Historical

[7.0] Benedict Cumberbatch and Michael Shannon star as Thomas Edison and George Westinghouse in this fascinating and fast-paced telling of the historic race to see whose electrical system would be the one showcased at the 1893 World’s Fair — and then implemented around the world. There’s a little character drama going on in The Current War, particularly with Edison’s family and the quirky nature of …

[7.0] Greer Garson and Walter Pidgeon reteam in Mervyn LeRoy’s biopic of Madame Curie. Garson plays the title character, Marie Curie, the first woman to win a Nobel Prize and the first person to ever win two of them. This film version of her life story splits its focus between her private life with husband Pierre Curie (Pidgeon) and their joint discovery of radium. Madame …

[4.5] Burt Lancaster stars in this fictionalized account of the Nazis’ attempt to abscond with France’s most treasured paintings before the Allied Forces meet up with them. It’s up to Lancaster, playing a Resistance train station master, to head up an elaborate plan to dupe the Nazis and stop the train from leaving France without damaging it’s precious cargo. I love the idea of Resistance …

[3.0] Elizabeth Taylor plays the powerful and sexy Egyptian queen who fends off Roman conquest while falling in love with its leaders — first Rex Harrison’s Caesar, and then Richard Burton’s Antony. First I’ll be nice to Cleopatra. The sets are sprawling, opulent, and sometime jaw-dropping. Richard Burton gives a powerful, remorseful monologue near the end, and Roddy McDowall gives one of the best performances …

[6.0] Sam Neill headlines this true story about a small Australian community that played a key role in the 1969 Apollo moon landing. Neill plays the manager of the Parkes radio satellite observatory, home of the largest steerable parabolic antennae in the southern hemisphere. The small team at Parkes worked with NASA to receive television signals from the moon and distribute that signal across the …

[5.5] In 18th century Italy, an orphan boy comes of age with the help of nuns and a kindly mentor, falls in love, gets embroiled in the slave trade, and fights for his inheritance in this adaptation of Hervey Allen’s sprawling novel. Anthony Adverse looks and sounds great, with immense sets, period costumes, and a rich score by Erich Wolfgang Korngold. Some of the supporting …

[6.0] Rory Calhoun, or proto-George Clooney as I like to call him, stars in this kinda silly but kinda fun sword-and-sandals flick that earned Sergio Leone (A Fistful of Dollars, Once Upon a Time in America) his first major directing credit. Calhoun plays a visiting war hero on the island of Rhodes who gets tangled in a rebel uprising and a Phoenician conquest. He also …

[6.0] James Woods stars as the museum director taken to court when photographs from Robert Mapplethorpe’s 1990 exhibit were accused of being obscene in Cincinnati, Ohio. Diana Scarwid and Craig T. Nelson also star in this made-for-cable movie that incorporates Mapplethrope’s photos and interviews with political pundits and people who knew and worked with Mapplethorpe. I enjoyed the artist’s photos and the documentary interview bits, …

[7.5] Spike Lee directs the stranger-than-fiction true story of a black Colorado police officer who infiltrated the Ku Klux Klan in the 1970s. John David Washington stars as Ron Stallworth, who struck up a relationship with local KKK members over the phone and acted through a white surrogate for face-to-face encounters. Adam Driver plays Stallworth’s partner in the investigation. Just how much is truth and …

[8.0] Oliver Stone’s Platoon was one of the first major motion pictures to deal with the Vietnam war. Charlie Sheen stars as an infantry volunteer who finds himself in a moral quandry, torn between two sergeants of differing philosophies. Tom Berenger and Willem Dafoe give solid, Oscar-nominated performances as the two sergeants, but it’s the director’s voice that comes through most strikingly in Platoon. As …

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