around in a bikini top, while Jesse spends one scene wearing nothing but a Modesty Towel.
  • Mundane Utility: A bunch of high school kids have a working, reusable time machine and settle for doing things like winning the lottery and getting backstage at a concert several months back. They actually discuss better uses for it, including killing Hitler, but they can only get enough power to send themselves back a few months at most.
  • Never the Selves Shall Meet: Quinn draws a smiley face on his own neck in the past to test the ripple effect, waking himself up and causing both of them to start shifting in and out of existence. Lucky for him, they manage to drag him away before it becomes permanent. Jessie has this happen to her completely near the end of the film, forcing David to go back to the beginning in an attempt to correct all of it.
  • Noodle Incident: Causing Adam to end up in hospital.
  • Nothing Is Scarier: How David ends up causing several major disasters by going back in time alone and kissing Jessie is never revealed. We can only assume it was through some bizarre Butterfly Effect chain of events that started at Lollapalooza.
  • Only Sane Man: Adam is the group member with the best combination of practical knowledge, and an ability to follow the rules they've agreed on.
  • Parents Know Their Children: After David sends himself back to his seventh birthday, he goes into the basement where his father is, who almost immediately recognizes the intruder as an older version of his son.
  • Product Placement: They gut an Xbox 360 for parts to the time machine. A later and far more blatant example is during the first test of the machine. Everything goes in slow motion and it holds on a can of Red Bull spinning in the air.
  • Riddle for the Ages: What David does when he travels back to Lollapalooza alone that seriously screws up the timeline in a way that causes the school's star player to have an accident (which in turn causes a plane crash, his mother to not have a job and several other catastrophes) is never revealed, nor is anything he does that ends up making it worse. The most we get from watching is that David and Jessie just aren't meant to be together, at least not in the timeline where they go to the festival.
  • Right for the Wrong Reasons: After Jessie is erased from the timeline, the police come after David suspecting him of being connected to her disappearance. They're actually correct in this assumption, but they obviously don't think he caused her to be accidentally wiped from reality.
  • Ripple Effect Indicator: Quinn does this using himself, and nearly erases himself from history in the process when he wakes up and sees himself.
  • Ripple-Effect-Proof Memory: As the group uses the time machine at greater distances, they realize things have changed more than they thought when they suddenly can't remember several major recent events.
  • Set Right What Once Went Wrong: David does this repeatedly (starting with his failure to admit his feelings to Jesse), only to make things worse each time until the last jump.
  • Shout-Out:
  • Stable Time Loop: David builds the time machine because he sees his current 17 year old self on a home video made in 2004. Later, after his irresponsible meddling in time causes his girlfriend to vanish, he's forced to travel back years in order to completely fix it, at which point he ends up being caught on the same home video, inadvertently completing the loop and creating his own future.
  • Technology Marches On: In-Universe, Adam is initially confused by a simple VGA cable attached to the time machine, until David drags in an old-school VGA monitor to attach it to. After this they gut an Xbox to bring the device up to modern standards and link it to a smartphone.
  • Teen Genius: David and Adam, who are easily the smartest members of the group (Adam is MIT bound and they do an expert job building the time machine from old plans). Quinn is pretty smart too, but seems to fall under the Brilliant, but Lazy spectrum.
  • Temporal Paradox: The only possible explanation for why people vanish upon directly encountering their past/future selves as it is something that contradicts their timeline, though it doesn't seem to occur when one of them is unaware of the other's presence, only when both can see each other. The group figures this one out pretty quickly when they attempt to prank a sleeping Past!Quinn by drawing a smiley face on his neck, only for him to wake up and almost cause him and his future self to disappear. From that moment onwards, the group make it a point to avoid their past selves as best they can.
  • Timey-Wimey Ball: The entire movie begins because David finds a video of his current day self at his seventh birthday party, which leads to him discovering and rebuilding the time machine stored in his father's basement, suggesting a Stable Time Loop. Immediately after doing this, however, the cast wantonly screws with their own timeline to make things more favorable for themselves, clearly demonstrating that time can also be changed at will. What's especially crazy is that the situation the video depicts is David retgoneing himself by destroying the time machine, which he succeeds in doing, meaning the very situation that led them to the time machine originates from a timeline in which said machine does not exist.