Friday, May 28, 2021

‘Eat Wheaties’ will make you groan, then smile

By Matt Pascarella

Running time: 1 hour, 28 minutes

As I looked through my choices of movies to review for this week, “Eat Wheaties” came up early in my search process. I passed over it but went back to it several times as I was interested to see what this movie was about. It centers around Sid Straw (Tony Hale) who can be kind of annoying. When he is invited to the University of Pennsylvania reunion, he becomes overzealous in contacting alumna celebrity Elizabeth Banks. Also starring: Elisha Cuthbert, Danielle Brooks, David Walton, Alan Tudyk, Lamorne Morris, Sarah Chalke and Paul Walter Hauser.

This movie has cringe-worthy moments like when Sid gives a speech at his brother’s birthday full of inside jokes that barely include the people around him. At times, Sid doesn’t know when enough is enough. However, by the end you realize that Sid is a guy who just has trouble finding his footing in life, but he is trying. The end put a smile on my face.

Sid gets invited to the University of Pennsylvania reunion and is asked to be a volunteer co-chair. He claims he went to college with celebrity Elizabeth Banks and sends her dozens of messages over Facebook and becomes obsessed with telling her about his life. After being acused of online harassment, Sid’s life spirals out of control. He loses his job, his apartment and has to move back in with his parents.

I’m sure some of us have met someone like Sid; someone who tries too hard to impress everyone or just doesn’t know when to stop. He means well but can be too much. In the beginning I kept asking “can’t this guy see the reactions of the people around him?” Pump the brakes! Or just stop!

However, as the movie went on, I began to feel bad for him. Here’s a guy who simply can’t see that he’s going too far. At one point, he has a conversation with an African American co-worker Sam (Morris) in which Sid talks about his college improv group and how he used to say things that sounded racist but weren’t. Sam cuts this conversation short.

I did feel bad for Sid at points because some people kind of ignore him; even his sister-in-law, Janet (Cuthbert) is fairly short with him. There is a turning point in the movie where he and his brother (Walton) have a talk. From there, you begin to understand Sid a little better.

This is a funny movie. Sometimes laugh-out-loud funny, sometimes more of a cringing funny. It has a message that no matter your stage in life, there’s always room for improvement and even if you are an annoying person who some find unbearable, there are people out there who like you.

Despite Sid’s behavior early on in the movie, he does work toward improvement. He recognizes some things need to change and he works toward making that happen. I found the end uplifting and happy. For anyone who likes a good movie that will make you smile, this is it. Two Wheaties boxes up.

Available to rent. <

Friday, May 21, 2021

HBO MAX’s ‘Superintelligence’ enjoyable enough

By Matt Pascarella

Running time: 1 hour 46 minutes

Carol Peters (Melissa McCarthy) is an ordinary person with a relatively unexciting life. When an artificial intelligence takes over her devices and asks for her help, it wants to decide whether to save or destroy humanity. This puts Carol in a position she never wanted to be in, but both her and the superintelligence learn a thing or two in this moderately fun movie.

Carol is an average person. In the beginning, she goes on an unsuccessful, awkward job interview. Things don’t go her way. So, when a superintelligence (voiced by James Corden) enters the electronics in her apartment, her life gets a bit more compelling.

At first, she thinks she’s going out of her mind. She doesn’t believe the superintelligence is what it says it is. It explains it wants to observe her in order to figure out humanity. It is trying to decide if it wants to save, enslave or destroy the human race.

The superintelligence upgrades a few aspects of Carol’s life, like her bank account and her car.

Carol is still, understandably, freaked out by this and goes to her friend Dennis (Brian Tyree Henry), who works at Microsoft, to let him know what’s going on. No one there believes Carol at first, but they quickly realize she is telling the truth.

The National Security Administration has become aware of the superintelligence and is working to stop it.

When the superintelligence asks Carol what’s the one thing she would most like to do, if she knew the world might end, she answers reconcile with her ex-boyfriend, George (Bobby Cannavale).

The superintelligence wants to help Carol accomplish this. It arranges for her to run into George at the supermarket. She finds out he’s leaving for Ireland in three days.

Things with Carol and George are off to a good start, and only get better. Meanwhile, Microsoft along with Dennis and the NSA are trying to trap the superintelligence by shutting down electronic signals all around the world. The NSA convinces Carol the superintelligence will destroy the world. Things later get complicated between her and George.

The superintelligence announces to Carol that it will not destroy the world – but it’s not quite that simple. What does the superintelligence want? Can Carol help?

I’m lukewarm when it comes to this movie. While it is better than McCarthy’s “Thunder Force,” I can’t say I was really all that impressed by “Superintelligence.” The storyline does move along quickly and is an okay comedy that has its funny parts, along with mild action. It’s kind of a rom-com, but not really. It’s not the worst movie I’ve ever seen, but also not the best. Despite all this, it could be fun for your next movie night. Only one coffee maker up. <

Thursday, May 13, 2021

Amazon Prime’s ‘The Vast of Night’ engrossing, but slow

By Matt Pascarella

Running time: 1 hour, 31 minutes

It is the late 1950s in Cayuga, New Mexico. A switchboard operator, Faye (Sierra McCormick) and a radio DJ, Everett (Jake Horowitz) hear a strange frequency over the airwaves. When a caller provides them with a possible answer to where and why this frequency is occurring, this mystery deepens. This movie is a little slow to start, and doesn’t gain a whole lot of speed, but I found I was captivated by the characters and what this frequency could be.

In the beginning of the movie, a “Twilight Zone” type show called “Paradox Theater” is shown on a TV screen that leads into the beginning of the movie where Everett is trying to help with the recording of a high school basketball game. He runs into Faye who has a new tape recorder and they go around testing it out. Everett pushes Faye to work on her interview skills.

Faye tells Everett she was reading a magazine that had an article about all the predicted advances that will come about in the future like electric cars, vacuum tube transportation and a phone with a TV screen that can fit in your pocket! A TV screen in your pocket!

When Faye returns to the switchboard, she gets a call from a woman who says there is a strange object. Then Faye hears static and a humming sound from her phone. Faye and Everett try to track the sound down by playing it on the radio and asking if anyone has heard this before.

They do get a caller, Billy (Bruce Davis) who has some information. Could this guy be talking about what I think he’s talking about? Billy begins revealing a lot of information and then the line goes dead.

Billy tells Faye and Everett there is a recording of that sound on a tape in the library. Suddenly, the lights in the town go out. Things get a little strange. Is there something in the sky?

Later, a woman, Mabel (Gail Cronauer) calls in and says she can expand on Bruce’s story. What does Mabel have to say? More weird stuff happens to Faye and Everett. Everett makes a discovery.

What’s his discovery? Does it relate to the weird frequency? What is going on?

I’ll admit, while I enjoyed this movie, it was slightly on the predictable side although it did leave me with questions. Like I said, it does start a little slow, but is pretty interesting once it gets going. Even if you think you have figured out what is going on, I’d still recommend watching this. You may – or may not – be right about how it ends. I give this two-radio microphones up.  <

Friday, May 7, 2021

Netflix’s ‘The Mitchells vs. the Machines’ turns out to be quirky fun

By Matt Pascarella

Rated: PG

Run time: 1 hour, 53 minutes

Every family has its challenges. For the Mitchells, their greatest challenge was the robot apocalypse. I wasn’t expecting the robot apocalypse to happen so soon, but this offbeat, action family film was a good time.

Most families have a lot of strengths, but Katie Mitchell (Abbi Jacobson) explains her family only has weaknesses. They are brave, hungry and have no idea what they are doing as you see their station wagon swerving around a parking lot.

Let’s back up to a few days earlier. Katie says she always felt different and never fit in. She’s really into art and making movies. She says her brother, Aaron (Michael Rianda) gets her. Her mom, Linda (Maya Rudolph) is encouraging and her dad, Rick (Danny McBride) is an unusual man who doesn’t really share her interests. Katie and her dad fight a lot – it’s reflected in their many attempts at a family portrait.

When Katie gets into film school, she can’t wait to go. Her dad is hesitant about her going. The night before she leaves, the two get in an argument and Katie’s computer breaks. In order to make up for this, Rick decides he and the family are going to drive Katie to school. Katie is not thrilled about this decision because it means she’ll miss orientation.

Meanwhile, there is a technology company, PAL, whose CEO, Mark Bowman (Eric Andre), is announcing a life-size robot assistant. He assures everyone that they will not turn evil. However, the name of this movie is “The Mitchells vs. the Machines” so, while I don’t want to give anything away, I think you can piece together what happens.

On the road trip to school, the bonding between Katie and her dad is not going well. They stop at a dinosaur road stop where chaos ensues. “What would a functional family do?” Linda asks.

Humanity is breaking down, but the Mitchells haven’t. They come up with a plan and start executing it. There is still some tension between Katie and her dad. Despite the Mitchell’s efforts to protect themselves, they get discovered. They are at the mall and need to escape.

The Mitchells need to take a chance. PAL is onto the Mitchells. While at the mall, they are met by a giant, popular (at the time), vintage toy. When they try to defeat it, things don’t go as planned. The Mitchells come up with a different plan; this one is high stakes and one wrong move could be serious trouble.

Katie goes to save humanity. Can she do it? Will she get to film school? Does her film school still exist?

This was a sweet, fun movie about family and killer robots that I would recommend. While it is animated, I think both kids and adults will enjoy it. It’s action packed with a star-studded cast. Even talk show host Conan O’Brien lends his voice to a character.

All the struggles that families might have I found relatable. It’s very funny with many jokes and Easter eggs, or hidden jokes, to look out for. 2-three Robertson head non-slip screwdrivers up. <