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Movie Review: “American Breakdown”

Summary: A series of short films by various filmmakers and starring many a known name is used to try and explain the different ways of dealing with life’s rules.

Okay, I make no bones about the fact that I am in no way, shape or form what you might call “artsy.” I don’t have that breakthrough far-reaching futuristic artistic vision that’s always been so prevalent in Hollywood, especially these days when anyone can make their own movie and put it up on You Tube for the world to see.

And so my gut reaction to American Breakdown as a whole was…do what?

At a base level I get what the creator of the thing was doing, and that was taking a look at different ways to handle the rules we all have to live by (forcibly or by choice) through a series of short films – often an independent or up-and-coming filmmaker’s first shot at getting noticed by people who will actually pay them to bring their visions to life.

But out of the six short films that made up the compilation, there were only two that I completely and totally understood, and one that I got just fine right up until the end. Thank heavens since the point of me watching this was to review it for Scott Caan fans, the short he appeared in was one I actually got! *wipes sweat from brow*

Mr. C. appeared in a short called Life Makes Sense if You’re Famous - something with which I’m certain he can personally identify – portraying a (wait for it) Hollywood star. Yeah, big stretch, I know. As always, when Scott Caan plays Scott Caan, he’s perfectly fine. And as I’ve frequently run into in the movies he’s part of, he portrayed somewhat of an asshole. Which is perfectly fine, too.

All you see him doing is getting into a big club and trying to stop a fight out in front of that club, and then later interacting with the guy who’s actually the star of the short film and is a bit starstruck that he’s meeting this big-name Hollywood man. Somewhat like I imagine a lot of people would be if they met the real Scott Caan, truth be told.

Was I impressed with any of the short films? No. I was, however, impressed by the people they got to star in them. Not only was Scott Caan in this one, but Paul Walker – who I’m sure you all know was in the film Into the Blue with Mr. C. was in it with him, and Patrick Hoelck – who directed Scott’s film Mercy - was a consultant on it. (All in the family, so to speak.)

Paul Walker in "American Breakdown"

And in the other shorts we get the likes of Mr. Fantastic Ioan Gruffudd, Famous-Just-For-Being-Famous Paris Hilton, Hollywood long-timer Lou Gossett, Jr., Criminal Minds star Joe Mantegna and Tony Soprano himself, James Gandolfini, to name but a few.

I’ll go out on a limb here and say, the short films needed those stars to get anyone to watch them. *waits for the Hollywood gods to shoot her dead with a bolt of lightning before she ever gets her first screenplay sold, but what the hell*

If you want to watch about five minutes of Scott Caan screentime where he’s acting like…well…a spoiled rotten attitude-laced Hollywood big star…have at it. Otherwise, I honestly don’t think I’d recommend you bother with asking Netflix to pop this one into your mailbox, folks.

Notwithstanding the fact that no, I don’t always like everything these guys appear in and yes, I have no problem being straight with you about it, as always, here’s a collage of the super-little-bits of Scott Caan that I sat through an hour and thirty minutes of “do what?” to get! (Now, please don’t ever make me do that again…)

Click here to check this title out on Amazon.com.

Movie Review: “Man-Thing”

Summary: A Yankee sheriff takes over in a southern town where a series of attacks has left many people dead or missing, including his predecessor. With his deputy, a local beauty and a Native American trying to help solve the crimes, a missing guy nearly everyone in town thinks is a murderer, and a big oil magnate and his son who came by their oil-bearing swampland less-than-honestly, nobody suspects what’s really decreasing Bywater’s population one by one until it’s almost too late.

I have to honestly say that I have never seen a Marvel comic-turned-movie like this. First off, there was plenty of cursing. And I’m talking the f-bomb, so for someone like me, that’s a bonus. It’s a fair bet that’s because it was made in Australia. Granted, I haven’t seen tons of Australian-made movies, but in the ones I have seen, they seem to be a lot less uptight than U.S. studios about the use of colorful language. Between them and American independent films, I’m a happy camper.

I’ve not read the comic version of ‘Man Thing.’ In fact, I’d never heard of it until I was looking for movies in which actors from the current Hawaii Five-0 have appeared, for purposes of doing reviews just like this. It took a while for me to get around to ordering it…and fans of Alex O’Loughlin’s will simply be horrified to know it wasn’t the fact that he was in it that finally made me break down and purchase the thing. It was more that it was him and other specific actors. But we’ll get to that shortly.

I think some of the characters acted campy some of the time. Jack Thompson’s character Schist did a lot of that very villainous, very campy evil laughter, which kind of made me cringe at times. (Although I like Jack very much as an actor, I must say.) There was also a terribly campy evil-laughing-villains moment between Schist, Sr. (Thompson) and Schist, Jr. (portrayed by Jack’s son, Patrick).

Jack Thompson (left) and his RL son, Patrick Thompson

There’s a scene where the two are sitting in a vehicle plotting their next move and oh, Lord, I could practically see the overlay of a set of cartoon characters on top of them. Given that I loved seeing father and son act together in Feed, I was a little disappointed in that particular bit of Oh-No-They-Didn’t, but I’ll live.

Alex O'Loughlin as Deputy Fraser

What fun it always is to see Alex O’Loughlin in non-McGarrett (Hawaii Five-0) roles. Fun, that is, until the poor guy gets dismembered. I will admit, that was a little disturbing. While O’Loughlin’s character didn’t exactly meet a happy end in Feed, this was the first time I’d seen a character of his die, and I wasn’t prepared. I forget, he wasn’t as hot a commodity in 2005 when this movie was made, so I should’ve taken off my “they never kill the heroes” hat and put on my “he wasn’t Mr. BAMF yet” hat before I watched.

As for the movie itself, well…other than the aforementioned campiness – and there were other moments, too, not just those – it actually wasn’t altogether that bad. I saw some tweets over the past week between people who’d just watched Man-Thing and they were…less than complimentary. I have no clue whether the movie followed the comic closely or not, but as a standalone being watched by someone who is not a comic book reader (sorry, Peter Lenkov, I’ve never seen the R.I.P.D. one you created either, but I’ll be sure to watch the movie!), I have to say that I actually had fun watching this.

I think that was the point of it: fun. But I may also be terribly biased because of what I have come to call the Australian Rat Pack. I’m talking about director Brett Leonard, and actors Jack Thompson, Patrick Thompson, Alex O’Loughlin and Matthew Le Nevez.

I was very well aware that the Thompson boys (can I call them that without getting hated on?) and Alex O. were in the movie, but hadn’t yet done a lot of research on it. If I had, I wouldn’t have been so surprised when Le Nevez’s first appearance made me pause and say out loud, “Those eyes look so familiar.” And then, when I hopped over to IMDb to try and find out why those eyes looked so familiar, I saw the name of Man-Thing’s director on top of it and said, “You have got to be kidding me!”

Matthew Le Nevez as the Sheriff

The Australian Rat Pack. Why? Because Brett Leonard directed the movie Feed, which starred…yep, you guessed it: Alex O’Loughlin (Michael Carter), Patrick Thompson (Phillip Jackson), Jack Thompson (Richard) and Matthew Le Nevez (Nigel), among others. Leonard, O’Loughlin and the two Thompsons formed a production company called Honour Bright specifically to produce Feed (and yes, it was me who put that bit of trivia on Patrick Thompson’s IMDb page, along with a few other tidbits).

There’s no telling what else these gentlemen might’ve gone on to do together if Mr. O’Loughlin hadn’t gone to Los Angeles to seek his fame and fortune…which he obviously is doing pretty darn well at with the advent of Hawaii Five-0! I’m a little nostalgic after only getting these two films with this different Rat Pack – thinking about what might’ve been – but hey, we’ve got Steve McGarrett now, so I’ll take the compromise, I suppose.

(Hey, psssst…Hawaii Five-0 producers…I’m holding out to see the Thompson boys and Le Nevez on a episode of the show…surely you can have some Aussies visiting Hawaii for some reason. Think you can help out with that? *smiles pretty*) Heck, get Leonard in to direct it and I may just have an Australian Rat Pack Happy moment!

See? They think it's a good idea to get them onto "Hawaii Five-0!"

Okay, so Brett Leonard isn’t Australian, he’s one of Hollywood’s sons. But still, he did a great job with the actual Aussie members of my Rat Pack, so we won’t hold it against him. ;-)

Rachael Taylor as Teri

All that aside, there’s yet another thing that ties Man-Thing to Hawaii Five-0 besides Alex O’Loughlin, folks, and you can just chalk this up to me doing way too much research all the time. I recognized the blond woman who played Teri in Man-Thing but for the life of me couldn’t place her. When I looked her up, I found out it was Rachael Taylor, and that she’d been in the 2007 Transformers movie playing Maggie Madsen. A-ha, yes, I recognized her then! Only my brain suddenly poked me in the shoulder and said, “Ahem. Transformers?” I rolled my eyes and shook my head.

Who wrote Transformers?

Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci.

And who are they?

If you’re a Five-0 fan, you already know that this Dynamic Duo created the action-packed show with Peter Lenkov. Oh, and they also did a little thing called Cowboys & Aliens and you might’ve heard of some sort of reboot of Star Trek starring Chris Pine…their resume’s way too big to fit here.

Wow. Connecting the dots is enough to make my head spin. I think we’ve moved along from Zero Degrees of Separation (if you read my blog posts about the Hawaii Five-0 actors and their movie roles on Hawaii Five-0 Online, you’ll know what I’m talking about). Yeah, we’re way out of Zero Degrees territory. We’ve moved into Nega-Degrees as far as I’m concerned. I mean, I’m willing to buy Hollywood being a small town, but now we’ve gotten a whole other continent involved and that’s when it slips below zero. I’m calling the Taylor-Transformers-Kurtzman-Orci thing, like, a negative ten or something.

All in all, my gut-reaction to Man-Thing, since that’s why I write these things after all, is that I think it’s a good romp. Although to be honest, I’d probably have liked it even if it was the worst thing ever made just because of the Aussie Rat Pack, but I already admitted I’m biased, okay?  Yes, I broke down and bought it because the Thompsons are in it – especially Patrick, whose work it’s hard to get your hands on when you’re a Yank – along with Alex O’Loughlin. I enjoy these guys together because I know they’re friends. Call it a weakness.

Even if you’re not watching Man-Thing for any of the actors that are in it, I still think it’s fun. I like the whole Native American legend aspect (that’s always fascinated me, anyway). I like hearing Aussies try to sound southern-U.S. (*snort* – well, Patrick’s wasn’t too bad…) and I like very much the special effects that were meant to be the point-of-view of the swamp creature.

Hey, why not give it a try? If nothing else, you will have fun watching swamp tree root thingies popping into and out of victims’ bodies, and best of all, see that Patrick’s got a tattoo! (Sorry, Ladies, Alex never gets down to anything more than a long-sleeved shirt, so your Alex Tattoo Alert is hereby canceled for this evening.)

Psst, Patrick, your tattoo is showing...

That said, enjoy this little collage of Mr. Alex O’Loughlin as Deputy Eric Fraser. (Book ‘em, Alex. Huh. Doesn’t have quite the same ring to it…)

If you’re interested, you can purchase Man-Thing on DVD by clicking here.

You can check out the comic book version of Man-Thing by clicking here.

…You Might Be a Project Manager (With Apologies to Jeff Foxworthy)

  • If you think someone asking, “When can you have this done by?” requires a Microsoft Project Schedule and a consultation with your online calendar before you can even begin to respond, you might be a project manager.
  • If your child asks you for extra help with their homework, and your answer is, “I’m sorry, but Mommy doesn’t have enough resources to cover scope creep,” you might be a project manager.
  • If the only way you can outline your next novel or screenplay is by creating a Microsoft Visio diagram, you might be a project manager. (That would be me.)
  • If your next family get-together requires a meeting invitation with a PowerPoint presentation attached, you might be a project manager.
  • If you handle finding out which movie your friends want to go see Friday night by sending out Microsoft Outlook voting emails with the choices Approve or Reject and a firm deadline for responding, you might be a project manager.
  • If you know more about how to manage scope, schedule, budget and resources than the contractor renovating your house, you might be a project manager.
  • If you can successfully implement a five million dollar project, but find the prospect of balancing your meager checkbook intimidating, you might be a project manager.

But here’s the most important one, and all kidding aside:

  • If you have ever had to do something that required even a two-step plan to accomplish, you ARE a project manager.

No, really, I’m not joking with that. Trust me, I’ve been a so-called “professional Project Manager” for over eight years now, and even have a Masters Degree of Project Management. No, really, I do! Colorado Technical University’s where it’s from. It means I get to put the letters MPM behind my name if I want to try and make myself seem more important than I really am.

Hence why you never see those letters behind my name. So why’d I get the degree? I don’t know. It seemed like a good idea at the time (back in 2004/05).

I found it highly amusing last night when I was speaking with my publisher about the timeline for my next two novels (which will be “TAKERS II” and “TAKERS III”) and my next two feature-length screenplays, that I was automatically planning out the timeline in my head, including estimating how long tasks would take to complete, analyzing dependencies and constraints (my writing time vs. my two editors’ availability, desired release dates, etc.), determining whether any up-front costs would be required and the implementation plan for each of those deliverables.

There, I just used a whole bunch of project management buzz words. Now, let’s talk to each other like normal human beings.

At its simplest, project management is nothing more than trying to figure out how to do something with the best possible chance for success. I am probably pissing off a whole community of project managers because they tend to take themselves way too seriously as a whole, but I’m a no-nonsense sort of person, and here’s what my no-nonsense wants to tell you: it’s not rocket science.

I can prove it. Know how? I never cracked a textbook open during my Masters degree program, yet aced it, top o’ the heap. Why? Well, mostly because the principles of project management are intuitive for me, much like writing is. Do I know how to break apart a single sentence and identify precisely what word is which technical grammar term? Oh, dear Lord, no, nor do I ever care to, thanks much. Can I tell you what a noun is? Yeah, that I can do. Can I tell you the first thing about the origins of the word onomatopoeia or what that even means? Sure, if I look it up on Google.

What I can do well, is slap a whole bunch of words on a page that actually do stick together and sound fairly decent, most of the time. This reminds me of a quote from Hawaii Five-0 that makes me howl because it’s just priceless. I love the writers of that show. They crack me up. One of these days I have got to interview them.

This is from the Season 1, Episode 7 entitled “Ho’apono.” Starring Alex O’Loughlin as McGarrett and Scott Caan as Danno, for those who don’t know.

Danny “Danno” Williams: Okay… Let’s say I am you, and you are the bad guy here. I would know that all the ways onto the ship are visible somehow. So, how would you outsmart yourself and get yourself onto that ship without yourself seeing yourself?
Steve McGarrett: Okay, was that an actual question, or were you just throwing words together and hoping they made sense?

I’m with Steve on this one. As much as groups of people like to get together and try to make what they do for a living sound ever-so-important and ever-so-difficult and this-is-why-you-should-pay-me-the-big-bucks-because-I’m-smarter-than-you-are-with-my-jargon…well, that’s not me. I don’t throw words together just hoping they make sense (unlike Danny, apparently).

So when I say to you that you are probably just as much a project manager as I am, let me ask you some questions that will also serve as examples of how and why I think that’s the case.

  • Have you ever had to get a 2-year old up in the morning, and get Her Royal Highness bathed, fed, dressed and safely to day care all before the time you have to be at work?
    • I will bet you a McDonald’s large coffee that fathers and mothers familiar with the ‘joy’ that this process can bring are nodding vigorously over the difficulties inherent in such a daunting undertaking. And they do it daily.
  • Have you ever had to take a trip somewhere by car, boat/ship, airplane, helicopter or any other means?
    • Where are you going? What’s the best method of transportation? How do you secure that transportation? Do you have to borrow or rent a car? Buy an airline ticket? Book passage on freighter? Wait, you have to book passage on a freighter? Call me next time, that sounds like fun.
    • Do you need to pack clothes? Toiletries? Food? Something to drink? Is anyone coming with you? What do they need to have brought with them? Do you need a book or two? Your Kindle? A magazine? Your laptop? Your iPad? iPhone? Blackberry? Android? (No, not Lt. Commander Data, ST:TNG fans.)
  • Have you ever written a story, book, script, screenplay, poem?
    • What’s your subject matter? What genre are you writing in? Who are your characters? What are their personalities? What is your story about? What do you want to happen? Where is it set? If it’s a poem, is it going to rhyme?
    • Indie filmmakers are kick-ass project managers, by the way. Especially if it’s a movie they wrote, they are producing, they are directing and, sometimes, they are even starring in. I cannot imagine what it takes to pull something like that off, and yet so many people do!

Let’s get back to something no quite so entertainment industry-related.

  • Have you got more than one child, and they all have to be at different fields on Saturday at the same time for different sports games/practices?
    • In this case, I would seriously consider looking into getting you and your family vehicle cloned.
  • Do you have two essays to complete, a mid-term to study for, five chapters in a textbook to get through and a documentary you have to watch all by Monday morning…and it’s Friday night?
    • Students everywhere, don’t despair…college isn’t nearly as hard as real life. Enjoy the pretend stress as much as you can before you get to the real stuff!

I could go on forever with examples, but I won’t because you’re probably already bored. Suffice it to say that while I will tell folks yes, I am a project manager, and yes, I have been a project manager for several years and have those silly letters that I can stick after my name to boot, the fact is that we are all project managers.

Just like we are all writers.

These days the term ‘writing’ is used much more loosely in that we’re technically ‘typing’ more often than we are actually sitting down with pen or pencil and writing. I get a cramp in my hand penning a single sentence fifteen times, so no, longhand and notebooks and I don’t get along too well.

But just like we can all manage projects on some level, so, too, can we all write on some level. Ever written a note in a Christmas card? Ever typed an email to a friend? Ever posted something to LiveJournal or Facebook? Ever left a comment on someone’s blog? (hint, hint)

Then you’re a writer.

Are you a novelist? Well, I don’t know, have you ever written a novel?

Are you a screenwriter? Not unless you’ve actually sat down and written a screenplay of some sort, whether good or bad.

Are you a poet? (Roses are red, violets are blue, this doesn’t count, but it’s writing, too.)

My point is that while I’ll happily sit here and give myself all sorts of names and titles like project manager, journalist, screenwriter and novelist, the fact is that I’m stuffing myself into predefined definitions because it’s the only way I can get taken seriously in any of those professions.

I’m not a snob because I’ve got a book published. I’m still just me. I will never become pretentious or unavailable to listen to what people who spend their precious time paying attention to anything I say or do want to tell me, good or bad. I may be busy as hell sometimes, and so it might take me a while to respond.

But no matter how busy I get, I will never forget that I’m just a normal Jane/Joe like the majority of the rest of the world’s human beings, and that I am a one-time cubicle dweller myself who’s had to work for Corporate America (and Corporate Canada, while we’re at it), too.

(Why do you think I want to make writing my full-time job??? Hello.)

I’ll leave you with one final thought:

If you think that because your job gives you the ability to:

  • tell other people where to go;
  • how to get there;
  • what to do when they get there, and
  • crack the whip when they don’t do what you told them to, then

you might be a project manager.

But consider this: while the fact is that the job description I just gave is definitely for a project manager, it’s also exactly the same for a mother, father or a BDSM dominatrix.

If you’re wondering how many risks I might be taking treating such serious subject matters with this much irreverence, then you’re either a project manager or you’ve been in the business too long, my friend.

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    The book series "Takers," the screenplays contained on the "Screenplays" page and the screenplays discussed and contained on this website are copyright Chris Davis. Novels are published by Plotfish Press, and screenplays are registered with the Writers Guild of America (WGA) West.
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