Produced & Interviewed By Tim Wassberg
Keanu Reeves’ new documentary Side by Side chronicles the impact of digital filmmaking and begs the question–what is the role of celluloid in modern cinema? 10 years ago, The Inside Reel posed a similar question with its doc The Inside Reel: Digital Filmmaking, which premiered on PBS in New York and Los Angeles.
The “digital revolution” is one of the most significant changes in the film industry since the advent of sound and color. It is also one of the most debated topics among filmmakers and fans. The program goes behind the scenes and talks to some of the world’ most successful filmmakers about the advent of digital technology to see how it’s changing the way films are made and ultimately seen. By Interviewing over 32 respected actors and filmmakers, including Johnny Depp, Tim Burton (Edward Scissorhands, Batman), and Academy Award winning Directors, Oliver Stone (Platoon, JFK) and Robert Zemeckis (Forrest Gump, Back to the Future), The Inside Reel: Digital Filmmaking offers a glimpse and speaks to those at the forefront of this “evolution in filmmaking” and illustrates where these filmmakers believe the future of cinema is headed. The program highlights some of the biggest achievements and innovations of this digital revolution as well as illuminates some of the misconceptions and pitfalls filmmakers may fall into with the abuse of this technology. From desktop editing to photo realistic dinosaurs, digital technology is expanding the palate for all filmmakers and is forging cinema’s evolution into the 21st century. Marilyn Ross of The Hollywood Reporter called the program “a must see for anyone who loves movies.”
The Inside Reel‘s From the Vaults: The Directors DVD featuring interviews with George Lucas, James Cameron, Francis Ford Coppola, Quentin Tarantino and many more is coming to Amazon.com this fall.
Keanu Reeves’ Side by Side will be released theatrically on August 17.
With his ongoing interaction with George Lucas and Star Wars, Seth Green and his cronies at “Robot Chicken” have been put in the envious position of both admiring the Star Wars pantheon but also being able to make fun of it. With “Robot Chicken: Star Wars Episode III”, the balance becomes more dynamic with the aspect that while the spoof element are distinctly in play, some more dramatic elements of sorts are being explored. Situated almost as a biopic in reverse with the Emperor in addition to the manic channel change progression thrown in, there is more a narrative progression to the proceedings than ever before.
Beginning with the song “Teenage Wasteland” as Palpatine is being thrown to his death, the episode takes on a vast gamut. The great homages are there. One particularly reverse engineered one is a take off from “A New Hope” where Ben informs Luke after his Aunt and Uncle died that he has a new Sandcrawler. It cuts to the Crawler jumping a chasm just like the Ferrari jumped a hill to John Williams’ music in “Ferris Buellar’s Day Off”. Another that definitely works to this aspect is when Vader gets his suit at the end of Episode III. Instead of becoming melodramatic, it turns into a disco across the Death Star with some new music cues which plays undeniably funny.
Some of the more dry and dark somber comedic tones plays in three separate sets. One involves two Stormtroopers accidently setting fire to Owen & Beru’s place on Tatooine. Luke’s relatives come out engulfed in fire, screaming while the guilty stormtroopers try to sneak away. Another is when Luke is filling up at a space gas station. The person pulling in next to him is the Ice Creature whose arm he cut off during the Hoth Excursion. The use of moving cameras and POV is the most advanced element of technical work yet. It is also very Stephen King-ish in its delivery with some actual emotional connotations. The last segment of note in this pantheon is when a Stormtrooper accidentally kills an Ewok in the forest. When he tries to put the bear out of its misery, he causes it more pain. It turns out all his friends walk in on the violence. Again very interesting dynamic which hopefully translates to the “Star Wars” project Green and Lucas are developing for future production.
At nearly an hour long, the project is undeniably ambitious. The addition of actual Star Wars cast members like Billy Dee Williams and Ahmed Best obviously adds credence in addition to Seth McFarlane (who creates his own odes on “Family Guy”) who voices The Emperor with a bit of Stewie to boot. The third special of Robot Chicken in its ode to “Star Wars” is both interesting and flawed in a great way which makes its intent all the more realized.
“Something Something Something Dark Side” as a presentation of the second of the “Star Wars” movies looks great because, in many instances, it seems done shot for shot. One, of course, would think that they just animated over the actual “Star Wars” masters but that might or might not be the case. Some of the best lines are delivered by the non-major charcaters specifically our favorite “Oh No” guy as Admiral Piett. Meg still barely gets one line in the episode. James Woods makes it work in a quick cameo as an underling. Seth Green as Chris in many ways jumps in front especially with his show-stopping line when Luke is being rescued: “It’s me you f**kers!” What is funny is during the table read (which is also included on the disc) when Seth reads the line “Good god I’m hit!”, Mila Kunis, who is sitting next to him, doubles over laughing. It shows they get as much of a kick out of it as many of the viewers. In the table read as seen before, creator Seth McFarlane jumps around in his voices fairly quickly as does Mike Henry who also voices Cleveland. The work on the episode is painstaking but almost not as funny as it could be because they have almost too much reverence. What is interesting is how certain jokes were eliminated from the table read to the actual episode dependent on whether it was legal, Lucas or something else.
The commentary is a little meandering but all commentaries by rote can be unless everyone comes in with notes. Green never saw the episode before so it is interesting seeing his perceptions versus the small parts at times he saw previously. The moment that reflects story progression to the table read is in the Dark Force cave on Dagobah. Chris now sees his own self instead of before when the decapitated head became that of Homer Simpson. The aspect of taste does play in at a certain point dependent on its meanness which is an interesting parallel. The Fun Facts Pop-Up track is pretty funny since it can make additional jokes which many of these kind of ancillary tracks don’t do making it extremely effective. “The Dark Side Of Poster Art” gives a little bit of fanboy presence showing the original painter of “The Empire Strikes Back” poster and then the guy on the “Family Guy” staff who repeated it though his video at home seems a little too much. The director’s animatic comparisons (this was the last “Family Guy” episode storyboarded on paper) to certain scenes are pretty much spot-on. The only addition obviously were alot of backgrounds and in-between work. Another quick bit that is included is part of the table read for the upcoming “Return Of The Jedi” parody which has the beginning bits in Jabba’s Palace. “Something Something Something Dark Side” continues to show the love for the Lucas Empire with almost at times too much of a spot-on rendition that can blur the line on the humor but just keeps it above water. Out of 5, I give the BD a 3.