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August 2021

Alien Nation

Rhythm Boyz

Chal Mera Putt 2 (2021)

The gang’s all back in “Chal Mera Putt 2,” the sequel to the Punjabi diaspora blockbuster about a ragtag of undocumented immigrants living together in Birmingham, Britain. To uninitiated gringos, think “Limbo” reimagined as a rowdy comedy. Though the sequel attempts to replicate the original’s success formula, it seems far less concerned with immigrants toiling away at dead-end jobs or evading threats of deportation and more with their romantic prospects. For them, family affairs such as matchmaking, celebrating Diwali and funeral processions all must be conducted over FaceTime.

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Sibling Revelry

Andrea Walter

The Fabulous Filipino Brothers (2021)

Director Dante Basco and three of his siblings co-wrote “The Fabulous Filipino Brothers,” a boisterous comedy set in Pittsburg, Calif. They, along with another brother, also co-star in the film, which centers on events leading up to wedding festivities and presents four distinctive Asian male archetypes that challenge the omnipresent stereotypes in American cinema – they don’t even speak Tagalog, they’ll have you know – but the filmmakers also make it abundantly clear, on at least one occasion, that the film is mostly for the edification of white people.

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Dead Ringer


Here Before (2021)

In “Here Before,” Andrea Riseborough plays Laura, grieving the loss of her daughter, Josie (Grace O’Dwyer), who died in a car accident. Laura is inexplicably drawn to Megan (Niamh Dornan), the young girl who has just moved in next door along with her family. In their few interactions, Megan shares some anecdotes suggesting that she is possibly possessed by Josie’s ghost, or so Laura thinks.

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Spin a Yawn

Faraz Fesharaki/DFFB

What Do We See When We Look at the Sky? (2021)

“What Do We See When We Look at the Sky?” is a modern fable set in the nation of Georgia. There’s allegedly magic in the air per the voiceover narrator, though it’s his narration that does the heavy lifting. We don’t get to witness much of the miraculous the way we do, say, in a Jacques Tati film.

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Covering a Multitude of Sins

Eigakobo Harugumi

A Balance (2021)

“A Balance” centers on Yuko Kinoshita (Kumi Takiuchi), a sensationalist TV journalist investigating the deaths of teacher Mr. Yano and his 16-year-old student Hiromi. The two allegedly engaged in lascivious behavior on school grounds, which apparently led to their dismissals and suicides. Meanwhile, at the cram school operated by Yuko’s father, Masashi (Ken Mitsuishi), she catches a pupil named Mei (Yuumi Kawai) cheating.

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Go With the Flow

Burn the Film

A River Runs, Turns, Erases, Replaces (2021)

There have been film festivals and reviewers characterizing “A River Runs, Turns, Erases, Replaces” as a documentary. We are not going to do that, as such would be factually inaccurate. The film was shown in the Forum section of Berlinale, which “focuses on contemporary international cinema productions and eschews conventional distinctions, such as that between fiction film and documentary” – a category truly befitting it.

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Pedal to the Mettle

Courtesy photo

Tunka Tunka (2021)

The inspirational sports movie “Tunka Tunka” revolves around the wholly fictional competitive cyclist Fateh Singh Sidhu, as an adult played by the singer Hardeep Grewal in his big-screen debut – who also serves as the screenwriter. Despite the dearth of song and dance numbers, the film is not entirely devoid of conventions and clichés. Nevertheless, Mr. Grewal leaves no doubt that he understands the assignment and has done his homework.

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Masked and Anonymous

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Chinese Doctors (2021)

From Andrew Lau, co-director and co-cinematographer of “Infernal Affairs,” “Chinese Doctors” is perhaps a prime example of a respected filmmaker directing with one hand tied behind his back.

The story opens on Dec. 30, 2019, with deadly cases of pneumonia reported around Wuhan, China. Right off the bat, Mr. Lau is employing rapid successions of film speed changes often seen in the introductory segments of reality TV shows. We’re quickly introduced to Director Zhang (Zhang Hanyu), head of a local hospital, as some of his staff quit en masse amid traffic closures and emptied store shelves. It’s the perfect overture for a “Contagion,” “Outbreak” or zombie movie, but that is not what follows.

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A Very Long Entanglement

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Puaada (2021)

An intoxicating mix of rom-com and thriller, “Puaada” gets more hilarious the more dire the situation its characters face. It starts out pretty ordinary – Jaggi (Ammy Virk), a humble milkman from the countryside, only has eyes for Raunak (Sonam Bajwa), an educated daughter of snobbish Air Force officer Mr. Dhillon (Hardeep Gill). Despite her façade of playing hard to get, they’ve been an item for two years. He unexpectedly shows up and sabotages her first meeting with a suitor arranged by her parents, yet his own haphazard efforts to impress them have been laughable, to say the least.

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The God, the Bad and the Ugly

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Mad God (2021)

Humanity is moldy on the inside and ugly on the outside, which isn’t news to anyone. Phil Tippett’s “Mad God” has plenty of both mold and ugliness, plus blood and viscera and the contents of the digestive tract, lovingly rendered through the full resources of the animator’s craft. Mr. Tippett’s Stygian odyssey, a film that has been in the works for decades, employs models and some C.G.I. and a smattering of live action; but mainly tells its story through stop-motion animation, the venerable field in which Mr. Tippett’s skills are nonpareil in Hollywood. Propelled by unseen hands, a cast of critters long of fang and foul of breath prowl the circles of “Mad God’s” post-human hell in that slightly jerky over-cranked gait that always conveys the infinite patience of the animator and the fragile mortality of the puppet character, stop-motion’s mix of divinity and disgust. And drollery, since the heavyweight visuals and colossal suffering don’t stop the film cracking a few sprightly jokes from the pit, a distinctly American rather than European damnation.

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