Culture: Your hub for everything from film and television to music, comics, toys and sports.Movie Magic: The secrets behind the scenes of your favorite films and filmmakers. 2019 movies to geek out over Post a comment 2:14 1:46 Movie reviews Lego Tags TV and Movies Now playing: Watch this: 77 Photos 0 Now playing: Watch this: Share your voice The characters and sets still come complete with scarred and pitted texture on their surfaces, just like real plastic, for an authentic stop-motion look. But whether it’s a space battle between various kinds of Lego or a vampire DJ with the voice of Noel Fielding or a startling detour into crayon, the humour is completely unfettered by such boring adult concerns as logic or physics. The result is a trippy treat for kids and adults.In the first film, everything was awesome for a young boy playing in his basement with Lego bricks. But now everything’s been ruined by the arrival of his sister and her Duplo blocks. Anyone with kids will recognise the younger one’s unstoppable urge to be up in the older sibling’s business, and the ructions that can cause. The older brother asserts himself against his sister’s childish ways by adopting a tough, cynical tone, complete with dark, gritty brooding — so much brooding. Batman, voiced by Will Arnett, loves this darker tone, but it’s clear all is not right in Lego world.Enlarge ImageChris Pratt, who starred alongside velociraptors in Jurassic World, encounters familiar chums in The Lego Movie 2. It’s just that kind of flick. Eric Charbonneau The only ray of sunshine in this blasted heckscape is Emmet, the perennially cheerful hero of the first movie with the bouncy voice of Chris Pratt. His fellow adventurer, Lucy Wyldstyle (voiced by Elizabeth Banks) has taken to the darker tone like a goth to mascara, but Emmet won’t give up his sunny disposition. Until sinister aliens kidnap his friends, that is, and he blasts off into space determined to toughen up and get grim ‘n’ gritty too.Enlarge ImageBatman, Wyldstyle and the gang return. Eric Charbonneau Right from the off, the action is as colourful and epic as the first movie. It’s dizzyingly kinetic, zapping along at breakneck speed as hilarious gags fly thick and fast. None of the songs quite measure up to the first movie’s earworm anthem “Everything is Awesome” — even the self-consciously needy “This Song’s Gonna Get Stuck Inside Your Head” — but they’re upbeat and fun. And if in all the chaos you miss a joke, or a song doesn’t connect, there’ll be another one along in about a millisecond.In his quest to break through the Stairgate to the Systar system, Emmet is aided in his quest by Rex Dangervest, an action hero so masculine his crew are velociraptors and his spaceship is shaped like a literal fist. Unlike Emmet, Rex doesn’t build — he breaks. And Emmet begins to think he’ll have to break stuff to save the day.Enlarge ImageRex Dangervest, action hero, gives Emmet a new role model. Warner Bros. He’s wrong, of course, which might be a level of dramatic irony too far for younger viewers. But this is one semiotically complex movie. In the past, you might have a kid getting sucked into Lego world and trying to get back. But this is 2019, where movies operate on a whole other level of meta-textual sophistication. The Lego Movie 2 works as a meta-narrative switching between the “real” world and the Lego world, which also includes characters from other pop culture narratives, who are both unaware of the real world and yet somehow also aware of their position in the zeitgeist. And it’s a musical. With time travel. On top of that, the film is based on a real-life children’s toy, and then the characters and vehicles created for the film become real-life toys, in shops now.Seriously, the whole endeavour is a crazy moebius strip of postmodern recursive metatextuality. With songs.Jeez, just because kids can work an iPad at six months old, apparently they’re expected to get Baudrillardian simulation theory. But whether the youngsters parse the postmodern juxtaposition or just dig the tunes, there’s also a pretty clear message about getting along with people and staying positive even when things look bleak. As the young boy from the first movie ages into a teenager, it’s suggested he should resist cynicism. In fact, you don’t have to squint very hard to see the film address boys on the verge of being radicalised into cynical or extremist beliefs. Listen to the Lego Movie, kids, and don’t swallow the red pill. Life lessons, jokes, celebrity cameos — it’s all here. The Lego flick schtick is such catchy pop fun you’re guaranteed to have a great time. Sure, the Lego Movie 2 might not be as innovative as the first part, but it never lets you catch your breath long enough to realise that. Yup, this is how you build a sequel. Lego Movie 2: Everything to know The Lego Movie 2 builds a dizzying, gloriously silly… Remember when everything was awesome? The first Lego Movie from 2014 was a colourful — well, mostly yellow — and giddy explosion of enthusiasm, humour and spectacular animation. Now The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part has arrived, and things are a lot more complicated.One thing the first movie had was novelty. Five years and two spin-offs later, the sequel doesn’t pop with quite the same freshness. It doesn’t help that the opening act is set in a parody of Mad Max: Fury Road, which isn’t the freshest gag in the world. But The Second Part does have the trademark Lego movie combination: It’s exuberant, dynamic, eye-popping and, above all, gloriously, unrestrainedly bonkers.
US National Security Advisor Bolton answers questions during news conference in the White House briefing room in Washington. Photo: ReutersHanging on a wall in John Bolton’s West Wing office is a memento of his proudest achievement as national security adviser: a framed copy of president Donald Trump’s order to pull the United States out of the Iran nuclear deal.Right next to it hangs a cartoon mocking the agreement.Bolton’s choice of decor reflects his disdain for the deal secured by former president Barack Obama and other world powers in 2015, and his relentless focus on trying to isolate Tehran and cripple its economy by reimposing tight sanctions.Bolton took over as national security adviser in early April. A month later, Trump abandoned the Iran deal, meeting a promise he had made as a presidential candidate, which other wary West Wing advisers had persuaded him to put off.Bolton changed that dynamic quickly. In an interview with Reuters, he said he reassured Trump that his instincts were right and that he could ignore the pleas and warnings of moderates and European allies to stay in the deal.”It’s not the end of the world,” Bolton said he told Trump in arguing for withdrawal from the pact. “The Western alliance is not going to fall apart.”Proud of his role in the policy shift, Bolton said he believes the reimposition of sanctions is already heaping pressure on Iran’s leaders.”I think the return of the sanctions has had a devastating effect on their economy and I think it’s going to get worse.”Iran’s economy and currency have already been hit as big European companies exit to avoid being hurt by US sanctions. The pressure will increase in November when sanctions targeting the oil industry, the lifeblood of Iran’s economy, are to take effect.In Washington’s community of foreign policy veterans, Bolton has been a super-hawk for decades, whether as a tough-talking US ambassador to the United Nations under President George W. Bush or as a prominent analyst on Fox News.Critics call him an ideologue and a warmonger who retaliates against dissenting views, while allies say he is an intellectual and a shrewd operator committed to ensuring the supremacy of US power.Over the years, Bolton has advocated for regime change in both Iran and North Korea, opposed direct negotiations with both and said the United States should stage pre-emptive attacks against their nuclear facilities.He was also a firm supporter of the Iraq war and has been a longtime advocate of tough policies toward Russia.Now, in the most influential position of his long career, the 69-year-old Bolton has softened some of those bellicose positions, at least in public, and says he is happy to follow the president’s lead.That has kept him in good graces with Trump, who has made improved ties with both North Korea and Russia a centerpiece of his foreign policy, and who does not like being overshadowed by his staff.And it allows Bolton the room to shape and execute a hardline strategy on Iran.”Bolton is obsessed with Iran, and everything else plays second fiddle,” said one senior official from France, whose president, Emmanuel Macron, pleaded unsuccessfully with Trump to remain in the Iran deal during an April visit to the White House.WORKING WITH TRUMPThe two men have different views on Russia. While Trump has spoken admiringly of Vladimir Putin, Bolton never does that, and accused the Russian president of lying about Moscow’s involvement in the 2016 presidential election.He opposes easing a wide range of US sanctions on Russia and tweeted in March that the United States should have a strategic response to a new array of Russian nuclear weapons “to show our allies in Europe that we will not let Russia push the US or its allies around.”He has no qualms about opposing Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and other senior officials who want to extend the New START nuclear arms control deal with Russia.But officials across the national security apparatus, from the State and Defense departments to intelligence agencies, say Bolton has studiously avoided directly challenging Trump’s declared goal of improving ties with Putin.Bolton went to Moscow to help organize Trump’s summit with Putin in Helsinki in July.”His accident avoidance is obvious when it comes to Russia,” said one US official on condition of anonymity. “If it were up to him, he would take a much harder position on sanctions and election meddling.”In a recent interview with Reuters, Trump himself said Bolton has dialed back some of his harder-line positions since coming into the White House.”He’s a terrific person who is really working hard,” Trump said. “Now, are his views the same as they have been for 20 years that I’ve been watching him on television, where he wants to go to war with everybody, and if possible, let’s do five nations at a time? No, his views aren’t that anymore.”Bolton has cemented his relationship with Trump by keeping it simple when he briefs the president.The dry, professorial style of Bolton’s predecessor, HR McMaster, frequently left Trump impatient and fuming, multiple officials have said. Bolton uses a more streamlined approach, gleaned from his time in law school.”I do outlines – bigger ones, then reduce them down to smaller ones, then distill notes down to their bare essence so they’ll fit on a notecard,” Bolton told Reuters.A senior White House official said Trump sees Bolton as an essential voice in his inner circle but is not always swayed by him. “He’s very good at making his case and the president always listens to him, but won’t necessarily do what he says,” the official said.IRAN FOCUSBolton has had most success with Trump on Iran. He has played a central role in promoting the Trump administration’s efforts to create a security and political alliance with six Gulf Arab states, Egypt and Jordan, in large part to help counter Iran’s expansion in the region.In a speech in New York last week, Bolton warned Iran: “If you continue to lie, cheat and deceive, yes, there will indeed be hell to pay.”That hard edge was a hallmark of his time in the Bush administration, critics say.Lawrence Wilkerson, who served as chief of staff to former Secretary of State Colin Powell when Bolton was undersecretary for arms control and non-proliferation, often confronted Bolton over personnel and policy issues at the State Department.Wilkerson recalled a 2002 meeting in which Bolton asserted that North Korea was “a paper tiger.” Wilkerson warned that in the event of a war Pyongyang could unleash massive artillery barrages that would claim tens of thousands of South Korean and American lives.”John looks at me coldly and says, ‘I don’t do war. That’s your bailiwick.’ I replied, ‘Oh, you just start them,’ …. It’s his Number One solution to any problem he sees in the world,” said Wilkerson, who emerged as a vocal critic of the Iraq war that Bolton had advocated for.A senior administration official close to Bolton dismissed Wilkerson’s concerns, saying Bolton shows “a deft ability to coordinate diplomatic, economic, and military policy to advance and defend America’s national security interests.”One Defense Department official said Bolton blocks out opinions that run counter to his own in discussions with other government agencies.”Dissenting views don’t have a way to be heard, and it’s clear that they aren’t welcome in any event, especially about Iran,” the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity. “The result is that people who have years or even decades of experience, especially in the field, are either ignored or intimidated.”Vice President Mike Pence’s chief of staff, Nick Ayers, disputed that view of Bolton. “He plays team ball well.”Bolton did not respond to the allegation but told Reuters he relishes verbal jousting with colleagues.”I’m a litigator by training. My life is debate. So if someone has a different view, I can’t wait,” he said with a smile.