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Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Dance Review: Stephanie Leathers and Company Deconstruct Durham Development in Home: the metamorphosis

Posted By on Wed, Nov 23, 2016 at 4:53 PM

Stephanie Leathers: Home: the metamorphosis★★★ Saturday, Nov. 12, 6:30 p.m. Downtown Durham On the map on the wall, the usual “You are here” marker is absent. In its place are multicolored circular stickers, plotting scalloped pathways through downtown Durham. Some of these stickers presumably answer the question, “Where do you fall?” The ticket-taker encourages us to interpret the question broadly. Stephanie Leathers’s Home: the metamorphosis is friendly to queries of spatial orientation. The second offering from Durham Independent Dance Artists in its current season, Home is a traveling performance in the truest sense. Nearly every moment is locomotive. Leathers...

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Friday, November 18, 2016

Movie Review: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them Is a Promising Start for a New Rowling Franchise

Posted By on Fri, Nov 18, 2016 at 2:49 PM

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them ★★★ ½ Now playing I suspect that, for a while at least, it's going to be difficult to avoid processing every halfway applicable film through the nightmare lens of the recent elections. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, the latest installment in J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter universe, opens with a montage of headlines. “Anti-Wizard Sentiment Sweeps America,” reads one swirling paper as we're introduced to the setup. In the movie's alternate history, it's 1926 in New York City, and hateful fringe groups are agitating for the deportation of all witches and wizards, the...

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Movie Review: Barry Jenkins's Exquisite Moonlight Is a Meditative Character Study at the Nexus of Black Masculinity and Homosexuality

Posted By on Fri, Nov 18, 2016 at 8:46 AM

Moonlight ★★★★ Now playing Color looms large in Moonlight. The film is adapted from Tarell Alvin McCraney’s play In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue, and two characters are called Black and Blue. According to IndieWire, director Barry Jenkins and cinematographer James Laxton adjusted the lighting contrast to emphasize the skin tones of the African-American cast. Each of the film’s three chapters, covering different stages in the life of its protagonist, emulates different film stock to convey distinct hues and textures. Like Richard Linklater’s Boyhood, Moonlight tracks the life of its male lead across varying ages, though in this case the...

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Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Theater Review: Dividing and Conquering by Lying and Stirring Base Emotions in Richard III

Posted By on Tue, Nov 15, 2016 at 2:28 PM

Richard III ★★★★ Through Nov. 20 Bare Theatre @ Sonorous Road Theatre, Raleigh Seth Blum’s disarmingly matter-of-fact—and absolutely lethal—take on Richard, the implacable Duke of Gloucester, was one of the most vivid performances in a late-summer production of Henry VI: The War of the Roses. His patient explanations of Richard’s psychopathic plans to achieve the crown by pruning the royal family trees suggested a character from House of Cards, a “fifteenth-century Frank Underwood, minus the charming Southern accent,” as we noted at the time. So we were enthused to learn Bare Theatre let director Lucinda Danner Gainey continue pursuing that...

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Monday, November 14, 2016

Movie Review: The Communication Gap in Arrival Feels Painfully Relevant in America Right Now

Posted By on Mon, Nov 14, 2016 at 12:26 PM

Arrival ★★★★ Now playing This week, Americans sought to speak using the common language of the ballot. Now half the country is celebrating the arrival of an iconoclastic new leader, while the other half is gripped with despondency and even fear. It's hard not to think about this when watching Arrival, an aliens-to-Earth film that’s less about first contact than first communication. Twelve black, split-shaped ovoids simultaneously appear around the planet, each measuring 1,500 feet high and hovering mere meters above the surface. The arrival of these ships triggers immediate hysteria—air travel is grounded, gun sales are barred, food rationing...

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Friday, November 11, 2016

Theater Review: Two Turtle Doves Skims the Underside of Sports and Small-Town Sleaze

Posted By on Fri, Nov 11, 2016 at 1:49 PM

Two Turtle Doves ★★★ ½ Through Nov. 12 Common Ground Theatre, Durham There’s a hint of the unsavory from the outset of local playwright Mark Cornell’s Two Turtle Doves, now in its premiere production at Common Ground Theatre. The off-avocado wallpaper and aged amenities on designer Jeff Alguire’s set suggest a time-share resort half gone to seed. And after Meredith, a sullen girl with a flat east Carolina accent, cusses out a hotel clerk on the phone, our unease is unabated when a visibly uncomfortable—and much older—man named James emerges from the bathroom in a snorkel and swimsuit and tries...

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Friday, November 4, 2016

Movie Review: Doctor Strange's Feisty Magic Cape Is the Most Developed Character in His Movie

Posted By on Fri, Nov 4, 2016 at 12:26 PM

Doctor Strange ★★★ Now playing Held together by countless terabytes of computer effects, fortune cookie wisdom, and the backing of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Doctor Strange is an origin story that’s high on origin yet low on story. It features a hero you don’t particularly like, a villain who’s not well defined, and ephemeral stakes that are hard to embrace. Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) is an arrogant, skilled neurosurgeon who performs medical miracles by day, then dons designer suits and Jaeger-LeCoultre wristwatches after hours. His life of ease changes dramatically after he drives his Lamborghini off a cliff, incurring...

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Thursday, November 3, 2016

Movie Review: In Hacksaw Ridge, Mel Gibson Clearly Identifies with the Religious Persecution of Conscientious Objector Desmond Doss

Posted By on Thu, Nov 3, 2016 at 2:09 PM

Hacksaw Ridge★★★ ½ Opening Friday, Nov. 4 The history of cinema is littered with films that serve as allegories for the real-life persecution of their writers/directors. On the Waterfront is widely viewed as Budd Schulberg and Elia Kazan’s retort to those who objected to them naming names before the House Un-American Activities Commission. By contrast, writer Carl Foreman’s screenplay for High Noon is regarded as his response to the mistreatment he suffered after not cooperating with HUAC. Roman Polanski’s 1978 conviction for child rape and subsequent flight informs a large portion of his subsequent filmography. It’s unnecessary to refute Mel Gibson’s self-subscribed...

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Thursday, October 27, 2016

Theater Review: PlayMakers' The Crucible Is a Brisk Study in Paranoia and Suspicion

Posted By on Thu, Oct 27, 2016 at 4:29 PM

The Crucible★★★★ Through Nov. 6 PlayMakers Repertory Company, Chapel Hill From the outset, we all know what’s to come in The Crucible, Arthur Miller’s classic drama, now in a notable revival at PlayMakers Repertory Company. Stacked and dry as timber, the unspoken internecine grudges among the citizens of a small New England town will ignite when a new fear arises—that their neighbors have practiced witchcraft in secret against them. Given the homogeneity of the community’s Puritan beliefs, the conflagration will quickly spread, and with those beliefs so thoroughly codified in their laws, the courts will swiftly move against the...

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Dance Review: Fake It Till You Make It is a Delirious Fantasia with Trump and Travolta

Posted By on Thu, Oct 27, 2016 at 2:58 PM

Fake It Till You Make It★★★★ Saturday, Oct. 15, 8 p.m. Living Arts Collective at the Trotter Building, Durham When the lights went down on Tommy Noonan’s new solo, John, which formed half of DIDA’s season opener, Fake It Till You Make It, the man sitting next to me shared that he never wanted to hear the Bee Gees’ “You Should Be Dancing” again. It’s a reasonable sentiment, whether it comes from a passenger resigned to a companion’s fondness for KIX 102.9 or from someone who had just watched Noonan perform John Travolta’s disco solo from Saturday Night Fever...

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Friday, October 14, 2016

Theater Review: In Everscape, a Gripping Collision of Real and Online Worlds

Posted By on Fri, Oct 14, 2016 at 5:00 PM

EverScape ★★★★ Through October 23 Sonorous Road Theater, Raleigh The reason I got out of database interface design? Those all-night coding sessions felt more and more like out-of-body experiences the longer they went on. Manipulating constructs in a weightless, three-dimensional environment was fun; it felt like stepping off the planet and the clock. But re-entry into an exhausted, sluggish body afterward became progressively problematic over time. Then I began wishing that I didn’t have to—re-enter, that is. That’s when I knew I had to quit. I’ve always seen more than a tinge of bait-and-switch in popular multiplayer games like the...

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Movie Review: The Accountant's Autistic Assassin Doesn't Quite Add Up

Posted By on Fri, Oct 14, 2016 at 3:52 PM

The Accountant ★★★ Now playing It's hard not to see similarities between The Accountant and some prior films featuring its star's best bud, Matt Damon. Fourteen years after Damon first launched Jason Bourne, Ben Affleck trots out his own taciturn anti-hero with a neurological condition and a murky past, carrying out violent missions with robotic precision. And nineteen years after Damon starred in Good Will Hunting, Affleck also gets to play a mathematics whiz. At best, The Accountant feels like the muddled, if generally entertaining, lead-in for a more layered and overarching film series; at worst, it’s a morass of MacGuffins....

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Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Dance Review: Gaspard&Dancers Stir Up Basquiat, the Garden of Eden, and Hip-Hop in a Memorable Fall Showcase

Posted By on Wed, Oct 12, 2016 at 5:07 PM

Gaspard&Dancers ★★★ 1/2 Friday, September 30 Reynolds Industries Theater, Durham It’s fitting that choreographer Gaspard Louis struggles with the issue of representation in Portrait (★★★), his homage to neo-expressionist painter Jean-Michel Basquiat, which premiered during his company’s annual concert at Reynolds Industries Theater. Basquiat himself grappled with varying representations of black lives and heritage, including his own, throughout a career cut tragically short at age twenty-seven. The rawness, vibrancy, and violence of Basquiat’s unquiet, layered images challenged racial constructs depicted in motion pictures, classical, jazz, modern music, and contemporary culture. His deliberately coarse, chaotic, and distorted human forms and faces captured...

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Thursday, October 6, 2016

Movie Review: The Girl on the Train Is the Feel-Bad Movie of the Fall

Posted By on Thu, Oct 6, 2016 at 2:48 PM

The Girl on the Train ★★ ½ Opening Friday, Oct. 7, 2016 Rachel Watson is a mess. Two years after her husband left her (for the real estate agent!), she's unemployed, deeply depressed, and drinking vodka out of thirty-two-ounce water bottles. Every day, she rides the commuter train into Manhattan, pretending to have a job. She looks wistfully out the window at the passing houses of Westchester and the life she used to have. To be clear, Rachel, as played by Emily Blunt in the new thriller The Girl on the Train, is literally looking at the life she used...

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Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Dance Review: Ashley McCullough's Conscious Oblivion Leaps Out at Emergence

Posted By on Wed, Oct 5, 2016 at 2:23 PM

Emergence Saturday, October 1, 2016 PSI Theatre, Durham What’s the appropriate context of a dance showcase? Is it a gallery where we view (and, inevitably, compare) art works placed alongside one another? A hothouse where different specimens at different stages of development can be observed? Can it provide a preview or forecast of changing times in a creative ecosystem? Over its three-year run, the Emergence series at PSI Theatre has served these as well as other functions. Kristi Vincent Johnson’s well-named initiative, an outgrowth of her Triangle Dance Project, has provided a place for developing choreographers to emerge in...

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Friday, September 30, 2016

Theater Review: Fallout and Reckoning with the AIDS Epidemic in Mothers and Sons

Posted By on Fri, Sep 30, 2016 at 8:33 AM

Mothers and Sons★★★★ ½ Through October 9 Raleigh Little Theatre, Raleigh You almost have to delve into the speculative side of evolutionary biology to understand Katherine Gerard, the aging matriarch in Terrence McNally’s Mothers and Sons. After her outer layer of skin was permanently stripped away—metaphorically, at least—by the death of her son, Andre, some twenty years ago, Katherine developed a protective trait that is on constant display throughout this gripping family drama at Raleigh Little Theatre. The concentrated venom of her views renders her immediate surroundings so toxic that no one can possibly get close enough to attack her....

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Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Movie Review: Blair Witch Takes Us Back to Ground Zero of the Found-Footage Horror Explosion

Posted By on Wed, Sep 21, 2016 at 4:04 PM

Blair Witch ★★★★ Now playing The hype was high: a Blair Witch sequel that, according to early reports from critics, reinvents the found- footage genre. Similar hype surrounded Wes Craven’s 1994 genre-busting Scream, which proved influential for horror filmmakers to come because, at that point, the slasher flick was relying on the same tired tropes. But in fact, Blair Witch doesn’t reinvent the already worn-out horror subgenre; rather, it pays imaginative homage to the trend-setting original, which kicked off the found-footage craze in 1999. Unlike others of that ilk, which devote an excruciating amount of time to backstory, director Adam Wingard...

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Friday, September 16, 2016

Movie Review: Werner Herzog's Human Touch Lifts Lo and Behold: Reveries of the Connected World Above Tech-Bro Celebration

Posted By on Fri, Sep 16, 2016 at 7:44 AM

Lo and Behold: Reveries of the Connected World★★★★ Opening Friday, Sept. 16 As its title suggests, Werner Herzog’s latest documentary is a broad, poetic consideration of technology’s—which is to say, humanity’s—history and future. Through interviews with the likes of Elon Musk and Kevin Mitnick, the director episodically lays bare a series of utopian visions about technology’s potential to help us learn, take us to other planets, and free us from daily tasks like driving. But Herzog’s gentle, skeptical interjections keep Lo and Behold from turning into a tech-bro hagiography. He punctuates discussions with interjections like “ can’t fall in...

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Thursday, September 15, 2016

Movie Review: Renée Zellweger's Rich Comic Character Deserves Better Than Bridget Jones's Baby

Posted By on Thu, Sep 15, 2016 at 1:46 PM

Bridget Jones's Baby ★★ ½ Opening Friday, Sept. 16 It's easy to be cynical about a movie like Bridget Jones's Baby, a sequel that was clearly assembled from the ground up as an entertainment industry product—a guaranteed payday for its stars and studio. This is a movie that's already been made twice, and the third installment is essentially an exercise in brand awareness, dutifully adherent to a commercially viable blueprint. It's also true, however, that Bridget Jones's Baby is a pretty good time at the movies. It's got plenty of laughs, a hopelessly lovable central character, and a script that...

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Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Theater Review: Lungs Is a Rewarding Drama for a Theatrically Underserved Millennial Generation

Posted By on Wed, Sep 14, 2016 at 4:10 PM

Lungs★★★★ 1/2 Through Sept. 25 Sonorous Road Theatre, Raleigh You scarcely need a critic to note the conspicuous strengths of Sonorous Road Theatre’s rewarding production of Lungs. Two eyes, two ears, and a waking mind should do the trick. Artistic director Michelle Murray Wells and a previously underutilized Jonathan King are clearly among the strongest members of an emerging generation of young regional actors. Under Tony Lea’s discerning direction, in a stripped-down show with little in the way of technical filigree, both expertly pursue the comedy and pathos in the hairpin curves of Duncan Macmillan’s script. It’s obvious why Wells...

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Friday, September 9, 2016

Movie Review: If Atmosphere Alone Could Carry a Film, Complete Unknown Would Be Top-Notch

Posted By on Fri, Sep 9, 2016 at 2:35 PM

Complete Unknown★★★ Now playing In director Joshua Marston’s Complete Unknown, we meet Alice, a chameleonic presence (Rachel Weisz) who embodies a paradox: Who you are is profoundly influenced by context, and yet wherever you go, there you are. This proposition, initially fascinating, is made all the more compelling by Christos Voudouris’s beautiful cinematography, which perfectly captures the desolation of a nomadic life. His camera obliquely bobs just out of reach of the actors' faces, driving home the characters’ core opacity. The trouble is that atmosphere alone can’t carry a feature film. We first encounter Alice as she schemes to reconnect with...

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Assessing the First Outing—and the Future—of the Women's Theatre Festival

Posted By on Fri, Sep 9, 2016 at 12:27 PM

Our region had never before seen anything like the Women’s Theatre Festival. In an organized grassroots revolt against long-term local and national gender inequity in playwriting, directing, casting, and technical design, the fully crowd-sourced endeavor produced seventy-three events in four cities over five weeks. It mounted eight mainstage productions—and eight hands-on workshops where dozens of women received an introduction to disciplines including stage combat and set design. During one intensive, participants learned arc welding while constructing a set piece that would be used during the North Carolina Dance Festival. In front of live audiences and viewers on the Internet,...

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Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Theater Review: Something Rotten in the State of Kansas Delights in Maccountant

Posted By on Wed, Sep 7, 2016 at 2:56 PM

Maccountant  ★★★★ Through Sept. 17 Little Green Pig Theatrical Concern @ Common Ground Theatre One’s first instinct is to simply laugh Maccountant off. Indeed, the gag-filled season opener for Little Green Pig Theatrical Concern provides ample reason for laughter as artistic director Jaybird O’Berski transplants his freewheeling adaptation of Shakespeare’s Macbeth from eleventh-century Scotland to downtown Wichita in the mid-1960s. O’Berski manifests the absurdity of that premise in his mise-en-scène. The bloody conflicts aren’t played out amid the industrial arc welders and heavy machinery of that city’s airplane manufacturers, nor in the wringing sweat of its surrounding farmlands. Rather, they...

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Monday, September 5, 2016

Movie Review: Gus Van Sant's The Sea of Trees Reduces Japanese Culture to a Backdrop for American Angst

Posted By on Mon, Sep 5, 2016 at 2:42 PM

The Sea of Trees★★ ½Now playing Director Gus Van Sant’s latest film, The Sea of Trees, tells the story of Arthur Brennan (Matthew McConaughey), a man intent on killing himself in Aokigahara, Japan’s famed “suicide forest.” When he finds a suitable boulder on which to swallow a bottle of pills, he sees Takumi (Ken Watanabe) wandering the forest, seemingly lost. When Arthur finds himself moved to save this mysterious man, his survival instinct kicks in to gear. As the pair wends its way through the forest, trying to find help for Takumi’s slashed wrists, the story of Arthur’s strained...

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Thursday, September 1, 2016

Movie Review: In The Light Between Oceans, It Turns Out They Do Make 'Em Like They Used To

Posted By on Thu, Sep 1, 2016 at 2:07 PM

The Light Between Oceans ★★★★ Opening Friday, Sept. 2, 2016   It's a common lament among those who love old-fashioned Hollywood movies: They just don't make 'em like they used to.  Except sometimes they do. The period drama The Light Between Oceans is a throwback in all the best ways, with its epic themes, grand cinematography, and tragic story of life, love, and loss. Director Derek Cianfrance made his name with gritty realist dramas—Blue Valentine, The Place Beyond the Pines —but here he delivers an old-timey moviegoing experience with deep, mythical rhythms.  The year is 1919, and soldier Tom...

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