Hi, everyone. "Moriarty" here with some Rumblings From The Lab...
Holy cow, I think that’s the sound of my balls getting busted. And I s’pose if they’re going to get busted, I’m glad it’s by Guillermo Del Toro’s favorite working film critic, the Northwest’s greatest ex-con turned online movie columnist... the one... the only... Vern:
VERN'S VHS PILE
Howdy boys. Well I know Moriarty's got his DVD shelf that he's real proud of and he has more DVDs than he will actually live to ever watch, which is good. Always wise to have that shit around to pawn, in my experience. I'm not saying he's gonna get a whole lot for BASIC, GHOST SHIP, ROLLERBALL, MR. DEEDS, and that kind of crap (yeah, I studied that picture too), but hey, if it buys half a bowl of soup on a cold day it might be worth it. Always save for the future. Anyway I've got a couple more reviews of straight to video movies for you so I thought it was time I shared with you something very special. Not to brag or anything but this is Vern's VHS Pile:
Yep, that's right, that's a pile of VHS tapes right there. Most of them are screeners, all of them are an obsolete format, and one of them is even a good movie. Two if you count the headcleaner. I know alot of people will not believe I actually have such a pile, so let me just head you newsies off at the pass and tell you that no, that is not fake, that's a bonafide 100% real photograph, and all are owned by me, not rented like Ja Rule's mansion on that episode of CRIBS I read about.
MY NAME IS MODESTY
Well the upcoming pictures I am reviewing today are the two at the top of the pile. We'll start with what I figured was the most promising, MY NAME IS MODESTY. Or as the box says, QUENTIN TARANTINO PRESENTS MY NAME IS MODESTY.
It took me a minute to figure out what this was, but some of you may remember: a while back Mr. Tarantino was thinking about doing a movie of Modesty Blaise, the pulp heroine from comic strips and novels (I believe John Travolta is reading one of the books on the john when he dies in PULP FICTION). Well obviously he never ended up doing it, and Miramax's option on the character was about to run out, so they hired Scott Spiegel to do a straight to video about the character's backstory, to set up the "real" Modesty Blaise movie they might do some day (unless they decide instead to just buy up a bunch of Hong Kong movies and let them sit on the shelf for years).
A popular texas based web sight reported on this story about 2 years ago, when they said that the movie had been shot and the creator of Modesty Blaise was going around implying that he was not too happy about it. Then it sat on the shelf and we all forgot about it.
But there is exactly one way that a dusty old movie can escape the Miramax archives: by convincing Tarantino to put his name on it, even though he didn't make the movie. If it worked for Jet Li it can work for Modesty Blaise. So just like the HERO trailer, this one tries to get visions of KILL BILL dancing in your head. The screener box mentions revenge twice (even though this is not a revenge movie). On the back it calls Tarantino "The Master of Action Storytelling!" and declares that "WOMEN ACTION HEROES ROCK!" Below that it says:
-Kill Bill.........The Bride
-X-Men.........Storm, Mystique, Rogue
-Die Another Day.........Jinx
-MY NAME IS MODESTY.........Modesty"
Well, that proves it I guess. This thing is gonna be huge!
Actually I really was hoping for the best. When people talk about Scott Spiegel they always go back to "co-writer of EVIL DEAD 2." That doesn't seem to mean much at this point, but the thing is, he already did a straight to video Quentin Tarantino Presents movie that I really liked. For whatever it's worth, I still think FROM DUSK TILL DAWN PART 2 TEXAS BLOOD MONEY is the greatest achievement to date in straight to video sequeling. It's not a theatrical level of quality but it's alot of fun. Great premise, good cast (Danny Trejo, Robert Patrick, Bruce Campbell cameo, Woody Harrelson's brother) and great sense of over the top cinematics. I mean this is a movie with POV shots inside a bat's mouth, on a dog doing pushups, on an oscillating fan. For a cheap-o straight to video sequel shot in South Africa to jump out of the tv and kick you in the ass is a pretty impressive stunt. So I figured I could trust this dude to get me again.
The opening credits for MY NAME IS MODESTY had me going too, with a catchy theme song and a montage of action shots and spinning roulette wheels printed in candy colors. It's a big blast of badass old fashioned energy and then the main problem is, well I think where the trouble starts is when after that the movie starts.
I'm not saying it's terrible. It's perfectly okay, I think. It's just not fun to watch. The story is about Modesty Blaise, who runs the roulette table in a small European gambling establishment. A rival gang comes in, kills her boss and takes everybody hostage. She convinces their leader to play roulette with her. Every time she wins 3 games in a row, he has to let a hostage go. But every time she loses, he gets to ask her questions and she has to tell the truth. (no dares, sorry.) So he just asks her about herself and then she narrates her backstory, which involves being a young war refugee who fights with a stick, steals a car, then learns how to read and names herself. Exciting shit.
I don't know anything about Modesty Blaise, I haven't even seen the old movie with Monica Vitti. But I always meant to see it and that's because I figured it would be, you know, entertaining. I checked a web site and it looks like this new movie stays pretty true to the details of the character's backstory, but unless those book covers are lying, there seems to be a whole lot more action and thrills in there than in this movie.
Those opening credits promise "A MODESTY BLAISE ADVENTURE" but there's not all that much adventure since the entire movie takes place either in the one room where they're holed up or in some dismal Balkan wasteland somewhere in the past. There is no globetrotting or sneaking around or jumping off things. No helicopters blowing up, or even landing. No swinging on ropes, setting up traps, solving mysteries or breaking into museums. Nothing.
Well, there's one short karate fight at the end, but not a memorable one.
But the biggest problem is there's no humor at all. Not camp or otherwise. Not even much smiling. There's an overbearing score that always sounds downbeat. The whole thing is so gloomy. It's like a pilot for some syndicated show you've never heard of that you come across on cable one depressing Saturday afternoon.
The best thing about it besides the credits is Alexandra Staden, the actress who plays Modesty, is pretty good. She has an exotic look with ghostly light blue eyes. If you stretched Maggie Gylenhaal out so she was about 6 inches taller, she would look like this. But they don't let her be very appealing. She's always so serious.But I give her the benefit of the doubt. I figure this gal might not be a bad choice to play Modesty Blaise if they make another movie, but good this time.
FRANKENFISH is a movie maybe you haven't heard of but some of you comic strip fans are gonna shit your pants. I think you already know where I'm going with this. You see this movie marks the long anticipated return of Mark Dippe, director of SPAWN. Remember, it was a movie about a devil guy and there was an evil farting midget clown I believe. And that guy who's famous for being cut out of KILL BILL, but he was also in EXIT WOUNDS - he was the main dude in SPAWN I believe.
Anyway yeah, big surprise but somehow the director of that movie ends up doing a straight to video movie about a giant mutant fish eating people. I was thinking maybe they would mix it up a little, give us something original like a giant mutant fish that falls in love with a jewel thief or discovers a shocking secret from his past or tries to join a spelling bee or something like that. Instead they just go the eating people route. oh well.
What you got here is basically a bad ripoff of a bad JAWS ripoff, this time updated with the amazingly different twist of its a genetically modified fish. Inspired by the snakehead fish or whatever it was that was in that lake somewhere. You heard the story. In this fictionalized account, there are a couple of giant mutant fish in a lake, and some people also in the lake. They get trapped in one small piece of swamp where almost the entire movie takes place. And they fight against the giant mutant fish. Every once in a while it hops out and eats somebody's head or something. Towards the end you find out that it was not a product of Nature Gone Amuck or Man's Hubris or Scientists Playing God. Actually it was one of those Evil Hunters who needed The Ultimate Prey so he created the Frankenfish. Because everybody knows that the ultimate prey is, a, uh, a fish. In the water. For hunting.
Anyway, this is kind of a bummer to admit but this movie is actually incredibly boring. For the first half of the movie they don't even show the Frankenfish. That would be fine if it was a suspenseful movie with characters and plot. But this is fucking FRANKENFISH from the director of SPAWN. I don't care if it worked in JAWS, when this movie has a buoy moving around to imply the presence of a large fish below, that's NOT FUCKING SCARY. I don't know who they are fooling with these type of movies, they must realize that there is not a single human being on this planet who will ever by scared in any way by this movie. Including kids. So quit pretending. Just show the goofy CGI fish and get it over with. I don't care if Alfred Hitchcock made things scarier by not actually showing them. That doesn't apply to fucking FRANKENFISH. The goofy CGI fish in our imagination is not any better/worse/different than the goofy CGI fish we're gonna see later. So quit beating around the god damn bush.
There are no funny/scary/memorable/above average characters in the movie, although Richard Edson is in it (playing a rasta dude, somehow) and also Mark Boone Jr. from VAMPIRES. I remember Muse Watson (the killer fisherman from the I KNOW ABOUT YOUR LAST SUMMER pictures) was in there at one point but the fish must've ate him or something, I don't know. I watched this shit yesterday, how am I supposed to remember it in that type of detail.
Anyway, I wouldn't recommend anybody waste their time on this horse shit, but I do have to admit a couple things. Number one, the CGI effects are pretty decent for low budget straight to video crap. Not as good as STARSHIP TROOPERS 2 but way better than BOA VS. PYTHON for sure. There was one part where there was an explosion and they added a person flying out of the fire and into the water. That looked cool and I even rewound it to watch again. So good job computer people who did that shot.
Number B, I gotta admit there are a couple of inspired moments in this one. Like, at least 1, maybe 2 minutes worth of good material. I'm just gonna go ahead and ruin the best part for you so you either don't have to watch it, or know what to look for if you catch it on cable. See, the giant mutant fish eats a guy's head, right? And it keeps killing these people. Then it's going after this one guy and actually jumps up on the dock and wiggles around. But the guy shoots it in the head before it can eat him.
So the guy gets up, walks into a little cabin and turns on a grill. He goes back out with a big knife, slits open the side of the fish, reaches in and pulls out its giant mutant fish heart. Then he brings the heart in, puts it on the grill for a minute. Gives it a couple spins but definitely keeps it pretty raw on the inside. Then he takes the heart and yells something like, "YOU KEELED MY BROTHER, NOW I EAT YOUR HEART!" and does just that, starts eating the heart.
I thought the gimmick was gonna be that the fish is still alive even after his heart has been cooked and eaten, but instead they went for the old "another fish jumps out and eats him" routine. It's pretty deep though if you think about it. This guy was eating the fish's heart to avenge his brother, but the fish too had a brother. It's the same endless cycle of violence that Dr. King spoke about with his "eye for an eye leaves everyone blind" line, and that Shakespeare depicted so vividly in Titus Andronicus. I think alot of our presidents and secretaries of defense and terrorists and what not could learn a little something from FRANKENFISH. And more than that, they deserve to have to sit through it.
[A note for our British friends: it's true that most Americans really aren't too concerned about eating GMOs (genetically modified organisms), so it's not that farfetched that this dude would eat a barely cooked mutant fish heart to show off. It's a cultural thing.]
Anyway thanks everybody I gotta go now, I gotta polish the pile or something. thanks everybody
Vern, you are the master, and I am but a humble student. Great report. Thanks, man.