Last Film Show (PG13)
110 minutes, showing at The Projector, 4 stars
India-born director Pan Nalin (the drama Samsara, 2001) has made a film that could have come from Disney or Pixar. A nine-year-old Gujarati boy is told by his father that the cinema is a forbidden zone where sin resides. All it takes is a peek for the boy to become hooked. Thereafter, he lives for the moments when he can sneak away to his town's picture palace.
Based loosely on Nalin's experiences as the son of a chaiwallah or tea seller running a stall at a train platform in a Gujarati village, this movie seeks to be a crowd-pleaser and heartstring tugger in the vein of Pixar's Luca (2021) and, of course, the last word in movies about the magic of movies, the Oscar-winning Italian drama Cinema Paradiso (1988).
Get past its mildly derivative format and the charms of this love letter to cinema become apparent. It is sincere, visually inventive and blessed by a winning performance from child actor Bhavin Rabari, who plays Samay, the boy who defies his dad to find joy.
Licorice Pizza (NC16)
134 minutes, showing in cinemas, 4 stars
While Paul Thomas Anderson's new film is sweeter, funnier and more sincerely romantic than his recent output, there is his trademark hyper-confident male at the heart of it.
He is the child actor and serial entrepreneur Gary Valentine - played by Cooper Hoffman, the son of Anderson's frequent collaborator, the late Philip Seymour Hoffman.
The 15-year-old Gary, immediately after locking eyes on 25-year-old Alana (rock musician Alana Haim making a polished feature film debut), starts wooing her. They hit it off as friends, but even in the freewheeling Los Angeles of 1973, their age difference makes her uncomfortable. Still, she is drawn to his business schemes and becomes a collaborator.
As their friendship grows, they meet a variety of types endemic to early 1970s Hollywood - Jack (Sean Penn), the movie star who risks his life for attention, and Jon Peters (Bradley Cooper), a drug-addled mogul, among others.
The movie is a loosely structured, low-stakes affectionate look at the Tinseltown of Anderson's boyhood, populated by characters based on real people who lived around that time.
Like Anderson's breakout film Boogie Nights (1997), a study of the early days of the LA porn industry, the dialogue, cinematography, music, performances and locations cohere to create a seamless world that is both nostalgic and deeply inviting.
5 Films by Asghar Farhadi
To mark the Asian Film Archive's release of Asghar Farhadi's acclaimed new drama A Hero (PG, 127 minutes, opens in cinemas on Jan 21), a showcase of five of the Oscar-winning Iranian film-maker's works will be screened. Screenings start on Jan 22.
Each movie is an example of Farhadi's compelling way of depicting small-scale mysteries. In the wake of a shocking incident - a physical assault, the discovery of marital indiscretion, or an unexplained disappearance - an ensemble of characters must uncover uncomfortable truths about themselves and others. Complicating their search are social norms that frown on airing one's dirty laundry.
The five films are The Beautiful City (2004), Fireworks Wednesday (2006), About Elly (2009, Farhadi clinched a Silver Bear for Best Director at the Berlin International Film Festival for this), A Separation (2011, the first Iranian film to win an Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film) and The Salesman (2016, another winner of the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film).
Where: Oldham Theatre, 1 Canning Rise
MRT: City Hall
When: Jan 22 to Feb 27, various times
Info: Asian Film Archive's website