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.

Retro Relapse: The Durham Bulls Solution to the Tampa Bay Rays Problem

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

*Written in 2015.

Let me start this post off by saying that there is no way that this will ever happen.

That doesn’t mean that I cannot dream though. And frankly, this idea is great and it was born from a conversation a friend and I had about what to do with the Tampa Bay Rays.

By the way, I still prefer to call them the Devil Rays because that name was infinitely more bad ass than Rays. What the shit is a ray? Even Stingrays would be better than Rays. But enough bitching about a dumb name, let me get to the point here.

The Tampa Bay Rays have major attendance troubles. This also stems from the fact that they play in a shit hole, they are located in Florida (a state with horrible sports fans) and most of the attendees that do go to the games are usually there for the road team. If you don’t believe me, go to a Rays game. I have and each time I saw more jerseys and caps for the opposition. It didn’t matter if it was the Cubs, Cardinals, Brewers, Twins, Tigers, Yankees, Red Sox, Orioles or even the foreigner poutine-fueled Blue Jays.

Florida sports fans suck a bucket of balls. I live in Florida and I witness the antics of my state mates on the reg. Look at Miami Heat fans. Oh, that’s right, you can’t anymore because LeBron James left and they ceased to exist.

Florida is also made up of a lot of tourists who buy homes and become part-time residents. Even though they melt down the side of our planet every autumn and settle in on Florida during the winter months, many stay longer or become permanent fixtures in the state. With them, they bring their love and affection for their own team from their northern place of origin. This is why teams from the Northeast and Midwest are always represented en masse at Florida sporting events. This is also why the Tampa Bay Lightning decided to not sell playoff tickets to non-permanent Florida residents and banned all team apparel that isn’t Lightning apparel. God forbid those Red Wings fans have the freedom to express themselves in Tampa Bay’s house!

When it comes to Tropicana Field, the home of the Rays, I can’t even begin to express my frustration with that abomination: sitting like a gargantuan cyborg choad, wedged between I-275 and downtown St. Petersburg. The ballpark is impractical, balls get stuck in the rafters and it is just a drab and awful sight to see. The concessions are also below average. However, that Latin American fair I went to back in 1996 resulted in me getting a handy in a toilet stall while on a high school field trip, so I do have one fond memory of Tropicana Field.

But lewdness aside, there isn’t a month or even a week that goes by where it doesn’t seem like there is some story or report about how the Rays aren’t going to survive in the Tampa Bay area or that they are going to move somewhere else. A lot of it stems from their insanely lengthy lease at Tropicana Field and the fact that people just don’t want to go there but there are a multitude of things going on, most of which I’m not going to waste time on because I don’t feel like writing a novel and the problems aren’t what this is about – this is about the solution.

So I propose that you let the Rays just fade away. Unfortunately for the American League East, this leaves them with four teams in their division: everyone else has five. So what can be done to bring balance to the AL East?

You take the Rays Triple-A team since 1998, the Durham Bulls, and make them the new Major League Baseball franchise to represent that fifth spot in the American League East division.

Crazy idea? Well, hear me out.

The Carolinas do not have a major league baseball team. However they are represented in the NFL, NBA and the NHL. They have great sports fans and a pretty successful minor league history. The Durham area is also next to Raleigh, Chapel Hill, Wake Forest and not too far from Winston-Salem and Greensboro. Charlotte isn’t far either. Also, the Carolina Hurricanes already play in that area and do pretty well for a team not even located in the biggest city in the Carolinas.

By selecting the Durham Bulls, I’m not just picking some random Carolina-based team, I am also not picking them just because they are already associated with the Tampa Bay Rays, even though that does play into this. There are several reasons for this idea but the main one is that the Durham Bulls are already an internationally recognized brand.

Since the hugely successful and awesome 1988 film Bull Durham, there has been a mystique around this team. That film starred Kevin Costner, Tim Robbins, Susan Sarandon and “the Clown Prince of Baseball” Max Patkin (look him up). It is a classic and probably always will be. It is by far one of the greatest baseball movies ever made and it made the Durham Bulls a household name.

Because of that, a team that would come and go throughout history, became really popular, expanded, and went from a Single-A team to a Triple-A team when they left the Carolina League and joined the much larger International League in 1998. The Rays recognized the Durham Bulls’ value as a brand and thus, made them their premier minor league affiliate after their lengthy run as a lowly team in the Atlanta Braves system.

This does hurt the actual real Rays fans out there and for that I am sorry but this would be better for the sport in my opinion and would inject a much needed boost into the AL East and MLB, in general. And being that I live in Florida and love going to as many MLB games as possible, this would be a blow to me, even though these contests take place in the worst venue in Major League Baseball.

Fans would also miss out on the growing division rivalry between the Tampa Bay Rays and the Boston Red Sox, which only intensifies and strengthens with each season. This could certainly evolve naturally if the Rays whole roster moved to Durham though.

But then again, despite all the troubles the Rays have and all the reports about them hightailing it out of Tropicana Field or completely out of the Tampa area, one fact remains true: they are really friggin’ profitable.

As of right now, in April of 2015, they are valued at $625 million dollars. This is a huge jump from the $451 million they were worth in 2013 and an even bigger jump than the $200 million they were bought for in 2004.

Realistically, could the Carolinas match or exceed the value the team has built up in the Tampa Bay area over the last decade? It is tough to say but it would be an interesting experiment, nonetheless.

And truthfully, maybe them staying put, albeit in a better venue, is the right solution.

Either way, something has to change.

Film Review: Dr. Jekyll and Sister Hyde (1971)

Release Date: October 17th, 1971 (UK)
Directed by: Roy Ward Baker
Written by: Brian Clemens
Music by: David Whitaker
Cast: Ralph Bates, Martine Beswick

Hammer Films, 97 Minutes

Review:

“I walked the streets, brooding on the bitter irony that all I wanted to do for humanity, for life, would be cheated by death… unless I could cheat death.” – Dr. Jekyll

This is strangely a Hammer horror film that I hadn’t seen. It’s always cool seeing one of these for the first time because it’s like looking at it with fresh eyes without nostalgia grabbing hold and taking you back to a magical time from your youth.

That being said, I quite enjoyed this and the gender bending twist to this classic story was a fun, interesting take.

The plot sees the legendary character of Dr. Jekyll develop and test out his own serum. However, in this version, he doesn’t turn into Mr. Hyde, he turns into a hot chick.

With that, his female persona uses her beauty and her gender to trap women in her web before horrifically murdering them Jack The Ripper style. In fact, this was most definitely inspired by the Jack The Ripper killings, as much as it was inspired by the famous Robert Louis Stevenson horror story about the duality of man and science run amok.

I love Ralph Bates, especially in his Hammer movie roles. I really liked Martine Beswick, as well though, as she plays the murderous female version of the character.

Additionally, whoever cast this film did a stupendous job in finding two leads with a very similar look despite their different genders.

Dr. Jekyll and Sister Hyde may not be the best version of the Stevenson tale but it’s certainly a really cool take on it, made by a solid classic horror director and two leads that committed to their parts and ultimately gave us cinematic magic.

Rating: 7.25/10
Pairs well with: other Hammer horror films of the early ’70s that explore sexual themes.

Film Review: A Colt Is My Passport (1967)

Release Date: February 4th, 1967 (Japan)
Directed by: Takashi Nomura
Written by: Shūichi Nagahara, Nobuo Yamada
Based on: a novel by Shinji Fujiwara
Music by: Harumi Ibe
Cast: Joe Shishido, Jerry Fujio, Chitose Kobayashi, Ryōtarō Sugi

Nikkatsu, 84 Minutes

Review:

Japan really made some visually stellar and interesting motion pictures in the 1960s. This one takes its inspiration from classic film noir, French New Wave and the spaghetti westerns of its time.

In fact, despite being a simple Yakuza crime flick, this has a score very similar to the ones you’d hear in Sergio Leone’s western movies.

Beyond that, this feels similar to Seijun Suzuki’s crime movies from the same decade. Although, this one is less stylized and surreal.

Director Takashi Nomura’s work here is incredible and since I’ve never seen any of his work before this, I kind of want to check out what else he’s done based off of how enjoyable, artistic and technically savvy this film is.

It’s also pretty well acted from top-to-bottom and features characters you’ll like and despise.

One thing that really stands out about this movie is the energy of it. The big finale is absolutely incredible and way ahead of its time in how it was shot, executed and presented.

Additionally, the cinematography is beautiful and it truly embraces the best parts of the classic film-noir aesthetic with a high contrast visual style and the clever use of shadow and light.

While I hold the Seijun Suzuki and Akira Kurosawa Yakuza films in very high regard, this lesser known film by the uber talented Takashi Nomura deserves to be in the same circle as those other amazing and game changing pictures.

Rating: 8/10
Pairs well with: other neo-noir styled Yakuza movies, such as some of the ’60s films of Seijun Suzuki.

Film Review: Who’s the Man? (1993)

Release Date: April 23rd, 1993
Directed by: Ted Demme
Written by: Seth Greenland, Doctor Dré, Ed Lover
Music by: Michael Wolff, Nic. tenBroek, various
Cast: Doctor Dré, Ed Lover, Badja Djola, Cheryl “Salt” James, Colin Quinn, Denis Leary, Bernie Mac, Bill Bellamy, Terrence Howard, Richard Gant, Guru, Ice-T, Larry Cedar, Jim Moody, Joe Lisi, Karen Duffy, Roger Robinson, Richard Bright, Rozwill Young, Vincent Pastore, Caron Bernstein, Kim Chan, Ken Ober, B-Real, Ad-Rock, Apache, Bow-Legged Lou, Bushwick Bill, Busta Rhymes, Chi-Ali, CL Smooth, Pete Rock, Del the Funkee Homosapien, D-Nice, Dres, Eric B., Fab 5 Freddy, Flavor Flav, Freddie Foxxx, Heavy D, House of Pain, Humpty Hump, Kid Capri, Kris Kross, KRS-One, Leaders of the New School, Melle Mel, Monie Love, Naughty by Nature, Penny Hardaway, Phife Dawg, Queen Latifah, Run-DMC, Scottie Pippen, Sandra “Pepa” Denton, Stretch, Yo Yo, Da Youngsta’s

De Passe Entertainment, Thomas Entertainment, New Line Cinema, ,,, Minutes

Review:

“You fucked me! You fucked me! You might as well kiss me ’cause you’re fucking me!” – Sgt. Cooper

I’m one of the few people that saw this in the theater back in 1993 and honestly, I’m one of the few that saw it in my theater, as there were only three of us on opening night.

Still, I was stoked to see it, as I was a weekly viewer of Yo! MTV Raps at the time and the thought of Ed Lover and Doctor Dré in their own movie featuring dozens of rappers had my fourteen year-old self pretty damn excited.

The film also features Fab 5 Freddy and T-Money from Yo!, as well as some top up and coming comedians from the era like Bernie Mac, Denis Leary and Colin Quinn.

Now this isn’t specifically a well acted movie but it doesn’t need to be, as it is a buddy cop comedy made to appeal to teenagers that had a love of hip-hop. That being said, Lover and Dré were great, their chemistry shined through and their comedic timing was superb.

In a lot of ways, I saw the duo as their generation’s Abbott & Costello but unfortunately, they weren’t able to do anymore movies beyond this one. That’s kind of a shame, as they would’ve only gotten better but at the same time, Yo! MTV Raps was cancelled only two years later, ending a great era for hip-hop fans, which I feel had a lasting negative impact on hip-hop music going forward.

What makes this so fun to watch, especially now, is that it shows me how pure hip-hop still was in 1993 before it devolved into the overly corporate bullshit it became. This came out in a time where rappers still had real shit to say and a lot of the music was simply about having a good time or expressing positive messages. Sure, we all love the gangsta shit too but this film mainly features the East Coast side of the classic hip-hop era at its peak. There’s something magical about seeing all these guys in their prime, many of whom we have lost since then.

The bulk of the story revolves around Lover and Dré being failed barbers and having to join the police force to pay their rent. What they don’t know is that there is a sinister scheme afoot in their part of Harlem that leads to their beloved mentor and father figure being murdered for his real estate. This sets the pair off on trying to solve the mystery, even though they aren’t detectives and the police force doesn’t want them to be anything more than basic beat cops.

Along the way, they run into countless rappers, some of which have larger roles and most of which just have cameos. What’s weird about adding all these rappers in is that none of it seems forced or out of place. All the cameos are well handled and it’s kind of amazing that they actually got so many people in this movie.

The film is directed by the late Ted Demme, who was instrumental in bringing Yo! MTV Raps to the small screen. He would go on to direct a pretty good handful of films before his death, most notably Blow.

Additionally, this is written by Lover and Dré, which is probably why everything feels so natural, as they essentially play themselves in the film and they already head good relationships with all the other people in the movie, specifically the dozens of rappers.

This certainly isn’t a movie that’s going to resonate with those outside of my generation, who didn’t already have a love for East Coast hip-hop of the early ’90s, but it’s still pretty funny and these guys had incredible charisma and natural chemistry.

Rating: 6.75/10
Pairs well with: other hip-hop comedies of the ’80s and ’90s.

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.