Documentary Review: Lost Soul: The Doomed Journey of Richard Stanley’s Island of Dr. Moreau (2014)

Release Date: August 24th, 2014 (London FrightFest Film Festival premiere)
Directed by: David Gregory
Written by: David Gregory
Music by: Mark Raskin
Cast: Richard Stanley, Fairuza Balk, Rob Morrow, Robert Shaye, Hugh Dickson, Oli Dickson

Severin Films, 97 Minutes

Review:

I saw the mid-’90s Island of Dr. Moreau film in the theatre. But it was so bad that I barely remembered anything about it other than how damn weird and terrible it was. I also didn’t really know the story behind it until years later when I read articles about the problems on the set and the ousting of director, Richard Stanley.

This documentary does a pretty good job of covering the details and allowing several of the people involved in this fiasco to tell their stories from their points-of-view.

Most importantly, it let Stanley tell his side of the story while also cluing the viewer in on what he had planned. Frankly, his ideas and his vision for the picture sounded incredible, even if what he wanted to do was probably unachievable even before the producers started meddling with his plans.

It also didn’t help that two massive egomaniacs, Marlon Brando and Val Kilmer, were hired to star in the picture. With that, they developed a rivalry that truly derailed the production and caused even bigger problems.

Even knowing what I did going into this documentary, I still wasn’t prepared for the whole story and the dozens of additional details I never knew. Fairuza Balk’s stories about the experience were really interesting and allowed you see how this unfolded through the eyes of someone who was trapped in this production and pretty powerless to do anything about it.

All in all, this was informative and it shed a lot of light on one of the most troubled productions in motion picture history. It’s a compelling story and certainly deserving of having that story told.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: other documentaries about failed films, as well as all the Dr. Moreau film adaptations.

Documentary Review: Cryptopia: Bitcoin, Blockchains and the Future of the Internet (2020)

Release Date: January 14th, 2020 (Melbourne, Australia premiere)
Directed by: Torsten Hoffmann, Michael Watchulonis
Written by: Torsten Hoffmann
Music by: Joshua Keddie
Cast: various

3D Content Hub, 86 Minutes

Review:

Those that follow Talking Pulp are probably aware that I’ve watched and reviewed several documentaries on Bitcoin, crypto and blockchain over the last few months. Well, I’ve been kind of looking for the perfect one. The main reason being that I’ve been in the crypto space for awhile but I’d like to find something that I can point newbies towards.

That being said, this is one of the better ones.

This film is a sequel to Bitcoin: The End of Money as We Know It, which is also directed by Torsten Hoffmann and Michael Watchulonis. I saw that one a few years back and really liked it and I should probably rewatch and review it, as well.

I jumped on this one, though, because it came out in 2020 and it is the most up-to-date documentary on the subject.

I thought that the things explored and laid out in this were well done and it presented a lot of criticism and multiple sides to every topic covered. I felt like the filmmakers didn’t really try to lean one way or the other too much and the viewer is allowed to take what’s discussed here and form their own opinion.

One of the coolest things about this was that it showed the inside of a giant crypto vault buried in a mountain somewhere in Switzerland. What they could actually show was very limited but it was neat seeing how heavily secured the vault was.

This also just looks at crypto from a lot of different angles, all of which I found interesting and informative.

If you want something to watch on the subject to expand your knowledge, this is documentary might be a good start for you.

Rating: 8/10
Pairs well with: other documentaries on cryptocurrency, blockchain or cypherpunk culture.

Documentary Review: Things That Go Bump In the Night: The Spooky Pinball Story (2017)

Release Date: March 24th, 2017 (Texas Pinball Festival)
Directed by: Joel Reeves
Cast: various

Reeves Media Group, 65 Minutes

Review:

This was a good, positive documentary that I’m glad I watched, as the world slips further and further into a seemingly darker and uncertain future.

Also, this is centered around pinball, which is something I’ve loved since the days where I first learned how to drop my parents’ quarters into a slot.

Things That Go Bump In the Night tells the story of a devoted family man that gave up his twenty year career to pursue his dream of becoming a pinball manufacturer.

With that, we meet the man, his family and see how his family became a part of his business and continues to encourage his work and his dream. Along the way we see all the wonderful creations he came up with, as well as the trials and tribulations associated with creating a small, niche business that is already in an industry that is shrinking but also really competitive.

This was lighthearted and inspiring and honestly, I hope the guy is still going strong after the events of the past year and how the pandemic has negatively effected the arcade game and pinball industry.

Rating: 6.5/10
Pairs well with: other documentaries on the video game/pinball industry.

TV Review: Myths & Monsters (2017)

Original Run: 2017 (UK)
Directed by: Daniel Kontur
Written by: William Simpson
Music by: Murat Evgin
Cast: Nicholas Day (presenter), various

3DD Productions, Netflix, 6 Episodes, 42 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

I guess this show is on Netflix but I started watching it on the Dox channel I subscribe to on Prime Video. But if you have Netflix, you can enjoy it there without the Prime add-on.

Myth & Monsters is a pretty cool limited series that uses its six episodes to go through the history of different myths and legends and how they’ve inspired stories throughout the ages.

Each episode focuses on a specific topic ranging from love, war, the hero’s journey, etc. I found each installment to be just about equally as good and pretty informative thanks to the great talking head interviews of many experts in the fields of literature, folklore and mythology.

Also, the show just looks wonderful from the art used throughout the series to the look of the production as a whole. The interview segments were designed to focus on the subjects with a pretty minimalist approach to their surroundings while the set the host presented from looked like a great, manly library of yore.

I also really enjoyed the presenter Nicholas Day, as he did a stupendous job narrating and setting up each segment of every episode. The man has acted for years but I feel like he was almost tailor made for this role, as he was natural and just very good. I’d probably watch anything else that he would host in a similar fashion.

As someone who loves the stories born out of classic mythology and legends, this was definitely a worthwhile, engaging watch.

Rating: 7/10

Documentary Review: Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room (2005)

Also known as: Black Magic (Australian TV title)
Release Date: April 22nd, 2005 (limited)
Directed by: Alex Gibney
Written by: Peter Elkind, Alex Gibney, Bethany McLean
Music by: Matthew Hauser
Cast: Andrew Fastow, Jeffrey Skilling, Kenneth Lay, Gray Davis, Bethany McLean, Peter Coyote (narrator)

Jigsaw Productions, 2929 Productions, HDNet Films, Magnolia Pictures, PBS, 110 Minutes

Review:

Watching this documentary, I couldn’t believe that the Enron shit was over a decade and a half ago. Man, time flies but it was a hell of a story and I’m glad that this was so well presented and thorough, allowing me to revisit the story with even more insight than what was known when the news of this first started breaking.

For those that don’t know about the Enron scandal, how old are you? I kid, geez. Everyone is so sensitive now.

Anyway, this goes through the history of the company, how it was formed, all the big players that helped to turn it into a cabal of vampiric bastards, the relationships of well-known political figures to the company, as well as the fallout of the scandal itself.

A lot of the people interviewed in this documentary were either directly involved in the company or were the people that worked to uncover their shady practices over the years.

Seriously, if you don’t know the story it’s certainly worth learning about. If you do know it, however, there’s still a lot of information to sink your teeth into and there were connections and reveals that either I had forgotten about over the years or I just didn’t know about back in the early ’00s.

Solid, through and through, this is well produced and a pretty enthralling film for those into financial and political scandals.

Rating: 8/10
Pairs well with: other business crime documentaries.

Documentary Review: The King of Arcades (2014)

Release Date: June 17th, 2014
Directed by: Sean Tiedeman
Music by: various
Cast: Walter Day, Billy Mitchell, Richie Knucklez, Eugene Jarvis, Ralph H. Baer, Jerry Buckner

K Studios, Tiedebaby Films, GOG.com, 100 Minutes

Review:

This was free on Prime Video and the plot seemed interesting, so I fired it up.

The story is about punk rocker Richie Knucklez of the band Knuckle Sandwich. This chronicles how his love of music and arcade video games led to a really cool life where he got to truly explore both of those passions in ways that other dreamers often don’t.

Richie had a pretty decent music career but later on, turned towards his love of arcade games and started his very own arcade, which became instantly cool and eventually, pretty iconic and beloved by not just his local community but by those in the worldwide gaming community.

Ultimately, this is a story of love and passion and in Richie’s case, perseverance.

This is a feel good movie about a guy that did what he wanted, believing his time to be very limited and has since wrote his own story in the way he wanted. Frankly, its inspirational and motivational.

The King of Arcades is definitely worth a watch if you want something uplifting, light and fun. And it made me want to fill all the empty corners in my house with the arcade machines I’ve always wanted.

Rating: 6.5/10
Pairs well with: other documentaries about the history of video game culture.

TV Review: Night Stalker: The Hunt for a Serial Killer (2021)

Original Run: January 13th, 2021 (Internet)
Directed by: James Carroll, Tiller Russell
Music by: Brooke Blair, Will Blair
Cast: various

The Intellectual Property Corporation, Netflix, 4 Episodes, 189 Minutes (total)

Review:

I kind of just watched this on a whim on a day where I was hungover and not moving. I’m glad I did, as it was a really compelling documentary series on one of the sickest serial killers in my lifetime.

Netflix seems to do a real good job of either producing or finding great crime series to feature on their service. This one is no different and this chilling tale was so perfectly told and laid out over four episodes that it really made me want to delve into more of these Netflix offerings.

This story is incredibly gruesome and the series doesn’t shy away from showing you the details and images of the crime scenes. At the same time, I think it is necessary to properly paint the picture of this killer.

This also delves into the personal lives of the detectives on the case, the victims and their families, as well as showing how the evil killer became somewhat of a cult icon by weirdo serial killer worshipping groupies.

All in all, this was captivating, enthralling and definitely worth a watch if these type of stories are your cup of tea.

This is well produced, incredibly well executed and seemingly leaves no stone unturned.

Rating: 9/10
Pairs well with: other crime documentary series on Netflix.

Documentary Review: Chasing Ghosts: Beyond the Arcade (2007)

Release Date: January 22nd, 2007 (Sundance)
Directed by: Lincoln Ruchti
Cast: various

Men At Work Pictures LLC, 90 Minutes

Review:

After revisiting The King of Kong for the first time in years, I wanted to also revisit this, as it’s a very similar documentary that came out just before that more famous one.

While this isn’t the near masterpiece that The King of Kong is, it ties directly to it and its story and frankly, this plays like a prelude or a setup to that movie.

This goes through the history of arcade gaming and also covers the legends that rose up in the early days, their records, their effect on pop culture, as well as the creation of Twin Galaxies, the organization that records and maintains world records in arcade gaming. I believe they also keep records for console and PC gaming but it’s the arcade side of things that inspired them to exist in the first place.

There is a lot in this documentary about Billy Mitchell, who was pretty much the villain in The King of Kong story. It also features nearly all of the key people and legends that played a part in that film.

While this isn’t as good as The King of Kong it does feel like a necessary companion piece to it, allowing the viewer to have a deeper, richer experience in getting to know these people and their interesting, competitive and sometimes cutthroat subculture.

Rating: 8/10
Pairs well with: The King of Kong, which this truly plays as a preface to.

Documentary Review: Circus of Books (2019)

Release Date: April 26th, 2019 (Tribeca Film Festival)
Directed by: Rachel Mason
Written by: Rachel Mason, Kathryn Robson
Cast: Karen Mason, Barry Mason, Rachel Mason, various

Netflix, 92 Minutes

Review:

I saw this pop up on Netflix, so I figured I’d check it out, as I generally enjoy the documentaries they distribute through their streaming service.

I wasn’t disappointed, as this is a really interesting story about a religious Jewish family who opened up a gay porn store, which also became a gay porn film studio and distributor. The store rose to prominence within the Los Angeles gay scene in the ’80s and would also reach far beyond its home city.

This kind of hit close to home, as I’ve been around gay culture since my teen years. The scene in southern Florida is big and even though I’m straight, I’ve always had gay friends and also lived with a pretty legit drag queen for a bit. The era that the bulk of this story took place in just brought a lot of those great memories back.

Beyond the nostalgia, this is an intriguing story about really interesting, good people. It’s hard not to love the family that started this store and it’s just as much a love letter to them, as it is the store itself.

I especially liked how interesting the father was with his backstory and the road that life took him on, leading up to becoming a straight, religious, family man that owned a gay book store.

This also examines the impact that owning the store had on the family as a whole in an age when it was considered really taboo. I liked meeting the kids, getting their take on all of it and how they grew up with this “moral” cloud over their religious upbringing.

It was also really cool seeing people from the L.A. gay community talking about the store and what it meant to them during really difficult times in their lives.

This really hits you in the feels and it’s unfortunate that the store, during the filming of this documentary, was falling on real hard times due to the world evolving away from the old mediums of pornography thanks to the Internet.

While this documentary was made by someone within the family, it’s not in any way inauthentic or dishonest because of that. In fact, it made the experience more intimate and meaningful.

Rating: 7.25/10
Pairs well with: other documentaries about LGBTQ cultural history, porn and small business.

Documentary Review: Something Ventured (2011)

Release Date: April 24th, 2011 (San Francisco International Film Festival)
Directed by: Daniel Geller, Dayna Goldfine
Music by: Laura Karpman
Cast: various

Geller/Goldfine Productions, Miralan Productions, 84 Minutes

Review:

I saw this way back when it came out but I remembered it pretty fondly, so I decided to give it another watch when I saw it was free with Prime. Also, I didn’t remember much about it other than I had liked it about a decade ago.

So this goes through the early days of venture capitalism and since that’s something I’m a fan of, I found this pretty interesting. Plus, all these old school O.G. venture capitalists all seemed like pretty good guys and they came off as quite likable.

What’s most interesting about this is that it gives some details on the creation of a lot of iconic companies. It also shows many of these men talk about their failures and missed opportunities.

Ultimately, I liked that everyone sort of wore everything on their sleeve and weren’t afraid of talking about the good and the bad. There are lessons to be learned from these personalities and their trial and error.

This is a fairly short and quick watch and while it is primarily just talking head interviews, everything is superbly organized and presented while the multiple narratives and subjects flow well.

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: other documentaries on business.