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What’s on TV Wednesday: ‘The Farewell’ and ‘Big Cat Country’

THE FAREWELL (2019) Stream on Amazon; rent on Amazon, Google Play, iTunes, Vudu and YouTube. While it may not have garnered any Academy Award nominations, this comedic drama from Lulu Wang netted a Golden Globe for its star, Awkwafina, and was among the highest-grossing indie movies of 2019. Based on an experience from Wang’s own life (or, as the film puts it, “based on an actual lie”), “The Farewell” casts Awkwafina as Billi, a young, creative New Yorker who learns that her overseas grandmother (played by Zhao Shuzhen) has a terminal illness. Billi travels with her parents to the northern Chinese city of Changchun, where her grandmother lives, but not before reluctantly agreeing to terms set by the rest of the family: Nobody is permitted to tell the matriarch about her illness. What follows is a bittersweet story that plumbs family relationships and cultural differences. The film “has a loose, anecdotal structure and a tone that balances candor and tact,” A.O. Scott wrote in his review for The New York Times. “Much of the charm and power of this story — about events leading up to a wedding that’s also a fake funeral of sorts — come from the palpable sense that it genuinely happened to someone.”

TOY STORY 4 (2019) Stream on Disney Plus; rent on Amazon, Google Play, iTunes, Vudu and YouTube. On Sunday, “Toy Story 4” became the second movie in the series to win an Academy Award for best animated feature. (“Toy Story 3” won in 2010; the first two were released before the category existed.) Like its predecessors, “Toy Story 4” assembles Woody (voiced by Tom Hanks), Buzz Lightyear (Tim Allen) and their plastic cronies for an adventure — this time one that involves a road trip and a spork with a death wish (Forky, voiced by Tony Hale). “The animation is striking, the jokes amusing and the story sweet,” Manohla Dargis wrote in her review for The Times, “though this being Pixar, the tale is also melancholic enough that the whole thing feels deeper than it is.” She deemed the movie “great-ish.”

BIG CAT COUNTRY 8 p.m. on Smithsonian Channel. This new nature series centers on two prides of lions along the Luangwa River in Zambia, dramatically narrating their hunts and power struggles. (An example: “A herd of buffalo is coming to drink. The herbivores don’t see the lions … Until it’s too late.”) In other words: “Cats” this is not.

WATCHMEN (2009) 6:30 p.m. on IFC. Those who watched HBO’s recent, radically reimagined TV riff on Alan Moore’s “Watchmen” graphic novel can see a very different take on the material in this film adaptation, which was directed by Zack Snyder. With a cast that includes Billy Crudup and Carla Gugino, this version adheres more closely to the graphic novel than HBO’s version — but wasn’t nearly as well received by critics.

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