Project Greenlight: Stolen Summer (2001)
Review by HTQ4

Written and Directed by Pete Jones
Original Songs & Music by Danny Lux
Starring Aidan Quinn, Bonnie Hunt, Kevin Pollack, Brian Dennehy, Eddie Kaye Thomas, Adiel Stein, and Mike Weinberg


Released by: Miramax
Rating: PG
Region: 1
Anamorphic: Yes
My Advice: Own it

Pete O'Malley (Stein) is an Irish Catholic boy growing up in the 70s. He becomes concerned when his Catholic school priest tells him he's going to Hell. Then he becomes convinced that the best way that he can get to heaven is by converting someone who is not going to heaven...say the Jews, for instance. So, he goes to the local synagogue and begins his quest to save souls. In the process, a lot of people have their beliefs--religious and otherwise--put to the test, and two little boys learn a little more about each other before it's all over.

This is a beautiful movie; every member of the cast turns in a stellar performance. It is both nicely written and directed. If the movie has a weakness, it's that it can be a little overly sentimental, but I'm willing to forgive that since it was able to manage a lack of preachiness regarding a topic revolving around two opposing religions. And I'd like to state for the record that Bonnie Hunt has to be one of the funniest people I have ever seen. Her sense of humor and timing is outstanding--and seemingly editor-proof--because it always comes across no matter what movie she's in. And, she and Aidan Quinn have a wonderfully fresh relationship on camera which makes for a very believable family at the center of this story. The sad thing is that Pete Jones' movie probably never would have been made if it hadn't been for Project Greenlight. Indeed, it seems like it almost wasn't made even with Project Greenlight. For more information on that, keep reading.

Well, there never was a project that so lended itself to the DVD format. On the first disc, you have the movie, commentary track, deleted scenes, and trailers. The other three discs contain all of the Project Greenlight segments and even more bonus material. First of all, the commentary is great. It is obvious that Pete Jones is a little nervous at first, but that quickly goes away since he's flanked by a couple of the producers of his movie. Their conversation meanders its way through topics of the shoot, the casting, and, of course, the process of producing this movie under Greenlight. It's definitely worth the listen because Miramax didn't edit the commentary track, thus allowing Jones to really go off on them when the moment arises...and it does...often.

As with most films, the deleted scenes provided were cut for an obvious reason. There are only two included on the disc, though you'd think that for a first-time director, there would be a few more that didn't make it. There is one more special feature on this first disc: a look at the difference between the short scene from his screenplay that Jones had to shoot on a video camera as part of the contest and the same scene as part of the final production. It's neat to see the differences between the two, but that's about all this is worth: the neat factor.

Discs two and three contain the twelve episodes of Project Greenlight that aired on HBO for the "first season". This entire project was a great idea. What I like best about it is that it started out on the Internet and worked its way into the Hollywood system where they (surprise!) made a very good movie for a million dollars! Anyway, these episodes definitely play like episodes from The Real World, but then they kind of have to, don't they? After all, this part of it is kind of "reality television". So, if you are not a fan of reality TV, this will probably turn you off a bit, but I would recommend at least giving it a try. It's a great look into the business of Hollywood and how horribly pretentious it can be at times. However, it's great to see the Hollywood types working to protect their investment of a million bucks, and to watch Damon and Affleck work to try to make sure that all of the scripts have a home in Hollywood.

The fourth disc is really the one that feels more like "special features" for the entire show. It starts out with "Notable Filmmaker Videos." These are the filmmakers' short scenes and bios that didn't make it into the top ten, but came damn close. Get ready to watch some short scenes that were shot on home video and very rough, but hey, that's what it's all about, right? Next you get to see the filmmaker bios for those that did make it into the top ten. This is more of the same type of home video stuff that's thrown together. Next, you get the top ten three-minute scripted scenes. If you remember, these are the short scenes that the filmmakers had to make as their next step after being chosen for the top ten. They were given a little better grade of equipment to work with and are working on scenes from their actual script, so these are an improvement, but you can definitely see how difficult a choice this was for the project coordinators and judges.

Then they threw together some stuff on how to put a film like this together. It covers everything from what it takes to do a "Press Junket" to "How to Assemble Your Crew" to "How to Fix It in Post," just to name a few. This just looks like some more clips from the actual show (and perhaps some of the interview clips that were deleted in post-production) that discuss the various aspects of this project--and probably most projects in Hollywood these days. The best one of these little "lessons" is the one where Pete Jones gets to talk with Kevin Smith. There were some little clips of this on the actual show, but this seems to be most of the full interview segment with Smith. It's just a shame they didn't dedicate a whole show to this particular interview, because it rocks. If you are looking for one reason to watch this, it's this interview. However, perhaps the best piece is "Project Redlight" which is Cinemax's spoof of the whole thing, focusing around the farcical idea that Cinemax did this to find a new erotic movie for their late night lineup. It's very clever, but it's not well produced. Still, it brings the funny.

Since I'm too cheap to get HBO and I didn't see this first episode during its original run, I'm glad they put this DVD package together. The second season is already running on HBO currently and they've made some changes to the contest. Personally, I can't wait for the second DVD set to come out. Get this one and get caught up.

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