DVD Review: In Time

Hi all!

Have you seen those films where you walked out wondering if it was a waste of time or not? Sometimes you hate a film and sometimes you love it. But in that gray area somewhere in the middle you wonder if it made any impact at all.

In Time, written and directed by Andrew Niccol (Gattaca, Lord of War), offers an intriguing concept. What if your lifetime became currency? Sure, you stop aging at age 25, but you only get one more year to live and you have to use that time to pay for goods and services. You can work to earn more time, but the cost of living continues to rise. Not only would this solve the overpopulation crisis, but it offers potential immortality for those who can afford it.

Unfortunately it’s difficult to identify with some of the characters in this film and it devolves into a bit of a Bonnie and Clyde rehash. Will Salas (Justin Timberlake, Friends with Benefits, Bad Teacher, The Social Network) is struggling to make ends meet while his mom, Rachel (Olivia Wilde, Cowboys & Aliens, TRON: Legacy, TV’s House M.D.), is struggling to pay the loan on the house. One day Will meets a millionaire, Henry Hamilton (Matt Bomer, TV’s Chuck and White Collar), and helps him escape potential doom with a group of thugs in a bar. In return, Henry gives Will more than a century and tells him not to waste it…

Along the way we meet Timekeeper Raymond Leon (Cillian Murphy, Inception, The Dark Knight, Sunshine) who’s job it is to apprehend Will for having too much time on his hands, Borel (Johnny Galecki, TV’s Big Bang Theory) who is Will’s best friend and an alcoholic with a new family, Sylvia Weis (Amanda Seyfried, Red Riding Hood, Letters to Juliet, TV’s Big Love) who is a spoiled rich girl looking for a way to get more out of life, and Philippe Weis (Vincent Kartheiser, TV’s Mad Men and Angel) who is Sylvia’s father and a big time banker. Each of these offers a different perspective on the whole “time as currency” idea, from maintaining a world order based on the rich wanting to live forever and the poor paying for it to just trying to live in the moment.

Ultimately I didn’t hate the film, but feel that In Time tried to fit too many tropes into one basket. We’re all going to run out of time eventually, but if we don’t try to live while we’re here it’s a waste. The rich profit from the plight of the poor. You can’t keep a good man down. Live each day like it’s your last. There’s even a bit of Robin Hood in this one, with Will and Sylvia stealing time from the rich and giving it to the poor. The list goes on…

It’s not a bad film and has some fun special effects scattered throughout, such as the car crash where Timberlake and Seyfried roll a car traveling at speed into a concrete culvert with hardly a scratch. It’s also quite stylized, with a stark contrast between the poor sections of civilization and the rich.

I’m still not convinced that either Timberlake or Seyfried can act. And the fact that everybody in the film, rich or poor, happened to be attractive and young really made the whole age aspect of the movie seem very one-dimensional to me. It’s just not something I would consider seeing again, but if you’re interested in seeing most of the hot young actors and actresses in a movie, In Time should be in your queue to rent.

Feature-wise, this was a very light DVD. It includes the theatrical trailer, a collection of deleted/extended scenes, and a bunch of trailers for other FOX projects. None of the deleted scenes really added much to the viewing experience, so I was glad they weren’t added to the nearly two hour running time for the film.

This article first appeared at BlogCritics.org here.


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Book Review: The Half-Made World by Felix Gilman

Hi all!

Though I’ve reviewed a few books that didn’t pan out like I hoped, one of the things I enjoy about writing reviews is getting a chance to read things I might not have picked up for myself initially. I tend to wear blinders sometimes, focusing on those writers and genres I would normally pick up or consider picking up for myself. In the second half of 2011, my friends at Tor Books threw me a curve ball that I wasn’t sure I’d enjoy. Turns out I actually did!

The Half-Made World from Felix Gilman merges many genres to define its world, yet does so effortlessly. Sure, there’s a little steampunk, a bit of a Western vibe, a pinch of fantasy, and a smidge of alternate history, but it’s not like Gilman put them all in the blender and set it to puree. Each element is gradually introduced, from the psychologist Liv Alverhysen to John Creedmoor, an agent of the Gun and to Linesman Lowry, an agent of the Line – each of the three is seamlessly woven together around a single mysterious character, Liv’s patient – The General – and whatever secrets his addled mind may be hiding…

Quite honestly I wasn’t sure what to expect from this book. Like many adventures, it begins with the three main characters starting out their journeys and ends in an explosive way when those three paths meet. And yet the way world elements are introduced, through flashbacks of the main characters, exposition in characters we meet along the way, and then through children’s books read along the way and snippets of conversation, it all seems so natural and organic that it gently tugs you along towards the conclusion.

The larger organizations of the Line and the Gun were quite intriguing to me and I only caught glimpses of their philosophies as the story progressed. The Line was easiest to figure out as the embodiment of progress. In this case, it was the railroad line and the Engines that drove things forward. The Gun was a bit more difficult. I believe the Gun falls on the side of rugged individualism and the Western spirit.

Beyond that, each side had an intriguing “spiritual” aspect that spoke to its agents in various ways. The Line almost seemed a bit like George Orwell‘s dystopian 1984, with the individual suppressed in favor of the larger machine. And the Gun, though I’m not a big fan of Westerns, hit me something like the lone gunman approach of many Spaghetti Westerns of the 1960s.

The characters’ relationships with these disembodied leaders also varies a bit. A Linesman doesn’t dare question orders, just plowing forward at any cost. And Agents of the Gun seem to have a back and forth conversation with the “demons” inhabiting their namesake weapons. It was almost like the “devil on your shoulder” approach talking you into doing things you don’t believe you should.

The Half-Made World by Felix Gilman is a tough book to pin to any one genre, but I think it should be enjoyable to anybody who likes their fantasy and science fiction with a bit of a philosophical bent. Now I’m going to have to see what else Gilman has written!

This article first appeared at BlogCritics.org here.


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Book Review: Riverworld Omnibus by Philip Jose Farmer (To Your Scattered Bodies Go)

Hi there!

A few months ago, I received three omnibus books collecting Philip José Farmer’s award winning Riverworld series from the nice folks at Tor books. Somehow, though Farmer’s name has come up repeatedly during the last three plus decades I’ve been reading science fiction and fantasy, I managed to miss these books. Courtesy of these collections, I no longer have any excuse but to dive into the River with the rest of humanity.

The first omnibus, called simply Riverworld collects the first two of these classics – To Your Scattered Bodies Go and The Fabulous Riverboat. As I’m new to the series, I thought it would only be fitting if I wrote about each of the collected novels individually instead of as a collection.

If you’ve not heard of the Riverworld series, the basic concept is simple until you start considering the scope. Imagine if everybody who ever lived on Earth (emphasis on “ever”) was resurrected on the banks of a seemingly endless river on some alien world. Though healthy and young again, each individual awakens naked with others. Each has a container tied to their wrist (called a “grail”) that, when inserted into a strange mushroom-shaped stone, becomes populated with food, drink, tobacco, alcohol, drugs, and other assorted items. It’s up to each resurrectee to determine what to do with their new lives.

But the scope itself is huge. Billions and billions of people are reborn and must find ways to live on or give up. What’s interesting is that suicide simply gets you resurrected again somewhere else along the river. If you don’t have the will to live, can you somehow find the will to end it all again and again?

This is how we’re introduced to various figures from prehistory, history, and future history. In To Your Scattered Bodies Go, we’re introduced to Sir Richard Francis Burton, an adventurer and veritable Renaissance man with diverse knowledge of cultures, languages, philosophies, literature, and who knows what else. He wasn’t without his fair share of scandals however, considering his interest in the sexual practices of other cultures. Also introduced is the infamous Hermann Göring, one of the leaders of the Nazi Party and Luftwaffe commander.

Like much of the science fiction literature of the era, there is a great deal of philosophy in the story. From the concept of being resurrected to the eventual creation of the “Church of the Second Chance,” much is discussed as far as how much of our old self exists in the new body. Are you the same as before? Will you make the same mistakes or can you change given enough time, effort, and reason?

After seeing the Riverworld miniseries on Syfy last year starring Battlestar Galactica‘s Tamoh Penikett as Matt Ellman, Mark Deklin as Sam Clemens, and Peter Wingfield as Richard Burton, I was curious to see what the book series was actually like. I enjoyed the television series, but it presented a view of the Riverworld as much more sanitized than did Farmer in the original books.

I was a little disappointed not to find Samuel Clemens in To Your Scattered Bodies Go, but suspect that The Fabulous Riverboat holds Twain’s secrets for me next. If you’re even the slightest bit interested in Farmer’s world, I’d encourage you to pick up the first omnibus Riverworld from Tor at your local bookstore.

Next chance I get, I shall continue my journey up the River and report on my findings again!

This article first appeared at BlogCritics.org here.


p.s. Pick up these omnibus collections below!
Gods of Riverworld

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