Friday, August 16, 2019

'Where'd You Go Bernadette?' Who cares? Besides, 'Mike Wallace Is Here'

Richard Linklater has been one of my surefire, go-to filmmakers for years now. In fact, I still think his "Boyhood" should have been the Best Picture Oscar-winner (over "Birdman" in 2014). Similarly, Cate Blanchett just may be might favorite working actress. That standing began after I watched her in, then interviewed her for "Elizabeth" more than two decades ago and predicted big things for the talented Aussie, who certainly didn't need someone such as I to tell her how successful she would become.

Blanchett and Nelson strut their somewhat strange mother/daughter stuff.
Anyway, the first collaboration between writer/director Linklater and Blanchett, as his leading lady, opens today. Unfortunately, their "Where'd You Go, Bernadette?" lost me at hello.

As based on Maria Semple's best seller, which certainly must be less nonsensical than this adaptation, the film opens with Bernadette/Cate paddling a raft alone in icy waters somewhere very close to the South Pole.

Narration by the title character's daughter Bee (nicely played by newcomer Emma Nelson) accompanies that first of a few oddly shot, framed and edited scenes, but it's clear she's in her mother's corner no matter how Bernadette gets to the destination of her choosing.

Flash back to five weeks earlier and we learn that smart cookie Bee herself is yearning for a family vacation to Antarctica, of all places, before she will head off to boarding school. Her low-key dad (Billy Crudup in a rather off-putting turn), still a techie god who now works for Microsoft after it buys his own ultra-successful company, seems on board with the proposed trip. However, Bernadette, a somewhat wacky if brilliant wife who constantly dictates duties to a virtual helper in India, never seriously commits until . . .

Uh, why don't you just decide for yourself if it's worth buying into the series of outrageous events that leads to the title question and, most disappointingly, features Blanchett giving an effort that screams diva more than presenting a perfect piece of performance art.

Hey, maybe you'll love it. Then again, maybe you'll hit an iceberg walking out of the theater.

Rated "PG-13": strong language and drug material; 1:40; $ $ out of $5

Not surprisingly, considering what's written above," Mike Wallace Is Here" remains a much better choice at the movies this weekend. Now making its way around the country after collecting a best documentary nomination at last spring's 43rd annual Cleveland International Film Festival, this fast-moving bio piece is a jam-packed gem in the hands of director Avi Belkin.

Wallace's nightly CBS reports from Vietnam became must-see TV.
Surely everyone recognizes the Wallace name from his 40 years of uncovering scoops and delivering compelling interviews on TV's fabled "60 Minutes," but did you know he was an actor, pitchman, and self-confessed "bad father" as well?

Of course, some of his interview subjects included in this who's who of enormously famous names and faces might use a few different words to describe the late, great broadcast Hall of Famer. In fact, in a movie that pulls no punches about the man or his opinions, defrocked Fox News host Bill O'Reilly refers to Wallace as a dinosaur, Barbra Streisand calls him an SOB, and CBS News pal Morley Safer describes him with a term that suggests much worse than a jerk.

Certainly, a number of interview clips follow to prove Wallace's legendary prickliness, not only in sitdowns with other colleagues, but in some legendary exchanges with the likes of actress Bette Davis and fellow TV icon Larry King, among others.

A couple of moving moments included about Wallace's personal life offer a more human look at a man who lived to a ripe old 93, but rarely acted like more than a hell-raising machine asking only the tough questions.

Some jazzy rat-a-tat-tat music, credited to to John Piscitello, accompanies it all in a way that might even make Wallace smile, a rare occurrence indeed.

Rated "PG-13": thematic material, some violent images, language and smoking; 1:34; $ $ $ $ and 1/2 out of $5

Also opening today are a trio of promising comedies whose press screenings I missed during a recent two-week getaway. "Good Boys" is an "R"-rated excursion by adolescents apparently discovery the joys and jitters of forbidden fruits. Then there's "Blinded by the Light," a "PG-13" lark featuring a Pakistani immigrant obsessed with the music of Bruce Springsteen.

Finally comes an animated sequel, "Angry Birds 2," which arrives with a "PG" rating that might keep some (very) small fry away. Regardless, happy -- not angry --viewing to all!

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