Monday, February 22, 2016

Movie Monday: All Good Things & Project Almanac

Our college son was home sick all last week - "just" a cold, but you know how a simple infection can knock us out! He was couch-bound all week which meant LOTS of TV and a couple of movies. I wasn't feeling well myself, so that worked out fine. My husband, our son, and I watched two good movies on Netflix:

First, we watched All Good Things, a creepy psychological thriller based on the true story of Robert Durst, who was suspected of killing his wife but never convicted. Ryan Gosling plays David Marks (the Robert Durst character), a lackadaisical young man in the shadow of his father, played by Frank Langella, who's a powerful, wealthy real estate mogul in 1970's New York. David falls for Katie, a sweet young woman played by Kirsten Dunst whom his father disapproves of because she isn't from the right kind of family. They marry anyway and move to Vermont to open a natural foods store. Their happiness is short-lived, however, as David's father convinces him that he must join the family business or else Katie will eventually leave him because he can't earn a good living.

David reluctantly joins his father's (rather criminal) business alongside his older brother, and his downward spiral begins. He knows he's sold out and given up his dreams and becomes more and more bitter. In addition, Katie wants to have kids and David is firmly against it, which further broadens the rift growing between them. They have two gorgeous houses - one in the city and one on a lake - and all that money can buy, but neither of them is happy, and David seems more and more withdrawn. As you might recall from the news reports in 1982, Katie goes missing one night, and though foul play is suspected, nothing is ever proven and no charges are ever brought.

The entire movie is framed by a courtroom scene, with voiceovers of an attorney questioning an elderly David about all of these events, though we don't find out until the end of the movie exactly why he is in court. It's a creepy psychological thriller that keeps you guessing. Ryan Gosling is perfect in the lead role, playing his usual silent but deep and troubled guy with a chilling coldness. Kirsten Dunst is also excellent as Katie, and Frank Langella plays the controlling, powerful father very well. All in all, it is a chilling movie based on a real-life unsolved case - not exactly uplifting fodder but gripping and darkly suspenseful.

The next night, we switched gears and watched a fun, fast-paced sci fi movie called Project Almanac, about a group of teens who time travel. David is obviously very smart - the movie opens with his video application to MIT, as he and his friends demonstrate the drone they built, while his sister, Christina films them. In fact, the entire movie is supposedly filmed with Christina's hand-held camera in that style made popular by The Blair Witch Project. Accepted to MIT but unable to pay for it, David searches his attic for projects left by his scientist dad that he might work on to apply for a scholarship. He and Christina find an old video camera, with footage from David's 7th birthday ten years earlier, the day that his dad died in a car accident. Watching the video, David recognizes his current self in a mirror, which sets him, his sister, and his friends on a search for a way to time travel. They discover a hidden compartment in the basement where his dad hid top-secret government blueprints and equipment for Project Almanac.

The geeks put their heads together, go shopping, and finish putting the time travel apparatus together using the blueprints over the course of several weeks. Cute girl Jessie joins their ragtag group, and they begin traveling back in time. They start slowly, going back a week so that one of their group can retake the chemistry test he failed because he was busy working on the time machine. They make other trips back for various reasons, until they start to notice some unintended consequences. You can guess the rest - as in any time travel story, you should never tamper with the past! Things spin out of control as David frantically tries to fix their mistakes.

I love time travel stories for their mind-bending and thought-provoking twisty plots, though this one has a few holes in it. I see that some critics really hated the hand-held camera approach here or picked apart the plot holes, but the three of us just went along for the ride and enjoyed it. It's a fun-filled, action-packed teen time travel movie, with the usual subplots about friendship and love, and of course, that hard-won lesson: never tamper with the past.

Have you seen any good movies lately?

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