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Sarto in Singapore Post 1 – Clone Wars and Chewing Gum

By Dan Sarto | Wednesday, November 10, 2010 at 2:50pm

The boundless energy and enthusiasm I brought to Singapore Monday morning has dissipated somewhat now this fine Wednesday evening, done in by the heat, humidity and non-stop pace of our media tour. It’s late and still quite hot, a sticky hot that’s like summer in Texas, without the pickup trucks or shotguns. It will take a bit of time to properly synthesize everything, so my coverage here begins with a pictorial spread of the first couple days.

Blogs

THE SQUARE (2010) (***1/2)

By Rick DeMott | Wednesday, November 10, 2010 at 2:24pm

When your mistress asks you to steal the money her husband stole in a bloody armed robbery and then burn down their house to cover up the theft, you know you're in trouble. This neo-noir from Australia uses this scenario and piles on the complications. Raymond Yale doesn't know which bad decision is the one that's going to get him in the end.

Raymond (David Roberts, THE MATRIX RELOADED) has promised to leave his wife Martha (Lucy Bell, OSCAR AND LUCINDA) and run away with the young hairdresser Carla (Claire van der Boom). Raymond keeps saying he wants to save enough to make a decent life for them elsewhere. He's overseeing the construction of a new resort built around a central square. In contracting the cement supplier, he takes a kickback. But when Carla spots her husband Smithy (Anthony Hayes, RABBIT-PROOF FENCE) hiding a bag full of cash in the attic, she devises a much quicker way to get they money they need to escape.

Blogs

THE GIRL WHO PLAYED WITH FIRE (2010) (***1/2)

THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO is one of the absolute best films of the year. Its sequel is not nearly as good, but that's only because part of the joy of the first film was meeting the characters. The pull of the second installment is what do these characters do next. And just how badass can Lisbeth Salander get?

The film takes place a year after the events of the first film. Lisbeth Salander (Noomi Rapace), the gothed out superior hacker with the photographic memory, returns to Sweden after living aboard, giving time for the criminal heat that she's involved in to cool off. Her ally, journalist Mikael Blomkvist (Michael Nyqvist), has been trying to contact her to make sure she is safe. He knows Lisbeth Salander, so one wonders why he worries. She has a few reunions upon returning. She hooks up with her longtime lover Miriam Wu (Yasmine Garbi) and visits her court-appointed guardian Nils Bjurman (Peter Andersson), a sadistic man who Lisbeth has the upper hand on.

Blogs

WINTER'S BONE (2010) (****)

This film reminds me so much of FROZEN RIVER, the great indie thriller from 2008. Both films follow poor women wrapped up in illegal activities. The wooded settings in winter add to the desperate tone of the narrative. Both follow resilient women and both were directed by women. And most importantly they're one of the best films of their respective years.

All the characters in this tale seem vaguely related. But family is invoked when you need something from someone and that doesn't guarantee anything. One character won't even go and talk to her grandfather because she's scared of him. Ree Dolly (Jennifer Lawrence,  TV's THE BILL ENGVALL SHOW) though takes family deadly serious. She's 17 and has had to drop out of high school so she can care for her mentally broken mother and two younger siblings. They live off the land eating squirrels and chopping wood from their timber land in the Ozarks. Her father is a meth dealer who just takes off for stretches of time. But now he's been arrested and he's put up his property for his bond. Sheriff Baskin (Garrett Dillahunt, TV's THE 4400) comes by the house saying their dad is nowhere to be found and if he doesn't make his court date they'll lose it all.

Blogs

Movie Review: 'My Dog Tulip' – Man’s Best Companion

By Perry Chen | Tuesday, November 9, 2010 at 2:48pm

Is love a bitch? Apparently so for British author J. R. Ackerley. He was always looking for an elusive companion to come to his life, yet this companion never materialized … until Tulip, a mischievous female German Shepherd came to his life and became inseparable. Together, they started many misadventures, including searching for the ideal vet and mate for Tulip, and other ordeals which turned out to be much harder than it seemed.

Blogs

Becoming a Job Warrior

By Lisa Kaye | Tuesday, November 9, 2010 at 2:38pm

It’s a job battle field out there and it calls for a warrior spirit. Whether you live in the illusion that you possess “job security” or you are swinging from the vine hoping the limb won’t break before you hit the ground, this is no time for the faint of heart. Knowing that your job is a battlefield makes you appreciate the times when you can kick back and enjoy the ride even when you are not always sure where that ride will take you.

Blogs

KLIK ANIMATION FESTIVAL, AMSTERDAM, SEPTEMBER 15 – 19

I first met the organizers of the KLIK Animation Festival at the Annecy Animation Festival a couple of years ago and they assured me that their festival is fun, fun, fun.  When they invited me to Amsterdam to be on the Short Films and Political Animation jury, I jumped at the opportunity and it did turn out to be some serious fun.  KLIK set out to show lots of fantastic animation and organize a great party four years ago.  This year they received 1100 submissions from 63 different countries.  From this field, 235 films were selected for over 30 programs.

The brief Opening Ceremony kicked off with a welcome from Festival Founder and Director Dario van Vree, the premiere of the new festival trailer and a short assortment of animation.  A party with drinks and nibbles aplenty followed.

Blogs

THE CHANGELING (1980) (***1/2)

Martin Scorsese called this film one of the 11 scariest films ever made. I wouldn’t put it there, but it's one of the best haunted house films. Director Peter Medak (SPECIES II) sets up his environment and utilizes it well in subtly unnerving ways. Common objects become frightening. And the ghost haunting the residents has as strong a motivation as any character.

In a devastating opening, composer John Russell (George C. Scott, PATTON) loses his wife and daughter. While he's consumed with sorrow, he decides to take a job as a guest lecturer at a university in Seattle. Claire Norman (Trish Van Devere, THE DAY OF THE DOLPHIN) of the Seattle Historical Society offers him a legendary vacant mansion to rent for nearly nothing. The gorgeous Victorian home has been unoccupied for years, as the historical society worker Minnie Huxley (Ruth Springford, 5 CARD STUD) says, because the house doesn’t want people. The house has a dark past, which leads to Senator Joe Carmichael (Melvyn Douglas, THE OLD DARK HOUSE).

Blogs

THE BLACK CAT (1981) (**)

Lucio Fulci has forged his name as a master of horror with his outlandish death sequences. He brings that style to this very loose adaptation of Edgar Allan Poe. It certainly does nothing for the classic tale.

An English town is plagued by gruesome deaths. Present at the deaths is a black cat with a mesmerizing stare. He belongs to former professor turned psychic Robert Miles (Patrick Magee, A CLOCKWORK ORANGE). He claims he can communicate with the dead and tries to record their voices. Drawn into the investigation of the deaths are American photographer Jill Trevers (Mimsy Farmer, AUTOPSY) and Scotland Yard inspector Gorley (David Warback, THE BEYOND). The question they need to answer is whether Miles controls the cat or if it's the other way around.

Chen Blogs

San Diego Asian Film Festival Review - Animation: The Illusion of Life

By Perry Chen | Friday, November 5, 2010 at 7:07am

Which type of films do you like better, animation or live action? If you are an adult, you’ll probably say live action, but “Animation: The Illusion of Life” aims to change that! It has much of the same themes as live action films, except with more humor, clever storyline, imagination, and fantastic music to match.

Blogs

Movie Review: 'Megamind'

By Dan Sarto | Friday, November 5, 2010 at 1:48am

If you’re looking to spend a couple hours sitting back and having a good time, then get yourself to the theatre this weekend and go see Megamind, DreamWorks’ latest animated feature. When I got to the press screening last Saturday, I put on my 3-D glasses in search of some good old fashioned entertainment and I’m happy to say I wasn’t disappointed.

Blogs

Short film draws attention to plight of children in war

By Dan Sarto | Thursday, November 4, 2010 at 3:31pm

Frank Gladstone shot me a note about a short animated cg film called Mila being made by former Disney, DreamWorks and Imageworks animator Cinzia Angelini. Hoping to push the boundaries of non-photorealistic rendering to create a painterly aesthetic and character design, Cinzia is also striving to tell a socially relevant story about war’s most tragic collateral damage – the youngest civilians.

Blogs

127 HOURS (2010) (***1/2)

This true-life survival story makes you wonder how you would handle the same situation. If you were trapped in a remote canyon could you cut off your own arm with a dull blade? Danny Boyle's film puts the viewer in that situation with all its physical and mental challenges. This is the rare thriller with an existential thread.

Blogs

127 HOURS (2010) (***1/2)

This true-life survival story makes you wonder how you would handle the same situation. If you were trapped in a remote canyon could you cut off your own arm with a dull blade? Danny Boyle's film puts the viewer in that situation with all its physical and mental challenges. This is the rare thriller with an existential thread.

James Franco plays Aron Ralston, an experienced hiker, who took off by himself to hike Blue John Canyon in Utah. Even though he was a member of the search and rescue team, he told no one where he was going. While climbing down he canyon, a boulder broke loose and crushed his right forearm, pinning him between the rock and canyon wall. Chipping away at or trying to move the rock quickly proved futile. The title tells us how long he was stuck there with little food and water. His multi-tool was dull and could barely scratch his skin, so when he got desperate enough he broke the bones in his arm and used the pliers to snap the stronger tendons.

Digital Blogs

What are digital skills and why should you care about them?

What are digital skills and why should you care about them? You're an artist, right? Well, if you are and you are reading this from the AWN Web site, you're already tuned into digital skills in a big way whether or not you're aware of them. The truth is, to be an artist today and get paid for it, a working knowledge of computers is a necessity.

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