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THE B-LIST: Exceptions to the rule — Sequels that stack up to the original

It's called the LAW of diminishing returns for a reason: nine times out of 10, sequels (or threequels, etc.) are never as good as the original recipe.

But there's always an exception to the rule. Sometimes you can catch lightning in a bottle twice.

If you've got a solid script ... if the original cast returns ... or if you go in a completely different direction, honoring the source material while making the next installment its own thing — here are a few follow-ups that are just as good, if not better, than their predecessors.

6. "ADDAMS FAMILY VALUES" (1993). As Gomez (Raul Julia) and Morticia (Anjelica Huston) welcome baby son Pubert to the family, Uncle Fester (Christopher Lloyd) falls for the new nanny — and devious black widow — Debbie Jellinsky (Joan Cusack). While Debbie plots to get her hands on the Addams fortune, Wednesday (Christina Ricci) and Pugsley (Jimmy Workman) struggle to survive summer camp.

Cusack is perfect as a gold-digging, pastel-loving femme fatale ("Gimme a kiss," begs new husband Fester, to which she immediately retorts, "Gimme $20."), while Ricci's Wednesday thwarts a cruddy Thanksgiving play with panache (and flaming arrows).

5. "THE MUMMY RETURNS" (2001). Imhotep (Arnold Vosloo) returns to finally reunite with long-dead love Anck-Su-Namun (Patricia Velasquez) and challenge the Scorpion King (Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson) for control of his undead army. Adventurer Rick (Brendan Fraser) and archaeologist Evie (Rachel Weisz) have to thwart him again to save their son, Alex (Freddie Boath), and — of course — the world.

I absolutely adore when couples are just as in love in the sequels as they were in the original; 10 years and parenthood haven't changed Rick and Evie one bit as they smooch and quip between battling pygmy mummies, Anubis-headed armies and reincarnation craziness.

"Returns" is also noteworthy as it marks the acting debut of The Rock (and some really atrocious CGI when he appears as a scorpion monster in the climax, but we can forgive the film that one misstep).

4. "JUMANJI: WELCOME TO THE JUNGLE" (2017). Speaking of The Rock: when four teens are sucked into a video game, they become the avatars they selected. Nebbish Spencer is now the handsome Smolder Bravestone (Johnson), introverted Martha is mankiller Ruby Roundhouse (Karen Gillan), football star Fridge is the comedic Mouse Finnbar (Kevin Hart) and popular Bethany is the rotund Professor Sheldon (Jack Black). The four must work together to beat the game and return to the real world.

The original "Jumanji" starred the irreplaceable Robin Williams, so when it was announced there would be a sequel, plenty were outraged. Thankfully, "Jungle" is entirely its own thing, and does a fine job of tipping the hat to Williams' classic.

The entire cast does impressive work portraying uncomfortable teens trapped in new bodies — Black and Johnson are especially incredible, with the former handling the "girl in a guy's body" idea in a non-offensive way that's genuinely hysterical.

It's always fun when Johnson gets to play to his two greatest strengths — charming comedy and impressive action — and there's plenty of well-done thrills and sincere heart.

3. "ALIENS" (1986). Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) wakes from her hypersleep to discover decades have passed and the Xenomorph-infested moon LV-426 has been colonized. Determined to face her fear, Ripley sets out with a platoon of Colonial Marines.

While "Alien" was a haunted house movie in space, "Aliens" is one of the greatest sci-fi action films of all time. Weaver (who unquestionably should have won the Oscar for this performance) makes Ripley a hard-as-nails heroine who can wield a mean grenade-launcher and still be maternal.

And that supporting cast! Bill Paxton's Hudson ("Game over, man! Game over!") delights even as he falls apart. Jenette Goldstein's Vasquez is #GOALS. Lance Henriksen, so often a baddie, gets his hero on as the dependable android Bishop. And my fave '80s heartthrob Michael Biehn is totally dreamy as Hicks, the Marine who fully supports Ripley.

2. "EVIL DEAD II" (1987). Ash (Bruce Campbell) just wanted a romantic weekend in the woods. But then demonic forces intervened and the hapless 20-something is forced to a) kill his possessed girlfriend, b) cut off his own possessed hand and c) take a chainsaw to evil Kandarian creatures with the help of some rednecks and a professor's daughter.

Essentially a remake of its predecessor — just with a bigger budget, much better special effects and a stronger story — "Evil Dead II" is one of the greatest horror films of all time, director/screenwriter Sam Raimi's crown jewel and perhaps Campbell's best performance to date.

There's a fine balance of splattery horror and Three Stooges-esque comedy; for some serious laughs, check out the scene where Ash has to fight his own hand. Talk about knockin' 'em dead.

1. "MAD MAX: FURY ROAD" (2015). Drifter Max (Tom Hardy) is swept across a post-apocalyptic wasteland when he joins Furiosa (Charlize Theron), Nux (Nicholas Hoult) and a group of women desperate to escape the tyrannical Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne).

There are a handful of movies out there that are truly perfect. "Fury Road" is one of them. Every time I watch it, I'm staggered anew by its greatness. The visceral performances. The gorgeous cinematography. The music. The editing. The world building. The themes. Everything is perfect.

There's so little dialogue. It's essentially a two-hour-long chase sequence. And yet...

Not only is this a technically incredible film, with wild action choreography and a staggering amount of practical effects and stuntwork, it's one that kicks my heart into overdrive and takes my breath away. Theron and Hardy convey more emotion with a look than most actors can with an entire monologue.

The three previous "Mad Max" films were fun, pulpy, schlocky action movies. "Fury Road" is a virtuoso symphony. A cinematic masterpiece. A feminist rampage worthy of unending praise.

• ANGIE BARRY is a page designer and columnist for The Times. To suggest future topics for The B-List, which covers pop culture, history and literature, contact her at

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