And so goes another season of "Project Greenlight", the series produced by the trio of Ben Affleck, Chris Moore and Matt Damon. The show, for those unfamiliar, is an HBO series where Miramax Films and the trio award a director the chance to make a small studio picture - doing so working with some very talented individuals. This time around, there were not one, but two contests: a writing contest and a directing contest: both winners would work together on one movie - "The Battle of Shaker Heights".
The first season's winner was Pete Jones, an everyguy who had little directorial experience, yet acted as if the world was his oyster. The fun of the first season was having Jones create a problem and then have it, unaware to him, snowball up until it came back to crush him. This time around, there's not one, but two directors: Efram Potelle and Kyle Rankin - two guys who think they know everything and are willing to try and talk their way around everyone else's opinions. One wonders why these two were chosen when another directorial contestant acted like she'd do utterly anything to direct "Heights" after falling in love with the material.
Those with a passing knowledge of Hollywood will likely know that not everything goes your way, especially if it's your first time directing and the movie you're directing is budgeted at around $1m. Yet, these two directors fight every decision, starting with casting and are stunned when major stars pass on their movie. The two are joined by writer Erica Beeney, who manages to stand by and fume while the two directors begin to make "changes" to her screenplay, turning it in another direction from the comedy she envisioned.
The two directors are confronted about how they're going to work together with actors, stating that they'll be fine - we then see the two giving different directions to the actors. On moment has stars Shia Lebouf ("Holes") and Amy Smart ("Road Trip") sit by in one scene as the directors let time slip away trying to figure out why they can't communicate what they want from the moment. The two directors are repeatedly given notes about their work from cast and crew members; they agree, talk about changing, and then go on their way with what they want.
It was funny when Jones wanted his way and didn't know any better - it's watchable, but not nearly as entertaining when Efram Potelle and Kyle Rankin think they know better and act arrogant and passive-aggressive to try and get their way. This show is about new directors learning to work with a crew and make acceptions - so far, neither director in the show's two seasons seems to be willing to do so.
Ben Affleck and Matt Damon are largely unseen during filming, aside from one Affleck appearance late in the game with Jennifer Lopez tagging along. The two returning crew members are hyper-tense producer Chris Moore (in one scene, the chair Moore is sitting in during a meeting breaks, causing uneasy laughter) and the calm/collected co-producer Jeff Balis, who somehow manages to put up with the director's actions and demands. Despite being tagged as the villian of the first season, Moore once again seems to be one of the few people involved with common sense and who's willing to push the directors towards the right direction. It's hard to blame Moore when, late in the game, he decides to leave the production (staged for the show? Possibly, but I wouldn't blame him if he really did go.)
The problem with this second season of the series is that it also seems to focus less on the filmming itself; 13 30-minute episodes make up the season, and too much time seems devoted to pre and post-production. Despite interesting moments in both segments, I felt as if a lot of the footage of the shoot itself must have ended up on the cutting room floor (the deleted scenes section has some footage). Overall, "Project Greenlight 2" is fun and generally entertaining, but it's not quite as addictive a watch as the first season.
VIDEO: "Project Greenlight 2" is presented in its original full-frame aspect ratio. The picture remains crisp, clean and well-defined, with little in the way of artifacting or other issues. Colors were bright and well-saturated, with no smearing. The show's 2.0 soundtrack was clean and well-recorded, with easily understood dialogue.
EXTRAS: The main supplement is the third disc, which includes "The Battle of Shaker Heights", with commentary from the directors, deleted scenes, a gag reel and the ability to jump to "Greenlight" moments involving certain scenes. On the second disc, we get "Greenlight"-related supplements, including 30 minutes of deleted scenes (apparently, a fair amount of material on the shoot itself got left out), the finalist's filmmaker video bios and the finalist's short films.
Final Thoughts: "Project Greenlight 2" is still entertaining viewing, as we watch problems line up around the two filmmakers. Yet, their attitudes do make the series suffer a bit and the show could have used hour-long episodes to try and fill-out more aspects of the production. The DVD set provides fine supplements and good audio/video quality. Recommended.