Classic Review: Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan

Stars:  ***1/2 out of Four

Summary:  The first reboot of ‘Star Trek’ completely reinvigorated the franchise, achieving through clever writing what couldn’t be achieved through a higher budget.

Are you getting this?  How can this film not be awesome?  Look at that!

Are you getting this? How can this film not be awesome? Look at that!

Review:  Though highly successful with audiences, the previous ‘Star Trek’ film was critically disliked, provoking Paramount to restrict creator Gene Roddenberry’s access to the development of the inevitable sequel.  And unlike other franchises that have been disconnected from their creators, this one definitely improved.  While still being credited as “Executive Consultant”, Gene’s influence, such as restricting character conflict, was minimized.  The Paramount executives brought in TV legend Harve Bennett to produce the film, using TV sets and a massively restricted budget after the previous film overspent to little effect.  This meant the ridiculous amount of effects footage from the previous film would have to be recycled at certain points.

All this led to what was effectively a franchise reboot, wiping the slate clean.  New uniforms were designed, sets were redressed, a new composer (James Horner) was brought in, and Trek newbie Nicholas Meyer was chosen to direct.  He also helped rewrite the film, making things flow the way he wanted them to, adding more of a naval feel to Starfleet that reverberate throughout each subsequent film and series.

Instead of the philosophical bent of ‘The Motion Picture’, ‘The Wrath of Khan’ became centered around character conflict, with themes such as age, death, revenge, regret, and self-sacrifice.  Instead of the misguided threat of V’Ger from ‘The Motion Picture’, the direct, malevolent threat of Khan was reintroduced, having been set up for a reappearance by an episode of the television show.  Khan never met Kirk face to face during the film’s events, but he managed to have great chemistry with his nemesis anyway.

By far the most controversial decision was to kill off the beloved character of Spock, as the actor wanted to leave ‘Star Trek’ and the filmmakers felt it would add the needed weight to make the film’s themes run full circle.  In short, it worked, and the actor chose to return in the next installment.

With a very direct plot thread and nearly constant suspense, the film succeeded in every way that ‘The Motion Picture’ failed, becoming the first true classic of ‘Star Trek’ and becoming the high mark of the entire franchise, though I personally enjoy Meyer’s second ‘Star Trek’ feature better.

Not just a good ‘Star Trek’ film, but a great film in general.  One hopes that the latest ‘Star Trek’ reboot can live up to the first.

Advertisements

Classic Review: Star Trek: The Motion Picture

Stars:  ** Stars out of Four

Summary:  A mediocre plot doesn’t have the power to drive this sprawling two-hour space opera to glory, despite some great moments and breakthrough special effects.

Welcome to the suck.

Welcome to the suck.

Review:  Though it was canceled after only three seasons, the 1960s television show ‘Star Trek’ had attracted a huge following, encouraging its creator, Gene Roddenberry, to attempt to revive it.  After the next ten-or-so years he wrote several possible follow-ups, mainly focused on a new TV show, but in 1977 Paramount suddenly became interested in transferring the story to the silver screen after the unlikely success of a little movie called ‘Star Wars’.  Roddenberry consulted with scientists and science fiction writers as he endeavored to get the concepts right, but he made some bad choices as to what advice to throw away.  The resulting film, released in 1979, is mixed.

It has a fairly promising start, a sweeping, adventurous Jerry Goldsmith score as an overture (the existence of this rarely used introductory technique hints at the film to come), and then we see a massive cloud in space, like a nebula or something.  Three Klingon ships approach and stupidly try to engage it (for reasons which are never quite justified in the script), and are absorbed by globes of energy.  So, okay, fairly promising start, right?  Well the next thing we know, there’s a Federation outpost warning the audience- indirectly, of course -that the thing is headed towards Earth.  Now it seems to me in these first few minutes that the energy cloud wasn’t malevolent, and was reacting to being screwed with by insanely stupid Klingons.  It doesn’t make a particularly threatening intro… but don’t worry, it gets better!  Ish.

So then the brief reintroduction of each of the principal characters.  But none of the characters are afforded the introductory screentime as much as… the ship.  That’s right, they chose to give a (fantastically designed) model more loving attention in its first moments that any of the characters.  If that isn’t a bad sign, I don’t know what is.  The Enterprise is shown, standing still in space with little people flying around it (it’s being prepared for launch, and the effects are quite gorgeous) for a straight 6 minutes.  No dialog.  Just brief reaction shots from Captain Kirk, as he stares at his ship.  Now, I may be completely wrong, but my understanding of film was that each scene is chosen for its importance to plot & character, with the essential element of being interesting.  A lot of scenes in this movie completely fly in the face of this idea.

The plot is utterly boring for the first half, lacking interest and tension.  It’s not that it is inherently bad, but it’s obviously a television script that’s been stretched on far too long.  Soon enough, the Enterprise is going after the cloud, but there’s so little plot going on that they throw in some of the most arbitrary danger possible, and it’s not even scientifically accurate (or excusable).  After successfully passing through this minor roadblock, they finally reach the cloud, and things become interesting again.  And then, frustratingly, they choose to show about ten minutes of gratuitous footage of the cloud’s interior, with, again, nothing but reaction shots from the crew to give it any sort of dramatic weight.  And while, again, the footage is quite marvelous and adds an excellent fog of mystery to the plot’s direction, it seems unnecessary to have it drag on for so long without any real tension.

The third act of the film actually does pick up the pace, however.  There are some great character moments that you won’t see coming based on the mediocre-at-best material to this point.  The philosophical questions raised are excellent, and some of the answers work well, too, and surprisingly, this part just works.  All the plot threads, though thin in the previous acts, really mean something here and they work as marvelously as the special effects.  The final act, to me, is excellent, and is indicative of a film that-might-have-been, were it not for constant mid-production rewrites and a lack of judgment on the creators’ parts.

For a film coming from a critically disliked (but very, very fun) show, it’s remarkable that it was even made.  It has little love in the critical and fan communities.  The follow-up, ‘Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan’, on the other hand…

Classic Review: Alien

By contributor Patrick Zabriskie

Stars:  ★★☆☆

Inside that egg theres a facehugger even a mother couldnt love.

Inside that egg there's a facehugger even a mother couldn't love.

The nineteen seventies was a dark time for many.  The economy was bad, morality was degrading, and the United States had been cursed with a string of sub-par presidents, not to mention several global wars and conflicts.  In this dark and grim decade, therefore, it is no surprise to find a string of pioneering horror films, including ‘Jaws’, ‘The Exorcist’, ‘The Texas Chainsaw Massacre’, ‘The Omen’, and ‘Halloween’.  These films were darker in tone and more serious than previous horror films, and they are largely responsible for helping to modernize and reinvigorate the horror movie genre.  The last entry in this line of horror films is ‘Alien’, in 1979.  Despite praise from many a critic, this cosmic odyssey lacks the elements which make it truly great, and more importantly scary.

After the title assimilates across a panorama of outer space, we are shown the Nostromo, a rather gothic looking mining ship slowly drifting through the cosmos.  Its seven crew members are suddenly and abruptly awakened from long-term hibernation by the ships computer, dubbed MOTHER, and are ordered to investigate a strange S.O.S. signal from a nearby planet.

Upon landing on this strange, dissident sort of world, they discover the ruins of a gigantic and long crashed alien ship with an enormous chamber of eggs inside.  One of the eggs unleashes a strange hand-like creature that attaches itself to a member of the crew, putting him into a coma.  After bringing him back to the ship and unsuccessfully attempting to control or even understand this life form, the “hand” all of the sudden falls off, and all is at peace.  That is, until another creature bursts out of the man via chest in a now iconic movie scene.  The remaining part of the movie chronicles the crew as they attempt to combat and kill “the eighth passenger”.

For what it’s worth, the plot is an intriguing one.  It’s sort of a 50’s B movie on steroids.  There is also an interesting implied message on workers rights in this movie, as this crew finds its life being compromised by the desires of a company-controlled computer, perhaps a nod to the tough economic years of the seventies.  There is also a kind of sexual undertone that is inferable from this movie, as much of the artwork and even the look of the alien are reminiscent of human sexuality.

However this story carries with it an inordinately large amount of shortcomings.  The most notable and most important flaw lies with the acting.  It is difficult to tell what makes for a bad performance in a movie, whether it be the performance itself or the writing.  It seems that a little bit of both is at fault here in ‘Alien’.  For the first 45 minutes of the movie or so, nothing anybody utters possesses a trace of emotion.  It’s all bland scientific terminology and company policy.  This is only worsened by the actors, who evidently were told to deliver every line in a lifeless manner.  Unfortunately, this is not good for creating horror.  I cannot feel much fear for characters who don’t seem human.  When they did start showing real emotion, a whopping hour into the film, I could have cared less if they lived or died.

There are other problems with plot.  There are inconsistencies or questions left unanswered at the end of the film.  For instance, why show literally thousands and thousands of eggs if only one of them proves to be a threat.  Or why show a bizarre alien skeleton in the old ship?  Just so the characters can spend one minute examining it before proceeding onward and completely forgetting about it?  Or why bother to let the audience know halfway through the movie that MOTHER wants the alien unharmed without telling us why.  It feels unfinished, unpolished.  Sure, some of these questions are answered in the sequel, too bad it took seven years to make.  Lastly, this movie is just too slow going.  An early trailer for the movie indicated a rather frantic pacing for this movie, but that’s really not the case.  It’s close to 45 minutes before the audience actually sees the eggs and about another 30 minutes before the true Alien makes its appearance. Even after that, the creature just makes short cameos interspersed by boring dialogue.

Other aspects of this film are hit and miss.  The set designs are perhaps the most elaborate and well done I’ve ever seen.  They don’t feel like gigantic movie sets, they feel like real places, real confined spaces, which is good for making claustrophobia.  Also, this movie is notable for its heavy use of handheld camera work, which adds, at times to the lost and confined feeling of this movie.  The special effects in general are pretty good for 1979, but they tend to slump in key places.  Take the famous “chest burst” scene.  From a believability standpoint, it’s absolutely brilliant—until the creature runs across a table, fully revealing that it is being pulled across on a metal track.  This sort of flaw is a disaster for this movie, because it so easily undermines credibility, which is not something that this film can afford to lose if it wants to be affective.  Another example is the alien suit.  It was wise for the filmmakers to cast a 7-foot Kenyan in the role of the creature, because it helps to make him appear less human when in full attire.  However, a man in a suit is just that, and at the end of the day it simply is a little too noticeable that this is a stuntman walking around the set.  Again, complete and total belief in this creature is crucial to making this film work, but they didn’t quite get it, and it compromises the whole premise.

Lastly there is Jerry Goldsmith’s score.  It’s interesting in how unnoticeable it is.  There is no real strong theme holding it all together, and it is altogether too sedated to make much impact.  Not only that, but often at what are presumably the scariest points in the movie, the music is simply stopped.  This is a bad idea, because, coupled with the issues with special effects, it doesn’t quite pull of fear as well as it should.  It’s a shame too, because Goldsmith has proven on other occasions how capable of creating a mood he is.

In conclusion, ‘Alien’ simply does not support its own premise well enough.  Its not that it couldn’t have, but it doesn’t.  A few key rewrites would probably have saved it, but as it stands, it is simply an average film.  At times it can scare, but it’s rarely for a better reason than for shock.  However, if there is one good thing that came out of ‘Alien’, it’s the other movies it had an influence on.  For instance, the sequel, 1986’s ‘Aliens’, was a much more balanced and entertaining affair.  Also, Ridley Scott, the director, would go on to refine his bleak-future style with the classic film ‘Blade Runner’, while a group of other filmmakers would create the masterpiece known as ‘The Thing’—a much better update of science-fiction horror—just three years later, borrowing elements from this film.  ‘Alien’ serves as an important lesson to filmmakers: Don’t let a film be overshadowed by its legacy.

Cult Classic: Flash Gordon

Stars: ★★1/2☆

“Flash!  A-ah!  Savior of the universe!”

Thats just amazing.

That's just amazing.

Review:  So the universe… er, actually, just Earth, is in big trouble.  The devious Emperor Ming of the planet Mong has decided to arbitrarily screw with Earth’s inhabitants, with the ultimate goal of destroying it.  “Pathetic Earthlings!” He gloats, “Who will save you now?”

Well, gee, Mister Ming, that’d be a dimwitted blond football player named Flash (A-ah!).  Be afraid!

So while Ming is screwing with Earth by dumping bizzare phenomena on them, such as hot hail, Flash is getting ready to fly Somewhere Else, with a reporter named Dale (who happens to be a girl).  Ming inexplicably vaporizes the pilots of the jet, and Flash crashlands it in a mad scientist’s greenhouse.  Dr. Zarkov, it so happens, has “figured out” that aliens are causing the disasters, through some contrived explanation involving shifting the moon’s orbit.  So he prepares a rocket he appearantly has lying around so he can blast off and tell the aliens that they are silly for messing with the moon.  Yeah, you tell ’em, Doc.  He wanted his assistant to go with him, but the guy freaked out when Dr. Zarkov pulled a gun and tried to force him into the rocket (like most sane people would).  When the jet crushes the greenhouse, it seems to kill Zarkov’s freaked-out buddy, which nobody acknowledges.  Ever.  So, anyway, Flash and Dale are tricked oh-so-cleverly by Zarkov into the rocket, and they all end up blasting off into deep space. Where, we find out later, you can breath.  Rules do not apply in ‘Flash Gordon’.  Common sense and logic?  What’s that?

So all kinds of ridiculous plot goes down.  Flash beats up Ming’s imperial guards with football (and teamwork!) and even dies and is brought back (by Ming’s daughter!).  Dale is taken to Ming’s harem and prepared to, well, you know.  She escapes and kicks more butt than Flash does in this entire movie (!).  Meanwhile, Ming’s daughter flies Flash to meet Prince Barin on a forest, er, planet (if you can call it that, it’s more like a floating, flat-topped rock.)  Prince Barin, incidentally, is played by Timothy Dalton,  who played James Bond for two movies, which arguably are some of the best of that long-lived series.  It’s completely odd that he’s in this movie, but there he is, swearing and stabbing away.  While we’re on the subject, it seems that everybody in this movie is more awesome than Flash, but inexplicably they all think he’s great.  The soundtrack (by Queen!) doesn’t help, either.  You have this awesome anthem for a character who… does… nothing.  Flash!  A-ah!  He’ll save every one of us!

So some stuff goes down on Barin’s forest world, which further cements how useless Flash is.  He then meets with Prince Vultan (BRIAN BLESSED!) of the Hawkmen, yada-yada-yada.  This movie just drags.  If you can’t tell already, this is a bad movie. As long as you expect nothing more, that isn’t a bad thing.  That’s why it’s a cult movie, especially in Britain.

So after all kinds of ridiculous stuff, Flash accidentally (yes, accidentally) skewers (yes, skewers) Emperor Ming with a spaceship (yes, a spaceship).  He then climbs out and threaten the wounded villain with a sword.  Ming just disappears, leaving Flash wondering what to do next.  A little floating robot shows up, and announces “Long live Flash!  You’ve saved your Earth.  Have a nice day.” and Flash answers, “YEAH!”  How’s that for dialog and plot resolution?  Hitchcock, eat your heart out.

This movie is just nuts.  Incidentally, it was written by Lorenzo Semple Jr., who was responsible for several episodes of the 1960s ‘Batman’ TV series and the subsequent movie, which is itself a camp classic.

“Flash!  A-ah!  You never did anything!”

Classic Review: The Matrix

Stars:  *** out of Four

Summary:  An iconic film that changed action movies and sci-fi for the internet age, ‘The Matrix’ features strong performances, good writing, and indelible personality.

Sunglasses, leather, guns, all black.

Sunglasses, leather, guns, all black.

Review:  As my arbitrary limit for declaring a movie “classic” is 10 years, the revolutionary action film ‘The Matrix’ can now be reviewed.  Awesome.

Though still relatively young, ‘The Matrix’ left such a deep impression on pop culture that its acceptance as a classic was inevitable.  Being this new, though, prevents it from experiencing wide acclaim from “them”; you know, the embodiment of the critical zeitgeist.  That won’t stop me, though.

‘The Matrix’ is technically the first chapter in a trilogy of films (I have not, to date, seen the sequels), it stands out and on its own.  Like the first released film of the ‘Star Wars’ series, it remains a satisfying experience whether you’ve seen the sequels or not.  Like another recent classic, ‘The Truman Show’, ‘The Matrix’ is a blend of sci-fi and philosophy, specifically Plato’s Allegory of the Cave (which, if you still haven’t read it after my ‘The Truman Show’ review, you need to go do so now).  This film takes a bent towards action, and pure, undistilled, all-natural dystopia, expressed through dark scenery, a ‘used universe’ setting, and green hues.  Since the “real world” as we know it is a virtual reality in ‘The Matrix’, they can get away with all sorts of cool abilities and plot devices while avoiding direct application of magical tropes.  The primary influence behind the film, and the reason for the reality-bending abilities, is Japanese manga and anime.  Several popular ideas from those media make their way in, most prominently the trope of “The Chosen One”, in this case, Keanu Reeves as Neo.

So the idea is that humanity is enslaved by machines (Many people, myself included, have jokingly said that this is where the ‘Terminator’ franchise is going chronologically).  They are hooked into a dream world, which prevents them from suspecting the possibility of their entire lives being controlled by malevolent computers.  The very idea is nightmare fuel, and it can be very disturbing to watch the construct that keeps people hooked into the titular Matrix.  I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that.  If ‘The Matrix’ wasn’t terrifying, it wouldn’t be nearly as effective.  So, anyway, some people are outside the Matrix, and are attempting to free those within.  Eventually, a computer hacker named Thomas Anderson contacts them, and is rescued from the Matrix.  What the rest of the plot wrestles with is the question of whether or not Mr. Anderson (Mr. Aaanderrson!  Sorry, carry on) is the One.  Turns out his real name is Neo, and that he is the One.  But it’s the getting there that’s the fun part.

The cast all meshes well.  I can’t think of any characters that I would consider a waste of film.  The highlights are Laurence Fishbourne as Morpheus, the man that Neo contacts when he’s discovering reality, and Hugo Weaving as Agent Smith (Mr. Aaanderrson!  Don’t worry about me, I just need coffee).  Agent Smith is not technically the main villain, since that is the Matrix itself, but he is the personification of the machines in the dream world.  And he is effective.  His speech towards the climax about the machines relationship to humanity is chilling and memorable.

There’s a lot that can be said for the special effects.  I don’t think there’s been an action film since ‘The Matrix’ that hasn’t tried to capture its flavor in some way, or just outright ripped it off.  Though it didn’t invent it, it made the “bullet time” effect beyond popular, and it even showed up in ‘Superman Returns’ 7 years later.  Now that’s iconic.

How about music?  Don Davis.  The Propellerheads.  “Spybreak”.  Awesome.  Marylin Manson?  Not so much.

The biggest stumbling block, especially for the more conscientious among us, is the murky spirituality.  Which I won’t defend, but I don’t have a moral problem with it… it’s fiction, and it isn’t outright offensive or evil.  The second biggest is the tone (which is dark) and the gore (which is occasional), but you can chalk that up to being an R-rated movie.  The same with the language.

Really, ‘The Matrix’ is a good film.  Not one of the very best, but good.  Good enough to be iconic, good enough to be full of truth and interesting ideas, so that’s good enough for me.

And one more time:  Mr. Aaanderrson!

Classic Review: First Blood

Stars:  *** out of Four

Summary:  While not revolutionary on a visual level, ‘First Blood’ brought a deep, heartfelt performance from Sylvester Stallone on par with ‘Rocky’, a great musical score from Jerry Goldsmith, and a very iconic character into cinema history.

Guess whos coming to dinner...

Guess who's coming to dinner...

Review:  A dusty road in a backwoods part of the country is unveiled to us, the audience, as Jerry Goldsmith’s iconic music fills our ears with a mournful, slightly adventurous tune.  Enter John J. Rambo, a Vietnam veteran turned drifter, as played by Sylvester Stallone.

And action movies would never be the same.

Based on the novel of the same name by David Morrell, ‘First Blood’ confronts the mistreatment of soldiers who had returned from Vietnam, while providing constant, gripping action.  Unlike the many imitators and sequels that followed, this film focuses on the character’s internal drama, which in turn fuels the action, rather than the inverse.  The idea of Rambo being a dumb killing machine is actually a misconception fueled by the sequels, since in this film he is very conscientious and obviously intelligent.  Stallone doesn’t play him like a generic antihero.  Arguably, he puts the same amount of emotional depth into the character that he does in his similarly iconic role as Rocky Balboa.

Along with ‘Raiders of the Lost Ark’, ‘Die Hard’, and ‘Lethal Weapon’, this film framed the modern action film.  In this case, it inspired the common trope of the misunderstood soldier and his inability to adjust after being exposed to the horrors of war.  I can see inspiration from ‘First Blood’ in films ranging from the ridiculous (‘Commando’) to the surprisingly emotional (‘The Bourne Identity’ and its sequels).  Films like ‘Commando’ capitalized on the allure of the “super-soldier”, while ‘The Bourne Identity’ captured the same dramatic depth of character that is evident in ‘First Blood’.  Having not seen any of the ‘Rambo’ pictures until recently, I was very pleasantly surprised by the first installment.  One major element that contributed to this reaction is the movie’s restraint.

Unlike, say, the fourth ‘Rambo’ movie, this is a film that knows when to pull punches and when to throw them, hard.  Arguably the goriest moment is a man accidentally killed by John Rambo, the man being a deputy who tumbles out a low-flying helicopter to a bone-crushing death on a riverbed below.  Even then, no blood splatters, we simply see his heavily bruised remains afterward.  The second goriest moment is when another deputy is hit with a brutal trap set by Rambo, which impales his legs, but leaves him painfully alive.  Much ado is made of Rambo’s unwillingness to hurt innocents, or even misguided enemies.  What traps Rambo in this fight-or-flight situation in the first place is simple mistrust and prejudice from a small town’s sheriff.  Rambo even lets the deputies mistreat him without lashing out, until his post-traumatic stress disorder forces him to.  Though obviously having elements of a hero, while I was watching ‘First Blood’ I was convinced that Rambo was more the victim than the strict protagonist.  To me, the protagonist is his former CO, Colonel Samuel Trautman.  Trautman represents the moral ground zero, and, is the intellectual foil of the corrupt sheriff.  Trautman does his best to bring Rambo back from the edge of possible insanity, and when Rambo refuses, the question is, should Trautman give him up to the law or not?

Contrasted with the modern action film, this film is actually surprisingly tame, as noted above.  Were it not for several instances of the F-word, it would be a shoe-in for a PG-13 nowadays.  That said, the action is kept realistic and gritty enough that we feel its impact.  Speaking of impact, the film seems to owe one of its action scenes to another redefining action film, ‘Raiders of the Lost Ark’.  Rambo hijacks a truck and gets involved in a brief chase, pushing a police vehicle off the road and crashing through barriers, with cinematography that is strikingly similar to the now famous truck chase in ‘Raiders’.  Considering that ‘Raiders’ came out a year before this film, it is plausible that the filmmakers wanted at least a nod to the previous year’s megahit.

The ending- which I will not spoil, as is tradition -is down/up.  Something is very clearly lost, yet something is very clearly gained.  It was unexpected and cathartic, so I wouldn’t want to say exactly what happens, only that Stallone pulls off a very difficult performance at a critical moment.

The technical aspects of the film are solid.  It doesn’t feel as dynamic in cinematography as ‘Raiders’ or ‘Die Hard’.  The special effects, which are still impressive today, thanks to the lack of CGI trickery, have body and are quite memorable, similar to the previously mentioned films.  The music, which I mentioned at the beginning of this review, is pitch-perfect.  The late Jerry Goldsmith, echoing the film’s story, took what could have been a generic thriller and gave it dimension.

That said, the film is not as complete an emotional ride, to me, as ‘Raiders’ or ‘Die Hard’.  Both of those films I give higher star ratings.  ‘Raiders’ is such a revolutionary film, which managed to succeed by using tropes establish near the very beginning of commercial film, that it has more artistic and visual merit.  ‘Die Hard’ takes the action hero, which was fast becoming a cookie-cutter character (and usually is, anyway), and lets him doubt himself, which is actually very similar to the character of Indiana Jones in ‘Raiders’.  ‘Die Hard’ is more entertaining than ‘First Blood’, to be completely frank.  The key flaw to ‘First Blood’, then, isn’t in general a flaw; it isn’t a film that manages to deliver on entertainment and spectacle quite as well.  Conversely, ‘First Blood’ is a great deal more serious than both of the former, and isn’t about spectacle or entertainment to the same degree. Nevertheless, as this article is about my subjective opinion, I give it a solid three stars.

Hopefully, action films will take a turn back in this direction, coupling restraint with a solid internal logic, and a compelling, iconic character.  There are still movies that deliver on this level, but as has always been the problem with cinema, and with art in general, it is far easier to find the bad than the great.  Until the day we get another icon like Rambo, “It’s a long road…