Film Review: The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part (dir by Mike Mitchell)


Sometimes, it’s hard not to feel that the Lego movies are their own worst enemy.

I mean, they’re just so cute and fun and likable and cheerfully dorky that it’s easy to overlook just clever they often are.  Everything is Awesome may have been a cute song but it was also a pitch perfect parody of mindless conformity.  And yes, The Lego Batman Movie got a lot of laughs out of Will Arnett’s guttural growl but it was also the best Batman film since The Dark Knight and it also had a lot to say about how lonely it can be when you’re an extremely paranoid super hero.  As for The Lego Ninjago Movie …. well, give me a minute and I’ll think of something.  Uhmmmm …. it had that cute kitty!  Woo hoo!

Beyond all that, all of the Lego movies — from the best to the less-than-the-best — celebrate imagination.  They celebrate being an individual and the joy of creating your own world as opposed to just conforming to someone else’s rules.  As much as I loved Chris Pratt as Emmett and Elizabeth Banks as Wyldstyle, the heart of the first Lego Movie is to be found in the scene where Will Ferrell essentially realizes that he’s being a jerk when he won’t let his son build what he wants to build.

That said, the main appeal of the Lego movies is that they’re incredibly cute.  Just take The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part for instance.  Especially when compared to the first Lego Movie and The Lego Batman Movie, this sequel has its flaws.  Admittedly, some of those flaws are unavoidable.  Just the fact that we start the movie knowing that everyone is in Will Ferrell’s house means that the sequel can’t take us as much by surprise as the first Lego Movie did.  Though the film’s original directors, Christopher Miller and Phil Lord, wrote the script and contribute some genuinely witty dialogue, the sequel’s pacing occasionally seems a little bit off.  There’s a few slow spots, the majority of which are really only noticeable when you compare the sequel to the flawlessly paced first film.  And yet, in the end, it’s such a cute movie that it’s easy to overlook those flaws.

The sequel begins immediately where the first ended, with Will Ferrell decreeing that both his son and his daughter are now allowed to play with his Lego collection.  Jump forward five years and this has basically led to chaos.  The Lego Universe is now a Mad Max-style wasteland.  Not surprisingly, both Wylstyle and Batman have really gotten into their new dystopian lifestyle.  Meanwhile, Emmett remains just as blindly cheerful and optimistic as ever.  He still feels that everything is awesome.

Or, at least Emmet feels that way until all of his friends are kidnapped to the Systar System, where Queen Watevra Wa’Nabi (Tiffany Haddish) wants to marry Batman.  Determined to rescue his friends, Emmett decides to travel to the Systar System himself.  Helping him out is Rex Dangervest, who seems like the type of adventurer that Emmett has always dreamed of becoming.  Chris Pratt voices both Rex and Emmett and the film has a lot of fun playing with Pratt’s post-Guardians of the Galaxy stardom.  Rex is not just an intergalactic explorer.  No, he’s also a cowboy, a dinosaur trainer, an archaeologist, a first baseman, and — we’re told — a script doctor.  (Those, of course, are references to Pratt’s roles in The Magnificent Seven, Jurassic World, and Moneyball.  Interestingly enough, his work in Passengers goes unmentioned.)  Rex pressures Emmett to become more cynical and ruthless in his efforts to save his friends and destroy the Systar System and Chris Pratt does a great job voicing both roles.  Indeed, if nothing else, this film will always stand as a tribute to the incredible and unending charm of Chris Pratt.

If Lego Movie 2 never reaches the glorious heights of the first film, that’s because the element of surprise has been lost.  There’s no moment  in the sequel that’s as memorable as when a live action Will Ferrell suddenly showed up in the first movie.  (In the second movie, Ferrell appears in a flashback and has a brief voice cameo as President Business.  Maya Rudolph does show up as his wife but the sequel’s live action scenes just don’t have the emotional impact of the first film’s.)  But, with all that in mind, it’s still an undeniably cute and entertaining movie.  All of your old favorites back — everyone from Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill as Superman and Green Lantern to Alison Brie as Unikitty to Charlie Day as the astronaut. (Sadly, Liam Neeson did not return as the Good Cop/Bad Cop and his absence is felt.)  The film is full of clever parodies, my favorite being the references to Mad Max: Fury Road.  There’s more than enough witty lines, visual gags, and sweet moments that Lego Movie 2 will hold your interest and bring a smile to your face.

At the box office, Lego Movie 2 fell victim to the same Lego fatigue that took down the Lego Ninjago film and it did not become quite the phenomenon that the first movie did.  Regardless, it’s still a worthy sequel.  I wouldn’t quite say it’s awesome but it’s definitely a lot of fun.

Bang, You’re Dead!: Charles Bronson in DEATH WISH (Paramount 1974)


cracked rear viewer

Most people think of DEATH WISH as just another 70’s revenge/exploitation flick, right? Nope. Far from it. Sure, there’s loads of graphic violence, but this gem of a movie contains just as much political commentary as ALL THE PRESIDENT’S MEN, with an added dose of black comedy to boot. The film had its finger firmly placed on the pulse of 1970’s America, with all its fear and paranoia about rampant urban crime, and is among the decade’s best.

Director Michael Winner and star Charles Bronson had made three films together up to that time: the revisionist Western CHATO’S LAND, the actioner THE MECHANIC , and the cops-vs-Mafia drama THE STONE KILLER . All were hits with the drive-in crowd, and helped Bronson go from supporting player to major star. Strangely enough, Bronson wasn’t the first actor considered for the part of Paul Kersey. Jack Lemmon was original choice, and that…

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12 Images of D-Day From The Artists Who Were There


Today is the 75th anniversary of D-Day.

On this day, in 1944, the Allied forces landed at the beaches of Normandy and, against overwhelming odds, began the liberation of Nazi-occupied France and later all of Western Europe.  At least 4,400 Allied soldiers lost their lives on that day so that others could live free and, on this anniversary, we honor their sacrifice.

Not surprisingly, D-Day has inspired many artists, writers, and filmmakers over the years.  Below, for the 75th anniversary of the Normandy Landings, we have 12 paintings and illustrations inspired by D-Day.  These works were all done by men who were actually there on that historic day.  The majority of them can be found at the International War Museum in the United Kingdom.

by Albert Richards

by Albert Richards

by Anthony Gross

by Edward Ardizzone

by Edward Bawden

by Jack Heath

by Joseph Gary Sheahan

by Manuel Bromberg

by Manuel Bromberg

by Orville Norman Fisher

by Richard Eunich

by Thoms Hennell

Music Video of the Day: Sleeping Bag by ZZ Top (1985, directed by Steve Barron)


“Sleeping bags used to be a real drag to contend with, when you’re in the Boy Scouts and the best you can do is one of those Army sleeping bags. The old-timey kind that were heavy. Then in the late ’60s or ’70s, they came out with those down-filled bags that roll up into the size of a cantaloupe. It’s changed the whole idea of a sleeping bag. I had one of those that looks just like a mummy case. That’s where the line in the song comes from: ‘Sleep beside the pharoahs in the shifting sands.'”

— Billy Gibbons

“I used to own a sleeping bag. I used to go camping. But I don’t own a sleeping bag now. I own a sleeping bag in my mind.”

— Dusty Hill

Sleeping Bag was the first single to be released off of ZZ Top’s follow-up to Eliminator, Afterburner.  Both the band and Warner Bros. felt that the perfect way to transition from the Eliminator songs to the Afterburner songs would be to make one more video featuring the ZZ Top girls and Billy Gibbons’s car.  However, when director Tim Newman (who previously did Gimme All Your Lovin, Sharp Dressed Man, and Legs) was approached to direct the video, he wanted more money than the label was willing to pay.  As a result, Steve Barron was hired to direct instead and the end result was a video that was much different from the previous three Eliminator videos.

In this video, the band and the ZZ Top Girls go from giving makeovers to saving lives.  When a young couple (played by Heather Langenkamp and John Dye) is menaced by two rednecks in a monster truck, the Eliminator sacrifices itself to keep them safe.  Don’t worry, though.  Apparently, the ghosts of ZZ Top have been keeping a space shuttle in Egypt.  It all makes sense when you consider that this was the 80s and everyone was obsessed with space shuttles and monster trucks.

Heather Langenkamp made this video a year after starring in A Nightmare on Elm Street and, not surprisingly, several parts of the video seem like they could have been lifted from Wes Craven’s seminal horror film.  The shadows of the rednecks outside the tent seem like they are intentionally meant to bring to mind Freddy Krueger.

Steve Barron was another one of those directors who seemed to work with almost everyone.  He would go on to direct ZZ Top’s next video, Rough Boy, which we’ll look at tomorrow.

Enjoy!