Film picks: Babylon, The Croods: A New Age, Chinese New Year films at The Projector

Margot Robbie as the brazen starlet Nellie LaRoy in Babylon. PHOTO: UIP

Babylon (R21)

183 minutes, now showing, 4 stars

Babylon opens in a Hollywood Hills mansion circa 1926 for a 30-minute orgy of sex, cocaine and an elephant defecating. Consider yourself warned.

Brad Pitt’s Jack Conrad is an oft-married matinee idol – might as well call him Brad Pitt – guest at the party.

Margot Robbie’s brazen starlet Nellie LaRoy is a crasher. Diego Calva’s Mexican immigrant is another outsider, an innocent willing to do anything to get a foot in the industry, and he ends the night hired as Conrad’s assistant and smitten with LaRoy.

Their rise and fall over the following decade is film-maker Damien Chazelle’s story on early Hollywood as the silent era transitions into talking pictures.

Chazelle in 2017, at 32, became the Academy Awards’ youngest Best Director winner for La La Land. Where that fable was about Los Angeles as a dream factory, this latest based on his original screenplay is the underbelly.

The tragi-comedy is an epic of decadence and depravity. It is crude, profligate and staggeringly audacious, but there is never any doubting Chazelle’s heady passion for the movies, however ugly the business.

The Croods: A New Age

2020, PG, 95 minutes, Netflix, 3 stars

This well-liked animation from 2020 was just added to Netflix.  PHOTO: DREAMWORKS ANIMATION LLC

This well-liked animation from 2020 was just added to Netflix.

Old meets new when the primaeval Croods run into the technologically superior Bettermans, who live the sweet life behind protective walls.

The Bettermans (voiced by Peter Dinklage, Leslie Mann and Kelly Marie Tran) welcome the Croods into their high-tech utopia. The more primitive family – voiced by Nicolas Cage, Emma Stone, Catherine Keener, Cloris Leachman and Clark Duke – is seduced by the modern comforts, but senses it is being patronised.

The plants and the hybrid animal designs are hallucinatory works of genius but the visual splendour is let down by some weak jokes.

Chinese New Year Films at The Projector

The Legend Of Drunken Master, starring Jackie Chan (right), is showing at Projector X: Picturehouse. PHOTO: THE PROJECTOR

Indie cinema The Projector welcomes the Year of the Rabbit with two martial arts classics: Enter The Dragon (1973, NC16, 102 minutes) featuring Bruce Lee; and The Legend Of Drunken Master (1994, PG13, 192 minutes) starring Jackie Chan.

Lee’s last fully completed movie and arguably his most influential work adds a twist by folding a modern espionage element into a Shaolin gongfu vengeance story. He plays a Hong Kong martial arts instructor asked by British intelligence to infiltrate the island fortress of warlord Han (Shih Kien), disguised as a participant in one of Han’s regular fight tournaments.

The Legend Of Drunken Master, also known as Drunken Master II, is considered one of the best martial arts films ever made. Set in China in the early 20th Century, the action-comedy features Chan playing the folk hero Wong Fei-hung, who finds himself embroiled in a British-led plot to smuggle ancient Chinese treasures out of the country.

Where: Projector X: Picturehouse, 05-01 The Cathay, 2 Handy Road
MRT: Dhoby Ghaut/Bencoolen/Bras Basah
When: From Jan 24, various timings
Tickets: $15 for standard, $11 to $13 for concessions

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