The 20 best female ‘Star Wars’ villains before Captain Phasma (Commentary)

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I established in my last post that Captain Phasma, despite Disney’s hype, is not the first female “Star Wars” villain, no matter how many qualifiers you load onto that statement. Some might argue that she will someday emerge as the best female “Star Wars” villain, though. Time will tell, but Phasma certainly has a high bar to clear. While this list is far from comprehensive, as there were probably at least 100 female villains in “Star Wars” lore before J.J. Abrams and Lawrence Kasdan invented Phasma, here are my choices for the 20 best female “Star Wars” villains to date:

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10 ‘first’ female ‘Star Wars’ villains before Captain Phasma (Commentary)

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Do a quick Google search for “first female ‘Star Wars’ villain,” and almost all the references are to Captain Phasma from “Episode VII: The Force Awakens.” This is because actress Gwendoline Christie referred to her character – a member of the movie’s villainous First Order – in this way throughout the press junkets. It’s unclear if she was honestly mistaken or if she was repeating what Disney told her (or both), but it’s clear that Disney never bothered to correct her. All of the mainstream media repeated the description, unquestioningly.

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‘Star Wars’ flashback: ‘The New Jedi Order: Enemy Lines I – Rebel Dream’ (2002) (Book review)

Aaron Allston enters the “New Jedi Order” fold with the saga’s 11th book, “Rebel Dream” (2002). As with Michael Stackpole’s “Dark Tide” duology earlier in the series, Allston’s “Enemy Lines” duology (to be followed by “Rebel Stand”) is not an “X-Wing” story on the sly. However, “Rebel Dream” does have a significant “X-Wing” flavor, mainly because Wedge Antilles is the general in charge of capturing and defending Coruscant’s stellar neighbor Borleias, a repeat of Rogue Squadron’s mission in “Wedge’s Gamble,” only now the enemy is the Yuuzhan Vong instead of the Empire.

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‘Star Wars’ flashback: ‘The New Jedi Order: Dark Journey’ (2002) (Book review)

Rey from “The Force Awakens” has gotten a lot of hype as a breakthrough female Jedi, but as fans of the Legends canon know, Rey had many predecessors. Perhaps the most richly characterized was Jaina Solo, and the book that focuses on her the most is “Dark Journey” (2002), the 10th novel in the “New Jedi Order” series, placing it exactly in the middle of the 19-book saga.

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The 10 best short stories in ‘The X-Files: Trust No One’ (Book review)

“The X-Files” returned to comics in 2013, it will return to the small-screen for six episodes starting on Jan. 24, and last year it returned to bookshelves with “Trust No One,” a collection of short stories published by IDW, which also produces the comics. With the exception of the “I Want to Believe” movie novelization in 2008, it marks the first “X-Files” book since a six-book run in during the show’s heyday in 1990s.

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Movies and TV shows John is looking forward to in 2016 (Commentary)

“The X-Files” publicity photo

Here are some movies and TV shows on my radar in the year ahead:

“The 5th Wave” (movie, Jan. 22) – Chloe Grace Moretz stars in this “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” riff. While the preview – as with most movies nowadays — gives too much away, this still looks like a compelling family survival drama amid an alien invasion. “It Follows” breakthrough star Maika Monroe is in the cast, too, and she’ll also be in the year’s other big alien film, “Independence Day: Resurgence” (see below).

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In ‘The Force Awakens,’ the creative side of ‘Star Wars’ dies – with thunderous applause (Movie review)

“Star Wars: Episode VII — The Force Awakens,” the first big-screen building block in Disney’s takeover of the empire formerly owned by George Lucas, is frustrating on many levels: It copies the plot of “Episode IV — A New Hope” without adding any new perspectives, it gives no sense of the scope of the events, and it regularly taunts us with the fact that a much more interesting story happened between Episodes VI and VII. Overall, I wasn’t so much thrilled by the return of “Star Wars” to the big screen as I was saddened by how Disney only seems to care about the shallowest aspects of the saga. (SPOILERS follow throughout this review.)

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John’s top 10 movies of 2015

These were my 10 favorite movies of 2015:

1. “Spotlight” — This chronicle of the Boston Globe’s 2001-02 probe of rape allegations in the Catholic Church is a thank-you letter to the dying art of investigative journalism. An all-star cast of actors including Mark Ruffalo, Michael Keaton, Rachel McAdams and Liev Schreiber does a marvelous job of capturing the small details of how reporters live and behave – particularly Ruffalo, whether he’s boiling hot dogs for dinner of scrounging through his bag for a pen. Meanwhile, the case itself works as a meat-and-potatoes procedural potboiler. (Full review.)

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10 random observations about the Christmas classic ‘Gremlins’ (Movie commentary)

I’m not as big of a Christmas movie guy as I am a Christmas TV guy, but I have settled on my answer – at least for now – when someone asks me my favorite Christmas movie: “Gremlins”(1984). Growing up, I was more familiar with the 45 rpm read-along record, which in many ways is actually scarier than the film thanks to the ominous narrator and the intense music from the Buena Vista library that can also be heard on “Star Wars” records like “Planet of the Hoojibs” (In another link, the voice actor for Billy also voiced Luke Skywalker).

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‘Die Hard’ Christmas movie poll reveals Americans shouldn’t be trusted to vote on anything (Movie commentary)

Is “Die Hard” (1988) a Christmas movie? According to a new poll from Public Policy Polling, it is not. Sixty-two percent say it’s not a Christmas movie, 13 percent say it is, and the rest are undecided. The debate is more balanced (and heated) – perhaps with an edge toward those saying it is a Christmas movie – on sites that are likely to draw cinephiles, such as “Die Hard’s” IMBD page or the comment threads below this Entertainment Weekly article.

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