Film Review: Boiler Room (2000)

Release Date: January 30th, 2000 (Sundance)
Directed by: Ben Younger
Written by: Ben Younger
Music by: The Angel
Cast: Giovanni Ribisi, Vin Diesel, Nia Long, Nicky Katt, Scott Caan, Ben Affleck, Ron Rifkin, Jamie Kennedy, Taylor Nichols, Bill Sage, Tom Everett Scott, Anson Mount, Kirk Acevado, Desmond Harrington (uncredited)

Team Todd, New Line Cinema, 120 Minutes

Review:

“[to the new recruits] And there is no such thing as a no sale call. A sale is made on every call you make. Either you sell the client some stock or he sells you a reason he can’t. Either way a sale is made, the only question is who is gonna close? You or him? Now be relentless, that’s it, I’m done.” – Jim Young

For years, until there was actually a second Wall Street movie, I saw this as that film’s spiritual successor. Which is also sort of fitting as the characters in this movie worship the Gordon Gekko character from Wall Street.

I actually still view this as a spiritual sequel, however, as it’s very apparent that it was strongly influenced by Wall Street and also because it is a motion picture of quality. While it might not live up to Wall Street or Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps, it’s still damn good and at least in the same orbit as those movies.

The plot of the film is intriguing and it sucks you in from the get go. It’s about a smart, savvy college dropout who goes from running an illegal casino in his house to being one of the top brokers at a really young, lucrative and questionable brokerage firm.

Over the course of the movie, we see Giovanni Ribisi’s Seth Davis go from being a slightly timid rookie to a confident and smart salesman to being swarmed with immense guilt when he realizes that he has completely fucking people out of their life savings to reluctant antihero that tried to fix some of the damage he caused while taking the firm down.

I can’t quite call Seth Davis a hero, as it took his father disowning him and the FBI pinching him to get him to actually change his tune. It’s hard to tell if he would’ve arrived to a better place on his own but, at least he tried to undo some of his wreckage.

Beyond Ribisi, this is a film that is loaded with a lot of the up and coming male talent of the day. Vin Diesel and Nicky Katt really stick out and Ben Affleck’s performance is great, even if his scenes are few and his role feels more like a beefed up cameo.

I really loved the music in this film, as it’s full of east coast hip-hop of the early to mid-’90s, which has always been my favorite kind of hip-hop. It may be slightly dated for this 2000 film but it worked for me, as I started to ignore more mainstream rap music around 1998.

Anyway, this is a superb finance thriller. It has stood up to the test of time in the same way that Wall Street has. If you like these sort of movies but have slept on Boiler Room the last two decades, you should check it out.

Rating: 7.75/10
Pairs well with: other finance industry thrillers like Wall Street, Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps, The Big Short, Rogue Trader, etc.

Comic Review: Sporkman Goes to Japan, Vol. 1-3

Published: December, 2020
Written by: Eric J. Berry, Charles Bonetti
Art by: Gifney Richata, Gingerfoxy

Wikid Publishing, 96 Pages (total)

Review:

This was a crowdfunded comic that I backed a few years ago. I think that it initially failed and had problems funding but eventually, after multiple campaigns, it got the money to come to life.

I didn’t mind waiting and I remember the price for these three comics as being rather low when compared to other campaigns out there. Being that I thought it was a good value and that it had a strong tokusatsu vibe to it, I supported it.

I’m glad that I finally got these three issues in my hands and I was impressed by the overall quality of the books, the paper stock, the printing and the colors. I work in a field where I manage a lot of print jobs and this did not disappoint in that regard. So extreme kudos to the creators for not taking shortcuts.

As far as the story goes, this is straight comedy and it parodies the tokusatsu, kaiju and mech genres of Japanese sci-fi.

The best thing about this was that it was actually funny and the jokes landed well. I liked the bumbling hero and seeing him rise to the challenge in spite of his generally buffoonery and the lack of faith from his allies.

This was a fun, amusing and most importantly, entertaining comic. It was a value, in my eyes, from day one and honestly, the finished product exceeded expectations.

Rating: 6.25/10
Pairs well with: other comedy tokusatsu inspired comics.

Film Review: Leprechaun: Back 2 Tha’ Hood (2003)

Also known as: Leprechaun 6, Leprechaun 6: Back In Da Hood (working titles), Leprechaun 6: Back to Tha’ Hood (alternative title)
Release Date: December 30th, 2003
Directed by: Steven Ayromlooi
Written by: Steven Ayromlooi
Based on: characters by Mark Jones
Music by: Michael Whittaker
Cast: Warwick Davis, Tangi Miller, Laz Alonso, Page Kennedy, Sherrie Jackson, Donzaleigh Abernathy, Keesha Sharp, Sticky Fingaz, Shiek Mahmud-Bey

Lions Gate Entertainment, 90 Minutes

Review:

“Don’t you presume to tell me right from wrong. You compromised all you believed in once you got the gold, just like all those before you. Your kind is weak, and will always give in to your selfish yearnings.” – Leprechaun

So I was not looking forward to watching this after reviewing the previous film in the original Leprechaun film series. However, I was pleasantly surprised and this somewhat redeemed the series and at least brought it back to the quality level of the first three movies.

That’s not necessarily high quality but they’re at least pretty palatable for horror fans that like the occasional laugh.

The five previous films were made by Trimark but this one was made by Lions Gate, who ended up absorbing Trimark after the atrocious fifth picture. With that, I feel like Lions Gate wanted to salvage this series and make a decent sequel.

I feel like they succeeded, even though this ended up being the last installment of the original string of films. They’d be rebooted later, twice, but no one cared either time because without Warwick Davis, you don’t have the Leprechaun.

Anyway, this film was actually funnier and the jokes mostly landed. Also, it felt a bit more grounded, as the Leprechaun can’t just summon any random spell for plot convenience, essentially being omnipotent.

It’s not specifically shown or stated that the Leprechaun’s magic has limitations in this film but he seems severely powered down and acts more like a supernaturally strong slasher when he kills. He almost feels like a miniature, festive Jason Voorhees with the ability to teleport.

Another thing Lions Gate did was that they updated the Leprechaun’s look. And they did a good job, as he looks a lot cooler, menacing and more serious in this installment.

Additionally, compared to the previous movie, the cast in this one was a lot more likable. I especially loved Page Kennedy in this, as he made me smile every damn time he was onscreen. He has tremendous charisma and even though he’s had a pretty good career since 2003, more people should hire him.

My only big gripe about the movie was the the Leprechaun’s death scene was heinously weak. Especially considering that this is his final sendoff.

Still, this fixed the damage created by the two previous chapters in Warwick Davis’ six-film Leprechaun run.

Rating: 5.5/10
Pairs well with: the other Leprechaun movies starring Warwick Davis.

Documentary Review: Trust Machine: The Story of Blockchain (2018)

Also known as: Decentralized: The Story of Blockchain (working title)
Release Date: October 26th, 2018 (New York City premiere)
Directed by: Alex Winter
Written by: Alex Winter
Music by: Bill Laswell
Cast: Rosario Dawson (narrator), Alex Winter (interviewer), various

SingularDTV, Futurism Studios, Breaker, 84 Minutes

Review:

After watching Alex Winter’s documentary Deep Web, I was left wanting more. He followed that one up a few years later with this, which covers similar topics but with the majority of its focus on blockchain technology and cryptocurrencies.

What I liked most about this film is that it describes these complex things and ideas really damn well. It makes this somewhat palatable for the layman.

Also, this interviews several people who know what they’re talking about while also featuring comments from many of blockchain and crypto’s detractors along with some great rebuttals.

A big part of the documentary follows the story of Lauri Love, a British hacker and activist that was wanted by the United States for alleged activities as a member of the hacker collective Anonymous. His story is really damn interesting and the film does a solid job of telling it.

If you have an interest in this stuff and haven’t seen this documentary, you should probably check it out. Alex Winter does great work and presents these subjects well.

Rating: 8/10
Pairs well with: other documentaries about cypherpunk stuff like blockchain, cryptocurrency, hacking, etc. Especially, those by Alex Winter.

Film Review: Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid (1982)

Release Date: May 4th, 1982 (USA Film Festival)
Directed by: Carl Reiner
Written by: Carl Reiner, George Gipe, Steve Martin
Music by: Miklos Rozsa, Steve Goodman
Cast: Steve Martin, Rachel Ward, Reni Santoni, Carl Reiner, George Gaynes

Aspen Film Society, Universal Pictures, 88 Minutes

Review:

“I hadn’t seen a body put together like that since I’d solved the case of the Murdered Girl with the Big Tits.” – Rigby Reardon

How is it that this film has existed for nearly forty years but I hadn’t even known of its existence until more recently. Maybe I saw it in video stores, as a kid, and it just didn’t jump out at me. However, being a lover of Steve Martin and classic film-noir, this felt like it could be something that was right up my alley.

In short, it most certainly was and I liked this movie a lot. However, it’s far from perfect and I think that its constant reliance on old film footage that features old film stars was really overused, even if that was the creative direction of the picture.

I loved seeing Steve Martin interact with the greatest stars of the silver screen and I certainly love that Humphrey Bogart’s version of Philip Marlowe was a big part of the story. However, some scenes came off a bit clunky and unnatural. But I guess it’s hard trying to make this feel more organic when Martin rarely has another actor to actually banter with. It’s hard reading a scene as it plays out and nailing that comedic timing.

Still, a lot of the jokes and one-liners in this movie were hilarious and Martin was the real high point of the film, making this much greater than it would’ve otherwise been.

The film looked stupendous, though, and Carl Reiner did a hell of a job behind the camera and managing the overall aesthetic of the picture. It matched with the classic film-noir clips quite well and in modern HD, this really looks crisp and pristine.

All in all, this was a weird but entertaining experiment. I can see why it might not have connected with mainstream audiences in 1982 and fell down most people’s memory holes but it still features a fantastic, memorable performance by Steve Martin in his prime.

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: other Steve Martin comedies of the ’80s and early ’90s.

Book Review: ‘Paperbacks from Hell: The Twisted History of ’70s and ’80s Horror Fiction’ by Grady Hendrix

If you grew up in the ’80s (and I’m assuming the ’70s), you probably remember walking into book stores and seeing amazing but terrifying artwork adorning the covers of hundreds of horror paperbacks.

Some of those images were burned into my mind for life. Some of them I forgot about. However, this book brought them all back and it was cool as hell seeing all these covers once again.

This book is more than just some art book full of classic horror novel cover art, though.

The author, Grady Hendrix did a superb job of outlining the history behind the art that decorated these book covers for a few decades.

He talks about his own experience and appreciation for these books but he also breaks down all the subgenres and discusses the history and details behind them.

There is a lot to digest here between the great chapters that Hendrix wrote, as well as the hundreds of pages of stupendous art.

Plus, this book is top notch with high quality paper, images and construction.

This will definitely be a book I pick up and reference over the years, especially when looking for inspiration for my own stories.

Rating: 9/10

Film Review: Silent Hill: Revelation (2012)

Also known as: Silent Hill 2 (working title), Silent Hill: Revelation 3D (poster title)
Release Date: October 25th, 2012 (Hong Kong, Russia, Ukraine)
Directed by: Michael J. Bassett
Written by: Michael J. Bassett
Based on: Silent Hill 3 by Konami
Music by: Jeff Danna, Akira Yamaoka
Cast: Adelaide Clemens, Kit Harington, Deborah Kara Unger, Martin Donovan, Malcolm McDowell, Carrie-Anne Moss, Sean Bean, Radha Mitchell, Heather Marks

Silent Hill 2 DCP Inc., Konami, Dynamic Effects Canada, Davis-Films, 95 Minutes

Review:

“The darkness is coming. It’s safer to be inside.” – Dahlia

Utter shit.

That’s what this movie is.

I don’t know if the six year hiatus is what caused this to be such an atrocious follow-up to the first Silent Hill movie but man, this was fucking terrible.

It tries to naturally follow the plot of the first movie, which loosely adapted the first two Silent Hill video games, by loosely adapting the third game. However, it gets a hell of a lot wrong and apparently the writer/director didn’t pay close attention to the first movie, as several things contradict and retcon it.

The story is garbage and frankly, it makes little to no sense if it actually exists in the same universe as the previous movie. That first film’s rules no longer apply and this is a sequel that just makes shit up as it goes along and does whatever it wants for plot convenience. It’s lazily crafted in every way and it derailed this from becoming a film franchise built on top of the video game franchise.

This movie also stars very capable actors but in this, they all give their worst performances.

Additionally, the special effects are CGI heavy and the movie looks a lot cheaper than the successful first one. Usually, this means that a studio will spend more money. However, this looks like a mediocre fan film made by first year film students.

I don’t know what else to say. There’s not a single good thing about this movie and everything that could’ve gone wrong, apparently did.

I’m sorry your agent talked you into this, Mr. McDowell.

Fuck this movie.

Rating: 3/10
Pairs well with: it’s far superior predecessor. But more importantly, the video game series. Specifically, the first three games.

Film Review: Paranoiac (1963)

Release Date: May 1st, 1963 (Italy)
Directed by: Freddie Francis
Written by: Josephine Tey, Jimmy Sangster
Music by: Elisabeth Lutyens
Cast: Janette Scott, Oliver Reed, Sheila Burrell, Alexander Davion, Maurice Denham

Hammer Films, 80 Minutes

Review:

“Now I need to drink some more.” – Simon Ashby

Last week, I watched Nightmare, another rare black and white movie from Hammer and also directed by Freddie Francis and written by Jimmy Sangster. While I enjoyed it and felt like it slightly missed the mark, I feel like this picture, which came out a year earlier, is a better film.

Granted, a lot of that credit could go to Oliver Reed, as his performance here is intense and enchanting. And honestly, this is one of many movies I can now point too and say, “That guy is an underappreciated and underutilized actor and here’s why!”

Something else that helps this movie is that it is horror but it also has a film-noir type plot about family inheritance, a once dead sibling returning, a psychotic narcissist trying to turn his sister insane, an incestuous subplot and more twists and turns than that silly road in San Francisco.

Even though this doesn’t feel like a typical Hammer Films movie, it’s kind of cool and does a lot with very little.

The end sequence is really well executed and in both noir and horror fashion, the asshole gets some good comeuppance.

I wasn’t sure what to expect going into this, as it’s one of the few Hammer films I haven’t seen but I was pleasantly surprised. Especially, when I just thought it’d be a lot like Nightmare. It definitely exceeded that decent movie and also provided a memorable performance by Reed.

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: other Hammer horror films of the ’60s.

Comic Review: Dungeons & Dragons: Forgotten Realms – The Legend of Drizzt, Vol. 1: Homeland

Published: February 25th, 2015
Written by: Andrew Dabb, R.A. Salvatore
Art by: Tim Seeley
Based on: Dungeons & Dragons by TSR, characters by R.A. Salvatore

IDW Publishing, 145 Pages

Review:

I’ve known about the character of Drizzt Do’Urden for a few decades. In fact, I own a few of the Forgotten Realms paperbacks with him on the cover but I never got around to reading them because I wanted the whole saga.

Well, many of those stories were adapted into comics by IDW, who have the publishing rights to the Dungeons & Dragons franchise. So, I figured that I’d read them and get a taste for the character and his pocket in the larger D&D universe.

This first volume serves as Drizzt’s origin story and while it’s interesting and pretty unique, it’s not super exciting. However, his story had to start somewhere and it’s important if you want to actually understand the character, his motivations and what kind of struggle he’s gone through before evolving into a legendary hero.

Reading this, I appreciated the level of world building that went into the story, as originally penned by the great R.A. Salvatore. This goes deep into the culture, beliefs, politics and history of Drizzt’s people, setting up a lot of potentially good stories to follow.

Still, this first volume didn’t captivate me in the way I was hoping but that’s fine. I still plan to read the six volumes that IDW put out because I already own them and because this character can now leave the nest and grow into the great character I’ve been told he is by many.

Rating: 6.25/10
Pairs well with: other Dungeons & Dragons comics, specifically those with the Forgotten Realms banner and more specifically, those featuring Drizzt Do’Urden.

Film Review: The Game (1997)

Release Date: September 3rd, 1997 (New York City premiere)
Directed by: David Fincher
Written by: John Brancato, Michael Ferris
Music by: Howard Shore
Cast: Michael Douglas, Sean Penn, James Rebhorn, Deborah Kara Unger, Peter Donat, Carroll Baker, Armin Mueller-Stahl, Anna Katarina, Mark Boone Junior, Tommy Flanagan, Spike Jonze, Daniel Schorr (cameo)

A&B Producoes Lda., Propaganda Films, Polygram Filmed Entertainment, 129 Minutes

Review:

“They just fuck you and they fuck you and they fuck you, and then just when you think it’s all over, that’s when the real fucking starts!” – Conrad

I don’t think that I’ve seen this since the theater but I remembered really liking the hell out of in the ’90s and I had always meant to revisit it because Fincher’s other two ’90s films (not named Alien 3) were pretty much masterpieces.

This one doesn’t live up to the quality and iconic status of Se7en and Fight Club but it is a good filling within the ’90s Fincher cinematic sandwich.

The big selling point for me, at least when this came out, was that it starred Michael Douglas and Sean Penn. The thought of seeing those two great actors together made this picture a “must see” for me. Plus, the trailer intrigued me.

For the most part, this is a thrilling ride where you don’t really see what’s coming and how deep this “game” will go. It gets bigger and more complex with each twist in the plot and it’s a lot of fun, seeing it play out.

The problem with the film, though, is knowing that it’s just a game. Granted, the movie does its damnedest to make you question that and it really pushes the bar in pushing Michael Douglas’ Nicholas over the edge. However, I thought that the big reveal was really obvious, even before I knew the ending. In fact, I thought it was obvious from the trailer but I still was captivated enough to see how far the story would push things.

Overall, the plot doesn’t disappoint but being that so many things are so over the top and elaborate, the picture leaves me with more questions than answers. It would’ve been cool to see how all of this was pulled off but you don’t really get that and just have to accept that this is just the work of powerful pranksters with unlimited funding.

From a visual standpoint, the movie looks good and I’d say it’s less stylized than Fincher’s other movies. I’m not sure if he felt like he needed to be more reserved in that regard or of it was the work of the producers. But out of all Fincher’s movies, this one is the least Fincher-esque, as far as the cinematography goes.

As should be expected, it’s a picture that is superbly acted and the leads are truly great, here.

In the end, this is still fun to watch, even after knowing what the ending would be. As I stated earlier, I knew it was just going to be a game beforehand but that doesn’t make it a bad thriller. The big thrills still work and this is an intense movie that still packs a punch.

Rating: 8/10
Pairs well with: other David Fincher films of the ’90s that aren’t Alien 3.