Yeah, I know it’s been a while, but I’ve come to realize I’m running low on obscure comic-related movies available through streaming services to watch for this thing. Or at least ones that make neat pairs. (And sure, I could watch Thor or whatever, but what is the challenge in that?)
Neither of the comics that these two movies are based on are exactly “comic books” but close enough for me. Neither of them are what I’d call “good” either, but they’re both pretty much fun. This is not a Near Miss post, but it’s also because I was in that kind of mood.
My Name is Modesty (2003)
Yes, there have been two other adaptations of Peter O’Donnell and Jim Holdaway’s Modesty Blaise — a movie in 1966 and a TV pilot in 1982. People just keep trying with this property and failing. Which is kind of baffling since it’s such rich source material.
This one doesn’t work much better. It went straight to video. Even with “Quentin Tarantino Presents” before the title, it’s probably not something that anyone would bother with, unless they were interested in Modesty Blaise. It feels a lot like a TV pilot (and, more or less, has the production values of one).
Alexandra Staden as Modesty does bring smarts and glamor to the role. She’s believable as someone who’d hold her own against thugs both physically and mentally (Staden is tall and thin, so the physical part isn’t necessarily the most realistic, but she does a good job of selling it). She and lead baddie Miklos (played by Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, who apparently is on Game of Thrones for those of who you care) do have a surprising chemistry.
Still, the movie is pretty static — most of the plot takes place inside of a casino, with flashbacks as Modesty narrates her history. It’s an origin story of the worst kind. There was no attempt to seamlessly integrate these scenes. Even at less than 80 minutes, it feels padded.
It does have a good amount of stylishness and playfulness, though. The lack of budget is obvious, but the filmmakers used limited sets and costume changes to good effect. The action is entertaining enough, and both the leads are fun to watch. There are worse ways to spend a little bit more than an hour, as long as you don’t go into it expecting too much.
(And I would’ve loved to have seen a Modesty Blaise TV series starring Staden. That’s also not the DVD art that is everywhere, but that promises much more than the movie delivers.)
St. Trinian’s (2007)
Things this movie has: Rupert Everett in drag (because of course!); Gemma Atherton as a sexpot student; Russell Brand, as you know, Russell Brand; Colin Firth (because of course!); a pair of blonde twins that like blowing stuff up; makeover montages (because of course!); and ridiculous heist scenes! Oh, and Stephen Fry shows up.
This is a zany, kinetic, incredibly silly piece of film. Is it good? Well, a movie like this is beyond good and bad. It’s entertainment and sometimes that’s all you need.
St. Trinian’s follows the rather long tradition of films based on the work of Ronald Searle. It’s a pretty loose adaptation, but I think it’s fair to the spirit of his work.
Our lead, Annabelle Fritton (played by Talulah Riley) starts out as the typical nerdy girl out of her depth before the St. Trinian’s students decide to make her one of their own. Despite her makeover, this doesn’t follow the typical “misfit is made over into a popular beauty queen” mode of a lot of teen movies. Rather, if anything, they take relatively normal Annabelle and turn her into more of a misfit.
The plot is the usual “we have to save our school!” nonsense, but involves selling liquor they manufacture on school grounds and stealing a painting to sell on the black market. But the plot is almost secondary to the setpieces — it’s fairly episodic as they go from pranks to deranged field hockey games to cheating on quiz shows.
The result is actually surprise — it’s all ridiculous, sure, but it’s delightful to watch these girls behave badly and get away with it. They’re not like the heroines of most teen movies and that’s part of what makes this movie great. They may not be initially likeable, but you’re rooting for them by the end.
(There is also a sequel. But do we have it in the U.S.? Of course not.)