Documentary Review: Deep Web (2015)

Also known as: Deep Web: The Untold Story of BitCoin and Silk Road (complete title)
Release Date: March 15th, 2015 (South by Southwest)
Directed by: Alex Winter
Music by: Pedro Bromfman
Cast: Keanu Reeves (narrator)

BOND360, Trouper Productions, Zipper Bros Films, Epix, 90 Minutes

Review:

As much as I’ve always enjoyed Alex Winter, as an actor, his real talent may be directing, as he knows how to tell a great story, hook you and keep you glued to it until the end.

Deep Web peaked my interest, as I’ve been really invested in cryptocurrencies since the birth of Bitcoin, over a decade ago. With that, I’ve also had an interest in the cypherpunk culture, as I was a shitty hacker in the mid-’90s and maintained my love for that stuff.

This film mainly tells the story about the Silk Road, a deep web superstore for all things illegal. This also goes into the philosophy about it’s creation and sheds light on some of the people behind it while also telling the story of Ross Ulbricht, a young guy that everything was pinned on but was most likely used as a scapegoat and to make an example out of to deter other cyber criminals from similar activities.

There is a lot covered in this film that goes beyond just the Ulbricht case. Additionally, there are a lot of interviews with the people who were there and who worked in this sphere.

All in all, this is a solid documentary that covers a lot of ground in just 90 minutes. It moved by at a fast pace, kept my attention and ultimately, made me wish there was more to dive into.

Rating: 7.75/10
Pairs well with: other documentaries about cypherpunk culture and cryptocurrency.

Film Review: The Godfather, Part III (1990)

Also known as: The Death of Michael Corleone (working title)
Release Date: December 20th, 1990 (Beverly Hills premiere)
Directed by: Francis Ford Coppola
Written by: Mario Puzo, Francis Ford Coppola
Music by: Carmine Coppola
Cast: Al Pacino, Diane Keaton, Talia Shire, Andy Garcia, Eli Wallach, Joe Mantegna, Bridget Fonda, George Hamilton, Sofia Coppola, Raf Vallone, Franc D’Ambrosio, Donal Donnelly, Richard Bright

Zoetrope Studios, Paramount Pictures, 162 Minutes, 170 Minutes (VHS Special Edition)

Review:

“I, uh, betrayed my wife. I betrayed myself. I’ve killed men, and I ordered men to be killed. No, it’s useless. I killed… I ordered the death of my brother; he injured me. I killed my mother’s son. I killed my father’s son.” – Michael Corleone

Godfather, Part III gets a lot of shit from just about everybody but I think the general hatred for it is asinine and people dismissing it mainly do so because it doesn’t live up to the bar set by the two films before it. That doesn’t make it a bad movie on its own, though. And honestly, if you look at it, as its own body of work, it’s a pretty compelling and interesting picture.

I like that it takes place at the end of Michael Corleone’s life and it shows how much power he’s amassed for the family, decades after the first two films.

Michael also tries to sort of legitimize everything and wash the blood off of his hands from the past. You also see how certain decisions he’s made have haunted him, such as killing his brother Fredo. However, it’s hard to change one’s nature and its influence and as much as Michael struggles to make things right, old habits die hard and the family finds itself in another war.

This time, the Corleone Family is so powerful that they have a scheme going with powerful people within The Vatican. I don’t want to spoil too much about the plot details but all of this I found really damn interesting. Even if you don’t agree with Michael’s methods, it’s hard not to respect what he’s accomplished with what he convinces himself are noble intentions.

I love that the movie takes this guy, at the end of his life, and exposes his flaws, his doubts and explores how haunted he is and how it’s changed him while still keeping him cold, callous and calculated. It’s a damn masterpiece in how this film showcases his inner conflict and both sides of his character. This is a testament to how good Al Pacino is as an actor, as well as how great of a writer Mario Puzo was and how well Francis Ford Coppola understands these characters.

Additionally, the relationship with Michael and his children has a massive impact on his evolution. I think that Coppola, also coming from a large, close Italian family understood these dynamics quite well and was able to pull from his own experiences as a father and make them fit for the Corleones and their unique situation.

Everything between the core characters’ relationships felt genuine and real. You could sense the pain and the regret between Michael and his ex-wife, Kay. You felt the tension between father and son, as wells as the love between father and daughter. Frankly, with this being as strong as it was, it made the final moments of the picture truly gut-wrenching.

Now I can’t call this movie perfect, as the criticisms of Sofia Coppola’s performance over the years are pretty accurate. Well, the real criticism, not the cruel criticism from those that hate the movie just to hate it. Originally, this role was meant for Winona Ryder but she dropped out of the film and I think that it suffered quite a bit because of this.

Also, the pacing is a bit slow at times and even though this is the shortest of the three Godfather films, it feels like it’s actually the longest.

Other than those two things, I don’t really see any other negatives.

Coppola’s direction is stellar and his eye for visual perfection is uncanny. Cinematographically, this is one of his best films. Everything and I mean everything looks absolutely majestic and flawless. This is a beautiful film from the opening frame to the last and there isn’t a moment that isn’t visually breathtaking.

The score by Carmine Coppola is also superb but then, so is all the film’s music from the party scenes to the big opera house finale.

As I stated in my first paragraph, I don’t get the amount of shit that this picture receives from fans of the series. It’s a damn fine film with minimal flaws and it gives a satisfying ending to a massive family saga. It’s like the third act to a Shakespearean tragedy and when you look at the whole body of work, over the course of three great movies, it’s a tale worthy of rivaling some of literature’s greatest epics.

Rating: 9/10
Pairs well with: its predecessors.

Comic Review: G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero – Classics, Vol. 12

Published: July 20th, 2011
Written by: Larry Hama
Art by: John Stateman, Herb Trimpe, Rod Whigham, Andrew Wildeman
Based on: G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero by Hasbro

Marvel Comics (original printing), IDW Publishing (reprinted), 280 Pages

Review:

The last volume was probably where I would have jumped off the series when I was a kid, if I hadn’t jumped off of it before that due to getting older and getting strange feelings around girls.

Sadly, this collection of issues didn’t pick things back up and it just continued down a crappy path.

At this point, it’s like all the good stories have been told and the series just feels like it is running aimlessly on fumes without a clear direction. Maybe Larry Hama stopped caring and Hasbro was just making him wedge in all their new, weird toys, which, in my opinion, wrecked the franchise and killed it due to terrible redesigns and stupid, unrealistic vehicles.

With this stretch of issues, the art quality also fell off fairly significantly. While this features multiple artists, the overall quality is poor and littered with issues from bad perspective to weird faces and bizarre anatomy.

This is also longer than the previous eleven volumes by a couple of issues, which made pushing through it even harder.

But at least there were a lot of ninjas!… even if most of the new ones look really stupid.

Rating: 5.5/10
Pairs well with: Any of the original Marvel G.I. Joe and Transformers comics.

Film Review: The Wrecking Crew (1968)

Release Date: December 25th, 1968 (Canada)
Directed by: Phil Karlson
Written by: William McGivern
Based on: The Wrecking Crew by Donald Hamilton
Music by: Hugo Montenegro
Cast: Dean Martin, Elke Sommer, Sharon Tate, Nancy Kwan, Nigel Green, Tina Louise, Wilhelm von Homburg (uncredited), Chuck Norris (uncredited)

Meadway-Claude Productions, Columbia Pictures, 105 Minutes

Review:

“So this is the place I was gonna get shot in the back. Kind of a stylish pad to take off from.” – Matt Helm

I’ve arrived at the fourth and final Matt Helm film and while the Dean Martin spy comedies have been enjoyable, this one showed me that maybe they had already run out of steam.

That’s not to say that this one wasn’t enjoyable, it was, but it was the weakest in the series and just felt like everyone involved was simply running through the motions and the entire production had become a paint-by-numbers affair.

Sure, Martin is still charming and suave and the women are beautiful. But this really felt like they were dialing it in, trying to get one last glass of milk out of the cow.

However, if they did make a fifth film, I’d still watch it. It’s hard not to like Dean Martin in this role, as it’s tailor made for him and who the hell doesn’t like Dean Martin?

One of the strong points in this film was the villain, who was played by Nigel Green, who is most known for his roles in classic horror films.

This is also sort of bittersweet in that it was Sharon Tate’s last movie before she was murdered by the Manson Family in 1969. I enjoyed her in this but I think that she hadn’t reached her full potential and it’s hard to say whether or not she would’ve grown into a real film star that could’ve carried a production on her own.

The film also featured a bunch of boxers, wrestlers and martial artists, all of whom were uncredited for their small roles. However, it’s worth mentioning that Bruce Lee worked on the film, behind the scenes, and this was also Chuck Norris’ first film, even though he’s so far under the radar that I didn’t even notice him.

Another interesting thing about this movie is that it was directed by the same guy who did the first Matt Helm picture, Phil Karlson. He’s a director mostly known for his fine noir movies and while I enjoy his work in the Matt Helm series, it doesn’t quite live up to the movies he did before them.

The Wrecking Crew was an okay finale to the Matt Helm film series. It could’ve tried a little bit harder and gave fans something better but in the end, it did get this far and that’s something.

Rating: 6.25/10
Pairs well with: The SilencersMurderers’ Row and The Ambushers: the other Matt Helm films.

Retro Relapse: A Miles Davis Sunday Experience

RETRO RELAPSE is a series of older articles from various places where I used to write before Talking Pulp.

*Written in 2014.

Technically, I guess this could be considered a review of two things and not just that but how these two things come together. Really though, it is a reflection on an experience more than anything else.

My football team has a bye week and I really don’t care about any other team enough to turn on the television. So I am left with not much to do. Then I came across the bottle of Miles Davis’ Bitches Brew from Dogfish Head sitting in my fridge – waiting for the right moment to crack open. Without any plans other than having planned to sit down and write today, I figured I’d open the bottle and enjoy it while listening to Miles Davis’ “Bitches Brew” album, the great work that inspired what I have been told is a pretty great beer. Then I figured, I’d kill two birds with one stone and that I would write about the experience while indulging in the experience.

First, the beer is an American stout. Being a fan of stouts, this dark and mesmerizing brew is right up my alley. It has a roasted coffee essence but it is pretty minimal. The beer is rich and robust and has some nice maltiness to it. I pick up other flavors, such as caramel, molasses and some light fruitiness. Physically, the beer itself is very dark, kind of like black coffee. It has a dark caramel-colored head that almost bubbles similar to a good root beer but not as quickly. It isn’t a highly carbonated beer and it is almost, in body and in flavor, pretty close to being a perfect stout.

As far as the album, “Bitches Brew” is one of the most complex and original jazz albums of all time. It is a departure from what the general public expected from Miles Davis and is deemed more experimental and primal compared to what many perceive as his more refined and traditional works. Well, I really wouldn’t consider this unrefined and the fact that isn’t considered “traditional” by many in that time, just goes to show the versatility Miles Davis had as an artist. He was one of the greatest musicians that Planet Earth has ever had and “Bitches Brew” not only solidifies that fact, it shatters the mold Miles himself made and goes on to transcend the incalculable level of greatness he had achieved before this unique album’s release. Sorry if I am selling this hard but I am a huge Miles Davis fan and this album is a vital piece of work not just in Miles’ catalog but in American music history.

When Rolling Stone’s Langdon Winner reviewed Miles Davis’ “Bitches Brew” album in 1970, upon its release, he stated something so profound that it sums up the album and the experience of listening to it perfectly. He said, “Whatever your temperament, “Bitches Brew” will reward in direct proportion to the depth of your own involvement.”

So what is it like to merge these two things: the album and the stout?

Well, the attitude and complexity of the album is only rivaled by the attitude and complexity of this meaty and potent jazz juice. Upon my first sip, this beer has risen up into the upper echelon of the brews that Dogfish Head offers. I’ve drank a lot of their stuff and there isn’t anything I haven’t liked. They are a brewery that does their own thing and strives to surprise the public, even though they have grown to a position where they could just sit comfortably and collect their profits. Dogfish Head goes way beyond that and continually creates some of the best brews in the world. With Miles Davis’ Bitches Brew, they have created one of the finest stouts that I have ever had.

Going beyond that, they have created a stout that from a flavor and body perspective, captures the essence of the “Bitches Brew” album. Throughout history, there have been many products that have tied into other products. This is one of the very few tie-ins that makes a lot of sense and is truly complimentary. The people at Dogfish Head just get it and luckily for us, they also have the palates and knowledge in how to create a perfect compliment to something that in and of itself is already a near flawless piece of work.

Well, the album is nearly over and my beer is nearly gone. I’ll have to do this again some time. I’m sure it won’t be as majestic as this initial experience but it is an experience that I would welcome at anytime. Dogfish Head’s Bitches Brew is a beer that Miles Davis would have been proud of. For the rest of us, it is a beer that we can relish in and enjoy with Miles’ most uncommon yet most interesting album.

Film Review: Frogs (1972)

Release Date: March 10th, 1972
Directed by: George McCowan
Written by: Robert Hutchinson, Robert Blees
Music by: Les Baxter
Cast: Ray Milland, Sam Elliott, Joan Van Ark, Adam Roarke, Judy Pace, Lynn Borden, Mae Mercer, David Gilliam

Thomas/Edwards Productions, American International Pictures, 91 Minutes

Review:

“I still believe man is master of the world.” – Jason Crockett, “Does that mean he can’t live in harmony with the rest of it?” – Pickett Smith

After revisiting this for the first time in a few decades, I was surprised to see how many different animals this film featured. Honestly, it shouldn’t have been titled Frogs. They should’ve called it Swamp Critters or Florida On A Tuesday, as it reminded me of a regular afternoon hike in my home state.

This movie is weirdly drab, even though it’s pretty eventful and features a lot of zany deaths. I wouldn’t say it’s boring but it does feel like the filmmakers barely took this seriously and tried their best. It certainly feels like a rushed production where they had x-amount of hours to film in a Florida State Park, so everything had to be done in a few takes: perfect shots, good effects and attention to detail be damned!

Now I did enjoy a very young Sam Elliott in this and I actually forgot he was the hero of the story. His environmentalist banter with the evil capitalist played by Ray Milland was enjoyable and it was cool seeing these two legends ham it up and try to turn this shoddy production into a film with a meaningful message. There are just so many other films that tell the “science run amok on nature” story much better, though.

This had the makings of something that could’ve been much better in an era where animal horror was really popular. However, for every Jaws you get ten Night of the Lepus.

Rating: 5.25/10
Pairs well with: other animal horror films of the ’70s.

Book Review: ‘Kings of the Wyld’ by Nicholas Eames

I heard some good things about this book from different sources. It got me hyped up and I was really stoked to give it a read.

Initially, it lived up to expectations, as the first fifty or so pages were great. It was well written, I liked the two main characters and it hit you in the feels from the get go.

However, once they set off on their adventure, the book became tedious and tiresome.

A lot of times, the action happened off the page and was just sort of reflected on, as characters spent most of their time exchanging witticisms. Because of this, I felt like the author was leaning on the strength of his dialogue and working around his possible weaknesses.

However, after hundreds of pages of mostly banter, I couldn’t wait to get through this book.

Sure, there is action but the stuff I wanted out of this book took a backseat too often. By the time you get where you’re supposed to be going, you don’t care anymore.

This was about 500 pages. It could’ve bumped up the action and told a good, solid story in 300 pages.

I had hoped that this would be the start of a series I could’ve loved but in the end, I’ll pass on its sequels.

Rating: 5.5/10
Pairs well with: I’m assuming it’s sequel and other installments in the future, as well as other modern fantasy novels.