Friday, April 7, 2023

Chupa (2023)

Streaming Service: Netflix
Movie Name/Year: Chupa (2023)
Genre: Action, Adventure, Drama
Length: 1h 35min
Rating: PG
Production/Distribution: 25th Street Pictures, Netflix
Director: Jonás Cuarón
Writer: Joe Barnathan, Brendan Bellomo, Sean Kennedy Moore, Marcus Rinehart
Actors: Christian Slater, Demián Bichir, Evan Whitten, Ashley Ciarra, Nickolas Verdugo, Adriana Paz
Blurb from IMDb: While visiting family in Mexico, teenage Alex gains an unlikely companion when he discovers a young chupacabra hiding in his grandpa's shed. To save the mythical creature, Alex and his cousins must embark on the adventure of a lifetime.

Selina’s Point of View:
I did not enjoy Chupa all that much. It was exactly what I thought it would be, but without any originality and minimal effort from the script writers.
The first thing I want to note is that someone clearly wanted to reference Jurassic Park throughout the script. That’s not a big deal, happens all time (because Jurassic Park is amazing), and it’s usually fun. Unfortunately, Chupa didn’t just reference Jurassic Park, they took swatches of script from it. Although the tone of the scenes were different, the problem is that it puts Chupa into direct comparison with the better film. That did not help.
I found a lot of the script to be lazy. On top of that, there are aspects of the film that are completely unfinished.

For instance, there’s a plot threaded throughout Chupa that involves the grandfather losing his memory. A big deal is made of how people can never know because she’d send him away. I think the movie would have been better if it gave that some kind of conclusion to that. Instead, the memory loss is played up for laughs and we never actually meet the mom.
The ending is very sudden, too. It’s not based off a book, but if it was I’d have assumed they cut half of it out.
Demián Bichir (Godzilla vs. Kong, Land, Chaos Walking), who played the grandfather, did do a great job. So did the kid actors: Evan Whitten (Next, Mr. Robot, The Resident), Ashley Ciarra (A Million Miles Away), and Nickolas Verdugo (The Prank Panel, Breakwater). Whitten, especially, did well at portraying the grief of a child. Whereas this was not Christian Slater’s (Inside Job, Archer, We Can Be Heroes) best performance at all.
I wanted Chupa to be better. Unfortunately, I just wouldn’t recommend it.

Cat’s Point of View:
I’ve been looking forward to watching Chupa since we saw the trailer during our monthly stream. The little chupacabra creature looked absolutely adorable - and, honestly, pretty darn good as far as CGI critters are concerned. I was expecting a heartwarming kid-friendly movie about family and empathy, and I got so much more.
Chupa also takes a broad look at loss as well as the hard realities of caring for loved ones with degenerative brain disorders or traumatic brain injury issues. I was surprised by some of these deeper themes, but vehicles such as Chupa’s story are good ways to broach such hard issues with kids. While it is something that colors the plot of Chupa, it’s not what the overall movie dwells on. I was thankful for that, as I’ve had an exhausting week and was hoping for lighter fare with this viewing.
What I was surprised the most to see in Chupa was the level of late 80s and early 90s nostalgia steeped into the setting. I was fairly giddy seeing the stuffed Gizmo doll as well as the Jurassic Park (1993) poster on a bedroom wall. I won’t give all the throwback details away, but they all added up to place the timeline for this film before the turn of the century. I thought that was an interesting story decision, but smart if not wanting to deal with today’s level of technology when spinning a tale of an elusive cryptid. I’m glad the production team made that choice rather than the lame ‘oh I can’t get signal here’ type tropes that many films fall prey to.

I feel like I need to come back around to the effects used to bring the chupacabras to life on the screen. Whenever you hear about this particular creature of lore, they sound horrifying and scary. I think Chupa might get a bit of flack for making the creatures look so fluffy and cute - but I don’t care. The production team made a great choice using a trained dog actor on set for the human actors to work with and then augmented that performance with CGI. It helped those interactions feel more organic and real.
The acting was decent - even when some of the story premise was a little silly. I appreciated the family heritage explored in the movie as well as the young main character’s journey to embracing his ethnic identity.
Overall, Chupa was endearing, and my teenage daughter and I both enjoyed the experience. I wouldn’t mind recommending this movie for a great family movie night pick.

Rotten Tomatoes Critic Score – 44%
Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score – 75%
Metascore – None
Metacritic User Score – None
IMDB Score –5.6/10
Trust the Dice: Selina’s Rating 2/5
Trust the Dice: Cat’s Rating 4/5
Movie Trailer:

Wednesday, April 5, 2023

Killing Gunther (2017)

Streaming Service: Hulu
Movie Name/Year: Killing Gunther (2017)
Genre: Action, Comedy, Thriller
Length: 1h 32min
Rating: R
Production/Distribution: Folktale Productions, Ingenious Media, Miscellaneous Entertainment, Rookfield Productions, Rowdy Row Productions, RuYi Media, StarStream Media, WWKG Productions, Lionsgate Home Entertainment, Saban Films
Director: Taran Killam
Writer: Taran Killam
Actors: Taran Killam, Bobby Moynihan, Hannah Simone, Amitai Marmorstein, Peter Kelamis, Paul Brittain, Aubrey Sixto, Amir Talai, Aaron Yoo, Allison Tolman, Ryan Gaul, Steve Bacic, Cobie Smulders, Arnold Schwarzenegger
Blurb from IMDb: A group of eccentric assassins are fed up with Gunther, the world's greatest hitman, and decide to kill him, but their plan turns into a series of bungled encounters as Gunther seems to always be one step ahead.

Selina’s Point of View:
I’m sure I saw the trailer for Killing Gunther at some point, but I didn’t remember it at all. As a result, I did not expect the mockumentary style that greeted me on the movie’s start. I had to recalibrate my expectations, especially once I realized it was also a parody flick.
If you look into the reviews for Killing Gunther, try to remember that parodies rarely do well with critics. Not unless they’re of Blazing Saddles (1974) fame and quality. It’s rare for critics to give most parody flicks a fair shake. They judge the entire sub-genre by serious comedy standards, and that doesn’t really work. Parodies should only be judged based on how they compare to other parodies. That’s always been my take on it.
The big issue with Killing Gunther, what caused the audience score to reflect even more negativity than the critics’, was the advertising.
Arnold Schwarzenegger (Terminator, Iron Mask, Aftermath) is splashed all over the promotional material. I watched the trailer, after I finished the film, and was shook by just how much he was featured in it. Audiences were expecting him to be the main character because of that – but he’s not. He’s in the story for about 15 minutes.

Whoever oversaw the trailer and posters for Killing Gunther shot the whole project in the foot. Not only would it have had more of a chance at impressing audiences without showing Arnie, but the story itself would have been better if he had been kept a secret until the last moment.
It’s all very unfortunate, because the movie is actually good.
Killing Gunther is funny and ridiculous. It even utilizes some interesting camera movements near the end that I haven’t seen in other mockumentaries. The shaky cam never gets to intolerable levels, and there are some decent actors involved – other than Arnold. Sure, the acting can be a little over the top – but it’s by design.
All-in-all, it’s a solid parody that lost out by lying to audiences in the advertising.

Rotten Tomatoes Critic Score – 46%
Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score – 28%
Metascore – 53%
Metacritic User Score – 4.9
IMDB Score –4.8/10
Trust the Dice: Selina’s Rating 3.5/5
P.S. Some blink-and-you’ll-miss-it scenes during the credits, and a longer scene after.
Movie Trailer: