'The Current War'

Benedict Cumberbatch as Thomas A. Edison in “The Current War.”

THE CURRENT WAR

The electricity that we now take for granted was considered miraculous when street lamps were first illuminated in 1882. Although Thomas A. Edison (Benedict Cumberbatch) is usually credited with illuminating the world, in reality, his chief competitor, George Westinghouse (Michael Shannon), did it better and cheaper. With this compelling and fascinating reenactment, director Alfonso Gomez-Reion deftly presents the conflict between Edison, who used Direct Current (DC) and Westinghouse, who favored Alternating Current (AC). Also in the mix, brilliant European Nikola Tesla (Nicholas Hoult) contributes his own inventions to the emerging electrical industry.

Even though he was a brilliant inventor, Edison hated competition and was not above bad-mouthing Westinghouse, Tesla or anyone who did not give him total credit for electrifying the United States.

Superb supporting actors include Spider Man himself Tom Holland as Edison’s loyal assistant Samuel Insull, Tuppence Middleton as Mary Edison, Katherine Waterston as Marguerite Westinghouse and Matthew Macfayden as Edison’s benefactor, J.P. Morgan.

Rated PG-13  3 Stars

THE LIGHTHOUSE

Although filmmaker Robert Eggers’ darkly gothic and surreal venture into madness qualifies as an awesome black and white masterpiece with excellent performances, the film remains awfully hard to watch.    

“The Lighthouse” is the story of a pair of “wickies” or lighthouse keepers on a desolate New England island; they sign up for a month’s work, but the month stretches much longer because of hazardous weather.   

Rookie Ephraim Winslow (Robert Pattinson) joins veteran Thomas Wake (Willem Dafoe) at the remote lighthouse. While Winslow does all of the grunt work, old salt Wake gets to go to the top of the tower and take care of the lights. Eventually, the bad food, the isolation and Wake’s constant  demands get to Winslow, and he becomes confused and delusional. Neither man seemed to be especially mentally healthy at the beginning, but as the mysterious surrounding work on each one, they fall into creepy, though sometimes comic behavior. After finishing off all of the alcoholic beverages, they stay drunk on an ugly concoction of kerosene and honey.

Despite being an award-worthy feature, the horrific images make it almost impossible to recommend. Clusters of awful things refuse to be erased from your brain. I wish I could unsee some of the disturbing sights.

Rated R  3 Stars

PAIN AND GLORY

Two-time Academy Award-winning filmmaker Pedro Almodovar’s latest masterwork focuses on a Spanish screenwriter and director very much like Almodovar himself. In a stunning performance, Antonio Banderas portrays Salvador Mallo, a filmmaker who suffers from depression and numerous physical ailments. Stuck in a mid-life crisis, Mallo remains unable to write a script or plan a film. After he visits with the actor (Asier Etxeanida), who starred in Mallo’s acclaimed film “Sabor” 30 years earlier, the filmmaker falls into a dangerous habit.

“Pain and Glory” is rendered in Almodovar’s signature style, with vivid primary colors punctuating every scene. Especially moving are the flashback sequences of young Salvador (Asier Flores) and his mother Jacinta (Penelope Cruz) in a tiny Spanish village during the 1960s.

The excellent character study gives Banderas perhaps his finest role.

Rated R  3 and 1/2 Stars

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