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By Stina Chyn | April 13, 2004

David Valdez, Dan Gutierrez, and Phil Jackson have been making short films since 2002 when they formed a production company called Emptyv. In 2003 they put four of their works onto a DVD entitled “Kung Fu Kitties: Paws of Fury and more.” The films are “Kung Fu Kitties: Paws of Fury“(David Valdez, Phil Jackson, and Dan Gutierrez), “Richard Benjamin: Professional Assassin” (David Valdez and Phil Jackson), “The Neighbor” (Dan Gutierrez), and “Marijuana’s Revenge: Reefer Madness 6” (David Valdez, Phil Jackson, and Dan Gutierrez). The first film incorporates Conan O’ Brien’s “celebrity mouth” technique to give a couple of cats really freaky eyes and warped mouths. In a videogame-like setting, the two cats insult each other and duke it out like members of rival gangs. “Kung Fu Kitties” strikes you as something that would hold additional levels of meaning when viewed under the influence of any number of chemicals.

“Richard Benjamin: Professional Assassin” is a day-in-the-life of Richard Benjamin (AC DelRe). The opening sequence resembles that of “The Brady Bunch” and there’s an announcer guy’s voice-over of “Richard Benjamin: Professional Assassin was filmed in front of a live studio audience.” We meet Frank (Ray Cordova), the victim of the day. He apparently borrowed a lawnmower from a fellow named Doug (AC DelRe) but neglected to return it. Doug has no choice but to call the Professional Assassin. Richard Benjamin easily slips into Frank’s residence. No ordinary hit man, he employs an unconventional weapon to get the job done. Death by bullets, stab wounds, electrocution, “sudden” heart failure, or poisoning just isn’t his style. Benjamin prefers death by hot water. It’s not a pretty sight, the burnt Frank, but the manner in which he dies is hilarious. Not to suggest that one should gain pleasure from watching someone scream in the shower, but we can all relate to the circumstance or something similar to it (water pipes and heater are connected in such a way that when cold water is used in every sink in the house, the water in the shower becomes extra hot). It’s not the greatest way to go, but Benjamin earns extra points for creativity. A bullet to the head is over-rated.

The perpetrator of violence in the third short, “The Neighbor,” isn’t a supporter of firearms either. Written by Jack Hughes, this grainy film noir short comments on the ease with which audiences accept everything they see on screen without question. “The Neighbor” is about a man (Jack Hughes) who investigates a domestic disturbance situation that he can hear going on next door. What he finds will surprise him and you. Accompanied by an excellent, unnerving musical score comprised of violins, “The Neighbor” will leave you in a state of disbelief and perhaps the next time you watch a film, you won’t blindly accept everything that you see.

The fourth short on the DVD is a spoof of anti-drug campaigns. “Marijuana’s Revenge: Reefer Madness 6” presents facts and figures that may or may not be factually accurate. For instance, do 80% of people who’ve tried marijuana experience the munchies? Do they overdose on Cheetos and die? The rest of the segment suggests that even though the filmmakers are poking fun at anti-pot ads, they’re not making anything up. Scientific studies have shown that marijuana slows a person down and impairs their judgment. “Marijuana’s Revenge” addresses these issues quite humorously. The sketch about slow reaction time, for example, involves a van and its two, stoned occupants, and a child who might get run over. One shouldn’t find such amusement in knowing that a van might drive into a kid, but it is funny—at least in “Marijuana’s Revenge.” What isn’t a laughing matter, though, is going to the video store and picking out an awful movie because you were under the influence. To avoid impaired judgment, the filmmakers argue, don’t do pot before you go rent a movie.

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