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Listening 

Wednesday, Sep 9 2015
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A slick, thrifty sci-fi thriller, writer-director Khalil Sullins' debut feature has the distinctly amateurish sheen that comes from being at once unconvincingly lifelike and unconvincingly movie-like. Two handsome and quarrelsome grad students (Thomas Stroppel, Artie Ahr) have a secret tech-bro project going in their garage: the world's first telepathy app! It's got some issues, but a scantily clad young lady (Amber Marie Bollinger) is here to help, seductively explaining, "You need nanotubes." Her presence is an issue in and of itself, not least for the neglected wife (Christine Haeberman) who's been kept in the dark about the lads' work. Then a breakthrough happens, drawing interest from the CIA's deeply and hammily sinister psychic surveillance program. Sullins trudges his way toward a budget pastiche of theBournetrilogy andInception, though the movie's last-act arc of Buddhist monk tutelage reads as very Luke-and-Yoda. Meditation as a countermeasure against a sinister mind-control conspiracy is a novel idea; too bad it's wedged into a rickety framework of numbingly conventional dramatic complications, half-hearted eroticism, and pervasive humorlessness (save for the occasional "That's what she said" joke). Also, there are some strange postproduction techniques seemingly designed to make you feel like someone keeps shining a bright light in your face while you're trying to watch this movie through a jar of urine. It all does make you wonder: By what nefarious means did someone put these dangerous ideas in Sullins' head?

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Jonathan Kiefer

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SF Weekly movie critic Jonathan Kiefer is on Twitter: @kieferama and of course @sfweeklyfilm.

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