“MIKE WALLACE IS HERE” My rating: B (Opens Aug. 16 at the Glenwood Arts)

90 minutes | MPAA rating: PG-13

Mike Wallace was the take-no-bullshit TV newsman who asked the questions that made his subjects — and sometimes his audience — squirm in discomfort.

Early in “Mike Wallace Is Here” we see some old studio footage of Wallace being “interviewed’ by his “60  Minutes” colleague Morley Safer.

“Mike,” Safer asks, “why are you such a prick?”

Questioned about his borderline brutal methodology, Wallace would say he was motivated by a search for the truth.

But as Avi Belkin’s documentary makes painfully clear, much of Wallace’s bulldog style was born of insecurity, of a sense of unworthiness.

Indeed, the first 20 or so minutes are crammed with cringeworthy examples of the things an acne-ravaged young Mike Wallace did to survive in the early days of television. He took acting gigs. Even more dubious, given his future calling as a journalist, he was a glib pitchman, a shill, a soulless talking head for products ranging from cigarettes to kitchen gadgets.

Small wonder that during his early years at CBS Wallace’s newsroom colleagues speculated that he was only portraying a journalist.

It’s pretty clear that Wallace was himself hung up on that question.

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Viveik Kalra

“BLINDED BY THE LIGHT” My rating: B+  (Opens wide on Aug. 14)

117 minutes | MPAA rating: PG-13

“Blinded by the Light” is a valentine to Bruce Springsteen and his music.

But it’s a whole lot more.

Based on Sarfraz Manor’s memoir of growing up in provincial Britain, the latest from director Gurinder Chadha (“Bend It Like Beckham”) is infused with the Boss’s art and ethos, but it is also a surprisingly moving coming-of-age story.

And in newcomer Viveik Kalra the film has a sweet, absolutely huggable hero whose dreams and travails become our own.

Life sucks for Javed (Kalra), whose immigrant Pakistani family lives in a characterless burg outside London.

His domineering, traditionalist father, Malik (Gulvinder Ghir), works in an auto plant; his mother Noor (Meera Ganatra) operates a tailoring shop out of the home. Jared’s two sisters glumly await the day their father will pick a husband for them.

At school Javed is viewed as a nerd hardly worthy of contempt…even so he finds himself subjected to the roiling anti-immigrant hatred brewing on the streets of Thatcher-era Britain (the setting is the mid-1980s).

In short, Javed is ripe for a major transformation when his equally uncool Sikh buddy Roops (Aaron Phagura) hands over to him two Springsteen tapes (“Darkness on the Edge of Town” and “The River”) with the admonition that Javed’s life is about to change.

No shit.

Ben Smithery’s camera zeroes in on Javed’s features as he gets his first listen to the Boss, and what passes across Kalra’s face can only be described as religious ecstacy. Springsteen’s music speaks directly to our man; songs about being an outsider, about the desperate need to escape a suffocating present, about finding redemption in cars and girls and rock ‘n’ roll.

Chadha ups the ante with a fantastic visual fillip: The actual song lyrics appear on the screen, enveloping Javed like a halo of words.  And throughout “Blinded…” she employs projections of Boss lyrics on walls, clouds…what had once been dreary slice of working-class England now seems charged with possibilities.

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Aldis Hodge

“BRIAN BANKS” My rating: B 

99 minutes | MPAA rating: PG-13

With “Brian Banks” a familiar story is told in unfamiliar fashion.

Tom Shadyak’s drama follows the true-life saga of Brian Banks, a promising football star who at age 16 was accused of rape, plead no contest to avoid a long prison sentence, and nevertheless spent six years behind bars before being released into a parole system which — because he was now a convicted sex offender — was its own sort of hellish imprisonment.

Most movies would approach the subject chronologically. Doug Atchison’s screenplay cleverly starts in the middle with Banks (Aldis Hodge) already on parole. His history, though, means he cannot find anyone willing to employ him.  Just as bad, a new California law requires him and all sex offenders to wear an ankle monitor and remain within their neighborhoods…meaning he must give up  his place on a local college football team.

We cringe to see the humiliations Brian is subjected to. On the bright side are a handful of individuals upon whom he depends, like his ever-faithful mother (Sherri Shepherd), his new girlfriend (Melanie Liburd) and a prison mentor (an uncredited Morgan Freeman, seen only in flashbacks) who saves his life by emphasizing the need for a mental overhaul if you’re going to survive behind bars.

Somewhat less sympathetic is his by-the-rulebook parole officer (Dorian Missick).

And then Brian gets wind of the California Innocence Project, the brainchild of law professor Justin Brooks (Greg Kinnear), who with a staff of unpaid law students seeks to free the unjustly imprisoned.

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Tracy Edwards (left), skipper of The Maiden

“MAIDEN” My rating: B

97 minutes | MPAA rating: PG

Grab your daughters and granddaughters and make a family outing of “Maiden,” an awe-inspiring documentary about a bunch of young women who defied institutional sexism to risk their lives in an around-the-world sailing competition.

For that matter, bring along your sons and grandsons. They could probably use what “Maiden” is selling.

Alex Holmes’ film centers on Tracy Edwards, a young English woman who out of sheer chutzpah raised the money to buy a yacht, assembled an all-woman crew and entered the 1989 Whitbread Around the World Race, a harrowing and life-threatening enterprise executed in five distinct legs for a total of more than 30,000 miles.

“You have to be a bit crazy,” one interview subject observes of the long-distance sailors.

Amazing, old home movie footage going back to Edwards’ childhood exists, and among her Whitbread crew was a woman who kept a film record of the epic voyage. This means that Holmes is able to tell this story cinematically using archival sources, with regular digressions to talking-head interviews of the women today.

Profoundly affected by the death of her father and her mother’s futile struggle to maintain control of his hi-fi business — not to mention Mom’s second marriage to an alcoholic —  Edwards left home early.

Long a lover of the sea and ships, she got a gig crewing on a luxury rental yacht.  One of the boat’s customers was King Hussein of Jordan, who befriended the young woman and, learning of her fascination with sailing, got her a job as a cook on an otherwise all-male boat.

In fact, the yachting world was one big boy’s club, at best patronizing, at worst openly hostile. While she doesn’t report any overt sexual harassment, Edwards says she was clearly an unwelcome outsider. That’s when she came up with the idea of an all-female Whitbread crew.

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Shuzhed Zhao, Awkwafina

“THE FAREWELL”  My rating: B

98 minutes | MPAA rating: PG

Through set largely in a foreign country with its own language and cultural peculiarities, “The Farewell” hits universal themes of kinship and mortality with unerring accuracy and delicate grace.

Lulu Wang’s film, inspired by her own family, centers on two women — the Chinese American Billie (Akwafina), who lives in New York City and is struggling to establish a career as a writer,  and her beloved grandmother, Nai Nai (Shuzhen Zhao), back in China.

Billie’s parents — Haiyan (Tzi Ma) and Jian (Diana Lin) — brought her to America when she was a young girl.  As a result Billie is way more American than Chinese, although she retains enough conversational Mandarin to get by.

More than two decades in the U.S. have profoundly affected Haiyan and Jian as well.  He feels guilty about not having revisited his homeland in years; she is happy to have escaped the subservient lot of a typical Chinese daughter-in-law.

Then comes the news that Haiyan’s mother has been diagnosed with terminal lung cancer. The doctors give her only three months.

But this fact is kept from the old lady; it is the custom of many Chinese families to keep such bad news from the patient until the last moment.  The rationale is that it allows the condemned to enjoy life for as long as possible.

Everyone in the family wants to visit Nai Nai to pay their respects, but how to do it without spilling the beans about her precarious health?

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Patricia Arquette, Angela Bassett, Felicity Huffman

“OTHERHOOD” My rating: C+ (Available on Netflix)

100 minutes | MPAA rating: R

Thank God for Patricia Arquette, Angela Bassett and Felicity Huffman.

These three classy thesps  make “Otherhood” bearable and intermittently entertaining.

The premise of Cindy Chupack’s film finds three old friends in upstate New York lamenting the indifference with which  their sons ignore Mother’s Day.

Thus the film’s title: once mothers, these three women now find themselves “others.”

But the gals aren’t gonna take it.  They load up an orange Volvo station wagon and tool down to NYC to surprise their errant offspring.

Carol (Bassett) discovers that her son Matt (Sinqua Walls) is the art director of a “lad” magazine (aimed at horny single guys) with a different girl every night.

Gillian (Arquette) finds her son Daniel (Jake Hoffman) struggling not only with a stillborn writing career but a breakup with his longtime girlfriend (Heidi Gardner).

Helen (Huffman) swoops down on the gay-centric apartment of her kid Paul (Jake Lacy) and throws a few hissy fits that alternately amuse and appall Paul’s roomies.

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Brad Pitt, Leonardo DiCaprio, Brad Al Pacino


161 minutes |MPAA  rating: R

Crammed with alternately bleak and raucous humor, a palpable affection for Tinseltown’s past and peccadilloes, and enough pop cultural references to fuel a thousand trivia nights, “Once Upon a Time…In Hollywood” is a moviegoer’s dream.

Here writer/director Quentin Tarantino eschews his worst tendencies (especially his almost adolescent addiction to racial name-calling) and delivers a story that despite many dark edges leaves us basking in the sunny California sunshine.

Each scene has been exquisitely crafted with every element — art direction, costuming, cinematography, editing, acting — meshing in near perfection.

In the process Tarantino rewrites history, blithely turning a real-life tragedy into a fictional affirmation of positivity. It’s enough to make a grown man cry.

The heroes (??) of this 2 1/2-hour opus are Rick Dalton (Leonardo DiCaprio), a star of TV westerns who now (the time is 1969) sees his career circling the crapper, and his stunt double, the laconic tough guy Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt), who not only steps in to perform dangerous feats on the set but serves as Rick’s best bud, Man Friday and chauffeur (Rick’s had one too man DUIs).

Tarantino’s script finds the  alternately cocky and weepy Rick (DiCaprio has rarely been better) lamenting his fading status in the industry (he’s been reduced to playing villains in episodic TV) and contemplating the offer of a semi-sleazy producer (Al Pacino) to make spaghetti Westerns in Europe.

Margot Robbie as Sharon Tate

Cliff, meanwhile, picks up an underaged hitchhiker (Margaret Qualley) who takes him to one of his old haunts, the Spahn ranch, an Old West movie set now occupied by one Charles Manson and his family of hippie misfits.

Newly arrived at the home next to Rick’s on Cielo Drive is director Roman Polanski and his beautiful actress wife, Sharon Tate (Margot Robbie). Tate is a sweetheart, an all-American beauty radiating an almost angelic innocence and positivity. But we can’t help twitching in anxiety…after all, everybody knows that in ’69 she and her houseguests were the victims of a horrific murder spree by Manson’s brainwashed minions.

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Jakob Dylan and band (foreground) play a tune by the Byrds

“ECHO IN THE CANYON”  My rating: 

82 minutes | MPAA rating: PG-13

Disclaimer: I may not be the ideal individual to review “Echo in the Canyon,”  Andrew Slater’s doc about the musicians who lived and created in L.A.’s Laurel Canyon from 1965 to ’67.

We’re largely talking about the  Byrds and Buffalo Springfield, two groups with which I’ve been semi-obsessed for more than 50 years. So, yes, I’m a fanboy and “Echo…” is like a dream come true.

That said, I don’t think you have to be of any particular age to appreciate this narrow but flavorful slice of pop music history. Divided almost equally between talking heads and musical performances, this doc is tuneful, insightful and, yeah, awesomely nostalgic.

Our guide is musician Jakob Dylan (yep…Bob’s son) who in 2015 produced a tribute LP of songs from the Laurel Canyon era and followed that up with a concert of the same material.

He interviews lots of folk — producer Lou Adler, musicians like Jackson Browne, Eric Clapton, John Sebastian, Ringo Starr, Graham Nash and Tom Petty — for their memories and impressions.

Among the artists who re-interpret the classic songs are Fiona Apple, Beck, Norah Jones, Cat Power and Regina Spektor.

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“THE LION KING” My rating:  B-

118 minutes | MPAA rating: PG

The original 1994 “Lion King” was classic Disney animation featuring hand drawn backgrounds and characters — or if  computers sometimes were used, at least the final product appeared to be hand drawn.

A quarter century later we get a “Lion King” redux done in a live-action format…though one cannot begin to figure out what (if anything) is live and what rendered through the ones and zeroes of digital animation.

There are moments, especially early on, when Jon Favreau’s updating of the beloved yarn offers such a sumptuous  visual feast that the eye and mind struggle to take it all in.

Against an absolutely believable African landscape lifelike lions, elephants, impalas, hyenas and other creatures do their things.  Your senses tell you that these are real animals filmed in action (after all, the great Caleb Deschenal — “The Black Stallion,” “The Right Stuff,” “The Passion of the Christ” — is credited as cinematographer)…except that invariably these creatures do something no animal ever could.

A lion tamer with years to refine his act could never get actual big cats to hit their marks, strike perfect poses and execute complicated action sequences. Not to mention move their mouths to utter dialogue in human voices.

Indeed, I have no idea how this was done. Were live animals filmed and then digitally diddled to make them do the impossible?  Do the backgrounds even exist? Or were they built entirely in the computer?

Let it be said up front that “The Lion King” is one of the most amazing-looking films of all time. The work Favreau did a couple of years back on the similarly-rendered  “Jungle Book” looks a bit  primitive by comparison.

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Beanie Feldstein, Kaitlyn Dever

“BOOKSMART” My rating: B 

112 minutes | MPAA rating: R

“Booksmart” is being described as a female-centric version of “Superbad.” Well it is…but it’s more.

For her feature directorial debut actress Olivia Wilde (with the assistance of four screenwriters) has given us one of those teen-age all-nighter comedies, with all the raunch, substance sampling, and sexual awakening the genre implies.

The difference, of course, is that instead of giving us horny adolescent boys we follow a couple of graduating senior girls who have spent their entire high school careers toeing the line and are now ready to party down.

Molly (Beanie Feldstein, whose brother Jonah Hill starred in ‘”Superbad”) and Amy (Kaitlyn Dever) have done everything right.  Great grades, lots of activities, student government, the whole deal.  And it has all paid off with Molly’s admission to Yale and Amy’s plan for a gap year of charity work in Africa.

Initially the two feel superior to their party-hearty classmates who will undoubtedly be heading for military service or the local junior college. But when Molly and Amy learn that many of those slackers have themselves landed in great college situations, they question everything.

I mean, why do everything right if it doesn’t give you leg up on the animals? Realizing they have pretty much wasted their youth on the quest for scholastic greatness, the best buds decide to hit their classmates’ rowdy night-before-graduation bacchanal.

They are, of course, ill prepared to party down. They never really got to know their fellow students in any depth, and their efforts to blend in are hopelessly klutzy.

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“THEM THAT FOLLOW” My rating: C+

98 minutes | MPAA rating: R

An obscure corner of American culture — a snake-handling  religious sect — provides the setting for “Them that Follow,” Britt Poulton and Dan Madison Savage’s unconventional coming-of-age drama.

Mara (Alice Englert) has grown up in the rural church where her widowed Bible-thumping father, Lemuel (Walton Goggins), is the preacher. A typical ceremony finds the menfolk of the congregation so moved by the Holy Spirit that they reach into a wooden box and withdraw hissing  rattlesnakes.

They’re fulfilling a Biblical prophecy that if they are truly saved, they can handle poisonous serpents and God will protect them.

The snake handling doesn’t freak out Mara.  What does give her sleepless nights is the baby growing inside her. It’s the result of an affair with her childhood friend Augie (Thomas Mann), the son of one of the church’s most steadfast members (Olivia Colman).

But Augie has been drifting from the religious community. He’s talking about moving away to find work and, presumably, himself.

Which leaves Mara…where? Her father has approved her betrothal to Garrett (Lewis Pullman), who has no misgivings about the faith; but how’s that going to play when Garrett learns of her condition?

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Marc Maron, Jon Bass

“SWORD OF TRUST” My rating: B

89 minutes | MPAA rating: R

Lynn Shelton’s “Sword of Trust” is marvelously funny descent into the wacko fringes of modern America, enacted by a superb cast of players who work the material for every droll moment.

Reportedly built on extensive improvisations (the Christopher Guest model) the film opens in a Birmingham pawn shop overseen by Mel (Marc Maron), a morose, cynical guy whose greatest pleasure is buying exotic merchandise on the cheap.

His constant companion is Nathaniel (John Bass), a slack-jawed assistant who wastes most of the business day chortling over Internet videos.

One day they are visited by a lesbian couple, Mary and Cynthia (Michaela Watkins, Jillian Bell) who are interested in selling a Civil War-era sword found in the home of Cynthia’s late grandfather.

The old man left behind an envelope crammed with “documentation” allegedly proving that the sword was surrendered by Gen. Phil Sheridan to one of Cynthia’s rebel forebears.

According to the old man’s scribblings, the sword is proof that the Union lost the War of Northern Aggression.

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