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Best movie series: sequels, trilogies, and sagas, oh my!

With the release of Star Wars Episode 7: The Force Awakens, which hit theaters on Thursday and figures to set major box office records, it got me thinking: just what are the best movie series ever?

I’m a huge fan of sequels, trilogies, and sagas. To me, a good movie series will surpass a great individual movie in terms of the legacy it sets over the course of time. And the reason is pretty simple: in movie series, there is more story and conflict, more action and drama, and more character development to attract your affections.

To give you an everyday analogy, let’s say you meet somebody at a party and spend two hours interacting with them, learning about their past, their likes and dislikes, and find out what kind of character they have. You may never see that person again, despite how pleasant the evening was, and it still feels like they’re a stranger. On the flip side, aren’t you more likely to grow fond of that person if you met up with him or her a few more times, kept learning about and having experiences with him or her? The same thing can be said about characters in a movie series.

So, what makes a great movie series? For starters, let’s make sure we understand that greatness is relative to each individual. What I find great isn’t necessarily going to be felt by others.

The other thing that makes a movie series great is the continuity of characters and storyline. There are plenty of movies where the cast of the sequel is different than the original, and that just doesn’t feel right to me. Because although they share a movie title, it feels like two completely separate movies.

With that in mind, here are the six criteria I used while grading the movie series that I’ve seen.

  • Plot: How good is the storyline? Is it an interesting tale that holds my attention? Do I learn something from it? Does it motivate me in some way? Does the script offer a dialogue that helps push the story forward?
  • Characters: How unique are the characters? Are they clearly distinct in their personalities and mannerisms? Do they entertain me? Can I empathize with them? Are the protagonists easy to like and the antagonists easy to dislike?
  • Entertainment: How entertained am I by this movie? Is it funny? Does it make me laugh? Is it a thriller or suspenseful? Does it hold my attention? Do I pick up my cell phone in the middle of it to check Facebook without wanting to pause it?
  • Cinematography: How good is the film production? Is it an expensive production or low budget? How good are the visual effects? If there is some kind of animation, is it good quality or does it look oddly out of place? How’s the soundtrack? Is the music enjoyable and does it fit with the plot?
  • Suspend Disbelief: Can I lose myself in the moment, or does it feel like I’m watching a movie? Could I imagine myself being there live as the action unfolds? Do I have to question the validity and reliability of the script, or does it just feel right?
  • Rewatchability: How likely am I to watch these movies again? Can I watch them over and over again without getting bored? Will they sit in the closet collecting dust for months? How much time has to elapse before I watch them again?

For each of those categories, I assigned a value of 1-3. A value of 1 meant the movie series was just fine in that area. A value of 2 meant the movie series was good, or strong, in that particular criterion. And a value of 3 meant the movie series was superior or excellent in that category.

Without further ado, here is my list of Best 25 Movie Series:

Best 25 Movie Series

  1. City Slickers
    Starring the always hilarious Billy Crystal, City Slickers (trailer) is a funny tale about a man who is on the verge of turning 40 and who, along with his two best friends, are having midlife crises. As a birthday gift, the three friends go on a two-week cattle drive, and, as the title denotes, find it hard to make the transition from city slickers to cowboys. In the sequel, City Slickers II: The Legend of Curly’s Gold (trailer), Crystal’s character, along with one of his friends and now his brother — played by the annoyingly funny Jon Lovitz — go back on the trail to search for gold that may or may not be there.
  2. Monsters, Inc.
    One of the first of a few animated movie series I enjoy, Monsters, Inc. (trailer) is an extremely clever story about an alternate monster world that exists behind children’s closet doors. The funny twist is that while children are afraid of monsters in real life, monsters are just as afraid to have any contact with children in the movie. Monsters University (trailer) is the second movie in the series, but is actually a prequel to the first movie. It traces the history of the two main monsters from the original movie (voiced by Billy Crystal and John Goodman) as they go through college, trying to earn their way into the scaring industry.
  3. I Know What You Did Last Summer
    I’ve never been a big fan of gory horror movies, but I do enjoy thrillers. I Know What You Did Last Summer (trailer) stars Jennifer Love Hewitt, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Ryan Phillippe and Freddie Prinze, Jr. It’s about those four teenagers who are being stalked by a killer, one year after they hit a man with Phillippe’s car and attempted to cover it up. In the movie’s sequel, I Still Know What You Did Last Summer (trailer), the teens, now in college, win a trip to the Bahamas. But what they come to find out is that their haunting past follows them all the way there.
  4. Scream
    Like I Know What You Did Last Summer, Scream (trailer) is what I would call a lightweight horror film movie series. There are four films in the series, each with its own surface-level plot, but the core plot of the entire series is that Sidney Prescott, played by Neve Campbell, is stalked by a variety of killers over the span of a few years. The killers are generally copycat killers or individuals that are aware of the horror film genre and try to replicate these in “real life.” The sequels are all sequentially numbered: Scream 2 (trailer), Scream 3 (trailer), and Scream 4 (trailer)
  5. American Pie
    What’s a more wholesome movie than four high school kids making a pledge to lose their virginity? In all seriousness though, American Pie (trailer) didn’t receive a lot of points in my plot category but there was quite a bit of humor that made this enjoyable. American Pie 2 (trailer) brought back the original class on their summer break from college in a quest to throw the ultimate beach house party. American Wedding (trailer) was the third movie in the series and showed all the fun and shenanigans that happen when planning a wedding. And American Reunion (trailer), which might have been the best and funniest movie next to the original, featured the cast meeting up for their high school reunion.
  6. Father of the Bride
    Father of the Bride (trailer) is a classic, heartfelt romantic comedy about a father who has trouble with the fact that his firstborn daughter is getting married and moving out. There are so many funny lines in this and Steve Martin (the father) nails the role. In Father of the Bride Part II (trailer), Martin’s next big challenge is caring for his wife and daughter — both of whom are pregnant at the same time. I love how committed he is and how he runs around willingly to do anything and everything for his two pregnant ladies.
  7. Men In Black
    A clever tale about alien life, Men in Black (trailer) stars Tommy Lee Jones and Will Smith and is about a special department that monitors extra terrestrials that live discreetly in human disguise. Based on its popularity, the film spawned off sequels Men in Black II (trailer) and Men in Black III (trailer), but in my opinion, both fall short of the original.
  8. Major League
    Major League (trailer) is one of the best baseball movies of all time. It’s about a professional baseball owner who inherits the team from her late husband and she wants her team to lose so badly that she can relocate them to Miami. So she assembles a cast of oddball players to do that, but they rally together and foil her plan. Major League II (trailer) returns most of the first movie’s cast but is more a kid-friendly movie that lacks much of the adult humor and theme that made the first one special. They also came out with a third installment, Major League: Back to the Minors (trailer), but only a few actors from the original appeared in it and it was far worse.
  9. Beverly Hills Cop
    Starring Eddie Murphy, Beverly Hills Cop (trailer) is about a Detroit police officer who heads to — where else? — Beverly Hills to solve a murder. Filled with action and the unique humor of Murphy, the movie was extended into a series with the additions of Beverly Hills Cop II (trailer) and Beverly Hills Cop III (trailer). Similar to the first installment, Murphy’s character finds his way to California for the second two movies to investigate crimes.
  10. Toy Story
    Toy Story (trailer) just might be the greatest animated movie series of all time. It features the voices of some great actors such as Tom Hanks and Tim Allen and is a heartfelt comedy about the importance of a child’s connection to his toys, and a made-up tale of the connection between the toys themselves. Toy Story 2 (trailer) and Toy Story 3 (trailer), unlike many sequels in the movie industry, were highly successful and did the first movie justice by continuing the storyline. Supposedly, Toy Story 4 is also in the works for a 2018 release date.
  11. Jurassic Park
    I was hesitant to give this series the ranking that I did, mostly because I did not like The Lost World: Jurassic Park (trailer) and Jurassic Park III (trailer), the second and third movies of the series, respectively. But Jurassic Park (trailer), the first, and Jurassic World (trailer), the last, were so good that the series belonged higher on the list. This received high marks from me in Characters, Entertainment, and Cinematography based on the creation of the dinosaurs, the gripping action and solid visual effects.
  12. National Lampoon’s Vacation
    The National Lampoon’s Vacation (trailer) movie series received high marks from me for its humor and entertainment value. Chevy Chase plays a bumbling, but extremely dedicated husband and father for whom you can’t help but have empathy. He loves his family dearly and wants to take them on good ol’ fashioned family vacations, all of which never go as planned and lead to some kind of trouble. There are some continuity issues among the four core movies — European Vacation (trailer), Christmas Vacation (trailer), and Vegas Vacation (trailer) followed the first — most notably that the children and the family’s household change from movie to movie. But you’re in for a barrel of laughs every time you sit down to watch one of these.
  13. Ghostbusters
    When there’s something strange in your neighborhood, who you gonna call? A classic movie from 1980s, Ghostbusters (trailer) stars Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, and Harold Ramis as parapsychologists who start a ghost-capturing business in New York City. The trio eventually hire Ernie Hudson as their fourth and set out to rid the city of ghouls and goblins before landing a job helping Sigourney Weaver’s character. In the sequel to the first, Ghostbusters II (trailer) showed an out-of-work Ghostbusters team finding ways to make ends meet until a resurgence in ghosts in the city cause them to get back in business for a final, New Year’s Eve showdown. Another installment of the Ghostbusters franchise will be released in July 2016, featuring Kristen Wiig, Melissa McCarthy, Kate McKinnon, and Leslie Jones as female ghostbusters.
  14. The Karate Kid
    Where else can a skinny, nerdy kid from Newark, New Jersey beat up a tough, seasoned karate fighter from California? In The Karate Kid (trailer) movie, of course. I have an affinity for ‘80s movies and this one is filled with great culture, fashion and music from that era. With the help of an Okinawan immigrant named Mr. Miyagi (played by Noriyuki “Pat” Morita), Daniel LaRusso (played by Ralph Macchio) is trained to defend himself against school bullies, and enters a karate tournament to prove his mettle. He wins the championship and then returns to defend his title in The Karate Kid, Part III (trailer). But wait, what about The Karate Kid, Part II (trailer)? Oh yeah, immediately after winning the title in the first movie, Daniel and Mr. Miyagi head to Okinawa to visit Miyagi’s dying father. While there, another thug bullies Daniel, who has to defend his own honor and that of his love interest he meets there.
  15. Speed
    The first Speed (trailer) movie was very clever for its time. The movie starred Dennis Hopper as an angry retired member of the bomb squad who rigs a city bus with a bomb, set to explode if the bus drops below 50 miles per hour. Keanu Reeves stars as a police officer who jumps aboard the bus to try to save the people on board and and help them resolve the issue. The always delightful Sandra Bullock, in one of her first starring roles, plays a college student who has to take over driving the bus after the driver was shot by another passenger. The movie did well enough to garner a second installment, cleverly titled Speed 2: Cruise Control (trailer) — a play on words considering this movie took place on a cruise liner. Bullock returned for this film, but with a different love interest than Reeves.
  16. Rocky
    Who doesn’t love underdog stories? Rocky (trailer) may be among the best. Played by Sylvester Stallone, Rocky Balboa is a struggling Italian boxer from the streets of Philadelphia. He’s given the opportunity to fight the heavyweight champion of the world, Apollo Creed (played by Carl Weathers), in what is supposed to be an easy fight for the champ. But Rocky goes toe-to-toe with Creed and nearly beats him. The movie was a big success and spawned off many sequels: Rocky II (trailer), Rocky III (trailer), Rocky IV (trailer), and Rocky V (trailer), all of which Rocky seemed to be the underdog in. After a 16-year hiatus, Stallone filmed a sixth installment, titled Rocky Balboa (trailer). And nine years later — this past November — they added a seventh, which is called Creed (trailer), and it tells the story of Apollo Creed’s son.
  17. Spider-Man
    Tobey Maguire plays Peter Parker (and Spider-Man (trailer), of course) in the 2002 adaptation of the comic book hero. Parker is a high school student in New York City who develops spider powers and turns to crimefighting. Spider-Man 2 (trailer) was released two years after the first and features Spider-Man trying to save the city while battling the diabolical Doctor Octopus with his mechanical tentacles. Spider-Man 3 (trailer) came out in 2007 and is basically a continuation of the second film, as it takes place a few months after the end of the second one. Spider-Man takes on Venom and Sandman in the third film. A reboot of Spider-Man came out thereafter, titled The Amazing Spider-Man, but I enjoyed the first three better.
  18. Batman
    Although the cast changes from film to film, Batman (trailer) happens to be my favorite superhero movie series. Originally starring Michael Keaton, Batman takes on Joker (played by the incredible Jack Nicholson). Batman returns in Batman Returns (trailer), the second installment of the series. Danny DeVito plays the role of Penguin as the chief antagonist who teams up with Christopher Walken’s character, Max Shreck. And Michelle Pfeiffer stars as Catwoman. The third film, Batman Forever (trailer), featured an interesting villainous duo of Tommy Lee Jones as Two-Face and Jim Carrey as the Riddler. Val Kilmer replaced Keaton as Batman and Nicole Kidman played his love interest. In the fourth film, titled Batman & Robin (trailer), George Clooney starred as Batman and Chris O’Donnell, who appeared in the third film, reprised his role as Robin. Alicia Silverstone become Batgirl and Arnold Schwarzenegger played the villainous Mr. Freeze. There was another Batman series that came thereafter — The Dark Knight Trilogy — which was great in its own right, by my heart lies with the Keaton-led movie series.
  19. The Hunger Games
    I read the first Hunger Games book while on my honeymoon and was instantly hooked. When my wife and I returned, I borrowed the second and third books of the series and finished those in short order. Then I heard that the fourth movie was coming to theaters in the fall of 2015, so what did I do? What any normal person would do: buy the first three films and watch them in sequence before going to the theater for the fourth! The Hunger Games (trailer) is — as I noted — originally a series of three novels written by Suzanne Collins that was adapted into a movie series. It’s about a post-apocalyptic nation called Panem, which is divided into 12 districts that are oppressed by the Capitol. Every year, as punishment for past rebellion, the Capitol forces one young boy and girl from each district as part of a lottery to compete in a fight-to-the-death outdoor arena in what is called the Hunger Games. 16-year-old Katniss Everdeen (played by Jennifer Lawrence), triumphantly — and defiantly — wins the Hunger Games for which she volunteered, which sets off the plot for the second, third and fourth installments — The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (trailer), The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1 (trailer), and The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2 (trailer).
  20. Indiana Jones
    Harrison Ford stars as Dr. Henry “Indiana” Jones, a fictional archaeologist who’s a bit of an adventure hunter, to say the least. Raiders of the Lost Ark (trailer) is the first installment of the Indiana Jones movie series and sets Indiana out on the mission of locating the Ark of the Covenant. The second film, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (trailer), is actually a prequel to the first one in which Indiana chases after a mystical stone for an Indian village and discovers a secret, evil cult. In the third film, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (trailer), which is perhaps my favorite of the series, Indiana searches for his father (played by Sean Connery) who was kidnapped by the Nazis who are looking for the Holy Grail. Nineteen years after the Last Crusade, a fourth film was released titled Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (trailer). In that one, Indiana is up against Soviet agents while searching for a telepathic crystal skull.
  21. Die Hard
    In my favorite police-action film series of all time, Bruce Willis stars as NYPD officer John McClane. Seriously, who can play that role any better? In the first Die Hard (trailer), Willis battles East German terrorists in Los Angeles. In Die Hard 2 (trailer), Willis takes on villains at Washington, D.C.’s Dulles International Airport. In the third film — which could be my favorite — titled Die Hard with a Vengeance (trailer), Willis is back in New York City and taking on terrorists and is at the whim of a madman named “Simon.” He runs all over the city playing a dangerous game of Simon Says, answering tough riddles and completing near-impossible challenges to avoid more bombs from blowing up. Twelve years after the third film, Live Free or Die Hard (trailer) was released, featuring Willis battling cyber-terrorists who hack into FBI computers. Finally, A Good Day to Die Hard (trailer) was released in 2013 where Willis travels to Russia and Ukraine to save his son and battle the bad guys on a new frontier.
  22. The Fugitive
    I was a little hesitant to include this movie on the list because The Fugitive (trailer) was such a strong stand-alone film — and may be my favorite movie of all time. But the film did spawn a sequel titled U.S. Marshals, thus, it qualifies for the list. In The Fugitive, Harrison Ford stars as Dr. Richard Kimble, who was wrongly convicted of the murder of his wife. He escapes while being transferred to another prison and evades U.S. Marshals led by Deputy Samuel Gerard (played by Tommy Lee Jones) while trying to put together clues to prove his innocence. In the sequel, Jones and the rest of his U.S. Marshals (trailer) return as the focal point of the movie as they try to capture fugitive Mark Warren (played by Wesley Snipes), who was also wrongly accused of a crime. Both films will grab you by the throat and not let you go throughout the twists and turns.
  23. Back to the Future
    Back to the Future (trailer) became a cultural phenomenon in the late 1980s and revived some of its popularity in 2015 due to it being the year that Dr. Emmett Brown (Christopher Lloyd) and Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox) time traveled to in Back to the Future Part II (trailer). Brown is a crazy scientist who invents a time machine built out of a DeLorean. While being chased by Libyan terrorists, McFly accidentally goes back in time to 1955 and gets stuck there without plutonium. So Brown’s 1955 self devises a plan to use the aid of lightning to send McFly back to 1985, where he came from. As previously mentioned, Brown and McFly travel to 2015 to save McFly’s future son from jail time. The bully of the trilogy, Biff Tannen, steals the time machine and goes back in time to 1955 to give his old self a sports almanac so that he can make bets and become wealthy. Brown and McFly have to go back in time and stop Biff from giving his younger self the almanac. At the end of the second film, after they achieved their mission, Brown is struck by lightning in the middle of a storm and sent back in time to 1885, to the Old West. In Back to the Future Part III (trailer), McFly — who was stuck in 1955 at the end of Part II — found the time machine that Brown buried while in 1885 and he used it to go back to the Old West to bring Brown back to 1985. If you’re confused, no worries — it takes a few watches to get it all. This is a classic trilogy and, as you can tell, one of my all-time favorites.
  24. Star Wars
    Alas, we come to film series that inspired this post, and as you can tell, it is not my favorite movie series of all time. But it just might be the greatest of all time in popular culture. For more on why I like this series, you can read this post. But in short, to have six — going on seven — movies that form one long story is about as epic a saga as it can get. Space battles, evil plots, good guys versus bad guys — this science fiction action series has certainly influenced this country for many years. As all Star Wars fans know, Episodes 4-6 came out first, followed by Episodes 1-3, and now Episode 7. But sequentially, they are: Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace (trailer), Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones (trailer), Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith (trailer), Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope (trailer), Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back (trailer), Star Wars: Episode VI – Return of the Jedi (trailer), and Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens (trailer).
  25. Pirates Of The Caribbean
    What’s better than outer space fighting? Well, to me, fighting out on the open seas! We finally reach the greatest movie series — in my opinion — of all time. In Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl (trailer), Captain Jack Sparrow, played by the uber-talented Johnny Depp, sets out to regain the ship he once captained but that was stolen from him when the crew mutinied and left him stranded alone on an island. In Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest (trailer), the second film, Sparrow has control of the Pearl but now must avoid the villainous Davy Jones, to whom Sparrow owes servitude. Meanwhile, Lord Cutler Beckett of the East India Trading Company is chasing after Sparrow and is trying to take control of the seas. In Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End (trailer), the third film, Lord Beckett gains power over Davy Jones by capturing Jones’ torn-out heart. Jones reluctantly does Beckett’s bidding as they try to extinguish Sparrow and pirates everywhere. There are lots of twists and turns in this one as alliances change frequently which culminates in an epic battle at sea with unbelievable cinematography and visual effects. A fourth installment of the series, Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides (trailer), came out four years after the third. In that installment, Sparrow sets out to find the Foutain of Youth and comes across the infamous pirate Blackbeard. Former captain of the Black Pearl, Hector Barbossa — who led the mutiny against Sparrow in the first movie — joins King George II’s navy and is in a race against Sparrow and the Spanish fleet for the Fountain. A fifth installment of the film, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales, is set for release in 2017. Guess who will be there sitting middle-center of the theater?

Now, if it looks like I’m missing some big ones, it’s probably because I have not seen them — or, haven’t seen the complete series. Among these “incomplete” movies are: Harry Potter, The Terminator, Friday the 13th, Lord of the Rings.

As for the rest of the movies that I’ve seen and enjoy, but that did not make the top cut, they are listed below.

Honorable Mention Movie Series

  • Home Alone
  • Ice Age
  • Jump Street
  • The Mighty Ducks
  • The Santa Clause
  • Analyze This/That
  • My Girl
  • Shrek
  • Sister Act
  • Wayne’s World
  • Bill & Ted’s
  • Look Who’s Talking
  • Madagascar
  • Problem Child
  • The Naked Gun
  • Scary Movie
  • Short Circuit
  • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
  • Weekend at Bernie’s
  • Gremlins

Star Wars Episode 7: The Force Awakens — the epic plot continues

Star Wars Episode 7: The Force Awakens hits theaters on Thursday, December 17, and it’ll be the greatest thing since sliced bread — or is it the best thing since sliced bread? I don’t know, I can never remember which phrase is correct. Either way, sliced bread was the beginning of a downward spiral of laziness for the human race. But, I digress.

Episode 7 is the next installment of arguably the greatest film series in history. Star Wars has developed a cult-like following — an army of nerds, if you will — since 1977 when the first installment, Episode 4, was released. Don’t worry, I can refer to them as nerds because I’m one of them — at least, I have one foot in the door while the other straddles the threshold.

Don’t expect to find me standing in line for the midnight showing, though. I won’t be dressed as Obi-Wan Kenobi, swinging my light saber in an epic battle with another fan donning a Darth Vader shroud. I have no interest in dressing up or standing in long lines. I’ll wait until the crowds die down, sometime after the calendar turns.

In the meantime, I’ll re-watch all six previous episodes in sequential order, probably by myself as I don’t expect my wife to be sitting by my side. She has little interest in watching 13 minutes of the movies, let alone 13 hours.

The Star Wars franchise has been such a phenomenon in our country, which has led to countless parodies and pop culture references throughout the past 38 years. But what is it about the series that makes it so enticing? What causes fans to shell out big bucks for movie tickets, toys, T-shirts, coffee mugs and loads of other merchandise? And what makes male Star Wars fans such babe magnets?

While I can’t speak for everybody, it’s all about the story to me. I love epic sagas and I’m a huge fan of film series. From Pirates of the Caribbean to Indiana Jones to Back to the Future and many more, there’s something appealing about the continuation of a story that resonates with you.

For example, I’m a big fan of reading. I enjoy picking up a book and losing myself in the story, as if it were actually happening somewhere in the world and was not merely a 300-page mirage of salable fiction. And the nice thing about a book versus a movie is that a book has the time and space to go into greater detail, while a movie has to tell you a story in or around two hours.

The brevity of a movie is appealing to some — and I love movies, don’t get me wrong — but from a storytelling perspective, a book is much better.

Thus the appeal to me of a film series: there is more time spent with the characters you love.

But does that answer the question of why Star Wars is so appealing? No, not really. There has to be something specific about the story or the characters that draws people in, so let’s dive in further.

Action and conflict are the necessity of a good story, and the Star Wars franchise is packed with it. From light saber fighting to spacecraft attacks to the explosion of the Death Star, there’s enough action to keep your innards tensed up throughout the duration of the series. And conflict stems from the tried-and-true formula of “good guys versus bad guys”, galactic battles, the light side of the force against the dark side, and from Luke Skywalker’s weird family dynamic with Princess Leia and Darth Vader — the epitome of a Maury Povich show if it existed “a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away.”

Perhaps the most appealing facet about the Star Wars film series, though, is the imagination and creativity of the franchise’s characters, plot, and setting. The amount of odd-looking mutants rivals that of a giant Halloween costume party and yet we can’t help but empathize with those with which we have nothing in common. To come up with a futuristic — yet, oddly, in the past — universe, name all the planets and moons, design creatures of all walks of life and give them each a back story, and then write a compelling tale of universal domination is just a brilliant piece of mastery.

I have no doubts that Star Wars Episode 7: The Force Awakens will surpass Episodes 1-3. But whether it can match the original trilogy of Episodes 4-6 is the ultimate question and a difficult task at that. Either way, it figures to attract a new generation of fans to add to the Star Wars family and let the story live on in both our personal lives and pop culture.

Spending time in historic Woodstock Square, site of ‘Groundhog Day’ movie, worth repeating

Woodstock Square, site of the 1993 Bill Murray movie, Groundhog Day

I’ve become quite fond of Woodstock, Illinois. I grew up in nearby McHenry and have always lived a hop, skip and a jump away. Our high school used to play sports against Woodstock, so they were always the rival in my eyes. But as life goes on, perspectives change and I’ve adapted a new one on Woodstock.

I met my wife Rachel while she was living in Woodstock, which perhaps is the biggest reason I now have an affinity for it. Throughout our courtship, I spent many days in and around the town, getting dinner, shopping, or walking through the old neighborhoods.

Woodstock Square, site of the 1993 Bill Murray movie, Groundhog DayBut perhaps the most charming aspect of Woodstock is the town’s Square, which is famous for its role in the 1993 Bill Murray film, Groundhog Day. Woodstock was known as the town of Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, in the movie.

Almost every time I set foot in the historic Woodstock Square, I can’t help but get the hankering to watch Groundhog Day. Everywhere you look around the Square, you can’t help but remember a particular scene from the movie. I’ve even walked past the bed and breakfast house that Murray’s character stayed at.

This Saturday, I was at the Woodstock farmers market, here in the Square, enjoying my wife and her friend playing music to entertain the crowd. It was a warm summer day with a slight breeze and I was surrounded by good company.

Needless to say, it was just one more reason to like the town and spend my time in it.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt to produce, star in ‘Fraggle Rock’ Movie

Dance your cares away,
worries for another day,
let the music play,
down at Fraggle Rock!

“Down At Fraggle Rock”, Fraggle Rock TV show

There’s good news for children of the 80s who grew up watching Jim Henson’s Fraggle Rock. The live action puppet television series featuring Muppet creatures called Fraggles now will be coming to the big screen, in a movie adaptation of the television series, according to Variety magazine.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt, perhaps one of my favorite actors, who has appeared in movies such as Angels in the Outfield, 10 Things I Hate About You, 50/50, and The Dark Knight Rises among others, will not only star in the new Fraggle Rock movie but he’ll produce it as well.

Those who grew up watching the television series — I often found myself running toward the bus stop in the morning to catch the school bus because I didn’t want to miss the end of the show — are now old enough to have children of their own. I expect many from that generation to take their kids to see this movie.

While I don’t personally expect to see this in a theater — I don’t have kids and probably would feel pretty goofy paying to attend a showing of this as an adult — you can bet I’ll try to catch it if and when it ever gets to television.

The Seven Dwarfs Names: ‘Wheel of Fortune’ contestant botches list

What are the names of the seven dwarfs from ‘Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs’? Doc, Grumpy, Happy, Sleepy, Bashful, Sneezy, and Dopey.

I think most Americans are well acquainted with the fairy tale, but reciting the dwarfs’ names by memory, however, might be a little trickier for everybody to do.

But what if all seven dwarfs’ names were listed in a row for you to see, each missing only a letter or two? That should be easy enough that you should still be able to recite them all, right?

Well, apparently not easy enough for everybody. A woman on the Wheel of Fortune game show elected to solve a puzzle from the category “Characters” in which the answer was the name of the seven dwarfs. She botched the name “Sneezy” with “Sneeky.”

Two things concern me about this. First, host Pat Sajak told her before she began her answer, “Carefully, go ahead.” But that didn’t stop the woman from nervously rushing through it. Secondly, the word “sneaky” is spelled with an A, not with two E’s, which was displayed on the game board.

It’s hard to say how I’d react if I were nervous and on TV, but I have a hard time believing I’d botch that one.

Harrison Ford has real-life ‘Six Days Seven Nights’ plane crash

Harrison Ford is a legendary actor having starred in numerous movies from his role as Han Solo in the original Star Wars trilogy to Indiana Jones in the Indiana Jones film series. He also played Dr. Richard Kimble in The Fugitive, perhaps my favorite of all his movies.

But one of his more unheralded movies was Six Days Seven Nights where he starred alongside Anne Heche and David Schwimmer as a pilot who had to crash-land a plane on a remote island after getting caught in the middle of a thunderstorm.

That movie unknowingly foreshadowed Thursday’s real-life event as the 72-year-old Ford had to crash-land his World War II single-engine plane into a Venice, Calif. golf course, according to multiple reports.

Ford escaped alive, but was a little “banged up” and in a hospital receiving medical care, his publicist Ina Treciokas said in an emailed statement.

Here’s hoping he’s okay!

Adam Sandler and Bob Barker resume fight from 19 years ago

Adam Sandler is one of the most decorated actors and celebrities of this generation. He’s appeared in so many popular movies from Billy Madison to The Wedding Singer, The Waterboy, Big Daddy, Anger Management, 50 First Dates, Click, Bedtime Stories, Grown Ups (ignore the sequel to that one), Just Go with It — and many others.

But perhaps one of my favorite Sandler films of all time is Happy Gilmore, the story of struggling hockey player who takes up golf to help save his grandmother’s house.

In that movie, Happy — played by a much younger Sandler — plays in a Pro-Am tournament with celebrity Bob Barker. When Happy gets heckled by a bystander, he plays so poorly that Barker teases him mercilessly. It reaches a point where Happy loses his cool and gets into a fight with Barker.

That feud apparently isn’t over! Sandler and Barker paired up to film a segment for the Night of Too Many Stars, Comedy Central’s annual fundraiser for autism education programs.

Take a look at what unfolded…

Leonard Nimoy, Mr. Spock of ‘Star Trek’, passes away at 83

Leonard Nimoy, the Star Trek actor who played the role of Mr. Spock, who made famous the Vulcan salute and the phrase, “live long and prosper,” has died at the age of 83. According to his wife, the cause of death was end-stage chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

Nimoy was a cultural icon. Aside from his popular Star Trek role, he had parts in many movies, sadly, most of which were before my time. But he’ll be remembered most as Spock and he had a tremendous effect on many lives.

Skeptical, but willing to watch an all-female ‘Ghostbusters 3’

One of my favorite movie sagas of all time featured a quartet of supernatural apparition fighters, known as the Ghostbusters. Starring funny men Bill Murray and Dan Aykroyd, the late Harold Ramis, and Ernie Hudson, Ghostbusters was a science fiction comedy about a group of scientists who started a business of ridding New York City of ghosts.

The movie became a cultural phenomenon with a wave of merchandise and paraphernalia, and the success that the 1984 movie had spawned off a sequel five years later. I, myself, had the Ghostbusters action figures, the Ecto-1 car, and the firehouse where they stored and disposed the ghosts that they captured — all of which I later sold at a garage sale for probably far less than I could have gotten.

We currently are living in a world where Hollywood is running out of original film ideas and has taken to making sequels from movies more than a decade or two ago. Some examples include the 2008 release of Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (the fourth installment of the Indiana Jones series which came out nearly 20 years after the third movie); Live Free or Die Hard (2007) and A Good Day to Die Hard (2013), the fourth and fifth movies of the Die Hard series, which came out more than decade after the third movie; and Jurassic World, set to release sometime in 2015, 14 years after the third installment of the Jurassic Park series.

I have no problem with movie sequels. In fact, some of my favorite movies are a part of a trilogy or series, because I love stories and epic sagas and I like to see the same characters I know and love become part of more complex and elaborate story lines. I know that sequels rarely — if ever — are better than their originals, but that doesn’t stop me from enjoying the plots.

However, there are certain movie series that lose my interest and those are ones in which the cast is dramatically different from one movie to the next. Home Alone and Home Alone 2 were great movies and are still a part of my Christmas movie watching. However, the third and fourth installments of the movie series came out, but gone was Macaulay Culkin and his family. No thanks. Other such series include Revenge of the Nerds, The Cutting Edge, Urban Legend, Problem Child, Major League, The Karate Kid, and many more. All of these series include at least one movie — sometimes two or more — with a different core cast, leaving you feeling disconnected from the story.

This feeling of discontinuity is one reason why I was disconcerted to hear that the third installment of the Ghostbusters series will feature four women as the spirit chasers. Obviously, with Ramis passing away last year and the rest of the Ghostbusters getting up there in age, an additional sequel featuring the same core cast was impossible to do.

The new Ghostbusters, reportedly, will be played by Kristen Wiig, Melissa McCarthy, Kate McKinnon, and Leslie Jones. Wiig and McCarthy teamed up in Bridesmaids, a hilarious movie in its own right, while McKinnon and Jones are from Saturday Night Live fame.

I have no doubts that there will be funny moments in this movie. McCarthy’s buffoonish personality, Jones’ history as a stand-up comic, McKinnon’s work on SNL and Wiig’s versatility will certainly give the scriptwriters — one of whom is former Ghostbuster, Aykroyd — a lot of possibilities. And I also believe that as a standalone movie, this could have promise.

But as part of a trilogy with a big change in cast, it loses a lot of its sentimentality and will have an almost-impossible standard to live up to.

“Office Space” Case of the Mondays

Poking fun at Monday mornings, or downright dreading them, has become a habit in our culture. Everybody dreads them because, let’s face it, we’d all rather be anywhere but at work on Monday mornings.

I happen to work in an office for a living. And, like most people who work in an office, I have great appreciation for the 1999 comedy Office Space. One of the best takeaways from that movie is the phrase “Case of the Mondays”, which has become commonplace lingo for anybody having a difficult time adjusting to returning to work on a Monday.

Here’s the clip.