Listening (Blu-ray) (2014)

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Released 20-Jul-2016

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Sci-fi Drama Trailer-x 3 for other releases
Rating Rated MA
Year Of Production 2014
Running Time 97:29 (Case: 104)
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Khalil Sullins
Studio
Distributor
Gryphon Entertainment Starring Thomas Stroppel
Artie Ahr
Amber Marie Bollinger
Christine Haeberman
Steve Hanks



Case Standard Blu-ray
RPI ? Music Edward Patrick White


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English DTS HD Master Audio 5.1
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.40:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 1080p
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles None Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

When you open your mind, there is nowhere to hide your thoughts

     David (Thomas Stroppel) and Ryan (Artie Ahr) are two penniless grad students in Los Angeles. David is married to Melanie (Christine Haeberman), who works as a waitress to make ends meet, and they have a young daughter but are behind on their rent and about to be evicted. Ryan lives in a small apartment and cares for his ill, elderly grandmother. David and Ryan are working, in a garage filled with equipment they have stolen from their university, to invent a machine that can read the human brain. They are making little progress until womaniser Ryan brings new sexy class-mate Jordan (Amber Marie Bollinger) to the garage to show her their experiments. Jordan, however, is more than a pretty face and she suggests an alternative approach which enables them to make progress; they start to be able to transfer one person’s thoughts to another.

     While their experiments start to show promise, David and Melanie’s marriage flounders, especially as David is attracted to Jordan. Their work has, however, come to the attention of a clandestine government agency controlled by Matthews (Steve Hanks) that has been working unsuccessfully on a similar project. David and Ryan are added, forcefully, to the government program but, when the first use of their technology is to enable the agency to listen into the thoughts of their own workers, David is dismayed although Ryan is happy to go along. Then David learns that the next stage will be to control the minds of the entire population, including the implanting of thoughts; he runs to a monastery in Cambodia, seeking in Buddhist meditation a way to challenge the mind control technology he had helped to create.

     Listening is an ambitious and impressive film from first time writer / director Khalil Sullins. The film starts off low key and realistic, depicting the personal problems and personalities of David, Melanie, Ryan and Jordan as they experiment, fail, steal computers and gear, and try again. While this is a low budget film, it never looks cheap; it is also clever, entertaining, funny in places and tender in others and the acting, especially from Thomas Stroppel and Christine Haeberman, is impressive. When the government agency gets involved the stakes get much higher and Sullins is not afraid to open the scope of the film to include a discussion about the implanting of responses and mind control on a huge scale. Ryan thinks that this is a good thing; mind control can stop violence, wars and save lives, which sounds reasonable, but we have already seen the use of thought implants by Matthews in earlier human experiments with tragic conclusions, and there is no doubt where Sullins’ views lie; he uses a stunning filmic image where the thoughts of the white coated assistants working in a pristine white lab are being monitored by a group of men on computers behind glass in a vibrant red room! The colours and the image say it all without words!

     Listening throws a fair amount of technical gobbledegook at the viewer; I have no idea if there is any scientific basis for any of it, but it is delivered with such sincerity it doesn’t matter, especially as, due to the small scale focus on the characters in the opening sections, we have some understanding of, and come to like, these people. If from there the film plot gets rather more far-fetched, especially the conclusion, it is easy to forgive a film with such ambitions which it mostly pulls off, resulting in a thought provoking and intelligent film.

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Transfer Quality

Video

     Listening is presented in the aspect ratio of 2.39:1, in 1080p using the MPEG-4 AVC code.

     The most noticeable aspect of the film is the obvious colour manipulation. The scenes in the Cambodian jungle and monastery have beautiful, bright, natural colours, the orange of the monks’ robes vibrant. However, in all other sequences the colours have been altered. Most scenes have had a yellow filter applied while in others, including scenes between David and Melanie or in the government lab, the filter is blue / white. Then there is the deep red of the red surveillance room. These colour choices may be to indicate a lack of “reality” in the scenes outside of Cambodia but they do become rather overdone and distracting. Blacks and shadow detail are fine. Otherwise, detail is good, and I did not notice any marks or artefacts.

     No subtitles are provided.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
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Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

     Audio is English DTS-HD MA 5.1.

     This is a nice track. Dialogue is clear. The rears and surrounds added effects when appropriate, including the waterfall, thunder, or music, but burst into life with atonal sound and half heard voices during the experimentation sequences. The sub-woofer added boom to the experiments, thunder and waterfall.

     The score by Edward Patrick White is quite epic in scale and rather reminded me of Danny Elfman, which is not a bad thing.

     There were no issues with lip synchronisation.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

Trailers

     Trailers for The Rise of the Footsoldier II (1:30), Western Religion (2:36) and Black Mountain Side (2:26).

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    Amazon.com does not currently list a US Blu-ray of Listening, only a DVD which seems to have as extras a British Q&A with the director and cast, featurettes on the score and the editing, and a trailer. I imagine any US Blu-ray would include these, but for now our Region B release is the only one available.

Summary

     Listening is certainly ambitious for a low budget sci-fi film, but it does not look cheap and with intelligent writing, an intriguing premise and interesting characters we can care for it is definitely worth checking out.

     The video is manipulated but fine, the audio good. Extras are only trailers for other films.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Ray Nyland (the bio is the thing)
Wednesday, October 12, 2016
Review Equipment
DVDSony BDP-S580, using HDMI output
DisplayLG 55inch HD LCD. This display device has not been calibrated. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderNAD T737. This audio decoder/receiver has not been calibrated.
AmplificationNAD T737
SpeakersStudio Acoustics 5.1

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