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Thursday, February 18, 2016

Theater Review: Revising A.R. Gurney's Love Letters Pays Off in Poignancy

Posted By on Thu, Feb 18, 2016 at 1:31 PM

Love Letters ★★★ ½ Bare Theatre @ Sonorous Road Productions, Raleigh Through Feb. 28 Love Letters, A.R. Gurney’s unconventional epistolary drama from 1989, usually features two actors seated side by side on an otherwise empty stage, traversing the lifelong friendship of central characters Melissa and Andy through five decades of their correspondence. As the text proceeds from the illicit classroom notes and birthday cards of childhood to the deeper disclosures of high school, college, and adulthood, the challenge to an actor’s range is obvious. But in this Bare Theatre production of Love Letters, director Rebecca Blum declined that test in...

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Friday, February 12, 2016

Movie Review: Deadpool Is Spider-Man But With Nudity, Gore and No Fourth Wall

Posted By on Fri, Feb 12, 2016 at 12:42 PM

Deadpool ★★ ½ Now playing With the irreverent action comedy Deadpool, Marvel Entertainment jumps headfirst into the hard-R end of the comic-book movie spectrum. The results are mixed. The good news is that the film is better than the trailers suggest—largely because the best jokes are far too filthy to put in general-audience previews. The bad news is that the movie isn't as clever as it thinks it is, and the essential shabbiness of the concept can't be obscured. Deadpool is basically a wisecracking superhero movie, like Spider-Man, but with extended nudity, extreme gore, and lots of wink-nudge meta irony....

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Thursday, February 11, 2016

Art Preview: Shimmer Builds a Bridge of Light From Chapel Hill to Carrboro

Posted By on Thu, Feb 11, 2016 at 1:47 PM

Shimmer: The Art of Light Friday, Feb. 12, 6–11 p.m. Chapel Hill and Carrboro The circus is coming to town. Well, not exactly. But it might seem that way when larger-than-life light sculptures take over Chapel Hill and Carrboro during this 2nd Friday Artwalk, from twinkling chandeliers hanging in tree branches to illuminated tarot vignettes. Sarah Wolfe is a Durham resident who has headed projects such as Night Lights at Morehead Planetarium, an annual New Year’s Eve event that combines planetarium shows with illuminated performances by dancers. Inspired by light festivals around the world, including France’s Nuit Blanche, or “White Night,”...

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Sick of Movies? Unleash Your Inner Artisan With These Valentine's Ideas

Posted By on Thu, Feb 11, 2016 at 10:13 AM

Greeting card aisles saturated in pinks and reds. Inflated tasting-menu prices. Flowers that wilt in the trash. Instead of dinner out and a dozen roses, why not be a crafty Valentine and try something unique? Creative Cupids around the Triangle have a few opportunities for that this weekend. Durham artisan printer Brian Allen created a Valentine’s Day event to foster “an environment that prompts others to express themselves.” Allen’s letterpress class (Feb. 14, 1:30 p.m., $100 per couple) allows couples to create custom valentines on cotton paper with an Albion iron hand press, more than a century old. Allen pairs...

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Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Theater Review: Blue Sky is Politically Admirable. But What About Artistry?

Posted By on Wed, Feb 10, 2016 at 11:49 AM

Blue Sky ★★★ CAM Raleigh, Raleigh Through Feb. 14 When a playwright, a director, and actors are unable to create fully believable characters and situations, it’s sometimes hard to say where the difficulty lies. Often enough, gifted work in one or two categories can overcome the problems in a third; in a recent example, inspired performances and direction in Temple Theatre’s The Addams Family compensated for an iffy book. But it’s not so hard to say regarding Blue Sky, in a co-production from Burning Coal Theatre Company and CAM Raleigh. The discouraging words “stick figures” appeared in my notes at...

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Friday, February 5, 2016

Movie Review: A Delightful Satire of Postwar Hollywood in Hail, Caesar!

Posted By on Fri, Feb 5, 2016 at 11:11 AM

Hail, Caesar!★★★★ Now playing If Hail, Caesar! is the Coen brothers’s Contempt—Jean-Luc Godard's 1963 mock epic about the making of a historical blockbuster in postwar Hollywood—then it's an homage that inverts Godard's satirical aims. Caesar’s moral center doesn’t belong to a lone writer or director struggling against the corrupt studio systems, but to producer and studio executive Eddie Mannix (Josh Brolin), who has the unenviable task of managing the egos and personal crises of the “creatives” in his charge. Mannix is an actual historical figure, and a colorful cast of Coen regulars, newcomers, and star cameos is playfully split between real...

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Thursday, February 4, 2016

Movie Review: A Body in a Glacier Cracks Open a Long Marriage in 45 Years

Posted By on Thu, Feb 4, 2016 at 11:20 AM

45 Years ★★★ ½ Opening Friday Writer-director Andrew Haigh’s most fiendish ploy in 45 Years is that he provides precious few hints of the good times shared by Kate Mercer (Charlotte Rampling), a retired schoolteacher, and Geoff (Tom Courtenay), a retired factory manager. No pictures of the couple adorn the walls of their provincial English home, nor has their four-decade-long marriage produced any children. There’s little enmity—just the agreeable everyday of an “old married couple” on the occasion of their forty-fifth wedding anniversary. But their languid tranquility is rattled when Geoff receives a dispatch from Swiss authorities informing him that...

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Wednesday, February 3, 2016

In Barsk: The Elephants' Graveyard, Science-Fiction Writer Lawrence M. Schoen Poignantly Probes Our Relationship With Death

Posted By on Wed, Feb 3, 2016 at 2:34 PM

Lawrence M. Schoen Flyleaf Books, Thursday, Feb. 4, 7 p.m. Quail Ridge Books, Friday, Feb. 5, 7 p.m. When was the last time a science-fiction novel made you cry? Until recently, I would have said it was Cormac McCarthy’s emotionally devastating The Road, which I read as a new father. But then I read Barsk: The Elephants’ Graveyard (Tor Books, December 2015), Lawrence M. Schoen’s moving novel about—stay with me—space elephants. Almost ten years after McCarthy took us into a post-apocalyptic wasteland of hopelessness and gray dust, I’m approaching the age when I read more obituaries than birth notices. While...

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Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Theater review: Vivienne Benesch's first production as artistic director of PlayMakers is a fresh, indicting take on Chekhov

Posted By on Tue, Feb 2, 2016 at 2:11 PM

Three Sisters★★★★ 1/2 PlayMakers Repertory Company, Chapel Hill Through Feb. 7 In a prosperous society it’s easy to forget the taste of ashes—their acrid presence on the tongue contrasting with their lack of substance to the touch. That forgetfulness, as much as the problems of language, can make Anton Chekhov’s last three plays, Uncle Vanya, Three Sisters and The Cherry Orchard, read like documents from a different world. In a sense, they are. By 1900, Chekhov knew he was writing at the end of an age-old Russian social order. His central characters are members of a privileged class who have coasted...

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Monday, February 1, 2016

Video: Durham dance artists discuss the provocative Compagnie Marie Chouinard

Posted By and on Mon, Feb 1, 2016 at 7:37 AM

Compagnie Marie ChouinardUNC's Memorial Hall Saturday, Jan. 16, 2016 Carolina Performing Arts has presented two provocative co-commissions from the French-Canadian dance ensemble Compagnie Marie Chouinard, Orpheus et Eurydice in 2009 and Gymnopédies this month. The INDY sent two dance artists, rather than dance critics, to the latter, on a bill that also included an older Chouinard piece, Henri Michaux: Mouvements. They came back with a lot to say. Anna Barker is the founder of the company real.live.people.durham, which had its local debut in 2014 with the sold-out Motorco performances, presented by Durham Independent Dance Artists, of it's not me it's you, a...

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Friday, January 29, 2016

Movie review: Real-life maritime rescue story The Finest Hours is Disneyfied disaster porn

Posted By on Fri, Jan 29, 2016 at 9:05 AM

The Finest Hours★★★ Now playing On February 18, 1952, a massive nor'easter crashed upon the New England coastline with colossal waves and gale-force winds. The storm was so powerful that not one but two massive oil tankers split in half off the coast of Cape Cod. With four separate floating husks in the water—and four potential rescue situations—the local Coast Guard was stretched dangerously thin. The circumstances ultimately led four very brave men to pilot a ridiculously small boat into a ridiculously big storm. That's the set-up for Disney’s real-life seagoing drama, which delivers astounding visuals wrapped in unapologetic hokeyness....

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Friday, January 22, 2016

Movie review: Academy Award-nominated Drama Mustang Is Like a Turkish The Virgin Suicides

Posted By on Fri, Jan 22, 2016 at 4:32 PM

Mustang★★★★ Now playing Mustang has been compared to Sofia Coppola's debut, The Virgin Suicides, with good reason. Like that 1999 film, this Turkish drama tells the story of five teenage sisters coming of age in a repressive home with a tone of aching melancholy. The Virgin Suicides takes place in suburban Detroit in the 1970s, while Mustang is set in contemporary rural Turkey. A different perspective comes with the different milieu. Coppola told her story from the outside looking in, with the sisters remembered through the eyes of others. Mustang's director, Deniz Gamze Ergüven, keeps her camera among the sisters...

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Carolina Theatre CEO Bob Nocek resigns

Posted By on Fri, Jan 22, 2016 at 2:52 PM

The Carolina Theatre of Durham announced today that President and CEO Bob Nocek is stepping down immediately. His departure comes after the discovery last December that the city-owned theater, thought to be profitable, had run up $800,000 in debt since July 2013, creating a total deficit of more than $1 million. Nocek, who took the reins of the historic theater in 2010, will be succeeded by Durham businessman Dan Berman as interim president and CEO. Working as a volunteer, Berman takes control of the Carolina’s finances, operations and programming on Monday, Jan. 25. Watch this space for more on this story...

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Movie review: The awful, ugly Dirty Grandpa is the comedy equivalent of torture porn

Posted By on Fri, Jan 22, 2016 at 1:50 PM

Dirty Grandpa ★ Now playing Dirty Grandpa is easily the worst movie of the new year so far, and it will surely be a strong contender at the end of the year, too. In fact, in the dizzying moments after being bludgeoned by this miserable specimen, I was convinced it's among the worst movies ever made. That's a rare moment in a film lover's life, and something to savor, in a weird way. Zac Efron headlines, ostensibly, as uptight law-school graduate Jason Kelly, who's preparing to wed his even more uptight fiancée (Julianne Hough, suffering through a standard-issue bridezilla role)....

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Movie review: Charlie Kaufman returns with Anomalisa, a singular stop-motion fable about consumer capitalism and the male ego

Posted By on Fri, Jan 22, 2016 at 12:26 PM

Anomalisa★★★ Now playing In the opening shot of Anomalisa, Charlie Kaufman's return to film after 2008's divisive Synecdoche, New York, an airliner is framed against a majestic sunset. A cacophony of voices—passenger chatter, a flight attendant's recited instructions—surrounds us as the camera slowly pulls back to reveal our vantage point as that of neither god nor man, but of a puppet in another plane. It's a marvelous way of introducing us to Kaufman and co-director Duke Johnson's stop-motion simulacrum of the modern world's most banal environments: airports, hotels, the Midwest. This ambiguity of perspective carries through the rest of the one-of-a-kind...

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Thursday, January 21, 2016

Interview: Award-winning Raleigh poet Dorianne Laux on the unique writing community in North Carolina

Posted By on Thu, Jan 21, 2016 at 2:29 PM

Raleigh’s Dorianne Laux is the author of five books of poetry. Her most recent collection, The Book of Men, won the Paterson Prize. She has also won or been a finalist for the Best American Poetry Prize, the National Book Critics Circle Award, the Oregon Book Award and the Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize, among many other recognitions and fellowships. Born in Augusta, Maine, in 1952, Laux worked as a sanatorium cook, a gas-station manager, a maid and a donut-holer before receiving a BA in English from Mills College. After living and teaching in Oregon, Laux now lives with her husband,...

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Friday, January 8, 2016

Movie review: Todd Haynes' Carol is a harrowing, exquisite story of forbidden love in the 1950s

Posted By on Fri, Jan 8, 2016 at 3:03 PM

Carol★★★★ Now playing With Carol, filmmaker Todd Haynes continues to delve into forbidden love during a tense, conflicted era. In 2002, he had ’50s housewife Julianne Moore flirting with African-American gent Dennis Haysbert (while her husband, Dennis Quaid, was busy failing to suppress his homosexuality) in the period melodrama Far from Heaven. But while that was practically a Douglas Sirk tribute in ironic quotation marks, Carol is more like a same-sex Brief Encounter. And just like that classic love story, the subject matter is handled with genuine, romantic sincerity. Once again tripping back to the beautiful but hopelessly repressed ’50s,...

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Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Dance review: What Doesn't Work sets an allegory of striving and failure on the brute fact of the body

Posted By on Wed, Jan 6, 2016 at 1:03 PM

What Doesn’t Work★★★★ The Carrack Modern Art, Dec. 19, 2015 Often I go to see dance to lose myself in a beautiful or terrifying (ideally, both) fantasy world where sets, costumes and music are at least as prominent as movement. The dancers can shrink to mere moving parts in an intricate mechanism. But I was excited to go to the Carrack the weekend before Christmas because I knew I was going to see something else entirely—something raw, corporeal and purifying, all seething disgust and primitive slapstick.  No one who has followed the performances of Culture Mill directors Tommy Noonan and...

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Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Year in Review: Notable North Carolina literary fiction and nonfiction

Posted By on Tue, Dec 29, 2015 at 9:49 AM

What does it even mean to read local? That was the question I confronted while thinking about how to cover the year in books from North Carolina. It’s easy to answer in areas like visual art, theater and dance: The artists live here, put up work here and share creative and social networks. But the solitary world of writers is different—more dispersed and amorphous, with less emphasis on site-specific performance and more emphasis on the artifact that, if it succeeds, untangles from its origins to become timeless and placeless, absorbed into the phantom state of literature. Without a dedicated gathering...

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Friday, December 18, 2015

Toilet humor meets family values in Sisters, the new comedy starring Amy Poehler and Tina Fey

Posted By on Fri, Dec 18, 2015 at 9:57 AM

Sisters Now playing Sisters stars Amy Poehler and Tina Fey as Maura and Kate Ellis, terminally immature siblings whose empty-nester parents decide to finally sell their childhood home. Poehler sweetly plays the straight woman to Fey’s not-totally-believable middle-aged lady gone wild. It’s a completely competent comedy that occasionally hits some very funny notes, though it mostly stays within the tried-and-true formula of mainstream American comedy: toilet humor meets family values. In the spirit of revenge—and for the sake of giving Maura the bad-kid fun she never allowed herself to have—the sisters decide to throw a rager the night before the...

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Thursday, December 17, 2015

Comic book writer Daniel Way brings GeekCraft Expo to Durham—and just about everywhere else

Posted By on Thu, Dec 17, 2015 at 3:40 PM

GeekCraft Expo RDU The Durham Armory Sunday, April 17, 2016 There’s so much more to the culture of fandom than the movies, TV shows and books that provide the source material. Diehards also have to have the coolest, most original toys, accessories, decorations and tchotchkes based on their favorite properties, be they Doctor Who or Star Wars. You can find this stuff by scouring comic book conventions and craft fairs, but an ambitious new expo coming to Durham next year aims to cut right to the good stuff for crafty fanboys and fangirls. Daniel Way, a comic book writer perhaps...

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Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Movie review: J.J. Abrams potently remixes a modern myth for a new generation in Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Posted By on Wed, Dec 16, 2015 at 4:24 PM

Star Wars: The Force Awakens★★★★ Opening wide Friday Remember the moment near the end of the original Star Wars when Luke Skywalker piloted his X-wing through a last-ditch run on the Death Star, turning off his targeting computer to rely on the Force instead? That’s what director J.J. Abrams does with Star Wars: The Force Awakens, the gargantuan commercial and artistic endeavor opening wide on Friday. He's delivered a triumph in an unexpected fashion, flouting the usual reboot expectations and grooving with the Force to essentially make a disco remix of franchise mythology. Dodging spoilers with this release is an...

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Wednesday, November 25, 2015

After three decades of white Cinderellas, Destiny Diamond breaks through the glass slipper

Posted By on Wed, Nov 25, 2015 at 1:28 PM

Cinderella Friday, Dec. 4–Sunday, Dec. 20 Raleigh Little Theatre, Raleigh As Destiny Diamond looked around the room during the callbacks for Cinderella at Raleigh Little Theatre, she knew the odds were stacked against her. In the 31 prior productions of the holiday classic, the title role had always been sung by a soprano, and Diamond, a senior at N.C. State University, is a second alto—the lowest-pitched and rarest of female voices. Then there was the matter of race. Since 1984, Cinderella had always been portrayed by a white actor at Raleigh Little Theatre. This was the second year in a...

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Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Movie review: The Good Dinosaur is a throwback, and not just in the evolutionary sense

Posted By on Tue, Nov 24, 2015 at 1:58 PM

The Good Dinosaur ★★★ Opening Wednesday The publicity materials for Disney and Pixar’s The Good Dinosaur focus on the fact that it’s set in a world where an asteroid didn’t hit Earth and dinosaurs continued to evolve. What goes unmentioned is that the premise is an excuse for an old-fashioned children’s adventure story—a “boy and his dog” tale where the dog is the boy and the boy is a dinosaur. Making the protagonists the more expected species would have resulted in something not unlike the adventurous coming-of-age tales that once populated children’s literature—and which were often adapted into Disney films...

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Friday, November 20, 2015

Rebranded as Little Corner, Duke’s excellent poetry series escapes the confines of campus

Posted By on Fri, Nov 20, 2015 at 10:20 AM

Little Corner Reading Series: Bhanu Kapil and Paul Singleton III Saturday, Nov. 21, 8 p.m. The Shed 807 E. Main St., Durham www.shedjazz.com Duke University has long been a hub for weird, interesting poetry—if you knew how to find it. Its poetry reading series, formerly known as Minor American and later as Manic Caravan, has hosted both world-renowned writers like Eileen Myles and up-and-coming talents like Philadelphia’s Ryan Eckes. But if you weren’t already plugged into academic life, these events could seem inaccessible, tucked away in the stately parlors of Duke’s East Campus. That has changed this season under the...

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Hi Zack,

I'm reading this again after seeing it almost 5 months ago. Our new Quail Ridge Books is …

by Lisa Robie Poole on Remembering Quail Ridge Books Founder Nancy Olson, a Reader's Best Friend (Arts)

Thanks RobU. This review ran online only.

by Brian Howe, INDY managing editor for arts & culture on Theater Review: Three Shakespeare Plays Are Pared Down to a Ninety-Minute Game of Dramatic Chess in Henry VI (Arts)

Great review! Since it was out in previous paper, how do we get this in print? Possible to order it?

by RobU on Theater Review: Three Shakespeare Plays Are Pared Down to a Ninety-Minute Game of Dramatic Chess in Henry VI (Arts)

This show is dreadful. I watched clips of the London production which lacked the wonderful sets in the Australian production. …

by mrappleby on Love never dies, but many terrible musicals have: Sitting through Andrew Lloyd Webber's Phantom sequel. (Arts)

Awesome summation of the beauty and skill surrounding this tap festival! Great Job Dan!
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by Dcable on Dance Review: Tap Genius Michelle Dorrance Brings It Home at the NC Rhythm Tap Festival (Arts)

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Hi Zack,

I'm reading this again after seeing it almost 5 months ago. Our new Quail Ridge Books is …

by Lisa Robie Poole on Remembering Quail Ridge Books Founder Nancy Olson, a Reader's Best Friend (Arts)

Thanks RobU. This review ran online only.

by Brian Howe, INDY managing editor for arts & culture on Theater Review: Three Shakespeare Plays Are Pared Down to a Ninety-Minute Game of Dramatic Chess in Henry VI (Arts)

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