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.

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.

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.