Rambo: First Blood Part 2: Everett Collection
Owen Gleiberman
December 06, 2004 AT 05:00 AM EST

What movie sequel made you forget the original?

What movie sequel made you forget that there was even an original? — Giovannl
There’s one sequel that made everyone forget the original: Rambo: First Blood Part II. That’s because of what had changed between the two films. In First Blood, a sensationally honed action opera that was a hit in 1982, Sylvester Stallone played the hunted Vietnam veteran John Rambo as violent but vulnerable, even tearful — a lightning rod for American military anxieties that still floated around in the ether of the early Reagan era. In Rambo (1985), any tremors of doubt were smashed right out of the character: He was now a greased-bod muscle machine of righteousness — less renegade than Terminator. He made the earlier John Rambo look like a wimpy patsy. The reason for the collective amnesia regarding the first film is that the ”new and improved” Rambo suggested not simply an updating of the character but a fearless new zeitgeist, one in which the prospect of American victory would never be doubted or questioned.

What is your favorite black comedy? Mine include Fargo and Dr. Strangelove. — Jeff
When black comedy first took off in the Strangelove era, the form wasn’t nearly as respectable as it is today. To me, the essence of a great black comedy is that it’s shocking enough to tee people off, and so, in this anything-goes era, I hasten to recommend a movie that got no respect: Very Bad Things (1998), the hllarious taboo-trashing tale of five guys whose weekend in Vegas goes deliriously wrong. Intriguingly, it’s the first film directed by Peter Berg, who went on to triumph with the richly humane Friday Night Lights. It also features Christian Slater in his savviest performance to date.

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