Film of the week: Angry Birds 2
Cert: G; Now showing
A sequel to a film based on a video game should, in theory, be ropey at best. But Angry Birds 2 is far from ropey.
Despite a new production team in first time feature film director Thurop Van Orman and three writers - Peter Ackerman, Eyal Podell, and Jonathon E Stewart - taking over from Jon Vitti, it maintains the same feel and pace as the first film. However it is less devotedly based on the game, which young children might not even know.
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After a gag-filled, pre-credit sequence the plot, such as it is, materialises. Complex isn't really in it - the first film's lack of plot even gets a nod in, "Hey Red, isn't it funny how nobody liked you until you saved Bird Island and now everybody loves you."
Essentially Bird Island and Piggy Island are still at pranky loggerheads when the emergence of Eagle Island under purple bird Zeta (Leslie Jones) changes the dynamic.
Zeta wants the two other islands as holiday escape from her icy kingdom and uses her volcano super weapon to launch bombs at her targets.
King Pig, Leonard (Bill Hader), wants a truce in order to fight the threat but Bird Island leader Red (Jason Sudeikis) is not too keen. If there is no war, there is no hero. Then he realises a new enemy can mean fresh heroism.
This set up is the least interesting part - it gets better when they start fighting.
This time around there are more female characters, the first was very male dominated, but most of them, including Nicki Minaj and Awkwafina, are all but cameo roles. Leslie Jones, however, gives it socks and really adds to the film.
Incidentally, two of the littlest female voices belong to Faith and Sunday Kidman-Urban, debuting as baby birds Lily and Beatrice.
It's fast and it's funny - and it's one that both adults and kids can enjoy.
★★★ Aine O'Connor
Fast & Furious: Hobbs & Shaw
Cert: 12A; Now showing
Don't ask how, but in the 18 years since the Fast & Furious franchise began revving its way around the planet, your critic has somehow dodged all eight instalments. And so we enter into the giddy realm with some trepidation.
Were this the Marvel Cinematic Universe, for example, little effort would be made for those like me coming late to the party.
This was the first thing I came to like about Hobbs & Shaw, the way it doesn't seem to mind if you've never heard of Vin Diesel or Tokyo drifts. Director David Leitch (John Wick, Atomic Blonde) and scribblers Chris Morgan and Drew Pearce tuck you in and fasten the seatbelt.
The mutual animosity between Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) and Shaw (Jason Statham) is plain to see.
As a deadly bio-terrorism threat unveils itself, with Shaw's MI6 sister Hattie (The Crown's Vanessa Kirby) implicated, the two are forced to work together to save mankind. The dialogue alone - reams of barbed trash talk between the pair - is fast and fairly furious in its own right, and much fun is had with the two tough guys' differing approaches to life.
There's little let-up in the carousel of bonkers action, jet-setting cool and growling throttles.
The Rock, a star for the ages, is reliably imperious, while Idris Elba gives great baddie. For "big dumb fun", you can't go wrong. ★★★★ Hilary A White
Cert: 15A; Now showing
Ritesh Batra's 2013 Cannes-winner The Lunchbox was a light and sensuous tale that created swoons wherever it was shown. Alongside its tale of love against the odds, it commented on a modern Mumbai where population density and desperation to leap classes could isolate individuals.
Since then, Batra has struggled to make lightning strike in the same way with The Sense of an Ending and Our Souls At Night. Both were set in the West and it is perhaps indicative that Batra, with both pen and camera, is here returning to his native Mumbai now.
Miloni (Sanya Malhotra) is a shy accountancy student cloistered by her middle-class family. Rafi (Nawazuddin Siddiqui) is hustling a living as a street photographer so that he can pay off a family debt left behind after his parents' deaths. Their paths cross and the ensuing photograph becomes a cosmic link.
Batra then brings things down a peculiar road whereby the glum Rafi tracks down Miloni and asks her to pose as his girlfriend to placate his pushy grandmother. There are some flickers of charm within this set-up but the film shuffles along towards a shrugging denouement that struggles to justify the caper. ★★★ Hilary A White
Cert: Club; Now showing
A love story very much for our times is presented in this close, naturalistic drama from debutante English director Harry Wootliff.
Glasgow-based Spaniard Elena (Laia Costa) happens upon DJ and student Jake (Josh O'Connor) on her way home from a New Year's Eve house party while trying to find a taxi. They share the cab and spend the night together before a sweet romance blossoms between the couple.
Elena, however, is not immediately honest about her age, sheepishly revealing to Jake that she is in fact 10 years older than him once they've settled into things. It is not a roadblock as far as he is concerned but when they decide to try for a baby they discover that it might be in other ways.
As the couple negotiate crushing disappointment, smug friends, and IVF treatment, major strain is placed upon their once-idyllic relationship.
There is much food for thought in Wootliff's sensitive but unflinching drama, especially about that phase in every relationship where fun and games begin calcifying into something high-stakes and disconcertingly rigid.
Costa (Victoria) and O'Connor (The Crown, Florence Foster Jenkins) roll their sleeves up and break a sweat with some difficult material that requires hot and cold, often in the same expression. Wootliff is intrusive and stark, ensuring that the intangible energies that bind Jake and Elena are centre stage. ★★★★ Hilary A White
Sunday Indo Living