Lego Movie 2 – a weekly round-up of the latest films

Lucy (voiced by Elizabeth Banks), Emmet (Chris Pratt) and Unikitty (Alison Brie) in The Lego Movie 2.
Lucy (voiced by Elizabeth Banks), Emmet (Chris Pratt) and Unikitty (Alison Brie) in The Lego Movie 2.
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Grab the popcorn for these new releases. 

Lego Movie 2 (U) 

A lightning bolt fashioned from coloured plastic construction bricks almost strikes twice in The Lego Movie 2.

Set five years after the award-winning first film, Mike Mitchell's briskly paced, uproarious and imaginative sequel is set in a post-apocalyptic wasteland that Mad Max might begrudgingly call home, where plastic characters from the LEGO and Duplo universes live in perpetual conflict.

The Twilight saga, velociraptors from Jurassic Park, show-stopping film musicals and John McClane from the Die Hard series (voiced by Bruce Willis with tongue wedged firmly in cheek) provide hearty laughs amidst expertly-staged action sequences.

Everything Is Awesome, the infectious song which temporarily supplanted Let It Go from Frozen as the soundtrack earworm of despairing parents, gets another airing alongside a new ditty, Catchy Song, which features the chorus, ‘This song is gonna get stuck inside your head’.

It has been five years since Finn (Jadon Sand) allowed his younger sister Bianca (Brooklynn Prince) to play with his LEGO sets.

Consequently, Bricksburg has degenerated into the den of despair known as Apocalypseburg.

The relentless good cheer of mini-figure Emmet (voiced by Chris Pratt) is out of step with the prevailing gloom and Lucy (Elizabeth Banks) wishes he could be more manly and heroic.

Queen Watevra Wa'Nabi (Tiffany Haddish), who presides over the rival Systar galaxy, dispatches her masked envoy General Mayhem (Stephanie Beatriz) to Apocalypseburg to facilitate nuptials with Batman (Will Arnett).

The caped crusader refuses to relinquish his bat-chelor status so General Mayhem kidnaps Batman plus Lucy, Unikitty (Alison Brie), MetalBeard (Nick Offerman) and Benny (Charlie Day), and spirits her hostages to her shape-shifting leader.

A distraught Emmet gives chase and encounters a swaggering and stubbled ally in the manly form of archaeologist adventurer Rex Dangervest (Pratt again).

The Lego Movie 2 comes close to replicating the boundless glee of its predecessor.

The script's core message about overcoming differences and playing together in harmony is a tad heavy-handed but in this brightly coloured, intergalactic war, subtlety is the casualty.

Released February 8. 

All Is True (12A)

On stage and screen, Sir Kenneth Branagh has devoted a considerable amount of blood, sweat and iambic pentameter to ensuring Shakespeare's plays are widely accessible.

His celebrated film adaptations of Henry V and Hamlet garnered Oscar nominations and a year-long season of plays at the Garrick Theatre in London in 2015 and 2016 included acclaimed productions of The Winter's Tale and Romeo And Juliet.

It should come as no surprise that Branagh juggles duties behind and in front of the camera for this intimate drama set in 1613, the year that the Globe Theatre in London burnt down during a performance of Henry VIII.

Scripted by Ben Elton, All Is True dramatises a twilight year in the Bard's life, when ghosts of the past literally and figuratively haunt the playwright in Stratford-upon-Avon as he contends with rivalry between his daughters and his shortcomings as a husband.

Historical rigour is tossed out of the window with a hey nonny nonny when it comes to casting.

Shakespeare's wife Anne Hathaway was eight years older than her husband but here, she is portrayed with warmth by Dame Judi Dench.

Similarly, Henry Wriothesley, supposedly the "beautiful boy" in Shakespeare's gushing sonnets, is embodied with lip-smacking glee by a wigged Sir Ian McKellen.

In reality, the third Earl of Southampton was nine years Shakespeare's junior.

A fireside conversation between the two men in the final 20 minutes is the film's standout sequence.

"It is not your place to love me," admonishes Wriothesley.

As flames lick the Globe Theatre, Shakespeare (Branagh) gallops back to the heaving bosom of Warwickshire, where he is a stranger to his wife Anne (Dench) and daughters Judith (Kathryn Wilder) and Susanna (Lydia Wilson).

Unable to write, Shakespeare turns his hand to creating a memorial garden to his deceased son Hamnet (Sam Ellis).

"You mourn him now," laments Anne. "At the time, you wrote The Merry Wives Of Windsor!"

Meanwhile, Susanna clashes with her husband, puritanical physician John Hall (Hadley Fraser), and Judith rebuffs the advances of incorrigible ladies' man Tom Quiney (Jack Colgrave Hirst).

Adopting the alternative title of Henry VIII, All Is True doesn't let facts get in the way of spinning a melancholic yarn.

Branagh sports facial prosthetics and make-up to achieve the distinctive profile of his scribe, who is weighed down with grief.

Dench purses her lips as the illiterate spouse, who bears the deep wounds of her husband's infatuation with Wriothesley.

"All this time you've worried about your reputation," she scolds. "Have you once worried about mine?"

Pacing is sluggish and the mystery of Hamnet's death feels unnecessarily protracted but there is a satisfying pay-off to the intrigue.

All's well that ends sombrely.

​​​​​​​Released February 8. 

If Beale Street Could Talk (15)

On February 26, 2017, writer-director Barry Jenkins unexpectedly found himself at the epicentre of one of the most memorable moments in Oscars history when Moonlight was crowned Best Picture shortly after La La Land was mistakenly awarded the top prize.

Both films were worthy recipients of the golden statuette but the brouhaha of Warren Beatty, Faye Dunaway and a wrong envelope overshadowed Jenkins' moment of glory.

The Florida-born filmmaker proves Moonlight was no fluke with his sublime adaptation of the novel penned by James Baldwin, which charts a love story against the turbulent backdrop of racial injustice in 1970s Harlem.

Masterfully constructed in fluid and visually arresting takes that make the heart swell, If Beale Street Could Talk conceals its devastating narrative blows behind impeccable production design and Nicholas Britell's swooning orchestral score.

Jenkins engineers one of the year's most unforgettable scenes in the living room of a cramped apartment, where two mothers trade withering verbal blows about an unplanned pregnancy.

"Who is going to be responsible for this baby?" snarls one matriarch.

"The father and the mother," retorts her fellow lioness, played with formidable intensity by Regina King, who should clear a space on her mantelpiece for an Academy Award.

The punctuation mark is a shocking act of violence that floors us with one of the characters.

Best friends Tish Rivers (KiKi Layne) and Fonny Hunt (Stephan James) fall in love and attempt to set up home together, only to find that most landlords won't rent an apartment to a black couple.

On their way home, Tish endures unwelcome advances from another man and Fonny angrily intervenes.

A passing police officer, Bell (Ed Skrein), threatens to arrest Fonny but the owner of a nearby grocery store intervenes and vouches for the couple.

Soon after, a woman (Emily Rios) accuses Fonny of rape and officer Bell's damning testimony seals his fate.

As Fonny awaits trial in prison, Tish confirms she is pregnant to her parents (King, Colman Domingo) and vows to prove her man's innocence.

However, her deepest joy is reserved for Fonny.

"You alright?" worries Tish, cradling her stomach.

"Me?" tenderly replies Fonny. "I'm not the one just got punched by a midget inside their belly."

If Beale Street Could Talk speaks clearly and eloquently about the resilience of the human spirit and the strength mothers derive from protecting their broods.

Layne and James are a handsome pairing and they catalyse molten screen chemistry in an artfully staged sex scene that culminates in him whispering "Just remember that I belong to you" as their naked bodies shudder together.

It's achingly tender but when Jenkins needs to floor us with raw emotion, he doesn't hold back. Nor would we want him to.

Released February 8.