Welt am Draht (World on a Wire)

February 14, 2012

Movie Review By: Mr. Roboto

Year: 1973

Directed by: Rainer Werner Fassbinder

Written by: Rainer Werner Fassbinder, Fritz Müller-Scherz, and Daniel F. Galouye (based on his novel “Simulacron-3″)

IMDB Reference

Degree of Cyberpunk Visuals: Low

Correlation to Cyberpunk Themes: High

Key Cast Members:

  • Fred Stiller: Klaus Löwitsch
  • Professor Henry Vollmer: Adrian Hoven
  • Günther Lause: Ivan Desny
  • Herbert Siskins: Karl Heinz Vosgerau
  • Eva Vollmer: Mascha Rabben
  • Gloria Fromm: Barbara Valentin
  • Franz Hahn: Wolfgang Schenck
  • Fritz Walfang: Günter Lamprecht
  • Rating: 9 out of 10

    Going Downstairs (Welt am Draht)

    In Welt am Draht (World on a Wire), going into a simulation is referred to as “going downstairs” while coming out is “going upstairs.”

    Overview: You think you might have seen every VR-based movie, or know what to expect after watching The Matrix or Lawnmower Man for the thousandth time. Then someone points you to some rare foreign TV miniseries, and suddenly… WHOA! The Matrix doesn’t seem so original anymore, at least in terms of concept.

    Transmit ACK signal to “virtual reality 91″ for mentioning this one (just needed some time to research and download). World on a Wire is a two-part TV movie originally called Welt am Draht when it first premiered in West Germany. Since then, other VR movies short and long have come and gone. While still available via file-sharing and torrent, a recently restored version has been appearing at film festivals world wide and a Blu-Ray version is set to drop this month.

    The Story: At The Institute for Kybernetik und Zukunftsforschung (Institute for Cybernetics and Future Sciences), or IKZ, Professor Henry Vollmer has created a simulated world containing some 8,000 “identity units”; Virtual humans not knowing that they are living in a simulation, except for the “contact unit” named Einstein who is needed to keep the simulation running. Vollmer tries to tell security chief Lause about a discovery regarding the simulation that he wants to keep secret “Because it would mean the end of this world.” Vollmer dies shortly after and Stiller takes over as the project’s technical director. At a party, Lause wants to tell Stiller what Vollmer had told him, but while Stiller is momentarily distracted Lause vanishes, and every one else suddenly has no memory of him, including Lause’s niece, Eva Vollmer. When one of the identity units tries to commit suicide it is deleted, prompting Stiller to “enter” the simulation to contact Einstein to find out why the unit tried to kill itself. When they meet again, Einstein is in Walfang’s body where he explains how he wants to be human… and how “reality” as Stiller knows it isn’t.

     

    German Engineering. So the Simulacron computer system isn’t exactly 21st centruy, bleeding edge technology. This is a 1970’s era movie after all. So there’s no fancy gun-fu shootouts with CGI enhanced slow-motion effects, rotoscoped armor to guard against laser-edged Frisbees, or pixelated sex between Unix GUI daemons.

    But Welt am Draht isn’t about fancy high tech special effects. It’s about one man’s reaction when he discovers the truth about reality… his reality, as he perceives it. We watch Stiller’s struggle to keep his sanity in a world that seems to be designed for the purpose of destroying him. A Kafkaesque nightmare encoded in silicon, and his attempt to escape it. And if he does escape, has he really escaped… or just entered a new level of the nightmare?

    Vollmer’s Death

    What we see now is like a dim image in a mirror. Then we shall see face to face.

    Mirror’s edge. The main effect of the movie, especially in part one, is a shot of an image in a mirror or similar reflective surface. This gives an extra disorienting feeling as we ponder if reality really is reality, and how do they manage to get all those mirror-shots without the film crew appearing in the reflections. Low tech, highly effective.

    But unless you can speak German well enough, you might miss some of the mirror-shots while trying to read the subtitles. That’s the only thing keeping this from being a perfect 10. Then again, subtitles probably would be better than dubbing that comes out as “all your wiener schnitzel are belong to us.”

    Interface Terminal (Welt am Draht)

    Is it live? Or is it simulated?

    Conclusion: From the country that gave the world cruise and ballistic missiles, Fahrvergnügen, and Kraftwerk, Germany shows that they can come up with some inventive… and scary… technology. Welt am Draht is one of those rare pre-cyberpunk cyberpunk movies that needs to be seen to be believed. Especially when more recent films have aped the idea of VR with high-end graphic trickery, this one is enough proof that high-end does not mean high-quality.

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    Technotise: Edit I Ja (Edit & I)

    January 31, 2011

    Movie Review By: Mr. Roboto

    Year: 2009

    Directed by: Aleksa Gajic, Nebojsa Andric, Stevan Djordjevic

    Written by: Aleksa Gajic

    IMDB Reference

    Degree of Cyberpunk Visuals: High

    Correlation to Cyberpunk Themes: High

    Key Cast Members:

  • Edit (voice): Sanda Knezevic
  • Bojan (voice): Nikola Djuricko
  • Broni (voice): Marija Karan
  • Profesor Dorijevic (voice): Vlasta Velisavljevic
  • Edi (voice): Nebojsa Glogovac
  • Rating: 10 out of 10


    opening-scene.jpg

    Overview: Not often that a good cyberpunk movie comes down the wires. Lately, the better ones have been coming out of Japan’s anime studios. Technotise could be the latest-and-greatest to come from the land of the rising sun… only it came from Serbia, not Japan, although the anime influence can be seen. While not enough to make those famed anime studios nervous… yet… it already has a live-action remake under development.

    A sequel based on the comic (readable here, if you understand Serbian), Technotise looks into a bit of the the life of a college girl as she faces a struggle in Belgrade 2074 that could kill her.

     

    The Story: Edit Stefanović is a psychology major in a Belgrade college. Like most students, Edit has had her successes and failures but mostly failures. Now her professor has given her an ultimatum:

    professor.jpg

    “Pass or GTFO.”

    After burying her robotic pet, and a fight with her mother, Edit decides to get a memory chip implant to help her pass the exam. She is also an intern at TDR, a research company that’s been working on a formula that connects all the energies in the world, aka “A direct line to God.” This “formula” can be used to predict the future, but any computer that calculates it becomes sentient before it shuts down. Abel Mustafov discovered the formula before becoming autistic, and when Edit sees a “graph” of the formula, her chip becomes alive and starts wiring itself into her body, making her act weird (like eating large amounts of iron). Now TDR wants Edit and the chip for their future-telling computers, while Edit wants what the chip did to her undone.

    edits-wiring.jpg

     

    Algorithm Absurd. This phrase is used a couple of times to describe what happens to the computers that calculates the formula. Algorithm – like a computer program; A series of finite steps to generate an output from input. Absurd, the ludicrous, insane, irrational. The phrase is simply another way of saying: “That does not compute.” Apparently the computers see the formula like a digital existential crisis, one that says machines are not alive. But Edit’s chip doesn’t suffer the same fate, probably because of their connection to each other, or maybe because of Edit’s study of psychology she was able to “understand” the graph in a way that computers couldn’t so she acted as a “buffer” and the chip was able to process her output.

     

    The next GITS? Like GITS, Technotise uses a variety of animation styles to produce some high quality movie fare. 2D, 3D, vector, and realistic static drawings come together for some of the best eye-candy. But without a good storyline, all you can get from eye-candy is diabetes. Fortunately, Technotise has the storyline to back up the visuals. About the only problem is the language is entirely Serbian with English subtitles so you might miss out on some of the vids.

    technotise.jpg

    “I have nothing against plastic but sometimes you have to make out with some real meat.”

    Conclusion: With the themes of the search for “God” via science and our continued interconnection of human and machine, we have some excellent cyberpunk fare to even anime fans happy for the next decade or so. This is one animated movie that can go byte-by-byte with GITS. Just get the DVD and see what I mean…

    This post has been filed under AI (no body), Awesome Cyberpunk Themes, Memory Modification, Man-machine Interface, 10 Star Movies, Cyberpunk movies from 2000 – 2009, Android Movies, Awesome Cyberpunk Visuals, Cyberpunk Theme by Mr. Roboto.
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    X-Files: Kill Switch (Episode 11, Season 5)

    March 19, 2006

    Movie Review By: Metatron

    Year: 1998

    Directed by: Rob Bowman

    Written by: William Gibson & Tom Maddox

    IMDB Reference

    Degree of Cyberpunk Visuals: Medium

    Correlation to Cyberpunk Themes: Very High

    Key Cast Members:

  • Esther Nairn/Invisigoth: Kristin Lehman
  • Fox Mulder: David Duchovny
  • Dana Scully: Gillian Anderson
  • Rating: 8 out of 10


    Screencap

    This is what happens when you forget there IS a real world outside…

     

    Overview: Now, surely there must have been some kind of mistake. This is Cyberpunk Review, right? OK. Since when stories of little green men do qualify as such? Surely the mere fact that agent Scully had an implant in her neck does not count for an awful lot.

    All true. This particular episode, however, is different. Look at the credits. William Gibson. Ring any bells?

     

    Screencap

     

    More Than Meets the Eye: It all starts with a rather innocuous shootout at a diner in a drab neighbourhood. Piece of cake, eh? Well, not exactly, as it turns out that one of the victims is in fact a top IT expert and programmer whose death might have been anything less than a coincidence. Soon afterwards Mulder and Scully happen upon a rather charming lady going by the nick-name of Invisigoth, who turns out to be much more than just a leather-clad Trinity wannabe…

     

    Screencap

     

    The threat, it is revealed, comes from a fugitive AI she and her companions helped to spawn. This synthetic entity seems to have little regard for human life, plus it possesses some rather eccentric habits, such as playing with leftover Star Wars military orbital lasers and residing in abandoned… camping trailers. Needless to say it has to be stopped, although it may yet turn out Invisigoth pursues a different agenda altogether…

     

    Screencap

    “Okay mom, I did actually use your eye-liner…”

     

    Out There: Even if the credits said “Jay Leno” or “Kermit the Frog” rather than Gibson, there still would be a good case to make for the overall cyberpunk feel of this standalone episode. In terms of themes, it is all there- the pursuit of the AI takes place both in our very own “desert of the real” and through the net; agent Mulder even gets to become a multiple amputee courtesy of the malicious program’s VR simulation. More interestingly, the episode deals with the transfer of consciousness- translating a human psyche into digital data in pursuit of a peculiar kind of disembodied immortality. It is at that point one may begin to realise that one of the foremost attractions of the concept of sentient cyberspace entities is that cyberspace begins, to the mind of many, resemble a manufactured heaven of sort, a synthetic paradise for the unbelievers, allowing those of little religious zeal to dream of achieving transcendence. This move to another plane of existence, an ersatz afterlife- may not be explored at lengths here, yet gives a good cause for reflection. Apart from the sentient computer theme there is of course our sweet little Trinity impersonator (prettier than the real deal? I might be getting controversial here…) who also happens to drive a car (1960s Imperial, to be exact) very similar to the black Lincoln in the first Matrix.

    Convinced? And then you realise that this episode actually comes from 1998, which is a year BEFORE tha Matrix… So, who’s the copycat, eh Trinity? Guess I should be expecting a lawsuit for these allegations any time now…

     

    Screencap

     

    The Visuals: While not trying to rival Blade Runner, the visuals are decent for the budget. Being that this is an X-files episode, we shouldn’t expect anything too fancy – the series rarely relies on fancy visuals to generate their mood, or to depict story elements. One of the distinct traits of the X-Files is that they can often make ordinary places or events appear menacing and sinister when placed in the given context – this applies to Kill Switch.

     

    Screencap

     

    I assure you that, having seen this episode, the next time you’ll see a decaying camping trailer you’re gonna think twice before approaching it. In a way this depiction of cyberpunk is more realistic – inconspicuous locations concealing the drama of furtive technological experiments and computer crime is very much what one’s bound to encounter today. The most important bit – the flow of data – is hidden from the eye. The episode does treat us to some juicy cyberpunk visual elements, including gloomy improvised computer labs, and chaotic nests of cables and wires lit by the dim glow of terminal screens – but nothing too extravagant (aside for a few explosions).

     

    Screencap

     

    Confirm File Delete: Overall the episode represents a truly interesting foray of the famous franchise into the realms of cyberpunk, courtesy of Mr. Gibson himself. As with many other episodes, the strength of Kill Switch lies in its inherently believable narration, a mixture of the ordinary and the imaginary that made the series famous. The acting is decent- Invisigoth oozes character- and the action tightly coiled into a mere 45 minutes of film. Yet because of the unspectacular nature of the whole thing few will probably have seen and noticed it, even if this is as close as we can get into having a Gibson story made into a feature film, after his Alien3 script got binned long ago. It may not be cyberpunk canon in any way, but do watch it- I swear that after those 45 minutes you’re likely to be craving for more. Which you just might get, as there is another Gibson-written X-File which I will investigate soon…

     

    ~See movies similar to this one~

    Tags: TV episode review

    All true. This particular episode, however, is different. Look at the credits. William Gibson. Ring any bells?
    <p>&nbsp; </p>
    <p align=”center”><img src=”/images/xfiles-killswitch03.jpg” alt=”Screencap”> </p>
    <p>&nbsp; </p>
    <span class=”iTitle”>More Than Meets the Eye: </span>It all starts with a rather innocuous shootout at a diner in a drab neighbourhood. Piece of cake, eh? Well, not exactly, as it turns out that one of the victims is in fact a top IT expert and programmer whose death might have been anything less than a coincidence. Soon afterwards Mulder and Scully happen upon a rather charming lady going by the nick-name of Invisigoth, who turns out to be much more than just a leather-clad Trinity wannabe…
    <p>&nbsp; </p>
    <p align=”center”><img src=”/images/xfiles-killswitch07.jpg” alt=”Screencap”> </p>
    <p>&nbsp; </p>
    The threat, it is revealed, comes from a fugitive AI she and her companions helped to spawn. This synthetic entity seems to have little regard for human life, plus it possesses some rather eccentric habits, such as playing with leftover Star Wars military orbital lasers and residing in abandoned… camping trailers. Needless to say it has to be stopped, although it may yet turn out Invisigoth pursues a different agenda altogether…
    <p>&nbsp; </p>
    <p align=”center”><img src=”/images/xfiles-killswitch04.jpg” alt=”Screencap”> </p>
    <DIV class=”quote”>“Okay mom, I did actually use your eye-liner…”</DIV>
    <p>&nbsp; </p>
    <span class=”iTitle”>Out There: </span>Even if the credits said “Jay Leno” or “Kermit the Frog” rather than Gibson, there still would be a good case to make for the overall cyberpunk feel of this standalone episode. In terms of themes, it is all there- the pursuit of the AI takes place both in our very own “desert of the real” and through the net; agent Mulder even gets to become a multiple amputee courtesy of the malicious program’s VR simulation. More interestingly, the episode deals with the transfer of consciousness- translating a human psyche into digital data in pursuit of a peculiar kind of disembodied immortality. It is at that point one may begin to realise that one of the foremost attractions of the concept of sentient cyberspace entities is that cyberspace begins, to the mind of many, resemble a manufactured heaven of sort, a synthetic paradise for the unbelievers, allowing those of little religious zeal to dream of achieving transcendence. This move to another plane of existence, an ersatz afterlife- may not be explored at lengths here, yet gives a good cause for reflection. Apart from the sentient computer theme there is of course our sweet little Trinity impersonator (prettier than the real deal? I might be getting controversial here…) who also happens to drive a car (1960s Imperial, to be exact) very similar to the black Lincoln in the first Matrix.

    Convinced? And then you realise that this episode actually comes from 1998, which is a year BEFORE tha Matrix… So, who’s the copycat, eh Trinity? Guess I should be expecting a lawsuit for these allegations any time now…
    <p>&nbsp; </p>
    <p align=”center”><img src=”/images/xfiles-killswitch05.jpg” alt=”Screencap”> </p>
    <p>&nbsp; </p>
    <span class=”iTitle”>The Visuals: </span>While not trying to rival Blade Runner, the visuals are decent for the budget. Being that this is an X-files episode, we shouldn’t expect anything too fancy – the series rarely relies on fancy visuals to generate their mood, or to depict story elements. One of the distinct traits of the X-Files is that they can often make ordinary places or events appear menacing and sinister when placed in the given context – this applies to Kill Switch.
    <p>&nbsp; </p>
    <p align=”center”><img src=”/images/xfiles-killswitch02.jpg” alt=”Screencap”> </p>
    <p>&nbsp; </p>
    I assure you that, having seen this episode, the next time you’ll see a decaying camping trailer you’re gonna think twice before approaching it. In a way this depiction of cyberpunk is more realistic – inconspicuous locations concealing the drama of furtive technological experiments and computer crime is very much what one’s bound to encounter today. The most important bit – the flow of data – is hidden from the eye. The episode does treat us to some juicy cyberpunk visual elements, including gloomy improvised computer labs, and chaotic nests of cables and wires lit by the dim glow of terminal screens – but nothing too extravagant (aside for a few explosions).
    <p>&nbsp; </p>
    <p align=”center”><img src=”/images/xfiles-killswitch06.jpg” alt=”Screencap”> </p>
    <p>&nbsp; </p>
    <span class=”iTitle”>Confirm File Delete: </span>Overall the episode represents a truly interesting foray of the famous franchise into the realms of cyberpunk, courtesy of Mr. Gibson himself. As with many other episodes, the strength of Kill Switch lies in its inherently believable narration, a mixture of the ordinary and the imaginary that made the series famous. The acting is decent- Invisigoth oozes character- and the action tightly coiled into a mere 45 minutes of film. Yet because of the unspectacular nature of the whole thing few will probably have seen and noticed it, even if this is as close as we can get into having a Gibson story made into a feature film, after his Alien3 script got binned long ago. It may not be cyberpunk canon in any way, but do watch it- I swear that after those 45 minutes you’re likely to be craving for more. Which you just might get, as there is another Gibson-written X-File which I will investigate soon…
    <p>&nbsp; </p>TV episode review

    This post has been filed under AI (no body), Awesome Cyberpunk Themes, Made for TV, Hot Cyberchicks Kicking Butt, 8 Star Movies, Hacker Movies, VR Movies, Cyberpunk movies from 1990 – 1999 by Metatron.
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    War Games

    February 13, 2006

    Year: 1983

    Directed by: John Badham

    Written by: Lawrence Lasker & Walter F. Parkes

    IMDB Reference

    Degree of Cyberpunk Visuals: Very Low

    Correlation to Cyberpunk Themes: Medium

    Key Cast Members:

  • David Lightman: Matthew Broderick
  • Jennifer Katherine Mack: Ally Sheedy
  • Dr. John McKittrick: Dabney Coleman
  • Dr. Stephen Falken: John Wood
  • Rating: 7 out of 10


    DVD Cover

     

    Overview: War Games is a wonderful 80s film that captures both the cold war fears and the budding hacker mentality. Mathew Broderick plays a geek teenager named David, who has fun hacking into open modems to noodle around with unidentified computer systems. He finds one computer that likes to play chess. Eventually, he finds this computer also likes to play Global-thermonuclear war. Unfortunately, while playing, he unknowingly starts the Strategic Air Command computer’s countdown to thermo-nuclear war.

     

    screencap

     

    This movie is lots funnier when we consider the DoD IT fuckups from the late 70s in building computer-based command and control systems such as this. Twice, in the middle of the night, President Carter got racked out of bed to be told that the Soviets had launched – only a minute later to be told, “Sorry, it was just test data” that was being run on their new $100 Million dollar computer system. After the second such instance, President Carter made it known that he no longer found this amusing. Unfortunately, the designers of this system in their infinite wisdom had the specifications written so that test simulations had to be performed on the live system. For obvious reasons, this is about as bad an idea as has been considered, let alone implemented. They ended up having to spend an additional 50 million to build a test system, that was thereafter known as “Bozo the Clone.”

     

    screencap

     

    The Bottom Line: It is definitely a stretch to call War Games cyberpunk. The only thing that makes it so is the pre-Terminator plotline concerning the Military’s attempt to allow machines to manage key decisions for society and the hacker subplot. While not as dystopic as Colossus – the Forbin Project (still awaiting review), the theme is executed competently, especially when combined with what was then the advent of the hacker movement. This is well acted, and for the most part, a decent “pre-cyberpunk” style movie.

     

    ~See movies similar to this one~

    Tags: cyberpunk movie review Wargames

    This post has been filed under AI (no body), 7 Star Movies, Hacker Movies, Cyberpunk movies from 1980-1989 by SFAM.
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    Serial Experiments: Lain

    January 19, 2006

    Year: 1998

    Directed by: Ryutaro Nakamura

    Written by: Chiaki Konaka

    IMDB Reference

    Degree of Cyberpunk Visuals: High

    Correlation to Cyberpunk Themes: Very High

    Key Cast Members:

  • Lain Iwakura: Kaori Shimizu
  • Rating: 9 out of 10


    screen capture

     

    Overview: Serial Experiments Lain is a psychedelic, post-modern cyberpunk series that one wonders how the director ever managed to make. Lain centers on a very shy school girl who slowly begins to figure out that she is not what she seems to be. After getting a computer and connecting to the “wired,” something with is far more expansive than the internet, Lain begins to realize that she may not be human, and that truly, reality and the “self” is exists (or does not exist) on many different levels. As the story progresses, Lain “evolves” in terms of understanding what she is and her place in a very post-modern world. We also get many interesting side stories, including crime, teenage coming of age issues, and dastardly plots.

     

    screen capture

     

    The pacing of Lain is just strange. Lain is NOT an action fest, nor is it by any means straight forward. Lain starts out rather slowly and gets weirder every episode. Truly, the story is told in a very “traditional” post-modern fashion in that we have fragmented vignettes structured in a seemingly random non-linear manner. Lain uses disconnected visuals to continually barrage the viewer with different textures, color schemes, and sounds. Yet over time, it becomes clear that the story is being spunk in seemingly a cyclical fashion, almost as if we are exploring a large Mandelbrot by starting at an outside spiral and slowly working our way around to the big picture. Each fragmented vignette gets added to until, at the end, we have a rather expansive tapestry to explore.

     

    screen capture

     

    Many different and interesting philosophical ideas. But it is pure philosophical cyberpunk. Many key issues are discussed here, including:

    • What constitutes “reality”?
    • How real is time?
    • What constitutes the “self” as a singular entity?
    • What constitutes “God”?
    • How are sentient programs different from humans?
    • Is there such a thing as collective humanity?

     

    screen capture

     

    The visuals in Lain really aren’t there to “Wow” us as they are in some animes – instead they are often designed to provoke moods and thought patterns (BTW, there are so many screen caps available, that there was no need to take my own). Among the thought provoking visuals, we get:

    • Psychedelic visions that explore multiple “selves” versus a singular “I”
    • Juxtapositions of noise with false clarity
    • Information Theory described visually
    • An ever increasing feeling “disbelievability” each time the drab and normal school scene is shown.

     

    screen capture

     

    The Bottom Line: In the end, we are left with very open-ended thoughts. Serial Experiments Lain does not provide us with answers, instead, it opens us up to questions. And while I might argue that the post-modern pacing got too circular in places, and that I might argue the same tale could have been spun in half the time, the overall effect is rather extraordinary.

     

    screen capture

     

    ~See movies similar to this one~

    Tags: cyberpunk movie review anime Serial Experiments Lain

    The visuals in Lain really aren’t there to “Wow” us as they are in some animes – instead they are often designed to provoke moods and thought patterns (BTW, there are so many screen caps available, that there was no need to take my own). Among the thought provoking visuals, we get:
    <ul>
    <li>Psychedelic visions that explore multiple “selves” versus a singular “I”</li>
    <li>Juxtapositions of noise with false clarity</li>
    <li>Information Theory described visually</li>
    <li>An ever increasing feeling “disbelievability” each time the drab and normal school scene is shown.
    </li>
    </ul>
    <p>&nbsp; </p> <p align=”center”><img src=”/images/lain6.jpg” alt=”screen capture” /> </p>
    <p>&nbsp; </p>

    <span class=”iTitle”>The Bottom Line:</span> In the end, we are left with very open-ended thoughts. Serial Experiments Lain does not provide us with answers, instead, it opens us up to questions. And while I might argue that the post-modern pacing got too circular in places, and that I might argue the same tale could have been spun in half the time, the overall effect is rather extraordinary.
    <p>&nbsp; </p>
    <p align=”center”><img src=”/images/lain1.jpg” alt=”screen capture” /> </p> <p>&nbsp; </p>cyberpunk movie review anime Serial Experiments Lain

    This post has been filed under AI (no body), Awesome Cyberpunk Themes, Made for TV, 9 Star Movies, Animes, Hacker Movies, Surreal Cyberpunk Movies, VR Movies, Cyberpunk movies from 1990 – 1999 by SFAM.
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