Star Wars Movies Definitively Ranked

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This is it people, the authoritative ranking of Star Wars movies. If you disagree, you’re wrong. This list is based on a lifetime of study and repeat viewings. Decades of intense research culminating in this list.

  1. The Empire Strikes Back (Episode 5). The boldest of all the movies. The bad guys win. The introduction of vital new characters. An incredible deepening of the mythology. It’s not even a contest.
  2. A New Hope (Episode 4). The original. The reason why this list even exists. It shattered movie expectations, invented the repeat audience, and launched a fan base who would spend the rest of their lives trolling each other with ridiculous lists.
  3. Return of the Jedi (Episode 6). Yes, I like the Ewoks. I think they’re cool. Even as a kid, however, I was uncomfortable with Leia’s claim that she always knew Luke was her brother. Probably should have left that unsaid.
  4. Rogue One. This movie was so much better than I expected! I loved the backstory to the originals, loved how the director was able to incorporate unused cockpit footage from the original Star Wars. And yes, I teared up at Leia’s appearance at the end. The first time I saw the movie was the day Carrie Fisher died; I had no idea she had done voice work for Rogue One.
  5. The Force Awakens (Episode 7). Yes, it played to nostalgia, and I ate it up. Loved the story, loved the action, loved seeing Han Solo back in action. His death? Brutal. But so good.
  6. Solo. I’m convinced this movie disappointed in theaters because Disney didn’t advertise it and they bumped up its release to only a couple months after The Last Jedi was still in theaters. The story was great and set up a new section of the Star Wars universe that hopefully still gets explored.
  7. The Last Jedi (Episode 8). Yes, it ticked off a lot of people. But I like that the director took risks with the story. It’s good that Luke wasn’t just another version of Yoda. It opened the door to new stories. I didn’t really buy into the slow motion space chase, though. That was obnoxious. And throwing away Snoke after building him up so much? What the heck.
  8. The Rise of Skywalker (Episode 9). Hey, lets try to jam multiple movies worth of story into one film. And pack in too much fan service. Make Rey a Palpatine (that was cool) but then call her a Skywalker (what?!?). Bring back the Emperor with little to no explanation. And a massive secret army. And using the force to have Star Trek transporters. Oh yeah, and Rey and Kylo should kiss, because that would be gross and awkward. And yeah, Kylo should be good after all even though it would have been cool to not have the same story as Return of the Jedi. I have more, but this comment is already too long.
  9. Caravan of Courage: An Ewok Adventure. I was so hype for this movie when I was a kid! It wasn’t great … but it definitely great to have more story from the Star Wars universe. Plus, I love Ewoks. They’re just so cool.
  10. Ewoks: The Battle for Endor. More Ewoks! I’m super frustrated with Disney+ that these two movies are not on it yet. Get on it, Disney!
  11. The Star Wars Holiday Special. Oh my word. Search for it on YouTube. So bad it’s … well, it’s still bad, but you’ll feel a sense of accomplishment for getting through it. Also, it has the first appearance of Boba Fett. So there’s that. George Lucas has been trying to bury it for decades; I can only hope that after his eventual passing, Disney restores it and releases it in all its ridiculous glory.
  12. Attack of the Clones (Episode 2). Yoda as a Tasmanian Devil. Painful love story between Anakin and Padme. The convenient arrival of a massive clone army. Jar Jar Binks only has a few seconds on screen and dooms the entire universe? That was cold.
  13. Revenge of the Sith (Episode 3). Obi-Wan Kenobi makes the prequels bearable. And there are some awesome space battles in this one. Unfortunately, it also has a lot of Anakin. And younglings.
  14. The Phantom Menace (Episode 1). The preview trailers were amazing. I was so excited. But then it was all pod racing and Jar Jar Binks. The best part of the prequels? Darth Maul … and he only got a few seconds of screen time before being killed. Bummer.

Look within, you’ll know I’m right.

Star Trek: Picard

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“Be the captain they remember.”

Zhaban’s words to Picard gave me chills. So much of this first episode caught me off guard in the best possible way. My non-spoiler thoughts? Best premiere episode of a Star Trek series. My wife and I loved it, my four Star Trek antagonistic sons who I forced to watch it are also hooked. It’s good.

Now my spoiler filled thoughts …

Wow.

The show opened with Blue Skies. I immediately had chills. What a perfect way to launch it … with the closing notes of Star Trek: The Next Generation’s final film!

And then an opening shot of the Enterprise D, followed by Picard and Data playing poker? Amazing. More chills.

Yes, I had a lot of chills. I should probably have a blanket for future episodes.

Picard and his dog at his vineyard; I thought it would be cheesy. I was wrong. And his Romulan helpers were fascinating.

Early on in the episode Picard goes into an interview with a reporter, by the end of which I was so irritated with the reporter … but it also provided such a riveting way of laying out the 18 years of story history between Picard’s last movie and this new series. The universe has changed but Picard’s morals haven’t – hence his leaving Starfleet in protest.

Speaking of which, definitely a connection to the world we live in. Starfleet’s original goal of helping Romulan refugees shuttered over a terrorist attack that triggers them locking down the borders and shifting to an inward focus? It will be fascinating to see where they go with this.

I absolutely reacted to Dahj and the daughter connection to Data. I’m hoping it’s Lal, resurrected after all this time (Data created a daughter in the series, but in the same episode she died; he was able to transfer his memories to himself, however), but I wonder if that would be too obscure a reference for a show hoping to capture new viewers?

All that to say, I’m sold. I can’t wait to see where they go with this series. I’m so curious about these new characters. And based on my sons’ reactions, you can absolutely jump in without having seen any previous episodes of Star Trek.

Cobra Kai

Geek blog post alert. You’ve been warned.

YouTube Red, the paid YouTube service launched the Cobra Kai tv series; ten episodes of pure awesomeness set 34 years after the original Karate Kid movie. Ralph Macchio (Daniel) and William Zabka (Johnny) are back and it is glorious.

I accidentally marathoned the whole thing over the space of a few days. Wasn’t the plan, couldn’t stop myself. It’s that good. I thought it would be cheesy, but they actually did a phenomenal job of hitting just the right tone. They brought a whole new level of depth and complication to both characters; they’re both right, they’re both wrong. It’s so good. And apparently the numbers are through the roof; it’s only been out a couple weeks and they’ve green-lit season two already. I’m just bummed I’ll have to wait a year.

If you have any affection for the original Karate Kid movie, this is worth checking out. The first two episodes are available for free; if you want to see the rest, you need a YouTube Red account – which has a free trial period. It’s good. I’ll be honest, I’m planning on watching them again …

I’m such a nerd.

Star Trek Discovery

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I’m four episodes in to the first season of the newest Star Trek show … and I’m really, really enjoying it. I’m going to keep this spoiler-free, so it will probably be somewhat short!

The production value is on par with the recent movies; the special effects, the costumes, the work they put in to making the show look good is incredible. The look and feel of the show is the best any Trek show has ever achieved and definitely equal or better than anything else I’ve seen on TV.

As far as the characters go, they’re growing on me fast. Initially it was a little strange seeing a crew I knew nothing about and had no emotional connection to, but that by the end of the two part premiere, I was hooked and curious to see where they would go with them. Over the course of the first four episodes they have done a great job of planting a lot of seeds and mysteries that I am curious to see play out in the seasons to come.

I will say that I am still getting used to the idea that the lead character is not the captain … but I think it’s a strong idea. The franchise has been around for more than fifty years; they have to play with the format to find new ways to approach Star Trek story telling.

Regarding the Discovery itself, I love the look of the ship more than I expected to. It’s actually a throwback to discarded design ideas developed in the 70’s when they were first thinking of bringing back Star Trek (see the image below for an example). At first I thought that was a weird decision, but the end result does a great job of blending that design style with current ideas.

My one complaint, and perhaps my nerdiest comment … I wish the show was set in the Kelvin Universe, not the Prime Universe. That would easily explain the design similarities to the new movies, the technological advances (in response to Nero’s arrival two decades before). It would also open the door for them to go anywhere with the story telling with no concern about contradicting the more than 700 episodes of Star Trek already out there – their only concern would be staying in line with (currently) three movies. However, I get it; the movie arm and the television arm of Star Trek are separate entities, and those separate companies (Paramount and CBS, respectively) most likely have some sort of legal concerns about overlapping with one another. But it would make continuity a far simpler affair.

That aside, I’m really enjoying the show and am excited to see where it goes!

The Small Town America Tour recap

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Last weekend we had an amazing concert night with the Small Town America Tour. It was also our first foray into pyrotechnics in the sanctuary …

The concert itself was a blast. Openers Scarlet White and Shonlock were both amazing, with Shonlock really winning over the teens – they’ve been begging me every time they see me to bring him back for another show where he can have more time and really go to town! Seventh Day Slumber is definitely a rock band. They came out hard and it was amazing. I have to admit, the flame throwers were really, really cool. The lead singer also gave a powerful message that saw a number of kids raise their hands to commit, or recommit, their lives to God which was an incredible thing to witness. Fireflight finished out the night strong, belting out songs from their new album as well as older favorites.

I have to admit, our attendance was not where I was hoping. Usually the bulk of the online ticket sales happen in the days before the show … which this time around was when all the weather reports were saying a hurricane was going to blow through Wilmington the same time as our concert was. Instead of fielding calls about the show, I was answering the question over and over as to whether or not we were going to cancel. The storm never actually hit, but it did damage none-the-less! The bands told me that was the challenge they were running into all that weekend. Even so, they rocked the room like it was packed – I’d definitely recommend ANY of the acts to anyone looking to work with great bands and host an awesome concert!

Bob is the new host of Biggest Loser

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In an interesting changeup, Alison Sweeney is no longer on Biggest Loser and Bob Harper will take up the Hosting mantle for season 17! Dolvett and Jennifer will return as the trainers for the show. It’s weird in a way, the show is so far removed from when I was on it – different production company, different location, different trainers – Bob is the only real constant over the seventeen seasons, in addition to the behind the scenes medical and nutritional crew (who don’t really get much screen time).

I’m curious to see how he does in the role. Caroline Rhea is still my favorite host for the show, but Bob could really run with it. Part of me is wondering if it’s a behind the scenes budget cutting move – the fewer celebrities on screen, the lower the bill, and Bob has a fan base they just can’t afford to lose. Either way, without him having a specific team to be championing it’s an opportunity for him to really impact the whole cast and be a voice for the show in a way that he hasn’t had before now.

“The Death of ‘Superman Lives’; What Happened?” Review

A Superman movie directed by Tim Burton, starring Nicholas Cage? I’ve been making jokes about that killed project for years! It seemed a bizarre concept at best! But now a documentary, years in the making, has dropped giving the full story of the dropped film from Tim Burton, the producers, writers and more.

It is fascinating.

I thought I would just watch for a few minutes; the thing is as long as the movie would have been if it had been made! But the longer I watched, the more captivating the story. Hearing Tim Burton describe his ideas and direction, listening to the producer (he’s OUT THERE), watching Kevin Smith and the later writers talk about their process and scripts submitted, I found myself really wishing I could have seen this thing. The only voice missing was Nicholas Cage, the actor cast to play Superman (what?!?). Even there I could begin to see it watching some of the test footage with him. There’s certainly no denying his love for the character.

Playing into the narrative was the reaction to people when Tim Burton was originally chosen to direct and reinvent Batman, as well as the choice to cast Michael Keaton. It did seem ludicrous at the time, and yet he completely changed the way comic book movies were approached from then on. And Michael Keaton? He was amazing in both his turns as Batman. Hearing Burton describe how he saw the character of Superman, I really began to buy in to it.

And the whole thing was killed after years of development only days before they were to begin filming.

The documentary is great. For comic book fans and superhero movie buffs, it is a GREAT look at an abandoned project still talked about years later.

In the end, I couldn’t believe they chose to risk the money on “Wild, Wild West” instead. I mean, seriously. We lost Nicholas Cage as Superman so we could have Will Smith playing a cowboy in a sci-fi western that flopped. Argh.

The United We Stand Tour recap

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“Woah. Matthew. I need you to understand that this concert is on a whole different level.”

Words from the tour manager on the phone with me the day before they arrived at my church … and he wasn’t kidding! I was downplaying something as not being a big deal based on the concert events I’ve hosted in the past – I needed a wake up call to what I had booked! The United We Stand tour with Building 429, The Afters, Hawk Nelson & Finding Favour is a full fledged concert event!

The tour was amazing. They did things in our sanctuary with staging, lights, smoke and cryo effects I never would have thought could happen there! They showed up with a semi truck FULL from top to bottom, front to back, with equipment – my heart literally stopped when they popped open the doors and it was 100% full. The sound was so loud, the bass so powerful, it literally vibrated three lights out of their sockets! And under every light fixture there was a small pile of sheet rock dust that had been shaken out of the building!

I still can’t believe the crowd we had for a Tuesday night concert! I’m even more amazed with the 50+ volunteers that gave up their time throughout the day to make the thing happen! I love these kinds of events – it’s part of what makes our youth group the place to be for teens in North Wilmington!

Check out this little video highlight from the end of the night … when they started firing off the smoke jets (directly into the ceiling fire alarms!), my heart literally skipped a couple beats. I had three simultaneous thoughts: (1) I can’t believe they’re going to blow the fire alarms now after making it through the whole day, (2) this is the coolest thing I have ever seen in this room, and (3) seriously, that’s where Pastor Bo normally stands!

And no, even with the smoke machines going steadily from early afternoon until 10pm, and the cryo smoke jets shooting off every few seconds during the Building 429 performance, the fire alarms never went off!

Biggest Loser season 15 casting calls announced!

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Check out the above graphic to see when and where the open casting calls for the next season of Biggest Loser are being held! Exact times and locations will be updated soon at the casting website, www.thebiggestlosercasting.com. What this means, since filming usually begins 4-6 months before the season premiere, is that we’re probably looking at another January launch to the show. Casting will happen over the next few months, be finalized in the summer, and begin filming late summer for a January premiere. Good luck! For more advice on trying out for the show, check out my casting tips blog post.

So who’s going? And to which city? I’d love to hear how it goes!