Monday, January 28, 2013

Movie Review: The Dark Crystal

When the crystal that keeps a world in balance is cracked and a shard of it is lost, an evil race takes over. A prophecy says that if a hero from a certain other race can find the lost shard and return it to the crystal, the wicked rulers will be overthrown, but if the lost shard is not returned to the crystal by a certain time, the evil race will rule the world forever. Afraid of the prophecy, the evil rulers set out to kill all of the race that the hero is destined to come from, but one boy from the persecuted race is saved and raised by peaceful mystics. When the boy is older, he sets out on a quest to find the crystal shard, encountering many strange creatures and sights, facing great danger, being hunted by the evil race, and finding an unexpected ally to help him on his quest.

The Dark Crystal is a masterpiece of fantasy filmmaking, using puppetry and elaborate sets instead of animation to create a unique and visually captivating world. A scene in a fantastical swamp is so memorable that it would make this film worth seeing for fantasy fans even if the rest of the movie was dull, but fortunately the whole film is well-done. The story is a lot like a fairy tale, so the world and races and characters are based on essence rather than great depth, but are more than vivid enough to be effective. The creatures in this film, from the cute dog-like Fizzgig to the majestic landstriders, are fascinating to see. The mystical stuff that goes on can sometimes not really make sense, but since it’s fantasy, and since the rest of the film is so brilliant, it’s just a minor flaw.

This film has “dark” in the title, and it can indeed get dark. The emperor of an evil race dies a creepy death and then crumbles into dust. A character can take out her eye and hold it in her hand or set it places. Monsters go on the rampage and kill or enslave innocent people and creatures. An evil race uses dark magic to suck the essence out of slaves and make them zombie-like, and the emperor of the race drinks the essence to try to stay youthful. A gelfling girl is cruelly stabbed. There are a lot of scenes that could be scary to some viewers. Other content is minimal. After escaping from monsters, two friends of the opposite gender innocently sleep next to each other all night. A female character wears immodest clothing. The high level of mystical content may bother some people. If the dark tone, intensity, and violence aren’t too much for you, this is a classic fantasy film that you are likely to enjoy.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Book Review: The Monster Men by Edgar Rice Burroughs

A professor is driven mad by his experiments to create life, and to escape the moral confines of civilization, he goes to a Pacific island to continue his experiments, taking his adult daughter along with him. There, with no one to stop him, he begins creating soulless monster men, while keeping his experiments secret from his daughter. An unscrupulous doctor aids the mad professor in his experiments, while scheming to marry the professor’s daughter and become heir to the professor’s fortune. However, various ruthless natives have their own schemes, and soon all the schemes collide violently. It may be that the only one who can save the professor’s daughter from the hands of such evil men is one of the monster men he has created, a man who seeks to have a soul.

While this could perhaps be considered a pulp novel, it is one of the better books of the type. The story is fast-paced and exciting, even if there are a few too many coincidences and a few story holes. The story is given surprising depth due to having the message of always doing the right thing no matter what, which is effectively portrayed in the events that take place. The protagonist, who is one of the monster men, is well written, as is a memorable side character, a shrewd and faithful Chinese cook. The “science” of the monster men is, of course, ridiculous, but it actually seems more advanced than many stories written around the same time, and it does not affect enjoyment of the story. If you like pulp-style adventures that affirm morality, you’ll probably like The Monster Men.

Violence is pervasive, but not graphically described. There are a few mild swear words. Some adult topics are vaguely referenced, and there is some melodramatic romance.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

A Name and A Novel

I have two bits of news.

First, I joined Twitter, to see what it is like. If you want to follow me, my username is: @byjgarner

Second, I finished the first draft of the YA thriller novel I started during NaNo (you can read more about it here), and it ended up being 79,000 words. Now I’ll have to get to work revising it.

More blog posts should be coming soon!

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Read The Whole Bible This Year

While there are thousands of things that could be accomplished if you worked on them fifteen minutes a day for a year, from getting into shape to learning how to play an instrument, there is one that far too few people consider:

Reading the whole Bible.

You can read the whole Bible in a year by simply starting at the beginning and reading it for around fifteen minutes a day. Is there any excuse not to read through the whole Bible, the most important book in the world, when it’s that easy?

You can read the Bible for fifteen minutes in the morning when you get up, at night before you go to bed, while eating a meal or snack, or even during the commercial breaks of your favorite TV shows. The average TV show has approximately fifteen minutes of commercials per hour.

Find out what works for you. I prefer to start off the day with Bible reading, so that I don’t have to worry about fitting it in later, and so that the first influence on my mind is the Word of God.

If you want to know the specific number of chapters to read a day to get through the Bible, it’s approximately 3.3, which in practical application amounts to three chapters some days and four chapters some days.

If you already read the Bible often, but haven’t read it all the way through, and you’re wondering why you need to read the whole Bible, I’ll give a list of some of the benefits. Reading the Bible all the way through will:

- expand your knowledge of the Bible beyond the popular stories and verses that most Christians know

- give you a deeper understanding and appreciation of the stories and verses in the Bible

- help you grow closer to God as you learn more about Him and His plan for you

- help you to be a better Christian as you learn more about how God wants you to live

- help you have sound theology that is based on what God actually said rather than someone's interpretation

- challenge you by making you see the hard verses as well as the easy ones

- help you know what you believe so that you can defend your faith against false teachers and skeptics

Since I've started reading the Bible through every year, I've been blessed by all things and more.

While it is true that someone can read through the whole Bible and learn nothing due to a hard heart, it is equally true that someone with an open heart who doesn’t read through the whole Bible is neglecting the gift that God has given them. Starting today, and this year, I encourage you to read the Bible from cover to cover. Don’t let a day pass without going to God’s Word.

Have you ever read the whole Bible before? Are you going to read the whole Bible this year?