Thursday, September 13, 2018

An Adventure in Anime - A Look at Miss Hokusai (2016)

By Cat

On a whim, I thought it would be interesting to pick a random anime to share with you today. OK, so I’ll admit, I did give the selection a little bit of purpose. Mainly, this was to rule out series and short films; but I also needed to ensure it would be a likely candidate to keep my attention long enough that I could stay awake for it. (I’ve had a rather narcoleptic couple of days this week.) The struggle is real.

I was intrigued by the quality of the animation on the movie cell used as the thumbnail for the film, and the blurb seemed to suggest that the story would be told from a female lead perspective. Add in the artistic element for this movie, and I was fairly certain that I’d have a winner.

I’m glad to report that the film turned out quite like I expected. The animation was stunning, the tale was decidedly from the perspective of a young woman, and the story painted a window through which to glimpse a small sliver of the rich Japanese culture.

The painting called ‘The Great Wave Off Kanagawa’ (or simply ‘The Wave’) has long been one that I have greatly admired. It just didn’t click right away that the artist of that famous piece was none other than Hokusai – the indirect subject of this film.

The story is told from his daughter’s perspective. The power and mysticism of art from this era of feudal Japan is paired well with a glimpse into the life of the artist. I’m not entirely sure that this was based on accurate historical accounts, however; as the movie’s statement of the artist’s age at the time of his passing and his age within historical records is different by several years.

It’s likely that this movie won’t be for everyone. I wish it were otherwise, but the fact of the matter is that it was rather slow in some places. The story seems to be going in a particular direction and then pumps the brakes and changes course a bit. It’s also a bit of an emotional ride. This is decidedly a pure drama. There are too few shades of other genres to be labeled anything different.

All the same, I was whisked away into the story and found myself enjoying it. This is a great example of how one form of art can inspire an artist of a different medium.

For fans of anime, Japanese history or art, and dramatic features – this movie is right up your alley. If you’ve never watched an anime before, I’m not entirely sure this is the best starter. However, the pacing is good for reading the subtitles.

Monday, September 10, 2018

Tusk (2014)

Number Rolled: 30
Movie Name/Year: Tusk (2014)
Tagline: A truly transformative tale.
Genre: Comedy, Drama, Horror
Length: 101 minutes
Rating: R
Production Companies: SModcast Pictures
Producer: Nate Bolotin, Betsy Danbury, Sam Englebardt, David S. Greathouse, Jenny Hinkey, William D. Johnson, Shannon McIntosh, Jason Mewes, Jordan Monsanto, Chris Parkinson, Jennifer Schwalbach Smith, Nick Spicer
Director: Kevin Smith
Writer: Kevin Smith
Actors: Michael Parks, Justin Long, Genesis Rodriguez, Haley Joel Osment, Johnny Depp, Harley Morenstein, Ralph Garman, Jennifer Schwalbach Smith, Harley Quinn Smith, Lily-Rose Depp, Ashley Greene, Douglas Banks, Matthew Shively

Blurb from Netflix: When a wise-guy podcaster interviews a disabled seafarer, he decides to embark on a transformational quest to track down a dangerous walrus-monster. (Trust the Dice does not support this Netflix blurb. We’re pretty sure the person who wrote it hasn’t seen the film. It’s WAY off.)

Selina’s Point of View:
Kevin Smith (Zach and Miri Make a Porno, Clerks, Mallrats) is my favorite movie writer of all time.

That said: What the fuck, bro?

I need time to digest what I just watched… but I have an infant and I don’t have the time I need, so I just have to go purely on instinct here. Even doing that I have no idea what to say.

My first impression is that this is what The Human Ceptipede (First Sequence) (2009) could have been if it hadn’t taken itself too seriously. The difference in overall quality of film here is absolutely shocking when you realize just how close the plot is between the two films.

It’s shocking because The Human Centipede is one of those rare movies that got a zero out of five from me. On the other hand, Tusk is getting a much higher: four. With plots so closely related, you generally expect closer ratings. The thing is, The Human Centipede really tried hard to be a full-on serious horror – which did it a disservice. Tusk doesn’t pretend to be what it’s not. It’s a horror movie for those B-movie fans that like to get their friends together and poke fun at a ridiculous story.

Kevin Smith brought out the absolute humor in Tusk. He recognized that the antagonist in this film is completely out of his gourd, and the result is just as insane.

There were definite horror aspects that I’m going to be fighting to bleach out of my brain for a few weeks, but there was so much humor woven in that it made the horror easier to swallow.

I rather enjoyed the Yoga Hosers (2016) tie-ins, too.

I think a lot of reviewers took this film way too seriously. Smith wasn’t trying to make the next Halloween (1978). He was basically bringing to life a fever dream, or some kind of high as fuck conversation he had with a friend.

I’m absolutely going to sit my husband on the couch and make him watch Tusk. He isn’t the biggest fan of horror, so I usually watch those films after he goes to bed, but he’s totally going to see this one.

My one bit of advice is that you don’t go into this movie thinking it’s going to be superior on the horror scale. Its much more of a comedy than that.

If you want a great serious horror film directed/written by the king of dialogue himself, check out Red State (2011). If you’re more a comedy/horror mixed-genre fan, Tusk will be up your alley.

Cat’s Point of View:
I don’t really know where to start.

That’s not a bad thing in this case. It’s simply my moment of bewilderment in the wake of the roll of final credits. This isn’t even the first time I’ve watched this movie – and the end result is still the same. There’s something to be said for that – the consistency of the emotional outcome.

On paper, the premise of the film is absolutely bonkers. Then you have to take a step back and realize that was quite intentional. There’s a lot of good stuff below the surface here. The film is decidedly a tale of karma coming around.

Let’s face it, though; not many are watching this movie looking for life lessons, even though they’re present. I know I watched this film the first time because I’d heard the ‘behind-the-scenes’ story of how the concept came about as a result of podcast shenanigans and a fan’s attempt at getting Kevin Smith’s (Cop Out, Red State, Hollyweed) attention. Let’s not forget the outcry of #WalrusYes at convention and on social media, alike. Critics had reviews on both ends of the spectrum – I just wanted to see what all the hubbub was about.

I certainly wasn’t disappointed.

At the core of why this movie works so well, is the late, incomparable Michael Parks (Planet Terror, Django Unchained, Blood Father). I can certainly see why Smith has stated he wouldn’t have made the film without him. It’s his character’s earnest lunacy that makes the cogs in this machine go ‘round.

There were a lot more head-tilting moments that evoked more of a ‘what the hell‘ sort of reaction than gasps of horror, and much of the comedy aspects paired with groans. All the same, this film provides a firm foundation for Smith’s True North Trilogy, which also features Yoga Hosers (2016) and the forthcoming Moose Jaws.

I can’t wait to see how this insanity ends.

Speech Available: English
Subtitles Available: English

Rotten Tomatoes Critic Score – 42%
Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score – 36%
Metascore - 55/100
Metacritic User Score – 5.9/10
IMDB Score – 5.3/10

Trust the Dice: Selina’s Rating4/5
Trust the Dice: Cat’s Rating4/5

P.S. Small scene after the credits

Movie Trailer: