The Angry Birds Movie
Based on the wildly successful video game, The Angry Birds Movie is about Red (Jason Sudeikis), a professional clown on Bird Island who gets hauled before Judge Peckinpah (Keegan-Michael Key) when he gets angry at a chick’s birthday party. He is sentenced to anger management classes, which are led by Matilda (Maya Rudolph), who is in recovery herself. The other birds in the class are Chuck (Josh Gad), who goes too fast, Bomb (Danny McBride), who explodes when he’s upset, and the big, growling Terence (Sean Penn).
When a ship arrives captained by a pig named Leonard (Bill Hader) and his assistant, Ross (Tony Hale), it crashes into Red’s house near the shore. Red is not pleased. While Leonard seems friendly, the hold of the ship is filled with green pigs with evil designs on the birds’ eggs. After blowing up the island with TNT, Leonard escapes with them and his crew. Red motivates and leads the birds on a rescue mission to the island of pigs.
John Vitti wrote The Angry Birds Movie for Rovio Entertainment of Finland, the company that launched the video game. Filmmakers Clay Kaytis and Fergal Reilly obviously enjoyed making the film, which is filled with many bird and pig puns. While it is a story about male friendship and the importance of community, the use of violence to resolve conflict, however contrived, is disappointing. War is not the norm or the answer to everything.
A-2, PG * Some crude humor and cartoon peril.
The Man Who Knew Infinity
Srinivasa Ramanujan (Dev Patel) is a young mathematical genius in Madras, India. He is a Hindu, poor, and newly married. Ramanujan is eager for work that will enable him to use his mathematical gifts, but no one pays attention until a man working in the accountant general’s office notes his brilliance and gets him a job as a clerk. Ramanujan moves his mother and wife into a small apartment and sets off to work. But his head is filled with mathematical formulae, and he fills notebooks with theorems.
Ramanujan writes to universities in England hoping to be invited there to do research. Finally, as World War I erupts, Professor G.H. Hardy (Jeremy Irons) and his colleagues, notably Professor J.E. Littlewood (Toby Jones), are impressed enough to invite him to Cambridge University. Once there, Ramanujan struggles with the food (Hindus are vegetarians), racism, illness, distance from his mother and wife, and having his genius tempered.
The Man Who Knew Infinity is a remarkable film on many levels. The acting, direction, screenplay, and cinematography are brilliant. The conflict and dialogue between Ramanujan’s faith and Hardy’s atheism are superbly and gently articulated. I can only imagine how much of Ramanujan’s story was left out—most notably about his health and marriage.
Based on a 1991 biography by Robert Kanigel, The Man Who Knew Infinity is certainly the best and most interesting film of the year so far.
Not yet rated, PG-13 * Mature themes.
Last Days in the Desert
For 40 days, Yeshua (Ewan McGregor) walks in the vast wilderness of Palestine with only his cloak and a staff. He communes with God and faces the devil (also played by McGregor), who tempts him in every way that he can.
As he walks, Yeshua meets a family made up of a father (Ciarán Hinds), a mother (Ayelet Zurer), and their young son (Tye Sheridan). The family wanders the desert, struggling to make a life there. The father and Yeshua converse as they walk; the elder offering words of wisdom to the younger, who seeks meaning in his father’s will.
Most impressive about Last Days in the Desert is that it is probably the first time a film has successfully done what C.S. Lewis accomplished in The Screwtape Letters—to give the devil a voice and to create a conversation about belief, temptation, and consequences. Writer/director Rodrigo García captures the wandering of Jesus in the desert recounted in the synoptic Gospels. What do that time and those encounters with the devil look like to the mature person today, whether believer, seeker, or nonbeliever?
The real depth of the film is how it ably asks us to question the sincerity of our beliefs. That McGregor plays both roles of Yeshua and the demon layers the story. There’s lots to talk about here.
A-3, PG-13 * Disturbing images and brief, partial nudity.