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Movie Review: “Sonny”

Summary: A young man raised by his prostitute mother to be the same thing she is wants desperately out of the life he was born into. He thinks things will be different out among ‘the squares,’ but when he finds out it’s not, he realizes he’s trapped. There’s maybe a chance for him to get out, but will he take it?


Right off the bat I will tell you that the only good thing about this movie for me was the fact that for a change, Scott Caan did not play an asshole! (Pick your jaw up off the ground, it has been known to happen.)

The movie itself was the kind of hand-wringing angst-ridden there-is-no-good-in-the-world why-can’t-I-have-nice-things flick that makes my head hurt. Never mind that it was an indie film; I’ve seen plenty of indie films that aren’t so bleak and don’t have happy endings. But this was just…it was something else. It was bad.

Mr. Caan portrays a buddy of the lead character Sonny’s from when the two were in the Army together. Sonny had tried to escape life as a male prostitute but when he’s discharged and returns home to New Orleans, he finds out his mama is expecting him to pick up right where he left off. So Sonny heads for another town where Jesse (Scott Caan) promised his dad would give him a job in his bookstore, which Sonny is all gung-ho for since it means getting out of the life of a whore.

Sadly, Jesse’s father lost the bookstore and died, and even though that means there’s no job, there’s the prospect of double-dating with Jesse and his girl, and her sister, which goes great right ’til the point where Sonny finds out that ‘squares’ like the girl he winds up sleeping with have the same problems as the people in Sonny’s own world.

Sonny has a complete meltdown and leaves, and that’s all we see of Scott in the film. Sadly enough. Of the two, he was the least messed up and the most sane, which is saying something considering the roles he usually plays.

How bad was this whole thing? Bad, if the fact that I cared more about what Caan’s character was going to do with having to get out of his dad’s house and not having anything at all left from his old man’s death than I cared about whining Sonny. I don’t know if this is a James Franco (who portrayed Sonny) trait or if it was the character’s trait, but he spent half the movie with his eyes closed or opened in such tiny slits I was amazed he could see to walk in a straight line.

With apologies to Mr. Nicolas Cage, who I’m sure is a very creative and talented director, I could never recommend sitting through this entire movie to anyone. While the story was an interesting idea, the execution left a whole lot to be desired.

But at least there was Jesse. So for a few minutes it was not-so-bad at all.

I should note that Mena Suvari was in this film, and while she didn’t share any screen time with Scott, she’s been in other films with him, most notably “The Dog Problem” and “Brooklyn Rules.”

And here’s your Scott Caan collage!


Click here to check out the DVD on Amazon.com.

Movie Review: “Friends With Money”

Summary: Four best friends – along with the spouses of three of them – navigate their various relationships and issues in life even as the fourth pines away for a married man and keeps looking for love in all the wrong places.


Well, you all should know by now that I watch (and review) movies with actors from Hawaii Five-0 in them. So of course I watched this movie because Scott Caan played the role of Mike.

Here’s a question for you: If I start this review off by saying “Scott Caan played an asshole,” will I start sounding repetitive?

Because he – as is often the case, I’ve discovered – did. Play an asshole, that is. (Don’t even get that look, Scott, you know it’s true.)

His character Mike is a personal trainer to Joan Cusack’s character. Cusack sets him up on a date with Olivia, played by Jennifer Aniston (after he inquires after the size of her tits) and he promptly spends their first date ogling “the girl who got away” on the other side of the diner.

He also, even though she’s financially challenged and he makes $65/hour as a trainer, insists upon taking a cut of her housecleaning earnings because he “helps.” Which consists of things like buying her a French maid’s outfit and then watching as she vacuums while wearing it. He also takes full advantage of her physically, but won’t actually look at her as they’re ‘doing the deed.’

*facepalms*

Anyway, the movie as a whole didn’t really grab me until about halfway through. At first I just kept thinking, these are normal people with screwed-up problems like every other real person on the planet, so what? But finally it felt to me like it got to the meat of things and I actually started caring a little bit about the characters. By far my favorite was Aaron played by Simon McBurney. He was wonderful!

I think the most fun I had during the movie, though, was realizing three things. One: Lucius Malfoy of Harry Potter fame – or, more accurately, Jason Isaacs – was one of the stars of the film. It was weird seeing him without long bleached-out hair and wizard-like clothing!

Then – and this is the fun part – there were two connections in the film (other than Scott) to Hawaii Five-0 that I recognized as soon as they appeared on-screen!

The first was that the man who played Joan Cusack’s husband was none other than Greg Germann, who appeared in the H50 Season 1 episode entitled “He Kane Hewa’ Ole” in which he portrayed Robert Rovin, the father of a supposed kidnap victim. (That was the episode with Josh from Moonlight in it as well.)

And the second H50 connection was the boy who portrayed Simon McBurney and Frances McDormand’s son, Wyatt. His name’s Jake Cherry, and if you’re an Alex O’Loughlin fan, you’ll recognize this lad as the young blind boy Stanley from the Criminal Minds episode “The Big Wheel” in which Alex played the serial killer who murdered Stanley’s mom.

So all in all, would I recommend the film? Yes, I think it has some interesting things happen in the latter half of it, and if you’re a fan of indie films which portray reality a little too realistically (after all, many people live it so why would they want to watch it, too?), then you’ll very much enjoy it.

Plus, truthfully, it does have a stellar cast. And any chance to watch this group of actors do what they do best is always a good thing!

And as I always do, here’s a collage for all you Scott Caan fans!


Here’s the trailer for the movie:

Check out this movie on Amazon.com by clicking here.

Screenplay “Fractured” Submitted to Sundance Contest

So I’m quite pleased this rainy, soggy Monday in Memphis – in spite of the fact that my front yard is a friggin’ pond at the moment!

Back on November 29th, I received an email from Openfilm, who – as explained on their website – is “a technology company and online community of film lovers and filmmakers working together to change the way independent film is discovered, financed and distributed.

With an Advisory Board of award-winning filmmakers, proprietary technology, Openfilm Live webcam chats, social networking, an extensive film festival database and unique member channels, Openfilm unites the best elements of the film industry in one place.

Openfilm is where creativity meets opportunity.”

Openfilm’s chairman is the legendary James Caan, and you can hear in his own words why the organization exists and is so important to him by clicking here and watching the video.

Well anyway, this email I received was the first time I’d heard about a screenwriting contest being put on by the International Screenwriters Association called “Table Read My Screenplay Contest” – at, of all places, the Sundance Film Festival!

An indie screenwriter’s dream come true, as far as I’m concerned.

The best news, which was the whole point of the Openfilm email, was that the deadline had been extended to December 5th. Given that I’d not heard of the contest at all to begin with, and the fact that I had a finished first draft of a screenplay called “Fractured” waiting for final edits made me feel like hey, this is what “Fractured” was waiting for. I honestly had no idea what I was going to do with the thing, really, but I dearly love the story and the characters and I know it’s a special screenplay.

So I engaged my editor and our friend from Belgium who was here visiting for the week, and after doing my own first round of edits, the two of them sat down and went through it for me as well. I got some suggestions, went back and tweaked some more and sent it back to my editor, who polished it up with a few final things last night. I fixed it up one last time, tried to make sure i’s were dotted and t’s were crossed (and forgot to remove the scene numbers again, dammit, but oh, well) and sent it off to see the people judging for this contest like it as much as I do.

So what’s the contest all about, anyway? And what’s it got to do with Sundance? Well, if your screenplay wins, you are flown to Park City, Utah to attend the Sundance Film Festival, mingle with the who’s who of films that’ll be there, and – here’s the thing that just takes the cake – your screenplay will get a table reading with professional actors.

Not to mention the fact that I’ll also get script notes, so if my love of this story I’ve created is the only love it’s going to get – if the judges and readers of the script think there’s way too much wrong with it for it to be considered by anyone to be made into an actual movie – I’ll find out what that is. There’s nothing more valuable to me than people who know and understand indie films giving me feedback on something I think is indie film material.

To be honest, winning – while it’d be an incredible thing – isn’t what I’m after. I want the notes from the experts!

The Top 100 will be announced December 20th, and the Grand Prize winner will be announced January 5th.

I wonder when I’ll get those script notes…

Movie Review: “Oyster Farmer”

Summary: After his sister is debilitated by a car accident, Jack Flange moves from the city out to the middle of nowhere to work as an oyster farmer closer to where his sister’s going through rehabilitation therapy. He has a bright idea to make the money she needs to keep going with the therapy, but it all backfires and while he stresses out over what to do, he forges a life for himself in the backwater community finding friends, love and a place to call home.


I will start off by admitting that I absolutely love the Australian accent. I worked with a guy in Canada who’d come from Australia only a handful of years before I met him, and I would sit and talk to him just to hear the accent! He was great, he indulged me, and he got a kick out of my delight.

So the fact that this film was made in Australia, and all the actors are not only Australian but actually speak like they are, was great fun for me.

Because I have (sadly) never been to Australia, and even if I had I probably wouldn’t have wound up in locations Oyster Farmer was filmed in, this movie fascinated me. I know nothing about oysters nor the farming thereof…in fact, I don’t eat seafood at all, let alone know how it’s raised or harvested (aside from vague notions). So purely from the aspect of learning something new, of being exposed to a life very foreign to me, I loved the gritty no-holds-barred reality portrayed. This Yank is suitably impressed.

And now on to the only reason I watched this movie to begin with: Alex O’Lachlan. No, I didn’t misspell it, mates. As most Alex-admirers are aware, he was born Alexander O’Lachlan and has some credits under that name – including this movie. Why he changed it to the different spelling of O’Loughlin, while still keeping the original pronunciation, is probably the one thing I’d ask him if I happened upon him one day, because I’d love to know!

(If anyone knows of something in print (or a recorded interview) where Mr. O. explains the change, please give me a heads-up. I like to have all the facts!)

While this movie was only made seven years ago – wow, has he really only been doing this for seven years? Really? Okay, eight, if you count his first credit in 2003 on the TV series White Collar Blue – wait, where was I? Oh, yeah. While this movie was only made seven years ago, I expected Alex to look, well…different. I remember the first time I saw Moonlight, after having already watched Hawaii Five-0, I was so struck by how much younger he looked as Mick St. John…and that wasn’t as long ago as Oyster Farmer, so I thought he’d look younger yet.

But what surprised me was he pretty much looks just like he does now. Well, without the graying temples. *grin* He even looked younger as Michael in Feed, and I think I’ve figured out what it is that’s made the difference for me. It’s his haircut! In both Feed and Moonlight, his hair was longer, and when it’s longer, it’s wavier. (His hair was blond in Feed, to boot!) But when he’s got the more McGarrett-like haircut, he pretty much looks the same whether it’s seven years ago or today on the set of H50.

Sorry. Things like that bug me until I figure them out, and you’re the unfortunate person I welcome to the windmills of my mind. :-)

The other thing that’s the same? The guy can act. From the moments where he’s practically hurting himself laughing, to the moments where he’s got tear-filled eyes…from the moments where he’s having sex on the dock (splinters!) to the moments where he’s committing a crime, Jack Flange shows a great deal of range for a man who’s become more of an action hero of late with the advent of Steve McGarrett.

(Not that McGarrett doesn’t have depth and layers – I don’t want to start getting hate mail from die-hard AOL fans, as they sometimes call themselves!)

What I really and truly enjoyed about watching Mr. O. in this film was precisely that, though, and I have to be honest because it’s the promised gut reaction I got from Oyster Farmer. He wasn’t jumping off buildings or vamping out. He wasn’t shooting automatic weapons or chasing bad guys. He was literally, simply, just being.

He was an ordinary man with real-life everyday problems (for an oyster farmer, anyway), heartaches, embarrassments and joys. The movie isn’t heightened reality like H50 is. It’s reality. It’s the sort of film I’ve gotten used to seeing Alex’s H50 co-star Scott Caan in, actually, and I’m finding the indie and indie-like movies more and more enjoyable to watch for both actors as I’m exposed to their work this way.

Why? Because it allows you to see so much more of the actor, in my humble opinion. Now, like I said, I don’t want hate mail from people who say, “He gets to show his whole range on Hawaii Five-0, how dare you say he doesn’t!” That’s a conversation for another day. This is just me, how I see things, and watching the difference between an episode of H50 and Oyster Farmer has been a welcome chance to see what else Mr. O. is good at besides being BAMF! (Not that there’s anything wrong with BAMF Alex, of course!)

Here’s a little collage I’ve put together for you of Jack Flange:

There were some LOL-funny lines in this movie, but I think my two favorite quotes are both from the character Brownie:

Unzip your fly, your brains would fall out.

and

Don’t just sit there fanning your balls, give me a hand with this pump.

How did Oyster Farmer make me feel? Happy. Hopeful. I loved the cast, the location fascinated me, the glimpse into the hard life of oyster farmers was amazing. And Mr. O’Lachlan, as he was known back then, was an absolute joy to watch. So if you haven’t yet, go buy it. Or at the very least, rent it. It’s worth your while.

Here’s a little bit of trivia for you: Jack Thompson, who plays the character Skippy in this movie, is the father of Alex’s friend Patrick Thompson, who co-starred with Alex in the movie he and Patrick came up with the story for, Feed. Jack was also in Feed, as the character Richard. Patrick and Alex also appeared in the movie Man-Thing together.

 

Trailer:

You can buy this DVD on Amazon 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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