Critics Consensus

Critics Consensus: Project Almanac is Fun but Uneven

Plus, Black or White is well-meaning but contrived, and The Americans is Certified Fresh.

by | January 29, 2015 | Comments

This week at the movies, we’ve got time-traveling teens (Project Almanac, starring Jonny Weston and Sofia Black D’Elia), squabbling families (Black or White, starring Kevin Costner and Octavia Spencer), and philandering friends (The Loft, starring James Marsden and Karl Urban). What do the critics have to say?

Project Almanac


Project Almanac is unlikely to replace Back to the Future or Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure in the popular imagination. Still, critics say this time-travel thriller is stylish and smart, even if it eventually runs out of steam and the found-footage gimmick doesn’t quite work. David (Jonny Weston) is a high school science wiz who builds a time machine based on a model developed by his late father. But when he and his friends journey into the past, they end up messing up the present in unforeseen ways. The pundits say Project Almanac is reasonably fun, but the film never quite lives up to its intriguing premise. (Watch our video interview with the stars.)

Black or White


Heartfelt intentions and great actors do not a successful film make. Case in point: Black or White, which critics say saddles its stellar cast with a contrived story that only touches on the weightiness to which it aspires. Kevin Costner plays Elliot, a hard drinking attorney who finds himself caring for his orphaned granddaughter after his wife dies. But Rowena (Octavia Spencer), her paternal grandmother, thinks he’s not up to the task, and soon she and Elliot are involved in an emotional custody battle. The pundits say Black or White is a noble attempt to address issues of race and family, but the contrived plot undercuts both the film’s lofty aims and its nuanced performances. (Check out this week’s Total Recall, in which we count down Costner’s best-reviewed movies.)

The Loft


It’s been nearly four years since The Loft was filmed, and now it hits theaters without being screened for critics. Neither of those facts are encouraging. It’s the story of five married guys who rent an apartment for extracurricular activities. When they discover a dead woman in the loft, each of them is a suspect. Guess the Tomatometer!

What’s Hot On TV:

Critics say that tamily-driven drama and psychological themes propel The Americans (Certified Fresh at 100 percent) which will dispence thrills of a different ilk this season.

The critics say the action and sex in Sons of Liberty (58 percent) is certainly titillating, but not enough to compensate for the show’s bland, historically inaccurate story.

Also opening this week in limited release:

  • Hard to be a God, an epic Russian sci-fi film about a scientist sent to planet whose inhabitants have regressed into the dark ages, is at 100 percent.
  • Timbuktu, a drama about everyday life in the famed Malian city after its takeover by religious fundamentalists, is at 97 percent.
  • Girlhood, a drama about a teenager with a troubled home life who finds solace with a group of street kids, is at 82 percent.
  • Above and Beyond, a documentary about a group of American pilots who fought in the Israeli War of Independence, is at 80 percent.
  • Amira & Sam, a romantic dramedy about the relationship between an American soldier and an Iraqi woman, is at 75 percent. (Also, check out Martin Starr’s Five Favorite Films.)
  • Suburban Gothic, starring Kat Dennings and Matthew Gray Gubler in a horror comedy about a misfit who must protect his community from a vengeful spirit, is at 43 percent.
  • Wild Card, starring Jason Statham and Sofía Vergara in an action thriller about a bodyguard who goes after the thug who attacked his friend, is at 15 percent.
  • Alien Outpost, a mockumentary about a group of soldiers fighting extraterrestrials in the deserts of Pakistan, is at 14 percent.

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