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.
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.
Running time: 1 hour, 9 minutes
Playing: Black Box Theater, Los Angeles