Film Review: Rogue Trader (1999)

Also known as: Trader (France), Money Trader (Japanese English title)
Release Date: June 25th, 1999 (UK, Ireland, US TV premiere)
Directed by: James Dearden
Written by: James Dearden
Based on: Rogue Trader: How I Brought Down Barings Bank and Shook the Financial World by Nick Leeson, Edward Whitley
Music by: Richard Hartley
Cast: Ewan McGregor, Anna Friel, Pip Torrens

Granada Film Productions, Newmarket, 101 Minutes

Review:

“Oh, fuck the rules, Tony. It’s barrow boys like Nick who are turning the City of London around. You can’t run a modern financial centre with a bunch of Hooray Henries.” – Ron Baker

I saw this movie back in 1999 and generally liked it but I hadn’t seen it since then and after recently revisiting the Wall Street movies, I wondered how well this one would hold up over two decades later.

For the most part, it’s pretty good and I thought that Ewan McGregor did well with the material, bringing a real energy to the film, which on it’s own, would’ve been really mundane without him.

Point being, McGregor is so good that it makes this a better picture than it should have been and he carries the rest of the cast in every scene. But honestly, that’s okay, as the end result worked and you cared enough about him and his situation that you wanted to see this all play out.

From a production standpoint, the cinematography, camera work and overall look of the picture feels cheap. If I’m being honest, this feels like more of a TV movie than a theatrical one, which is probably why it debuted on television in the US market where it saw theatrical releases overseas.

When compared to films like Wall Street 1 and 2The Wolf of Wall Street and the grossly underrated Boiler Room, this doesn’t hold a candle to them.

Like The Wolf of Wall Street, though, this one is a true story and it’s an interesting enough story deserving of being told in the motion picture medium. However, the story probably deserves a better movie than what this turned out to be. The real story is fascinating and I don’t think that it really came through, here.

Still, this is good and it’s certainly worth checking out for Ewan McGregor and the part that he played quite greatly.

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: other finance industry thrillers like Boiler Room and the Wall Street movies.

Book Review: ‘Cypherpunks: Freedom and the Future of the Internet’ by Julian Assange, Jacob Appelbaum, Andy Muller-Maguhn & Jérémie Zimmermann

Overall, this was a pretty engaging book but it also wasn’t what I had hoped it would be, which is more of an autobiographical piece by Julian Assange, his work and his philosophy behind it all.

Instead, this reads like a conversation between four people who are talking about the cypherpunk movement.

It covers a lot of the stuff I had hoped it would but there’s that part of me that wanted something more personal and much deeper from Assange.

For those that care about this stuff, this is still most definitely a worthwhile read. Although, there probably isn’t a lot here that’s new knowledge.

However, for those who are just learning about this stuff and who didn’t live through the history of the WikiLeaks saga in real time, you’ll probably be shocked by a lot of the things that are covered here.

Regardless of your level of knowledge, though, this is definitely worth the shelf space in your library if you have an interest in tech history, freedom, conspiracies, coverups and wanting the truth to always come out.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: other books about cypherpunk culture, hacking and cryptocurrency.

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.

Documentary Review: Banking On Bitcoin (2016)

Also known as: The Battle for Bitcoin, The Bitcoin Takeover (working titles)
Release Date: 2016
Directed by: Christopher Cannucciari
Written by: Christopher Cannucciari, Prichard Smith
Music by: Ben Prunty
Cast: Wences Casares, Nathaniel Popper, Gavin Andersen, Naomi Brockwell, Nancy Cannucciari, Michael Casey, David Chaum, Andy Greenberg, Benjamin Lawsky, Jaron Lukas, Blythe Masters, Rakesh Motwani, Rand Paul, Charlie Shrem, Barry Silbert, Nick Spanos, Chris Tarbell, David Thompson, Jeffrey A. Tucker, Paul Vigna, Erik Voorhees, Cameron Winklevoss, Tyler Winklevoss, Alex Winter 

Periscope Entertainment, Downtown Community Television Center, Dynamic Range, Gravitas Ventures, 90 Minutes

Review:

I’ve owned some Bitcoin for awhile and while I generally understand it, it was neat seeing a good, well-produced documentary about it.

This covers the short but very interesting history of Bitcoin and cryptocurrency while also explaining what it is and how it works. The biggest obstacle it faces is the public’s lack of understanding of it. I think that this did the best job it could in trying to speak to the layman.

The documentary also features a lot of people who known what they’re talking about and have been involved in Bitcoin for quite some time.

If the subject matter doesn’t interest you, why have you read this far? If it does, this is well worth a watch.

There’s really not a whole lot more to say other than pointing out that this is one of the best documentaries I’ve come across on the subject.

Rating: 8/10
Pairs well with: other documentaries on crypto currencies and cypherpunk culture.

Book Review: ‘Flame and Crimson: A History of Sword-and-Sorcery’ by Brian Murphy

As a lifelong, hardcore fan of sword and sorcery fiction, this was a thoroughly enjoyable read.

Brian Murphy did his research and it showed, as this great book is probably the best thing I’ve ever read on the history of sword and sorcery fantasy, as a whole.

It’s part biographical when it covers specific writers in the genre but it also gets really deep into the history of the sword and sorcery style and how it was established and grew into quite the phenomenon that still creeps in and out of mainstream pop culture.

While this spent a good amount of time on the legendary writer, Robert E. Howard, and his most famous creations Conan and Kull, it also went way beyond that exploring other writers and their work, which helped propel sword and sorcery forward and into the hearts and minds of literary fantasy fans around the world.

The book also shows how sword and sorcery grew beyond just words on a page and how it sort of fell out of popularity but also had a resurgence, later on.

If you love sword and sorcery and you haven’t picked this book up, you definitely should. It’s something I will probably go back to and reference for years to come.

Rating: 9/10
Pairs well with: other books about sword and sorcery literature, comics and film. Especially, the books put out by Pulp Hero Press.

Comic Review: Hunter S. Thompson’s Fear and Loathing In Las Vegas

Published: October 28th, 2015
Written by: Hunter S. Thompson
Art by: Troy Little
Based on: Fear and Loathing In Las Vegas by Hunter S. Thompson

Top Shelf, 172 Pages

Review:

This has been in my Comixology queue for quite some time, so I figured that reading it was long overdue.

I wasn’t sure what to expect from it, as it appeared to just be a comic adaptation of Hunter S. Thompson’s most famous book and most famous movie based off of any of his works.

And frankly, that’s exactly what this is. But that’s also not a bad thing, as I love the story in both of its previous forms and seeing it come alive in the comic book medium was pretty cool.

If you know the story, there isn’t much here that deviates from it. It’s just cool seeing it in a different medium.

Additionally, I really liked Troy Little’s art and it was sort of its own neat thing, even if it did draw some inspiration from the Ralph Steadman art that typically accompanied Thompson’s literary work.

All in all, for fans of Hunter S. Thompson, this is a worthwhile ride.

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: the book it’s based on, as well as Hubter S. Thompson’s other books and films that have been based on them.

 

Book Review: ‘Assassin: The Man Behind the Mask’ by Joe Hamilton & Scott Teal

I’ve definitely been digging the wrestling biographies I’ve recently gotten from Scott Teal’s website, Crowbar Press. This one is just the latest of those books that I’ve read but it lives up to the quality I’ve come to expect from the publisher.

The Assassin primarily wrestled before my time but I did get to catch the tail end of his work when I was really young. Also, he spent some time in Florida, where I grew up and still live. Because of that, I love reading books that are tied to that specific wrestling territory.

This was thoroughly enjoyable from cover-to-cover and I even liked all the stuff about his youth and growing up, as he had some issues and felt as if he needed to leave his small town behind and follow his older brother into the professional wrestling business.

I wasn’t sure what to expect going into this book, as I honestly didn’t know much about the man other than his in-ring character and all that knowledge came later, as I was a wrestling tape trader in the ’90s and early ’00s.

Like everything I’ve read from Crowbar Press, this did not disappoint and it’s a cool book for anyone that’s a fan of the old territory era of the professional wrestling business.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: other books on the history of the old school territory wrestling business, as well as biographies on the personalities who lived it.

Documentary Review: You Cannot Kill David Arquette (2020)

Release Date: August 21st, 2020
Directed by: David Darg, Price James
Music by: Dimiter Yordanov, Matt Glass, Will Patterson
Cast: David Arquette, Patricia Arquette, Rosanna Arquette, Richmond Arquette, Courteney Cox, Ric Flair, Dallas Page, “Jungle Boy” Jack Perry, Luke Perry, RJ Skinner, Ken Anderson, Coco Arquette, Eric Bischoff, Colt Cabana, Mick Foley, Jerry Lawler, Christina McLarty Arquette, Kevin Nash, Vince Russo

One Last Run Productions, Kidz Gone Bad, Carbon, 91 Minutes

Review:

I was fairly excited for this when the trailer dropped, months ago. I was never mad at David Arquette for his stint in the wrestling business and I honestly just blamed it on the shit creative that was killing World Championship Wrestling, at the time. Funny enough, the company ceased to exist the following year.

I also know that Arquette has loved and respected the professional wrestling business since he was a kid and that he truly felt bad about how people perceived his small run in it, which led to him becoming the WCW World Heavyweight Champion for a few weeks back in 2000.

People viewed this as destroying the prestige of the World Title but it was devalued immensely before Arquette ever got his hands on it. Plus, Vince Russo winning it after the Arquette debacle showed that WCW creative were absolute imbeciles that deserved their fate.

Anyway, I get why David Arquette wants to repent and doesn’t want to be perceived as a joke or some Hollywood opportunist asshole that came in and took a shit on the business.

However, his path to redemption was a terribly misguided one that just made me feel even worse for the guy and made me realize that he was taken advantage of and poorly directed by the modern “hardcore” sect in wrestling a.k.a. the outlaw mudhsow ass hats that should never have their version of the business reach the mainstream. Granted, wrestling is pretty fucking dead in my eyes, anyway, so who’s to say what kind of stupid horeseshit is going to get over with the thirteen fans that still go to live shows in crossfit warehouses.

David Arquette, for a guy that loves the business, doesn’t seem to really know enough about it to avoid the people that put him in the ring, where he nearly got killed just to make this film. He didn’t need to redeem himself by fighting the most “hardcore” shitheads in the business, he needed to go to wrestling school, a real one, and learn the basics, work hard, get put on a decent show and work his way up.

His objectives in this were never really clear but he seemed to just have this idea that he needed to be severely punished for his sins more than he needed to become a legitimate wrestler that could stand proudly next to other former WCW World Champions.

I was severely disappointed by this, overall. I was rooting for the guy and hell, I still really like him. But this isn’t what he needed to do to absolve himself of the immense guilt he’s felt for twenty years. I left this feeling even worse for him but I guess if he believes he succeeded than who am I to piss in his coffee.

Rating: 4.5/10
Pairs well with: other recent wrestling documentaries.

Book Review: ‘Inside Out: How Corporate America Destroyed Professional Wrestling’ by Ole Anderson, Scott Teal

I’ve heard people reference this book for eons and I’ve heard the stories about how Ole Anderson was a cantankerous jerk but also had a great mind for the wrestling business. All of that made me want to read his book and I’m glad that I finally did.

This is both parts a biography and Ole’s view on the wrestling business and how it evolved into something much different and from his viewpoint, became un-repairable.

I liked this quite a bit. Ole is a smart guy and an opinionated one. Even if I don’t agree with every opinion, he made the case for his points-of-view really well and made his stances very clear.

Out of all the stuff I’ve read recently on old school territory wrestling, this is one of the better books.

Frankly, it made me wish that Ole was still involved in the business and it also made me wish that he’d do more shoot interviews. I loved watching the guy on my television when I was a kid and all that personality and attitude still exists.

The book shows you that the man isn’t too different from the personality that we all saw on the TV.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: other wrestling biographies and books on the history of the business from the territory era.

Film Review: Rasputin: The Mad Monk (1966)

Also known as: Rasputin (Spain)
Release Date: March 6th, 1966 (UK)
Directed by: Don Sharp
Written by: Anthony Hinds
Music by: Don Banks
Cast: Christopher Lee, Barbara Shelley, Francis Matthews, Richard Pasco, Suzan Farmer, Joss Ackland 

Seven Arts Productions, Hammer Films, 91 Minutes

Review:

“When I go to confession I don’t offer God small sins, petty squabbles, jealousies… I offer him sins worth forgiving!” – Grigori Rasputin

This might not be Christopher Lee’s best film but it is certainly one of his greatest performances of all-time and the greatest out of all the Hammer Films pictures he starred in.

The movie is a very loose biopic about Grigori Rasputin, a man whose legend has grown well beyond reality. Still, the guy was damn interesting and gained control over some powerful, influential people.

Also, his death is pretty legendary but I’m not going to rehash all the details about the man and his death. Go to Wikipedia for that, if you’re unfamiliar with it.

This film doesn’t cover Rasputin’s whole life, it just covers the end of it. It essentially starts with some character building and context to setup who he is and then immediately gets into how he “mesmerized” an influential Russian family, causing some serious harm to the people trapped in the gravitational pull of his orbit.

The film also eventually gets to his death. However, being that this was a superb picture for Hammer, I’m actually kind of shocked that they didn’t find a way to resurrect the madman for a series of sequels that would be a lot more horror heavy. It definitely feels like it was a missed opportunity. Plus, I would’ve liked to have seen what a director like Terence Fisher could’ve done had he gotten a crack at the Hammer version of the Rasputin character.

This is well acted and honestly, it really stands out in that regard, compared to other Hammer movies of the time.

Rasputin: The Mad Monk is one of the best motion pictures that Hammer ever made and I feel like it’s sort of been forgotten, as people tend to gravitate more towards the films that feature Dracula, Frankenstein and vampires in general.

Rating: 8/10
Pairs well with: other Hammer horror films with Christopher Lee.