Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Green Hornet Review

Dr. Wesley Britton of Bookpleasures.com has posted a nice review of The Green Hornet Chronicles.

There's a deserved nod to Richard Dean Starr's story and overall praise for what I agree is a a very nice anthology.

That's my opinion, at least, even if I am "just a fan."


Wednesday, October 27, 2010

My Interview

I was recently interviewed by First Comics News about the Captain Action / Green Hornet crossover story I'm working on for Moonstone.

Fun Stuff!

BTW, the picture is the Green Hornet accessory kit to convert the Captain Action toy to the Hornet. I only ever had the Batman accessory kit, but this still brings back fond childhood memories.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Winter Special

I'm doing a short, but historic, prose story for Moonstone's Captain Action Winter Special.

"Reflections in Green" will feature the first ever crossover story of Captain Action and the Green Hornet.

The story is a lot of fun to write (though I keep wanting to make it longer than the format will allow). It's also nostalgic for me as I can remember when both characters came out in 1966. Captain Action was the original superhero action figure, and my favorite toy. The Green Hornet was right up there with Batman and Star Trek as my favorite TV show, though, sadly, it went away after one season.

There's another connection besides my childhood fandom. The Captain Action toy had a set of disguises you could buy to transform him into a whole variety of superheroes including The Green Hornet.

It's amazing the cool ways things come together sometimes.

The story is still in progress but here is the cover by the talented Reuben Procopio.

Monday, October 11, 2010


This is (for me at least) one of the hardest parts to a story. Sometimes inspiration strikes and the perfect title just pops into my head. When this happens, the title comes up as a part of the writing process.

Unfortunately those moments are rare (for me at least). I usually try to come up with a working title while I'm writing. It's usually not very good, but it serves as a place holder. If it's bad enough to grate on my nerves, it serves as a motive to come up with something better.

Usually there's a phrase or an image that comes up once the story is complete that makes a much better title than the place-holder. Sometimes the place-holder becomes the final title.

That was the case with "The Cwoss-Time Twavelew". It was a fairly ordinary time travel title written as if spoken by Elmer Fudd. There is a character in the story who uses Fuddspeak and one friend commented that she loved any story that used the word "ewectwical". Unfortunately, "Traveler" is not a word that comes trippingly to the tongue when bereft of the letter "r".

Lane Adamson liked the story but pointed out that the title was clumsy. He suggested a simpler and (to my mind) vastly superior alternative.

The upshoot of this is that, while I still struggle with titles, "Acwoss Time" has been accepted for the anthology TIMES OF TROUBLE!


Thursday, October 7, 2010

Announcing Tales of the Shadowmen 7: Femmes Fatales, from Black Coat Press

US$22.95/GBP 14.99 - 6x9 tpb, 324 pages - ISBN-13: 978-1-935558-44-6

on sale: December 1, 2010 / cover by Phil Cohen

This seventh volume of the only international anthology devoted to paying homage to the world's most fantastic heroes from popular literature spotlights the females of the species: beautiful, deadly, tragic, accursed, enticing… all gathered here for an amazing collection of new adventures...

Tremble as Christine Daae meets Herbert West the Reanimator and Dr. Loveless Nurse Ratched! Experience thrills as Milady tries to outwit Captain Blood and Lady Blakeney the Black Coats! Watch in awe as Becky Sharp foils the designs of Sâr Dubnotal and Amelia Peabody those of mad King Tut! Wonder as the Bride of Frankenstein challenges the power of Dr. Omega and the vampire countess Marcian Gregoryi that of Victor Frankenstein and the Illuminati! Also starring Carmilla! Catherine Levendeur! Rosa Klebb! Fah Lo Suee! And the Eyes Without A Face!

With a foreword by Xavier Mauméjean and a portfolio by Matt Haley.


* Matt Haley: My Femmes Fatales (portfolio)
* Xavier Mauméjean: My Femmes Fatales (foreword)
* Roberto Lionel Barreiro: Secrets
* Matthew Baugh: What Rough Beast
* Thom Brannan: What Doesn't Die
* Matthew Dennion: Faces of Fear
* Win Scott Eckert: Nadine's Invitation
* Emmanuel Gorlier: Fiat Lux!
* Micah Harris: Slouching Towards Camulodunum
* Travis Hiltz: The Robots of Metropolis
* Paul Hugli: Death to the Heretic!
* Rick Lai: Will There Be Sunlight?
* Jean-Marc Lofficier: The Sincerest Form of Flattery
* David McDonnell: Big Little Man
* Brad Mengel: The Apprentice
* Sharan Newman: The Beast Without
* Neil Penswick: Legacy of Evil
* Pete Rawlik: The Masquerade in Exile
* Frank Schildiner: The Tiny Destroyer
* Stuart Shiffman: Grim Days
* Bradley H. Sinor: The Screeching of Two Ravens
* Michel Stéphan: The Three Lives of Maddalena
* David L. Vineyard: The Mysterious Island of Dr. Antekirtt
* Brian Stableford: The Necromancers of London

Monday, September 27, 2010

Invasion of the Spambots

This is not the title of a new story.

Recently many of the comments I've received for blog posts have been spam. That's not entirely new, but their numbers are increasing, and they're getting smarter.

I remember the day when spam was easy to spot because it didn't pretend to be anything other than what it was. The message would pop up offering WAYS TO MAKE THOUSANDS FROM HOME, or NAKED PICTURES OF BRITNEY SPEARS, or REGROW HAIR, RESTORE POTENCY AND LOST FAT, ALL WITH ONE HERBAL SECRET. Then these wonderful benefactors of mankind would add a link so you could go directly to their product and/or service.

In the very early days it was human beings on the other end of the spam, but they swiftly discovered how to make spam-bots. These programs would troll the internet seeking new life and new potential markets, then they would drop their messages on unsuspecting websites and forums.

Now the spam is getting smarter. Instead of promising LONELY UKRAINIAN BRIDES up front they show up with comments like: "I really liked your last post, the insights were very helpful" or "This is a great site! I've loved this subject for years and was glad to find a community that shares my interests." Some even offer halfway coherent computer generated comments on the last post. Often the only way I can tell it's spam is the clickable link in the signature file that routes me to WALTER BRENNAN, PICTURES OF THE ACTOR NAKED.

I suspect it's only a matter of time before they become as charming and insightful as human beings. What happens then? Will there be blogs where the only commenters will be smart spambots? Will bloggers form close friendships and even on-line romances with charming programs that only want to use them to sell HOUSEWIFE'S AMAZING TECHNIQUE TO WHITEN TEETH.

Hmm... Maybe this should be a story.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

The Best Laid Plans of Mice and Men...

This has been my most successful year so far for short stories, which is ironic because I'd decided to set aside all by short fiction writing and focus on a novel.

My best laid plans have gang oft aglay. (Now I know how the mice feel.)

Anyway, I heard back from jean-Marc Lofficier last night. It looks like "What Rough Beast" will be a part of vol 7 of TALES OF THE SHADOWMEN. I say "looks like" because there are enough good submissions that he may have to push a story back to the next volume.

Anyway, the year to date looks like this:

"Decently and Quietly Dead" - SIX GUNS STRAIGHT FROM HELL
"Zorro and the Bruja" - MORE TALES OF ZORRO
"Just Like Magic" (with Richard Dean Starr) - MORE TALES OF ZORRO

Submissions I Haven't Heard Back on Yet
"Adrift on Other Seas" - HIGH SEAS CTHULHU II
"The Cwoss-Time Twaveller" - TIMES OF TROUBLE
"The Adventure of the Ethical Assassin" - SHERLOCK HOLMES ANTHOLOGY
"The Un-Kosher Golem" - BACONOLOGY

I suppose a little ganging aglay never hurt anyone, but 2011 will be the year of the novel!

Saturday, September 11, 2010


The contents information for THE GREEN HORNET CHRONICLES is out (I lifted this from Win Eckert's blog.

* Edited by Joe Gentile and Win Scott Eckert
* Covers by Glen Orbik and Rubén Procopio/interior illustrations by Procopio


* "Reflections on The Green Hornet": Introduction by Van Williams
* "The Night Car" by Will Murray
* "I Had The Green Hornet’s Love Child!" by Greg Cox
* "Weakness" by C.J. Henderson
* "Topsy-Turvy" by James Chambers
* "Nothing Gold Can Stay" by Richard Dean Starr
* "Just a Man" by Thom Brannan
* "The Cold Cash Kill" by James Reasoner
* "Flight of the Yellow Jacket" by Howard Hopkins
* "By Scarab and Scorpion" by Mark Ellis
* "You Can’t Pick the Number" by Rich Harvey
* "Eyes of the Madonna" by Ron Fortier
* "Stormy Weather" by Patricia Weakley
* "The Auction" by Terry Alexander
* "Go Go Gone" by Robert Greenberger
* "Mutual Assured Destruction" by Bill Spangler
* "The Crimson Dragon" by Mark Justice
* "Fang and Sting" by Win Scott Eckert
* "The Inside Man" by Matthew Baugh
* "The Soul of Solomon" by Harlan Ellison(R)
* "Life at 90 MPH": Afterword by Dean Jeffries
* "The Green Hornet's Hunch" by Dennis O'Neil (bonus story in Limited Editions only)

There are a lot of good writers and a couple of good illustrators there. The Harlan Ellison story (fragment actually), with a short essay is the same story that also appears in vol 3 of THE PHANTOM chronicles.

The introduction is by Van Williams, who played the Green Hornet on the TV series, and the afterward by legendary props man Dean Jeffries who built the Black Beauty car.

I can't wait!!!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010


I just finished the first draft of "What Rough Beast" for Tales of the Shadowmen, Vol 7. It's easily the most violent story I've ever written, though I had a reason for that. I wanted to show the ugliness of rationalizing violence. The central character is a very violent man who doesn't realize how close he is to the mindset of his worst enemies. While this is basically just an adventure story with horror elements, I hope that aspect comes across.

In other news I heard from the editor of the TIMES OF TROUBLE anthology that my story made round two! He asked for dark and grim stories of time travel cone wrong and I wrote something called "The Cwoss Time Twaveler" which incorporates Wile E. Coyote gadgets into a story that the editor says made him laugh out loud.

It usually doesn't work to write against expectations like this, but sometimes...

Friday, September 3, 2010

Six Guns Straight from Hell

Here's the cover!

I'd make it bigger, if only I knew how.

Saturday, August 28, 2010


I've been working on a story for vol 7 of Tales of the Shadowmen for most of the Summer.

It was a great idea! Tales of the Shadowmen invited authors to use the characters of French, American, British and other pulp literature who are in the public domain in new adventures in crossover stories that shed new light on the familiar archetypes. The subtitle of this volume is "Femmes Fatales" and many of the stories will focus on the great villainesses.

I wanted to use Antinea, the queen of the hidden Atlantean city in Pierre Benoit's novel L'ATLANTIDE. This heartless villainess seduces visitors to her city and then dips them in gold to preserve them forever. It seemed to me that the perfect foil for the queen would be Maciste. If you don't know his name, Maciste is possibly the first character ever to have a series of films made about him. He was the strongest man in the world and saved the day in more than a score of silent Italian movies.

As I cast around for more characters to throw into the mix, I discovered P.C. Wren's classic adventure novel, Beau Geste. Friends also told me about a Jules Verne novel, CITY IN THE SAHARA about a city of criminals hiding in the Sahara and raiding civilized countries in their amazing flying machines.

It seemed like an irresistible combination. A lost outpost of Atlantis, a cruel queen and hr gilded lovers, flying machines, the Foreign Legion, and the world's strongest man.

Sadly, I never could find a way to make it work. It happens like that sometimes. All the elements are there, but nothing gels. The idea lacks some little spark that could bring it to life and just sits there. That used to drive me crazy. It still does, actually, but I get over it much more quickly these days.

I checked with Jean-Marc Lofficier and he graciously allowed me to switch stories in mid-stream. The new tale tells of the World War 1 meeting of Judex (a black cloaked mystery man who predates the better known characters the Shadow and Batman) and Hugo Danner, the superhuman protagonist of Philip Wylie's novel Gladiator.

The result is a little like the classic comic book teaming of Superman and Batman, but only superficially. These guysd are not the characters that comic fans know so well, and the story is profing fascinating to write.

It's also starting to flow in a way the first idea never did. Sometimes a complete stop and re-think works wonders!

Sunday, August 15, 2010


I heard back from SIX GUNS STRAIGHT FROM HELL today, and they want the story! I think that's the fastest acceptance I've ever gotten!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

The All-Nighter

I remember doing a few of these in college. Looking back, I don't know how I ever lasted through the day after.

Occasionally I will still stay up all night working on a story; it happened last night. Sometimes the words are flowing so well that you are afraid to stop. It's as if the magic will disappear and so I press on.

At the end there's a feeling of great accomplishment. Finishing a story (a first draft anyway) is a wonderful thing. At the same time, I can't help thinking that I need a better writing schedule. :-)

But "Kumiho" is done and off to a couple fo trusted beta-readers and my writing workshop. No more all nighters for me! (At least not this week.)

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Mysterious Dave Rides Again


A few years I wrote something for a project Ron Shiflet was working on. Sadly, the project seems to have folded and I haven't been able to get ahold of Ron. I hope he's well. He's a talented writer and a heck of a nice guy.

Anyway, I put the story, "Decently and Quietly Dead" into my metaphorical trunk for a bit on the chance an opportunity would throw itself at me. This weekend it did.

My friend Win Scott Eckert sent me an email introducing me to Laura Givens who is working on an anthology called SIX GUNS STRAIGHT FROM HELL for Science Fiction Trails Publishing. I think it'll be a great fit, but am keeping my fingers crossed until I see if they agree.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Dramatic Skies

I'm visiting my parents in Albuquerque for a few days. One thing that always strikes me when I come back to the southwest is the view of the sky. I don't mean to speak ill of the midwestern skies, which are often lovely, but there is a difference.

It's a different type of beauty here with vivid blues and whites as big well-defined clouds pile deep on the western horizon. I don't know enough about meteorology to say for sure, but I think the climate here produces a different kind of cloud formation. I see massive thunderheads piling in banks or sailing along like individual roaming mountains.

It's odd to think of clouds as "massive" but there is nothing wispy about these giants. Seen from the ground they seem as solid and imposing as the granite mountains to the east. It's easy to imagine walking or climbing on them.

These are the kind of clouds that tempt the imagination too, with their solid seeming fantastic shapes they look like colossal impressionist sculptures. Last night I must have been in an Egyptian mood because I saw a sphinx sitting a bust of Anubis, with his jackal ears and sharp muddle presiding over a sea of monuments and sarcophagi.

Then again, maybe it's just that when I'm at home, I'm too busy to watch the sky.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Grammar Nazis

A video by College Humor that can be appreciated by writers, editors, and Freedom Fighters everywhere. The Grammar Nazi division of the SS instills terror.

Correct English saves lives people!

Monday, July 26, 2010

Sunday, July 25, 2010


It has been too long since I updated anything here! This time (he said again) I will do my best to update things at least once per month.

Status of stories...

Accepted but not yet out:
"The Inside Man" for Moonstone's GREEN HORNET CHRONICLES
"Trail of the Brujo" for TALES FROM THE CAULDRON
"Zorro and the Bruja" for MORE TALES OF ZORRO
"Invisible Empire" for THE AVENGER CHRONICLES II

"Adrift on Other Seas" for HIGH SEAS CTHULHU II
"The Cwoss-Time Twaveler" for TIMES OF TROUBLE
"The Adventure of the Ethical Assassin" for Moonstone's Sherlock Holmes Anthology

In Progress:
"Kumiho" for Moonstone's Kolchak, the Night Stalker Anthology
"Like Magic" for MORE TALES OF ZORRO

Thursday, March 18, 2010

A Fistfull of Hollars

The final title for the silly western anthology is A FISTFULL OF HOLLARS, OR HOW THE WEST WAS SILLY. I just got the galley proofs and it looks like a great (though very silly) book. I was especially pleased to see that the'd done a full page illustration of a scene from my story, "The Tragic Tale of Tyrannosaurus Tex". Seeing the great dinosaur gunfighter in all his glory took my breath away.

I hope to have a copy of the illustration I can post here, pronto!

Saturday, March 13, 2010

New From Moonstone

The new "Green Hornet Chronicles" anthology from Moonstone is nearing completion. Though there may be some small last minute changes, the authors slated for Volume 1 of this two volume porject have been finalized.

I'm in this book and am very proud to be included in this amazing company. I'm told that Volume 2 is already filled and will (fingers crossed) include a story by fellow PIT writer's workshop member, Thom Brannon.

The authors for Vol 1 are:

Ron Fortier
Denny Oneil
Harlan Ellison
Will Murray
Greg Cox
Bob Greenberger
Patricia Weakley
Richard Dean Starr
Matthew Baugh
James van Hise
CJ Henderson
Win Scott Eckert
Bill Spangler
Mark Ellis
Howard Hopkins
James Reasoner
James Chambers
Mark Justice
Terry Alexander
Rich Harvey

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Top 10 Rules

A friend passed on this great article about writing. Every author sees this differently, but each has some excellent, thoughtful, and sometimes hilarious advice.

I can't think of much to add to this collected wisdom so I'll just add something that Michael Moorcock alluded to. This is Lester Dent's advice on writing a pulp story. As one of the most prolific, successful and talented writers of the pulps, he knew whereof he spake. (This formula actually works well for any genre and any length.)

The Lester Dent Pulp Paper Master Fiction Plot

This is a formula, a master plot, for any 6000 word pulp story. It has worked on adventure, detective, western and war-air. It tells exactly where to put everything. It shows definitely just what must happen in each successive thousand words.

No yarn of mine written to the formula has yet failed to sell.

The business of building stories seems not much different from the business of building anything else.

Here's how it starts:


One of these DIFFERENT things would be nice, two better, three swell. It may help if they are fully in mind before tackling the rest.

A different murder method could be--different. Thinking of shooting, knifing, hydrocyanic, garroting, poison needles, scorpions, a few others, and writing them on paper gets them where they may suggest something. Scorpions and their poison bite? Maybe mosquitos or flies treated with deadly germs?

If the victims are killed by ordinary methods, but found under strange and identical circumstances each time, it might serve, the reader of course not knowing until the end, that the method of murder is ordinary.

Scribes who have their villain's victims found with butterflies, spiders or bats stamped on them could conceivably be flirting with this gag.

Probably it won't do a lot of good to be too odd, fanciful or grotesque with murder methods.

The different thing for the villain to be after might be something other than jewels, the stolen bank loot, the pearls, or some other old ones.

Here, again one might get too bizarre.

Unique locale? Easy. Selecting one that fits in with the murder method and the treasure--thing that villain wants--makes it simpler, and it's
also nice to use a familiar one, a place where you've lived or worked. So many pulpateers don't. It sometimes saves embarrassment to know nearly as much about the locale as the editor, or enough to fool him.

Here's a nifty much used in faking local color. For a story laid in Egypt, say, author finds a book titled "Conversational Egyptian Easily Learned," or something like that. He wants a character to ask in Egyptian, "What's the matter?" He looks in the book and finds, "El khabar, eyh?" To keep the reader from getting dizzy, it's perhaps wise to make it clear in some fashion, just what that means. Occasionally the text will tell this, or someone can repeat it in English. But it's a doubtful move to stop and tell the reader in so many words the English translation.

The writer learns they have palm trees in Egypt. He looks in the book, finds the Egyptian for palm trees, and uses that. This kids editors and readers into thinking he knows something about Egypt.

Here's the second installment of the master plot.

Divide the 6000 word yarn into four 1500 word parts. In each 1500 word part, put the following:


1--First line, or as near thereto as possible, introduce the hero and swat him with a fistful of trouble. Hint at a mystery, a menace or a problem to be solved--something the hero has to cope with.

2--The hero pitches in to cope with his fistful of trouble. (He tries to fathom the mystery, defeat the menace, or solve the problem.)

3--Introduce ALL the other characters as soon as possible. Bring them on in action.

4--Hero's endevours land him in an actual physical conflict near the end of the first 1500 words.

5--Near the end of first 1500 words, there is a complete surprise twist in the plot development.

SO FAR: Does it have SUSPENSE?
Is there a MENACE to the hero?
Does everything happen logically?

At this point, it might help to recall that action should do something besides advance the hero over the scenery. Suppose the hero has learned the dastards of villains have seized somebody named Eloise, who can explain the secret of what is behind all these sinister events. The hero corners villains, they fight, and villains get away. Not so hot.

Hero should accomplish something with his tearing around, if only to rescue Eloise, and surprise! Eloise is a ring-tailed monkey. The hero counts the rings on Eloise's tail, if nothing better comes to mind.
They're not real. The rings are painted there. Why?


1--Shovel more grief onto the hero.

2--Hero, being heroic, struggles, and his struggles lead up to:

3--Another physical conflict.

4--A surprising plot twist to end the 1500 words.

NOW: Does second part have SUSPENSE?
Does the MENACE grow like a black cloud?
Is the hero getting it in the neck?
Is the second part logical?

DON'T TELL ABOUT IT***Show how the thing looked. This is one of the secrets of writing; never tell the reader--show him. (He trembles, roving eyes, slackened jaw, and such.) MAKE THE READER SEE HIM.

When writing, it helps to get at least one minor surprise to the printed page. It is reasonable to to expect these minor surprises to sort of inveigle the reader into keeping on. They need not be such profound efforts. One method of accomplishing one now and then is to be gently misleading. Hero is examining the murder room. The door behind him begins slowly to open. He does not see it. He conducts his examination blissfully. Door eases open, wider and wider, until--surprise! The glass pane falls out of the big window across the room. It must have fallen slowly, and air blowing into the room caused the door to open. Then what the heck made the pane fall so slowly? More mystery.

Characterizing a story actor consists of giving him some things which make him stick in the reader's mind. TAG HIM.



1--Shovel the grief onto the hero.

2--Hero makes some headway, and corners the villain or somebody in:

3--A physical conflict.

4--A surprising plot twist, in which the hero preferably gets it in the neck bad, to end the 1500 words.

DOES: It still have SUSPENSE?
The MENACE getting blacker?
The hero finds himself in a hell of a fix?
It all happens logically?

These outlines or master formulas are only something to make you certain of inserting some physical conflict, and some genuine plot twists, with a little suspense and menace thrown in. Without them, there is no pulp story.

These physical conflicts in each part might be DIFFERENT, too. If one fight is with fists, that can take care of the pugilism until next the next yarn. Same for poison gas and swords. There may, naturally, be exceptions. A hero with a peculiar punch, or a quick draw, might use it more than once.

The idea is to avoid monotony.

Vivid, swift, no words wasted. Create suspense, make the reader see and feel the action.

Hear, smell, see, feel and taste.

Trees, wind, scenery and water.



1--Shovel the difficulties more thickly upon the hero.

2--Get the hero almost buried in his troubles. (Figuratively, the villain has him prisoner and has him framed for a murder rap; the girl is presumably dead, everything is lost, and the DIFFERENT murder method is about to dispose of the suffering protagonist.)

3--The hero extricates himself using HIS OWN SKILL, training or brawn.

4--The mysteries remaining--one big one held over to this point will help grip interest--are cleared up in course of final conflict as hero takes
the situation in hand.

5--Final twist, a big surprise, (This can be the villain turning out to be the unexpected person, having the "Treasure" be a dud, etc.)

6--The snapper, the punch line to end it.

HAS: The SUSPENSE held out to the last line?
The MENACE held out to the last?
Everything been explained?
It all happen logically?
Is the Punch Line enough to leave the reader with that WARM FEELING?
Did God kill the villain? Or the hero?

Lester Dent (1904 - 1959) was a prolific pulp fiction author of numerous stories, best known as the main author of the series of stories about the superhuman character, "Doc Savage."

Monday, February 8, 2010

News, because it's been too long

My New Year's resolution was at least one post a month on my blogs. So far, I need a little work to catch up :p

Anyway, I don't think I posted this before, but my story "Trail of the Brujo" was accepted for Library of the Living Dead Press's upcoming anthology, "Tales from the Cauldron" edited by Rhiannon Frater.

I'm particularly excited about this one because it will also include stories from two very talented fellow members of the PIT writing workshop: Anna Haney and Victorya.

My story is one of gunfighter Mysterious Dave Mather and dark magic in 1880's Dallas.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Movies Pt 3: The Book of Eli

This is, by far, the best of the movies I've seen recently. In a future where the earth is barren and only a few humans survive, a man names Eli (Denzel Washington) makes a pilgrinage across North America carrying a book. As it happens, a local warlord named Carnagie (Gary Oldman) has been looking for that same book and the power it can give him.

This feels a little like "The Road Warrior" and a little like "A Fist Full of Dollars" but it's not a copy of either. Eli is one of the smartest and best acted movies I've seen in a long time and explores the power of faith (both negative and positive) is some amazing ways. It's easily the best use of an explicitly religious theme I've seen at the movies in a long time. It's filled with clever twists and left me feeling deeply satisfied. I recommend it highly.

Movies Pt 2: Avatar

The second movie I got to see was Avatar. I'd been hearing the pundits talk about being anti-American, anti-US military, anti-Christian, and anti-capitalism. It's funny to me that people can get so worked up over something as silly as a science fiction movie.

My take on the movie is that the theme is simplistic, but a worthy theme for all that. Basically the idea is that wealthy developed planets like earth, should take care when exploiting the natural resources of remote life-supporting moons. It's not nice to disrupt the eco-system or to trample on the rights of the 10 foot tall blue aliens.

The plot is familiar and this by Matt Bateman summarizes it better than I can.

If I was a Marine I'd probably be a little annoyed at the portrayal of the military in the movie. Jake is one of many ex-Marines hired as mercenaries by the corporation and they are one dimensional villains (except for Jake and one helicoptor pilot, who rise to the level of two dimensional heroes). I can sympathize because I'm a minister and members of my profession are regularly portrayed as one dimensional villains also. Still, I don't think any of us should kick too hard. Like bad preachers, bad military types are easy to find in real life.

I don't believe this is a cheap shot at the military, though. The movie just needed some convenient villains for the big fight scene and Blackwater-type mercenaries fit the story logic. James Cameron's disturbing comment about being a fan of Eco-terrorism aside (I really hope he meant to say "eco-tourism"), the movie isn't very sinister. It reminds me a lot of "Starship Troopers" actually. This is a left-leaning movie and that one leaned to the right, but they're both ultimately harmless fun with dazzling special effects.

As for the effects, Pandora is dazzling and would be worth the price of admission even if there was no plot at all. The world and it's creatures takes your breath away.

(One odd note in closing: the animals of Pandora remind A LOT of the Martian animals in Edgar Rice Burroughs' John Carter of Mars series.)

Anyway, the plot and acting are so-so, but go for the scenery, and don't let silly ideological angst keep you away. This is an uncomplicated, fun movie.

Movies Pt 1: Sherlock Holmes

I had a chance to get to the movies several times in January. I don;'t do that much these days and it was a treat. Here are my thoughts about them, FWIW.

SHERLOCK HOLMES - I was ready to dislike this. I've been a fan of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's detective since I read "A Scandal in Bohemia" in the sixth grade and had reservations about Holmes played as an action hero by an American actor.

As it turned out the screenplay was very clever and surprisingly true to the spirit of the original stories. There were some plot holes, but nothing glaring and the cast was excellent. Robert Downey Jr. is one of the best actors around. He picked up on both the brilliance and the troubled side of the character and made me believe. My only problem with him is that he doesn't look even remotely like Holmes is supposed to, but I can overlook that for a first rate performance. Jude Law was excellent as Dr. Watson, and the story worked, both as a self-contained story, and as the set up for a sequel.

I've heard that there is another Holmes film in the works with Sasha Baron Cohen as Holmes and Will Ferrell as Watson. I think I'd rather chew off my own foot than be trapped in a theater with that, but we'll see I suppose.