Planet Bollywood

Courtesy photo

Radhe: Your Most Wanted Bhai (2021)

“Radhe: Your Most Wanted Bhai” adapts Kang Yoon-sung’s 2017 Korean film, “The Outlaws,” into a star vehicle for Salman Khan. As a turf war escalates between two rival gangs, a ruthless newcomer angles to take over. It’s up to the roguish cop, the titular Radhe (Mr. Khan), to restore peace. While the original was based on actual events that took place in 2004, the Bollywood remake seems so extravagant that few traces of reality remain. Both Radhe and the antagonist, Rana (Randeep Hooda), are utterly indestructible; this is precisely the kind of action flick that Takashi Miike had in mind when he made the cartoonish “Dead or Alive.”

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Far Upper West Side Story

Warner Brothers Pictures

In the Heights (2021)

Somewhere buried deep within the “In the Heights” movie adaptation is the story of a people who feel neither at home in America nor privy to the American dream. But you must look hard past the glossy, neon-lit music video treatment of the Broadway musical by Lin-Manuel Miranda and Quiara Alegría Hudes.

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A Great Season in Harlem

Mass Distraction Media/Sundance Institute

Summer of Soul (. . . Or, When the Revolution Could Not be Televised) (2021)

A documentary on the Harlem Cultural Festival in the summer of 1969 – when Woodstock took place upstate – “Summer of Soul” features previously unseen footage from this star-studded but mostly forgotten event, with performances from Stevie Wonder, Nina Simone, Sly and the Family Stone, Gladys Knight & the Pips and many more.

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Hearing Aide

Sundance Institute

CODA (2021)

If “Sound of Metal” is about the hearing impaired learning to normalize the disability, then “CODA” is set in the utopia where that normalization is complete. “CODA” does indeed center on a hearing protagonist; its title is an acronym for child of deaf adults. Here, deafness is more of an inconvenience for the hearing, and our protagonist is torn between interpreting for her family’s thriving fishery business and pursuing her own musical talents.

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And Then There Were None

BFI Flare

Dramarama (2021)

What are five 18-year-old virgins to do their last night together before they depart for college? A night when they are entirely alone in a house that also has a swimming pool?

Well, whatever you’re thinking, they don’t do any of that. A lot of moms will be happy for this movie to be shown at a lot of theater-kid sleepovers, but it’s unclear if “Dramarama” wanted to be anything beyond a note-perfect nostalgia trip. On Twitter this critic routinely sees 20ish gay influencers, with complete sincerity, call anyone gay over 40 an “elder” and casually discuss how we’re still trapped in the closet since all our friends are dead from AIDS. Will anyone with that mindset actually care about how much things have changed since 1994, when “Dramarama” is set? Can someone who can’t believe gayness existed 27 years ago be able to sympathize with the struggles of someone in a world that can’t even see him in the first place, much less carefully sub-categorize him?

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Burning Question

Getty Images/Sundance Institute

Bring Your Own Brigade (2021)

A documentary on the California wildfires is certainly much needed, but “Bring Your Own Brigade” falls short in its quest to seek cogent answers. There is unsettling cell phone footage of homes and vehicles stuck in traffic enveloped by engulfing flames, with people trapped inside and presumably being burned alive. Those scenes are devastating indeed. While the film recognizes there may be more than one root cause, it unintentionally calls into question the legitimacy of possible culprits it manages to identify.

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Try This at Home


Twyla Moves (2021)

What did you do in 2020? While under lockdown, did you attempt to choreograph a new ballet, to be performed over Zoom, with dancers split between New York, Los Angeles, Copenhagen, Denmark, and St. Petersburg, Russia? Did that mean some directors were able to take this as a hook to put together your career retrospective, interweaving 60 years of your life and work as one of America’s leading choreographers? Well, if you did, Twyla Tharp’s lawyers will probably be in touch, because she did it first.

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Blurred Lines

One Plus One/Sundance Institute

Violation (2021)

This review contains spoilers, so consider this fair warning. Amputation and dismemberment seem to have been a running theme throughout the 2021 Sundance Film Festival selections, and “Violation” certainly has its share. Yet, this rape revenge flick is the only offering (that this reviewer is aware of) at the Sundance virtual screening portal that requires age verification, presumably for prominently featuring a fully erect penis.

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Domino Effect

Steve Price

Lily Topples the World (2021)

In the United States, right now, there are about 15 professional domino artists – that is, people who make a living setting little plastic disks up to knock them down in beautiful, complicated patterns. Only one of them is a woman, Lily Hevesh, who began posting her domino art videos on YouTube age nine. Now she has millions of followers (2 million the time of filming; 3.15 million as of March 23, 2021) and a career with enough momentum that it was worth dropping out of her freshman year of Rensselaer Polytechnic to pursue it. Jeremy Workman, who directed, edited and co-filmed this documentary, spent three years with Ms. Hevesh as she goes to work in her 19th and 20th year. This is a movie about work, and the ways in which work feeds into your virtual identity and vice versa. But on both of these issues, it is strangely guarded, which means the movie sets up a great many questions which it fails to knock down.

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No Reservation

Sébastien Raymond

Beans (2021)

“Beans” is the kind of movie that will get passed around between teenage girls the way Judy Blume books did back in the day. It knows things about growing up that kids are eager to learn whether they are ready for it or not. It’s the summer of 1990 and Beans (Kiawentiio) is 12. She lives on the Mohawk side of a small town outside Montreal with her parents and little sister, Ruby (Violah Beauvais, the dictionary definition of irrepressible). Her mother, Lily (Rainbow Dickerson), who is eight months pregnant, has encouraged Beans to apply to a swank private school for grade 7. Beans is clearly smart enough, but she’s still naive. This is the summer she gets her real education.

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