Monday, September 28, 2015

Mr. Turtle Comes to Short Kid Stories

My children's story "Mr. Turtle," which won a contest over a year ago, is now on the children's story site Short Kid Stories.

Click here to read it!

A box turtle I met that helped inspire "Mr. Turtle."

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Movie Review: Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind

The Story: In the distant future, after war left most of the earth a toxic wasteland, a few kingdoms struggle to survive. Poisonous plants are spreading relentlessly into the few safe areas, and one kingdom begins conquering the others. Humanity seems destined for extinction, until a gentle princess sets out to bring peace between humanity and nature and also between kingdoms.

My Thoughts: Although the story isn’t as strong as in Hayao Miyazaki’s later masterpieces, Castle in the Sky and Princess Mononoke, Nausicaa is still great and is still one of his best films. The animation is as dazzling as one would expect from Miyazaki, with the post-apocalyptic settings hauntingly depicted. And the protagonists, including Nausicaa’s realistic animal sidekick, are all quite likable.

Even the message of humans and nature finding harmony, which so many films have handled poorly, is well-presented. Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind goes to the core issue of pursuing balance, giving a beautiful illustration of humanity and nature learning how to work together. It’s a must-see film for all fans of Hayao Miyazaki or animation.

Content Overview: One use of God’s name in vain. Pervasive but mild violence.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Movie Review: Beast From Haunted Cave

The Story: A group of career criminals pulls off a heist near a small ski resort, then tricks a ski instructor into taking them out to an isolated cabin to wait for a plane to pick them up. The criminals are planning to kill the instructor, but a blizzard, unexpected romance, and a monster roaming the snowy forest complicate their plans.

My Thoughts: Due to its obscurity and the cheesy title Beast From Haunted Cave, this film might at first glance appear to be just another cheaply-made and completely forgettable horror B-movie. And, as one would expect, the writing is a bit clumsy and the low budget sometimes shows. Yet amazingly this film rises far above its limitations.

It’s a lot of fun watching the likable hero go up against human villains who are just as monstrous and heartless as the creepy creature that is hunting them all. The characters are surprisingly well-done for a cheap horror movie, and the story has enough depth to make it worthwhile for fans of classic horror. Even the final confrontation with the monster is imaginatively staged. I recommend it to those who know what they’re getting into with a movie of this kind.

Content Overview: Mild violence and scariness.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Book Review: Last of the Breed by Louis L’Amour

The Story: A Native American fighter pilot is captured by the Russians during the Cold War and taken to Russia, where they plan to get military secrets out of him by any means necessary. The pilot, however, is no ordinary man, and he quickly escapes their clutches, using his outdoor survival skills to head through the Siberian wilderness. As they pursue him relentlessly, he heads for the Bering Strait, hoping to find a way to Alaska and freedom.

My Thoughts: The amazingly original premise of this novel manages to mix L’Amour’s legendary western prowess with a thriller plot that he handles just as deftly, and the result is every bit as memorable as one would expect. Journeying with the hero through harsh wilderness as he is pursued by even harsher enemies is an exhilarating experience that, for awhile, gave me high hopes that this novel would place itself high on my favorites list.

The story, however, ends abruptly with little resolution. While an abrupt ending is better than a bad ending, this one is so abrupt that it is annoying, for much of the story still remains to be told. It almost feels like a set up for a sequel, but a sequel was never written. The novel is still well worth reading for thriller and western fans, since the premise is handled well for most of the book. It would make a great action movie as long as the screenwriter resolved the ending in a more satisfying way.

Content Overview: A small amount of mild language. Some mild violence.