Kick Heart (2013) Short Film

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As promised, I’m going to review a newer anime today rather than sticking to the decade of my birth like my last few entries. This short film is one that many people have probably not heard of before, as it was created via a “crowd funding” project. About a year ago, I found a film called Kick Heart by Masaki Yuasa and Production I.G. on Kickstarter. Mr. Yuasa is of course the man behind the surreal (and pretty much awesome) short film Cat Soup, so I knew I just HAD to back the project. It doesn’t hurt that I’m also a huge pro wrestling fan either! It eventually made it’s required money, but missed it’s “stretch goals” which would have potentially moved the project into a feature length film, but what we got was pretty awesome none-the-less.

The story follows a man named Romeo Maki as he tries to get by with a fairly surprising dual life. Romeo works as both a masked professional wrestler and the CEO of a rundown orphanage. He funds with orphanage via proceeds from his night job, but things aren’t looking good. Lately the roof has been leaking non-stop, and it appears that a large snake has taken the children’s restroom as his home. In desperation, Romeo enters a $50,000 “winner takes all” contest against another masked wrestler named Lady S, but things get weird real quick. Lady S “gets off” by inflicting pain on her opponents, and Maskman M (Romeo) get’s the same pleasure from receiving pain. I know this sounds like the makings of an adult film, but don’t worry, Kick Heart is pretty much PG-13. Oh yeah, I forgot to mention that Lady S also works at the orphanage as a quiet young nun named Juliet, but Romeo doesn’t realize this.

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The animation in this film is pretty nice, and resembles those old Bill Plympton cartoons more than any anime I’ve ever seen. Everything is sort of “sketchy” and VERY brightly colored, which really helps this film have an “edgy” or “underground” feeling to it. It’s almost like something that would have aired on MTV’s ancient Liquid Television show really late at night. I enjoyed the fact that you never got to see Romeo’s face completely, this was mostly because he lived most of his life as a masked wrestler, and tradition generally goes that such performers are never to be seen in public without their masks on. Romeo, in businessman mode, always has a black censorship bar over his eyes, a little touch that gives this film something different that really makes it stand out.

The character designs are pretty awesome and some are even borderline grotesque. Lady S’s tag team partner, in particular, is a giant of a woman that is so large that she crushes a portion of the audience when she is defeated in one of their bouts. The cool thing is that because of this, no two characters look the same, and are “larger than life” just like how pro wrestling characters generally are.

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I love what Kickstarter and other crowd funding services could potentially bring to the anime market. Films like this or the recent Bubblegum Crisis Blu-Ray release are products that most likely would not have been produced in the current anime market, so pre-ordering these projects beforehand really lessen the risk of the project being unsuccessful, and guarantees the releases. Eventually I want to see more experimental films like this, and maybe older anime getting put up. It really could change the landscape of the whole industry.

Here is a trailer:

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Short Film Tuesday – Factory Farmed (2008)

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A new feature I decided to do was a series of micro reviews for notable short films produced by fledgling directors. Just about everybody writes about the latest episode of Doctor Who or Red Dwarf, but I don’t see too many taking up the “indie” mantle. Some of my favorite science fiction directors began with groundbreaking shorts under their belts. Neil Blomkamp, for instance, created a series of amazing shorts that eventually got him a Hollywood deal.

Today we are going to be looking at a short called Factory Farmed directed by Gareth Edwards. Edwards gained a fair amount of fame a number of years ago when he released a film called Monsters, a film that eventually led to his name being placed on the newest Godzilla film due out in 2014. Factory Farmed was created in 2008 as an entry in the “The SCI FI LONDON 48 HOUR FILM CHALLENGE 2008”, a challenge that gives crews a prop, a single line of dialog, and two days to produce a film.

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Factory Farmed is a minimalist affair that is both haunting and perplexing. The sombre tone of the film owes a lot to its solid film score that fills every moment with dark pessimistic tones. We aren’t given much to go on plot-wise and there is only a few lines of dialog towards the end of the film. What we do get is the sense of hopelessness and despair of a man on the brink of mankind’s ruin. There has been some sort of catastrophe involving humans and a clone sub-class. We are mostly shown the plot through flashbacks of a hospital from the viewpoint of a small child. In the present, our protagonist wanders the wasteland looking for anyone else alive. He doesn’t want to save them, meet them, help them or any other cliché. He wants to….well….you should watch the film.

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Seeing this short means that I need to get around to finally watching Monsters in order to get pumped up for Godzilla. Being a big fan of “kaiju movies” (Japanese monster films), and seeing this short makes me really excited. Here’s hoping that they take the franchise back to it’s roots, when it wasn’t all about flash and had substance. If this is any indication, the franchise is in good hands.

Here is the film, Enjoy!