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Review: Anthology 'A.I. Tales' features four artificially linked shorts

Review: Anthology 'A.I. Tales' features four artificially linked shorts
Pom Klementieff and Nelson Lee in the short film "Seed," part of the anthology "A.I. Tales." (Hewes Pictures)

Unlike most anthologies, the science-fiction omnibus “A.I. Tales” doesn’t have much of a unifying concept — not even “artificial intelligence,” which barely figures into any of the collection’s four stories. This is really just a shared bill of preexisting short films, most of which emphasize everyday human existence over technological dazzle.

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In “Seed,” the film’s writer-director Nelson Lee plays a man turning 40, which in his overpopulated society is the designated age to self-euthanize. “In/Finite,” meanwhile, stars Ashlee Mundy (who also co-wrote the script with writer-director Kristen Hilkert) as an outsider to her family, who returns home for one last emotional visit before joining a long scientific mission.

Made in 2014, “Phoenix 9” (written by Peer Gopfrich and directed by Amir Reichart) is both the oldest and most fleshed-out short here. It’s also the most special effects-heavy, with elaborate digital backdrops standing in for the ravaged planet a group of survivors flee, and the high-tech outpost they find along the way.

Writer-director Vitaly Verlov’s program-closing “Redux,” about a scientist sending urgent messages through a time machine, eschews action in favor of long scenes of characters talking with each other. Repeatedly in “A.I. Tales” big science-fiction ideas take a backseat to earnest, muted human drama.

Genre fans should adjust expectations accordingly. None of these shorts is a must-see mind blower. But they’re fairly well-made (budgetary limitations aside), and have something to say about how even in the future, personal crises can help us focus on what’s really important.

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‘A.I. Tales’

Not rated

Running time: 1 hour, 9 minutes

Playing: Black Box Theater, Los Angeles

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