Cineast Movie Previews: ‘Project Almanac,’ ‘The Loft,’ ‘Black or White’

"Black or White"
"Black or White"

Before you head to the theater this weekend, find out what Cineast has to say about new films Project Almanac, The Loft and Black or White.

Project Almanac

Is there anything that can blow people’s minds more thoroughly than the idea of time travel? It’s a natural topic for stories and films, and there have been any number of films about it. Time travel sets up a simple, easily grasped conflict—just as it would give people the ability to meddle with the past, it would carry with it the risk of unintended, unpredictable consequences. Project Almanac is just the latest thriller to examine this conundrum, setting it among a group of high school buddies who find a time machine in the basement. The teenagers naturally treat the machine as a toy, and begin to go back a few days at a time to play pranks on themselves, alter the outcomes of chemistry tests, and, of course, to cash in on winning lottery numbers. Naturally, the stakes gradually get higher, and unintended consequences begin to mount up, and soon the group is desperately travelling back and forth in time to try to undo the damage they’ve done.

The Loft

A group of married businessmen share a bachelor pad—a secret pad in the city to engage in friskiness with hook-ups and not leave any paper trail. Things are going great until a woman turns up lying lifeless in the communal bed. This scenario is played for laughs and romance in 1960s classic The Apartment, where a bunch of senior managers take advantage of a workaholic office schnook—Jack Lemmon’s C.C. Baxter—by arranging to canoodle with secretaries and elevator girls at Baxter’s apartment while Baxter stays at his desk adding figures. It all comes crashing down when Baxter returns home to find one of the canoodlees—Shirley MacLaine’s elevator girl Fran Kubelik—still in his bed having attempted suicide by overdose. Kubelik survives, and they all live happily ever after, basically. In The Loft, the basic scenario gets pushed to the dark side. In this case, the businessmen go in together for a luxury penthouse to indulge their extramarital appetites, and things are going great until a woman turns up in a pool of blood. The list of suspects includes all of the men, plus jealous spouses and/or boyfriends.

Black or White

Given the continued presence on movie screens of a serious film about civil rights like Selma, it’s unlikely that Black or White will garner much attention as a meaningful addition to the national conversation about race. In the film, Kevin Costner plays a well-to-do widower who has sole custody of his granddaughter, who is half African American. His world is threatened when the girl’s African-American grandmother, played by Octavia Spencer, sues for custody. The widower is forced to confront his own prejudices in this maudlin spectacle.

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