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(Pocket-lint) - If you've not yet heard of the Bootleg Universe but enjoy short films, prepare for some treats. These are films shorts based on big name franchise films, comics and TV shows that have been made into gritty versions of themselves.

The two big names in the Bootleg Universe right now are Adi Shankar and Joseph Khan. Their films have included the recent Power/Rangers short, The Punisher: Dirty Laundry, Venom: Truth in Journalism and James Bond: In Service of Nothing. 

All their films go places that big budget studios dare not tread. That's what makes them brilliant.

While Adi Shankar directed big budget movie The Grey, it's his smaller Bootleg Universe efforts that seem to get all the love. Joseph Khan also had a big budget film in motorbike movie Torque, which was similarly not a big hit. He has also directed lots of music videos but it was his Power/Rangers short that really put his name into the mainstream.

These are the films you need to see from the Bootleg Universe.


The Power/Rangers short, that's had over 13 million YouTube views, offers a really dark take on the kid's TV series. It stars Katee Sackoff who you may remember as Starbuck from Battlestar Gallactica, plus James Van Der Beek of Dawson Creek fame. This was "presented" by Adi Shakar but was directed by Joseph Khan.

The Punisher: Dirty Laundry

One of the great things about this film, which shot Shankar to cult fame, is that it stars Thomas Jane - the actor from the original blockbuster Punisher film. He wasn't asked to return for the second Punisher: Warzone movie but still loved the character and wanted a chance to do more. In our opinion this short is better than the first two big budget movies combined.

Venom: Truth in Journalism

The title of this one gives away a bit too much really. Otherwise you'd think it was any other, well-made, short film. That said it helps to know what to look out for, especially for those that aren't huge Spider-Man fans. Ryan Kwanten, of True Blood fame, puts on a good performance which you can appreciate better knowing he's Spider-Man's arch nemesis Venom.

James Bond: In Service of Nothing

UPDATE: We've been contacted by Tyler Gibb who says he wrote, animated and directed this short. It was Shankar's original concept and his distribution channels.

ORIGINAL: Similar to his other movies Shankar takes the original story of Bond down a very dark path to show what he would do when he was old and out of work. The result is brilliant, even if this is just a plan for what a better-animated short could offer. Not a bad Connery accent in there either.

Writing by Luke Edwards. Originally published on 3 March 2015.