Rogue One: The Second-Best Star Wars Movie


If you’re a Star Wars fan, then you’ve seen Rogue One, the latest film in the franchise and a sort of standalone movie. (If you’re a Star Wars fan and have NOT seen Rogue One, then you’re not a fan — sorry.)

I went into the viewing with low expectations. Why the hell would they make a standalone film? Money, of course. Disney is milking their cash cow. Fine, that’s their right.

My low expectations were totally wrong. For me, Rogue One was the second best of all the Star Wars movies. It was expertly plotted, with a sharp cast who were all believable. Rogue rogue-one-3one managed to capture the slightly dated atmosphere of the originals while keeping a modern tone. The action was very well paced, and the special effects took a backseat to storytelling.

There were two action sequences that I found unbelievable. One involved inhuman jumping. The other, holding on for life in the pouring rain. Both impossible! But for an action film, such is expected.

Other than that, it was fun as hell. We also got Darth Vader and Princess Leia! I’m not complaining.

So here’s my list of the top Star Wars films so far:


  1. The Empire Strikes Back
  2. Rogue One
  3. A New Hope
  4. The Force Awakens
  5. Return of the Jedi

Oh, and I’m not including the prequel trilogy. I like to pretend those crappy movies never existed.





Will we ever colonize distant worlds?

On first glance, that question seems absurd. Humans are an adventurous species, so the thinking is of course we’ll spread out among the stars, especially as word comes of more and more planets that may be close to Earth-like.

Revelation_Space_cover_(Amazon)But Alaistair Reynolds, sci-fi author of great books such as Revelation Space, throws a little cold water on that idea in a new essay.

Reynolds is a strong proponent of space exploration. But he brings up a couple of interesting problems.

First, there’s the issue of time.TV shows such as Star Trek and Star Wars utilize faster-than-light technologies to travel among the stars. These technologies, however have yet to be created. Not only that, not one experiment has uncovered anything that can travel faster than light in nature. As Einstein theorized, it just may not be possible.


That would leave us with daunting travel times just to reach the nearest stars. We’re talking at least decades for a one-way trip. How would that work, logistically? How could we assemble a flight crew willing for a life-long mission? Would this mission be simply exploration, since there may be no guarantee that there would be habitable worlds at their destination?


Then there’s the issue of a target. As out science is refined, would we be blessed with an abundance of potential worlds to visit? How would we pick just one? It sounds like a silly question, but for such a massive undertaking, we might need to collectively focus on a single goal. That may not be an easy task. Look at our exploration of our own puny solar system. we have no lunar base. We have no Mars base. And the plans for manned exploration of the Red Planet are always being pushed back another decade.


As Reynolds explains, the study of space may be the answer to the Fermi Paradox, which states that if there is intelligent life, how come we haven’t run into it? Reynolds speculates that maybe as other intelligent alien species surveyed the universe, they became less awed by creation, and more content with their own little corner. They’ve stayed silent and hidden to us.

I hope this last bit won’t be true of humans. Knowing our history, I doubt it. Maybe the answer is that humans are indeed unique in their hunger for more, always more.

Where is everyone? (by everyone, I mean aliens)

I’m not alone, not by a longshot, when I say I love the idea of space exploration and possible alien cultures.

Look at some of the staples of pop culture — Star Trek and Star Wars, for example. These classic sci-fi stories have given us thrilling images of new worlds and aliens of all sorts. We can add one of my favorites, SyFy’s brutally cancelled Farscape, and one of the newest movie franchises, Guardians of the Galaxy (highly recommended, btw).


In all of these, the universe is thick with life. There are countless races of intelligent—and not-so-intelligent—life forms, numbering perhaps trillions of individuals.

But, as far as we know, we are utterly alone in the universe, and we don’t know why.

As scientists discover solar system after solar system, with planets in the habitable zone, it’s dawning on us that our planet is not unique. And the logical assumption would be, if Earth is not unique, then we are not either. Surely if life evolved on Earth, over millions of years, to produce a species that is capable of traveling into space, then at least one of these other countless planets would have evolved similar life as well.

But where are they? Set aside the assumptions we’re making, such as that we would even be able to recognize alien life at all. If other species developed interstellar travel, wouldn’t they have found us by now? Wouldn’t their presence have long been known?

Revelation SpaceOne of my favorite sci-fi books, Revelation Space by Alastair Reynolds, tackled this question. Reynolds had an intriguing, though wholly fictional answer. (SPOILER WARNING) In Revelation Space, there were indeed alien races spread throughout the universe. But they went to war and ended up wiping each other out. To avoid any such catastrophe, a super-entity was established that would snuff out any civilization that got too big for its britches. How would it to that? Simply by waiting patiently for a curious species to contact it, and then exterminating it.

Another theory for the lack of alien life is more simple. Maybe complex and intelligent life is extremely rare — so rare that we’re it. It’s called the Great Filter theory. Several nearly impossible steps had to be overcome for us to be here.

–the creation of molecules that can reproduce

–the creation of simple single-celled life

–the creation of complex, multi-celled life

And that’s not even getting into such things as the rise of intelligent life capable of traveling into space, while also avoiding threats such as asteroid strikes, nuclear war, radiation bursts from space, and so on.

So, maybe we really are alone, and there is no Star Trek style federation waiting to greet us.

The good news? Maybe we’ve already overcome the biggest hurdles to interstellar life, and the universe is ours for the taking.

Will Star Wars be Lost?

JJ Abrams promises a grittier, more mysterious take on Star Wars. He’s got the tools – can he utilize all of them?

So JJ Abrams, of Lost and Star Trek fame, is taking over the next set of Star Wars movies. What will that mean for the franchise?


Hey JJ…less of this


…and more of this


At the very least, it can’t get worse (right?). The first 3 films, episodes 4-6, were iconic (aside from the Ewoks). Episodes 1-3 (the second set), were forgettable. You had the annoying Jar Jar Binks, the ham-handed explanation of the Force (midi-chlorian – a word invented by George Lucas to totally f-up the mysticism surrounding the Force, as per Urban Dictionary), and the eternally mopey and never likable Anakin (AKA baby Darth Vader). George Lucas, it seemed, was trying to murder his franchise.

But nothing is truly dead if there’s money to be made.

Along comes JJ. He dazzled and frustrated us with six seasons of Lost, winner of several Emmys and endless Internet diatribes. He rejiggered Star Trek with a clever reboot. And his plans for Star Wars?

To quote from this report at The Verge, Abrams “says that he is set on returning the sense of mystery that so pervaded the original trilogy…. To pull that off, audiences can expect to see a dirtier aesthetic more akin to the frontiers of the Old West than the gleaming futurescapes of the prequels.”

Sounds like he’s on the right track.

In Lost, he gave us strong, complicated characters with rich stories. He also led us into plot labyrinths with no logical way out (time travel to the 1970s and an atom bomb that does–or does not–detonate??).

In Star Trek, he gave us stupendous effects and clever plotting, but his characterizations were flat. Captain Kirk, I’m looking at you. Then again, how could Chris Pine–or anyone–hope to fill William Shatner’s uniform? Only an actor like Shatner could pull off Captain Kirk’s cockiness without turning him into a supreme ass.

If he marries Lost‘s characterizations with Star Trek‘s crisp storytelling, then he might have a formula for success. He can do it. Will the studio allow him?

We’ll find out in 2015.

DON’T read this book: Under the Dome

The ending is throw-the-book-across-the-room horrible, and it’s why I won’t waste my time on the TV show.

There’s nothing worse in the world of fandom when one of your favorites screws up epically (see Star Wars: Jar Jar Binks). I’ve been a fan of Stephen King since I was 15, and his Dark Tower series, aside from when he stuck himself in the books as a character, remains one of my favorite series of books (I’ll write a more comprehensive blog post on the Dark Tower books – the good, the bad and the weird – later).

Now I realize that sci-fi/horror/speculative fiction is a landmine for plot missteps. You begin with a fantastical premise and must go from there. It’s easy to paint yourself into a corner plot-wise, and there are plenty of well-known controversial creative choices (see the final seasons of Lost and Battlestar Galactica for two).

But none are as horrendous or unforgivable as Stephen King’s ending to Under the Dome.

The plot: a dome suddenly covers a small Maine (duh – it’s King) town. Nothing can get in or out. Lord of the Flies style chaos ensues.

The ending reads like a rejected Twilight Zone script. Maybe I’d be more generous if there was a single likable character. It’s bad enough that the villains were mustache-twirling caricatures; the heroes were either cardboard or they were jerks. The TV show Lost had some plot convolutions that required hefty suspensions of logic, but at least the writers had you invested in the characters – even the villains were multifaceted. By the end of Under the Dome I would have voted to keep them all trapped and smothered.

So how exactly did it end? You really want to know? Okay.




It turns out the dome was set in place by a child alien on another planet. He was playing with the town as a human child would use a magnifying glass to torture ants. The alien parent calls, and the alien child lifts the dome. The End.

Eleven hundred words for that. Ugh.

King needed a good editor. He needed someone to say HELL NO, try again. All writers need at least one pair of non-starstruck eyes.

I’ve read that the TV show will deviate from the book. I’m not wasting my time.