• Minor Premise (Utopia) Blu-ray Review

    Released by: Utopia
    Released on: April 20th, 2021.
    Director: Eric Schultz
    Cast: Sathya Sridharan, Paton Ashbrook, Dana Ashbrook
    Year: 2020
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    Minor Premise – Movie Review:

    The feature-length directorial debut of filmmaker Eric Schultz, who co-wrote the script with producers Justin Moretto (an actual neuroscientist) and Thomas Torrey, 2020’s Minor Premise, based on a short film Schultz made a year or so earlier, the film introduces us to a young neuroscientist named Ethan Kochar (Sathya Sridharan). Under some pressure from an older colleague named Malcolm (Dana Ashbrook), Ethan decides that he wants to take some of the work started by his late father and run with it, hoping to turn the elder Kochar’s experiments on the human subconscious into something that can change the world. The idea here is that he’ll be able to figure out how to isolate the parts of the brain that cause emotion and be able to manipulate it. The problem is that Ethan is drinking pretty heavily and can’t quite get his father’s math to work when he tries it himself.

    Regardless, Ethan is quite confident in his work and he decides to use himself as a guinea pig and after hooking himself up to a complicated device named the R10. Not so surprisingly, he manages to fracture his increasingly fragile psyche into tend different ‘sections’ that control his body for a few minutes at a time. Trapped in his home with only his ex-girlfriend, Allie (Paton Ashbrook), to look for him, they work together to not only try and save what’s left of their damaged relationship but also to explore heretofore unexplored portions of the human brain and set right some of the mistakes that they’ve made in the past. As Ethan becomes increasingly damaged, it becomes clear to both he and Allie that they’re running out of time before Ethan’s mind is permanently broken.

    Those who can appreciate the colder, clinical, Cronenbergian side of science fiction ought to appreciate what Schultz and company have put together with this picture. While Minor Premise isn’t without some noticeable flaws, it’s a creative picture that proves once and for all that creativity and talent matter more than budget. Making excellent use of limited sets and a small cast, this picture never feels cheap and never seems to be reaching past its means. The story is told with care and an impressive attention to detail, the science behind what Ethan has been trying to accomplish laid out in a manner that seems to have a whole lot more thought behind it than your average genre picture premise. Additionally, the film is very nicely shot, with Justin Derry’s cinematography doing an excellent job of capturing all of the emotional turmoil that both Ethan and Allie go through as the storyline unfolds.

    The performances are also very good here, and that makes a huge difference in the effectiveness of this picture. Paton Ashbrook is quite good as the put upon girlfriend. We feel for her and understand exactly where she’s coming from. When she gets upset with the situation she finds herself in, we completely get it, but at the same time she’s tough and smart and a genuinely interesting character. Dana Ashbrook, best known for his work on Twin Peaks, is also quite good in his supporting role. Sathya Sridharan, however, is the real reason to watch this. This is an insanely committed performance, the guy gives 110% percent from start to finish and shows a really impressive range as an actor. We buy him from start to finish and as clever as the script is and as solid as the production values are, it’s his presence in the picture that makes this worth seeing.

    It’s a trippy film, at times seemingly more complicated than it maybe needed to be, but even if the film is a little colder and more distant than maybe it needed to be, the vast majority of this picture works very well.

    Minor Premise – Blu-ray Review:

    Minor Premise arrives on region Blu-ray from Utopia in AVC encoded 1080p high definition framed at 2.39.1 on a 25GB disc with the feature taking up 19GBs of space. This digitally lenses feature shows great detail and nice depth. Granted, most of the movie is shot in what is basically a dimly lit basement lab, so keep that in mind, but close up shows on faces and equipment look great. Color reproduction looks spot on, and black levels are nice and deep. There are no noticeable issues with any compression or edge enhancement and the image is, as you’d expect, spotless.

    The only audio option for the feature is a 24-bit DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio surround sound track, in the film’s native English. Optional subtitles are offered up in English only. The 5.1 track sounds quite good, with rear channels used effectively throughout for sound effects and score placement. Dialogue stays clean and clear, always easy to understand and follow, and the levels are properly balanced.

    Extras start off with a new audio commentary by director Eric Schultz and co-writers/producers Justin Moretto and Thomas Torrey. This was recorded via zoom due to the Covid-19 pandemic, but the audio quality is pretty solid regardless. They start off by talking about the opening sequence, how Sathya Sridharan came to be involved with the movie after working with them on the earlier short film version of Minor Premise, how the three commentators teamed up and started working together, putting the different sets together for the feature, getting both Paton and Dana Ashbrook for the feature and what they were like to work with, an homage to Taxi Driver that you might miss, the use of color in the film, when and where VFX were used (pay attention to the use of clocks in the movie), how the camerawork in the film deliberately gets crazier as the film gets more intense, editing tricks that were employed in Premiere and quite a bit more. It's a very interesting track with a lot of information in it, fans of the picture should appreciate this.

    The disc also includes the original Minor Premise Short Film, which clocks in at just over seven-minutes in length. It’s an interesting variation, starting off with Ethan getting one of his late father’s notebooks in the mail, the contents of which tie into a phone call he has with his mother. This leads him to open a computer file that loops into the beginning of the short. It’s neat, quite well done and eerie. Nicely shot and edited, very well put together.

    Also on hand is a very brief two-minute Behind The Scenes segment where Sridharan goofs off for the camera before then showing off the dance sequence being shot. The three-minute Meet the Sections (1 - 9) is a collection of quick promos, each one based on the nine different sections from the feature: Anxiety, Anger, Libido, Unconcious, Intellect, Primitive, Creative, the unnamed Section Eight and Euphoria. The two-minute Dance Party segment is what appears to be Sridharan’s original take doing the dance sequence that occurs about three quarters of the way through the movie. We see it here from one camera angel and the guy really goes for it!

    Rounding out the extras is a teaser trailer, a full length trailer, menus and chapter selection options.

    This release also comes with some nice reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork. Copies purchased from the Vinegar Syndrome website will include a very nice embossed spot varnished slipcover that is limited to 1,500 pieces.

    Minor Premise - The Final Word:

    Minor Premise is as well-executed as it is creative and appreciably weird. The Blu-ray release from Utopia looks and sounds really nice and contains some strong supplements as well, highlighted by the original short film and an interesting commentary track. Recommended.

    Click on the images below for full sized Minor Premise Blu-ray screen caps!