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The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part (2019)

Everything might not be awesome but it’s still pretty great for this creative, heartfelt, and hyperactive family franchise that is better than it has any right to be thanks in part to returning writers Phil Lord and Chris Miller. It’s not quite as fresh and clever as the first go-round but it manages to better its predecessor in some key ways. Now that we know the colorful and zany antics of the animated Lego characters are also simultaneously the imaginative play of a real-world family, it provides a deeper thematic subtext with the unseen nature of siblings in conflict. I remember my own younger sister wanting to play with me and my toys, and me rebuffing her, and the film struck home some key emotional points about the inclusion of cooperative play. The different styles of play are on display as our characters are abducted by a shape-shifting space queen (voiced by Tiffany Haddish) who is determined to marry Batman and possibly rule the universe. A fantastic running joke is how transparently malevolent the queen is, which leads to an even better payoff. There are more songs and each is pretty well constructed, relevant to the story, and assuredly catchy, like “Catchy Song” used to brainwash people through pop, and a mournful version of “Everything’s Not Awesome” that becomes genuinely inspirational and uplifting by its climax. The life lessons are easily digestible and the sense of breezy fun is still alive and well. I was laughing throughout, sometimes quite hard, and the brother/sister subtext had me wondering if I owed my younger sister a decades-late apology for my behavior (sorry, Natalie). Lego Movie 2 is a worthy sequel that finds new and interesting ways to build off the irreverent original’s model. Bring on the Toy Story 3-style ending where our grown-up owner says goodbye to his childhood toys and friends. At this point, Lord and Miller can do anything and imbue it with wild wit, whimsy, and unparalleled mass entertainment (except Star Wars, I suppose).

Nate’s Grade: B+

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Jonah Hex (2010)

Clocking in at barely 73 fraught minutes, Jonah Hex is a bizarre Western sci-fi hybrid that never really stops to fully explain the rules of this universe. Josh Brolin, who does what he can with the disfigured badass, plays the Hex of title. Hex has a facial deformity along his mouth, which means it’s hard to understand whatever the man is saying as he slurs and mumbles the majority of his tough guy talk. It’s not smart to have your main character unintelligible. Watching Jonah Hex gives you the impression that nobody, cast and crew, knew what was happening. One minute Hex rides a horse with a, I kid you not, double gattling gun, and the next he’s fighting against a crazy John Malkovich who wants to build Eli Whitney’s doomsday machine. Did I also mention that Hex can bring people back to life for short periods of time via his magic touch? The look of the film is overly aggressive, with a rock guitar jackhammer score and plenty of souped-up special effects shots that try and ignite some flailing sense of excitement. It’s hard to get excited about a movie that feels so soulless. Jonah Hex feels like some studio shill thought they could buy a comic property and fill it with sure-fire elements that would please a teenage male base. Megan Fox (Transformers) in a bodice can only distract from the gaping void of a cohesive screenplay for so long. Then you stop and remember how much this movie sucks.

Nate’s Grade: D

Blades of Glory (2007)

When the movie sticks to skating, it can often get hilarious with the on-ice performances and flashy, crafty costumes. Will Ferrell works his doughy man-child schtick and generates mostly amusing results.

Nate’s Grade: B-

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