Listening (2014) by The Critical Movie Critics

Movie Review: Listening (2014)

In Listening, Caltech grad students David Thorogood (Thomas Stroppel, a series of short films and minor TV appearances) and a ridiculously bald Ryan Cates (Artie Ahr, “Immigrant”) have been developing a headgear device that facilitates mind-reading by stealing university equipment and hiding it inside David’s garage to conduct unauthorized experiments (think of a teenage Steve Jobs, only with more scruples). Much to David’s dismay, however, womanizer Ryan gives Jordan (Amber Marie Bollinger, “The Activist”) a tour of the makeshift lab, and she unexpectedly assists in their breakthrough when her suggestions help turn the device into a telepathy machine.

They subsequently invent a method of transcribing a person’s thoughts into data, which can then be interpreted, allowing an operator to “read” the subject’s mind. But they hit a roadblock: The human brain’s infinite complexity renders attempts to decode the data quickly impossible. Realizing that only a human brain can interpret a human brain, they develop a technique to transmit thoughts directly from one person to another.

Unfortunately, the CIA, which has been unsuccessfully testing a mind-control machine finds out about David and Ryan’s work, because of a spy (we won’t tell you whom, though, wink, wink). Of course, anyone who has ever seen a motion picture will realize that early scenes showing stone-faced military men trying to mind-control subjects into killing each other give away the fact that the military will get involved, and that the film will inevitably lead to David and Ryan being captured. The agency promptly kidnaps them, makes a job offer they can’t refuse and then, to ensure the secrecy of the project, uses their creation to monitor the thoughts of everyone involved.

Meanwhile, David’s home life with depressed wife Melanie (Christine Haeberman, “Long Live the Dead”) and daughter Lana (Mykayla Sohn, “The Chosen”) is falling apart, prompted mainly by his attraction to Jordan, who is in turn romantically involved with Ryan. There’s also an attempt at social commentary about the government using technology to eliminate free will, with one of the main characters finding it morally repugnant, while another argues that humanity would actually benefit.

Director/screenwriter Khalil Sullins makes a feature debut with his audacious sci-fi thriller that attempts to be as engrossing as it hopes to be thought-provoking. Exploring the technology that will no doubt make mental telepathy a commonplace occurrence and that it’s a world we probably don’t want to live in. The film, which premiered at the 2014 Woodstock Film Festival and has since made its film festival run, may mark its creator as a talent to watch, but not for this vehicle. Listening is a character study that is driven by a science fiction plotline and is dragged down by unpleasant characters and much confusion and attempts to be “Brainstorm” without the writing or acting level involved in that project. And no one with ANY academic knowledge will believe that David and Ryan have the slightest capacity to create such an intricate and complicated invention.

Also, why he would populate the picture with so many shallow PWPWP (Pretty White People With Problems) remains a wonder to this scribbler. Despite its numerous flaws, though, I would say if you’re desperate for simple sci-fi and don’t mind large amounts of filter usage and lens flare (especially blues and yellows from cinematographer Blake McClure, “Drunk History” TV series), you might want to give this one a look. Listening wants to be an intelligent, sci-fi film in the vein of “Scanners” or “Altered States,” but it’s far too ridiculous and goofy to take as seriously as it takes itself. The padded plotting, uninspired direction, almost amateur performances, and overall aura of cheapness just say “straight to video.” The film also sports a few sex scenes and some nudity, but never going far enough to even satisfy on that level.

Critical Movie Critic Rating:
2 Star Rating: Bad


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The Critical Movie Critics

I have been a movie fan for most of my life and a film critic since 1986 (my first published review was for "Platoon"). Since that time I have written for several news and entertainment publications in California, Utah and Idaho. Big fan of the Academy Awards - but wish it would go back to the five-minute dinner it was in May, 1929. A former member of the San Diego Film Critics Society and current co-host of "The Movie Guys," each Sunday afternoon on KOGO AM 600 in San Diego with Kevin Finnerty.

'Movie Review: Listening (2014)' has 1 comment

  1. The Critical Movie Critics

    August 4, 2017 @ 4:51 pm theautisticpapillion

    This seems a bit harsh, the movie wasn’t that bad. There are some hiccups and The scripting could have used a couple rewrites in some areas to fix some very bad characterization. I like exploratory scifi like this, not to actiony, but not to plodding, it’s a good mix that kept me invested through the film. I feel a few rewrites could have achieved the more even playing field I think the director was going for, making neither side right or wrong. Inevitably one side is right while the other is wrong by the end of the film. There some flip flopping in character motivation that makes it a little hard to follow why people are making certain decisions, but I feel with the clearly limited budget the film was done very well. The cinematography isn’t my cup of tea and I get the feeling the person in charge is trying to be way to Michael bay (Lens flare fetish is so abundant in the beginning of the film some shots where almost impossible to see)

    The acting was Ok, More TVish then movieish but not as bad as some I’ve seen, and As my guilty pleasures are Made for Scifi channel films you probably know what I mean. Characters felt driven and purposeful but some decisions and setups felt a bit forced. particularly when the two leads come to a disagreement at about the midway point. the whole situation is very forced, almost in the vein of a romance film. If they had communicated the conflict wouldn’t have happened, but they didn’t and the whole chunk between the two just felt very forced and unneeded in an otherwise interesting character piece.

    This is a film.

    there’s passion behind it and I get the feeling the actors where invested in the story which I think really makes a difference when you’re watching acting in a film. You can tell if some one is in the role or just playing a game. there was only one character who didn’t convince me but I think that his stilted delivery was an attempt to be the big scary government Guy more then non interest. I’m not sure.

    It’s a bit slow off the mark but I felt there was enough interest to keep going and it builds at a good pace. Once it hits it’s stride it really keeps you invested, you want to know what happens. I don’t think it was that bad and it’s a film I’d recommend to others.

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