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Project Greenlight: The Complete Second Season (2004) – DVD Review

Project Greenlight Season 2


Series Created by Matt Damon, Ben Affleck and Chris Moore
Project Greenlight Film Written by Erica Beeney
Project Greenlight Film Directed by Kyle Rankin and Efram Potelle
Starring Shia LeBeouf, Amy Smart, Elden Henson, Billy Kay, Kathleen Quinlan, and William Sadler

Series Features:

  • Deleted Scenes
  • Filmmaker Bios
  • Exlusive footage not aired on HBO

The Battle of Shaker Heights Features:

  • Deleted Scenes with optional commentary by directors Potelle and Rankin
  • Gag Reel
  • Running audio commentary with the directors

Released by: Miramax Home Entertainment
Rating: PG-13
Region: 1
Anamorphic: The series, no–appears in its original 1.33:1 format; the film, yes.

My Advice: At the very least, rent it…

Kelly Ernswiller (LeBeouf) is a war re-enactor and he’s pretty good at it. On this particular battlefield, he meets Bart Bowland (Henson). The two become fast friends and, together, they set out to get revenge on some of their high school enemies. Only one little problem gets in their way: Bart’s older sister, Tabby (Smart). In short, she’s beautiful, and Kelly attempts to woo her in spite of the danger to his relationship with Bart. Kelly has other issues, though, in the form of his father who’s a former addict and is now very possibly dying.

There is a lot going on in this script, but it is balanced quite nicely. LeBeouf is perfection. Smart is charming and, despite the very real age difference between these two actors, the relationship that develops on screen is very believable. The other outstanding actor in this movie is William Sadler. His relationship with LeBeouf is very strong despite their not having a lot of screen time together. This speaks to the talents of both of these actors. The script itself is fairly tight and the dialogue is well done, but the story is just not entirely compelling.

Because the series is what spawned the movie, here’s the part of the review where they start to blend. After having watched all of the episodes of the second season of the show, I know pretty much all of what went on behind the scenes during the planning and making of this movie (or at least what the editors thought would make compelling “reality” television). So, the experience of listening to the commentary track of this film with the two directors is tempered with all the behind the scenes stuff I’ve already seen. In this case, this works against the two directors. Some of what they say about the movie can be taken out of context and directly contradict what the episodes of the show represented. The other bits that they talk about are pretty common fare about how they are very thankful to have had this opportunity.

Then, of course, there is the Gag Reel which, if you think about it, is a microcosm of the series edited together very tightly. It’s well done, not too flashy, and blends just the right amount of actors actually screwing something up, and just goofing around on the set. The series also wreaks havoc on another feature of this movie: the deleted scenes. Thanks to the series, we are privy to the conversations about deleting a scene here or there and it just makes the optional commentary track here almost obsolete. After all, the Project Greenlight series is like the ultimate DVD bonus feature. If you really pair it down to its core, the entire season is one big featurette for the film that is part of this set, right? So, we get to see, in detail, everything that goes on during the planning and filming of this movie.

The season itself is a little weird. It is obvious they were still working out the bugs of this idea because during the second season, they added a layer to the competition. (For those of you unfamiliar with this project, check out my review of the first season.) This season, they had two winners: a director (or in this case directors) and a screenwriter. After the announcement of the winners, they flew everyone to LA to begin working on this movie. The screenwriter was to collaborate with the directors and producers in order to make final product.

Well, that just added another layer to the drama that went on behind the scenes. Now you had not just one inexperienced director dealing with a seasoned cast and crew, but instead you had two inexperienced directors working together with an inexperienced screenwriter working with a seasoned cast and crew to make their movie. Egos were bruised and battered and I’m sure HBO was loving it because it made for some fairly captivating television. And this is coming from someone who thinks reality TV is worthy of much hate. However, this one I’m willing to work with. Mostly because it still employs actors in a regular series as well as a feature film. It’s just the best of both worlds. This series doesn’t sugarcoat anything. Anyone who wants to know a) How Things Are Done In Hollywood, and b) Why Hollywood Continues To Suck The Big One can look at this show and get a pretty good idea. Seriously, this is a fairly accurate representation of what goes on in LA every day in order to make the tripe the industry normally tries to pass off as entertainment. There is the little twist of the competition winners and all, but mostly it’s a look at how easily something as simple as telling a story can get screwed into oblivion by nearly everyone involved.

The special features for this series are pretty weak. The meat of it surrounds a collection of scenes that were never aired as part of the series. This is a pretty good idea to show because the series makes it look like everything happens in a very short amount of time and some of these deleted scenes help reinforce the fact that we are still watching a process that takes nearly four to five months to complete. Other than that, though, you are pretty much stuck watching the show again if you want more. The only other features are a collection of bios for the filmmakers.

I long for the days of the first series where they had all of the short films that the contestants submitted for you to watch and see what made them choose the winners the way they did. This series actually provided more opportunity in that they could have included either excerpts from or the complete texts of the submitted screenplays in addition to the directors’ short films. It’s just a shame they didn’t see this as a good thing and continue the trend. It makes me fear for the DVD set for season three, which, if I’m to believe the hype on Bravo (who’s carrying it now, and not HBO) is more about making a financially lucrative movie in Hollywood rather than just getting your break to make an artistic film (which, as Miramax knows, don’t always make lots of money when you’ve got big name stars as well as big name directors and screen writers). So, if you have never seen this show or this movie, I say rent it.

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