Directed by: Nelson Lee, Kristen Hilkert, Amir Reichart and Vitaly Verlov
Run time: 68 minutes
The Lowdown: Sometimes, all it takes is nine minutes to deliver a perfectly executed mini-movie that not only captivates the imagination but stimulates the brain.
A.I. Tales, a collection of four short films by four different directors, is one of the most refreshing bursts of science-fiction theory mixed with wonder and a heavy dose of human drama to arrive in a long time.
There are $100-million-plus summer blockbusters that fail to achieve the same level of intelligence and discussion of big-ticket ideas.
The four films range in length from 9 minutes to 23 minutes, but they all are perfectly realized, expertly constructed and bursting with the kind of existential crisis meets practical solutions that our technology-enriched world now thrives upon.
First up is Seed, which was written and directed by Nelson Lee, a longtime character actor known mostly for television procedurals, who also stars as Nathan, a man waiting for the start of his 40th birthday party. The party takes a weird turn, becoming more of a wake, as you slowly learn that population control has become a vital issue in the U.S. Nathan has a choice that he’s about to make, which will affect all of his family, but first he wants to reconnect with Cat (Pom Klementieff, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2), the girl he let slip away years before.
The second short, In/Finite, from director Kristen Hilkert, which was co-written by Hilkert with her leading lady Ashlee Mundy, is the best of the bunch. It’s a near-brilliant look at what it might be like to sign up for a one-way ticket as an explorer and a pioneer. Mundy plays Jane, a daughter and friend, who has to explain to her loved ones why she is making a decision based on her education and her belief that there’s more to life than just playing it safe. In/Finite is powerful and poignant, and Mundy is flawless in her role.
Next up is Phoenix 9 from director Amir Reichart, and it’s like a sugar-coated blast of Saturday morning sci-fi cartoon goodness. Phoenix 9 is a post-apocalyptic tale about a band of survivors battling unpredictable and nuclear-fueled weather events who stumble upon a possible key to survival. The key comes in the form of a cutting-edge continuum chamber designed to ensure that life continues. Of course, the chamber has one glaring design flaw. Phoenix 9 is pulpy and fun, but packed with a very somber underlying message. The final scene is as chilling as it is electrifying.
A.I. Tales concludes with Redux, the shortest (at 9 minutes) and most sci-fi of all four tales, which dabbles in time travel and stars Eric Roberts. Redux is a solid closer as it considers what might happen if you somehow sent a message to your future self and unexpectedly received a dire reply.
The Stuff You Care About:
Hot chicks – Yes.
Nudity – No.
Gore – No.
Drug use – No.
Bad Guys/Killers – None.
Buy/Rent – Buy it.
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