The Angry Birds Movie 2 ***

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The unimpressive box office results for the Angry Birds sequel formed part of a limp summer for sequels; with that in mind, this critic skipped the first Angry Birds Movie on Netflix to head straight for the second instalment. The question was; do modern sequels work as stand-alone films? The answer was a resounding no.

Watching Angry Birds 2 with no prior information is to witness a baffling, Godardian soup of colourful shapes, cartoon images, pop culture needles drops and familiar SNL voices. Red (Jason Sudeikis) is a red bird who lives on an island of diverse birds. Their neighbours and rivals the green pigs announce a truce so they can join forces against Zeta (Leslie Jones), a giant eagle spurned in love by Mighty Eagle (Bill Hader). Despite his various hang-ups, illustrated by an abortive speed-dating event, Red and his gang try to infiltrate Eagle Island to stop Zeta.

The Angry Birds Movie 2 has such a roster of talent involved that almost none of the characters stick, and the micro-plotting for each character is hard to follow. And yet, in the second half of the film there’s some inspired slapstick, including a set piece involving a collapsing eagle costume and a public urinal that’s probably the funniest moment in 2019 cinema so far. And Leslie Jones, often resistibly shrill in SNL, knocks it out of the park with Zeta’s voice, making her both abrasive and sympathetic.

There’s a lot of talent here, but the assumption that the first film will front-load audiences with relevant information is overplayed. It’s nice to see Zeta and Mighty Eagle put aside their issues and finally get married, a moment scored to the Turtles anthem Happy Together. The song accidentally evokes memories of a prominent place in Wong Kar-wai’s 1997 gay arthouse film which tooks it’s name from the track; the nagging take-away is an Angry Birds movie shouldn’t require the same concentration levels as the work of a Chinese visionary.

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Driven 2018 *****

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History has probably judged John DeLorean harshly; by 2019’s standards of corrupt behaviour, he looks like he had an integrity that today’s business leaders lack. Most industrialists, faced with a loss-making plant going bankrupt, automatically drain the pension fund into their personal accounts and set sail on the nearest yacht with a bevy of idiot models. DeLorean’s response was to try and save his Northern Ireland plant, and the workers’ jobs, by engineering a massive cocaine deal; not good behaviour, but it’s hard to argue that the great man didn’t put himself on the line big time to keep the dream alive. The delayed release of Nick Hamm’s drama on the subject doesn’t suggest good things, but it’s more likely that that comedy/drama tone has flummoxed bean-counters; Jason Sudeikis plays Jim Hoffman, a dubious character who finds himself living next-door to DeLorean, played with charisma levels set to overload by Lee Pace. DeLorean dreams of making a wonder car; ‘Your flying car doesn’t fly,’ someone unhelpfully points out, and Hamm’s film makes a point of exposing DeLorean as a fraud, but also refashions him as a hero. This is a Great Gatsby for the 1980’s, with Jim as a venal Nick Carraway, swept to the side-lines in the wake of DeLorean’s passage. ‘You’re not a bad man, you’re just an idiot,’ says Jim’s wife Ellen (Judy Greer), and Sudeikis correctly plays Jim broadly as a buffoon. Meanwhile, Pace does a phenomenal job of bringing DeLorean to life, railing about the detail of business copyrights, sulking about losing Ping Pong matches and generally being the man-child that most men aspire to be. The famous car is largely left off-screen, apart for a perfect, wry coda; Driven is a very entertaining film that should find a big audience on streaming; Back to The Future fans, petrol-heads and true-crime aficionados will find plenty here to draw them in, not lead Pace’s mesmerising performance.

https://www.amazon.com/Driven-Jason-Sudeikis/dp/B07VY9VY1T/ref=sr_1_1?keywords=driven&qid=1566234502&s=gateway&sr=8-1