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Project Almanac – Exclusive Interviews with Actor Jonny Weston and Director Dean Israelite

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Project Almanac

In Project Almanac (review) (which sounds more like a tedious covert military operation than a teeny-bopper thrill flick), a group of high school hotties discover the long-long blueprints to a time machine and construct it. Of course things go terribly, terribly wrong.

Project Almanac is director Dean Israelite’s first feature – and it’s a big one with Platinum Dunes! We wondered how this heretofore Joe Schmoe got such a great opportunity to do a movie under Michael Bay, after having done only a handful of shorts and TV work. So we asked him. He said, “To win the job and convince both the producers and the studio that I had a vision for what Project Almanac could be, I put together a very robust presentation that included a 90-second teaser trailer for the film. I shot it with a bunch of friends over a day in and around my apartment, cut it with my roommate, who is an editor, and did some visual effects with another friend who is a great artist to create the piece. This piece was really successful in capturing the energy and the tone of what I thought the movie should be and got the producers and the studio really excited about my vision for the film.

Dean Israelite

Dean Israelite

Jonny Weston really carries Project Almanac (though he is well supported by a crew of likable fellow time travelers), so we asked Israelite if he had a lot to do with the actual development and hires. He did, he said. “I was very involved in the development of the script once we sold the movie to the studio. The screenplay changed immensely in development, but what was important was that the themes of the coming-of-age story always remained intact. The constant central idea of this character’s journey helped keep our focus throughout the process. We always knew what the story was trying to say. I can’t even remember all the versions of the plot that we broke, but what the movie was about thematically never changed. What was important to me was that we grounded every aspect of the script – the high school characters needed to feel relevant and contemporary; the time travel had to be dangerous and full of obstacles,” Israelite stressed.

I wanted to see the characters make mistakes all along the way, to make the time travel feel as unpredictable as possible, all in an attempt to render such a fantastical concept in as credible a way as possible. In terms of the casting, I was involved from the start with our brilliant casting director, Denise Chamian. It was a long and arduous process to find the right cast because the chemistry and love between these kids is what carries the entire film,” said Israelite. “They need to feel real and relatable, but somehow be movie stars too, because the whole film is on their shoulders. They also needed to be funny and be able to improvise, which is something I encouraged in rehearsal and, to a degree, on set.

Weston had already done sort of a time travelish movie, John Dies at the End. So we asked him, “Did that make you more inclined to do Project Almanac… or less so?” The actor laughed and replied, “I think they’re so different, it never crossed my mind. I mean, I was a gangster zombie in John Dies at the End!” [Not exactly the same character…]

Jonny Weston

Jonny Weston

Weston plays David in the movie, a character who makes some pretty outrageous decisions in the pursuit of love. Since we have no personal lives of our own, we were curious about the actor’s own affaires d’amour and popped the question. He revealed that the most romantic thing he’s ever done was to “take my new girlfriend of a week to a cabin in the mountains of Hawaii. We stared up at the glass ceiling while it poured rain.”

Prior to filming Project Almanac, Israelite shared several touchstones with his cast and crew. “The movies were all films that captured the mood and energy of teenage fun, recklessness, and growth – Risky Business, Ferris Bueller, The Goonies – but also films that have great soul while being unflinchingly entertaining like The Apartment. The cinematographer shared Elephant with me; that is obviously a wildly different film but plays with time and reality in an amazing way.” In the movie the characters talk about Looper, Timecop, etc., which was no stretch for Westin. He’d already seen “all of them. I geek out!

An obvious question to ask was whether the director and actor actually believe time travel is possible. So, we asked it! “Oh man. Someone asked Spielberg after he made ET and Close Encounters if he believed in aliens,” sighed Israelite. “He said no. I couldn’t believe it. How could one put so much care, time, and effort into something that they believed was pure fantasy? Well, now I get it. To me, it’s not important whether time travel is real or not; it’s just important that we explore the magic of what it could be like if it [is], to let our imaginations take us to weird, wonderful, and playful places with it. I don’t believe in aliens and I don’t believe in time travel, but I love to imagine both.

Westin concurred. “I’d say it is possible, but I hope it’s never perfected for the sake of the world.

Lastly, we wanted to know if each could send the other back in time, when it would be. “Dean? I think he’d be a great mind of the Renaissance,” said Weston. For Westin, Israelite chose the swinging 60s. “Jonny loves The Doors, so I would send him back to their first concert and somehow align it so that he could meet Jim Morrison and join the band. Who knows what would happen to the music, or the world for that matter, but Jonny would have the time of his life.

The Dean Israelite-directed film was written by Jason Harry Pagan and Andrew Deutschman. It stars Jonny Weston, Sofia Black-D’Elia, Sam Lerner, Allen Evangelista, and Ginny Gardner.

Look for Project Almanac in theatres on January 30, 2015.

If you could redo something in your past, what would it be? Share your story at ProjectAlmanac.com/Redo, and your redo could be seen on theater screens and billboards across the US. To change the past, would you risk your future? Choose wisely!

For more info visit the official Project Almanac website.

Synopsis:
A brilliant high school student and his friends uncover blueprints for a mysterious device with limitless potential, inadvertently putting lives in danger.

Project Alamanac

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Like Me – Will You Like This Dystopian Thriller?

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Starring Addison Timlin, Ian Nelson, Larry Fessenden

Directed by Robert Mockler


While Like Me is not dystopian in the classic science-fiction sense, it does aptly put the downer vibe across. If the present is abysmal, then the future is downright hopeless. We learn this as we follow an unhinged teenage loner called Kiya (Addison Timlin) on a hollow crime spree that she broadcasts on social media. At first the world “likes” her—with the exception of YouTube rival Burt (Ian Nelson), who disdainfully denounces her viral videos—but pride goes before the fall, and Kiya’s descent is spectacular.

If you’ve peeped the trailer for Like Me, then you’re probably expecting a horror movie. I mean, they’ve got the requisite menacing masked baddie and they’ve got genre icon Larry Fessenden in a major role—those are a couple of the key ingredients, right? Yes they are, but this simmering, shimmering stew of Natural Born Killers, Excision and King Kelly, it boils down to a whole lotta nothing. Like Me is sort of a drama, kind of a road trip flick, and almost a thriller. It succeeds at none yet does stand on its own as a compelling collection of cool visuals and pertinent performances. But is that enough?

While Kiya is a compelling character on the surface, there’s barebones beneath. Sure, she’s a Millennial mind-fed on random online clips and snappy soundbites—but what turned her into a psychopath? Was she born that way? Is social media to blame? We’ll never know, because not a hint is given. I don’t mind ambiguity, but even a morsel would have been welcome in this case. As Kiya ramps up her reckless exhibitionistic extremes, the stakes are never raised. In the end, who cares? Maybe that’s the point.

A word of warning: If you plan on watching this movie while chomping snacks…don’t. There is stomach-turning scene after vomit-inducing scene of orgiastic easting, binging, and the inevitable purging. I’m sure it’s all metaphorical mastication, a cutting comment on disposable consumption. I get it. But I don’t wanna look at it, again and again and again. Having said that, Like Me is an experimental film and in its presentation of such grotesquery, it’s quite accomplished. Montages, split-screens and jittered motions are scattered throughout, showing us all sorts of unpleasant things…Kudos to the editor.

I didn’t hate Like Me. But I do think one has to be in the mood for a movie such as this. It’s not an easy or entertaining watch, but it is a peculiar and thought-provoking one. There’s some style and mastery behind the camera, and I am curious to see what first-time writer-director Rob Mockler comes up with next.

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Last Toys on the Left

Funko Giving Jurassic Park the Pop! Treatment as Only They Can

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It is no secret we’re BIG fans of Funko’s Pop! Vinyl line here at DC HQ, and now they’ve announced a new series that has made our hearts just about burst… read on for a look at Pop! Movies: Jurassic Park, heading our way in February. The regular figures are awesome on their own, but wait until you see the exclusives!

From the Funko Blog:
Jurassic Park fans, get excited! To celebrate the 25th anniversary of the iconic film’s appearance on the silver screen, Jurassic Park is coming to Pop!

This series of Pop! features paleontologist Dr. Grant, Jurassic Park CEO John Hammond, mathematician Dr. Malcolm, and embryo-smuggler Dennis Nedry. (Keep an eye out for Dr. Ellie Sattler in Pop! Rides coming soon.)

We couldn’t forget the Jurassic Park dinosaurs! Featured in this line are the great T. rex, Velociraptor, and Dilophsaurus. Look for the Dilophosaurus chase, a rarity of 1-in-6.

Be on the lookout for exclusives. At Target you can find a wounded Dr. Malcolm, and the Dennis Nedry and Dilophosaurus 2-pack is available only at Entertainment Earth.

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American Psycho Meets Creep – Strawberry Flavored Plastic Review

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Starring Aidan Bristow, Nicholas Urda, Andres Montejo

Directed by Colin Bemis


Recently I wrote up an article here on Dread Central which was basically an open letter to anyone who was listening called “I Miss Found Footage.” Well, it seems like someone WAS listening, as I was then sent the link to an all-new found footage film called Strawberry Flavored Plastic from first-time writer-director Colin Bemis.

The film follows the “still-at-large crimes of Noel, a repentant, classy and charming serial killer loose in the suburbs of New York.” Basically, you could think of the flick as American Psycho meets Mark Duplass and Partick Brice’s Creep. That, or you could think of it as “Man Bites Dog in color!” However you choose to label Colin Bemis’ psychological thriller, just make sure you check out the film once it hits in the future.

As I alluded to above, the film is basically a found footage version of American Psycho. But that said, the film sports a twist on the charming serial killer subgenre that I have yet to see play out in any of the above-mentioned classics. I’m not going to go into spoiler territory here, but I will say that the film introduces an element to the tale that spins it into much more of a character drama than a straight horror film. Not that there is anything wrong with that!

Truth be told, the film’s turn from serial killer flick into a layered character study might have been its kiss of death, but this slight genre switch is rendered a minor issue as the film’s central narcissistic antagonist is played by Aidan Bristow. Bristow is an actor you may not have heard of before this review, but you will hear his name more and more over the years to come, I promise. The guy gives (no pun intended) a killer performance as the film’s resident serial killer Noel Rose, and time after time surprised me with how chilling, charming, or downright vulnerable he chose to play any given scene.

Bristow’s performance is, in the end, the major element the film has going for it. But that said, as a fan of found footage, I was smiling ear to ear at first-time director Colin Bemis’ understanding of what makes a found footage suspense sequence work.

In Strawberry Flavored Plastic director Colin Bemis is confident and content to allow full emotional scenes to play out with the camera directed at nothing more than a character’s knees. Why is this so important? Because it keeps the reality of the film going. Too many found footage directors would focus on the actors’ faces during such emotional scenes – no matter how contrived the camera angle was. In this film, however, Bemis favors the reality that says, “If you were really in this emotional state and holding a camera, you would let it drop to your side.” I agree, and it is small touches like that which make the film feel authentic and thus – once the shite hits the fan – all the scarier.

On the dull side of the kitchen knife, the film does feel a bit long even given it’s short running time, and there doesn’t seem too much in the way of visceral horror to be found within. Again, graphic blood and gore aren’t a must in a fright flick, but a tad more of the old ultra-violence would have gone a long way in selling our main psychopath’s insanity and unpredictability. But all the same, the film does feature a rather shocking sequence where our main baddie performs a brutal home invasion/murder that puts this film firmly in the realm of horror. In fact, the particular POV home invasion scene I’m talking about holds about as much horror as you’ll ever wish to witness.

In the end, Colin Bemis’ Strawberry Flavored Plastic is a must-see for fans of found footage and serial killer studies such as American Pyscho, Creep, and Man Bites Dog. I recommend giving it a watch once it premieres. If only to be able to point to Aidan Bristow in the near future and tell all your friends that you watched (one of) his first movies.

Until then, check out the film’s trailer HERE, and follow the movie on Facebook.

  • Strawberry Flavored Plastic
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Summary

Lead actor Aidan Bristow turns in a star-making performance in Colin Bemis’ Strawberry Flavored Plastic, a found footage film that plays out like Man Bites Dog in Color before introducing a new element to the charming-serial-killer subgenre and becoming more character study than a straight horror. Think American Psycho meets Creep.

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