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Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Elizabeth Matheson Provides a Glimpse of Modern Cuba at Craven Allen Gallery

Posted By on Tue, Oct 25, 2016 at 1:28 PM

Since the U.S. loosened American travel restrictions to Cuba, boutique hotels, Wi-Fi hot spots, and restaurants have popped up in Havana. Tourists flock to the country in hopes of getting there before the arrival of McDonald’s or KFC. But the Americanization of Cuba is not a concern for North Carolinian photographer Elizabeth Matheson. “The Cubans have such a proud sense of their own identity that they are going to remain Cuban no matter what,” Matheson says. From October 1 through November 5, her photography collection, Cuba Now, will be on exhibit at the Craven Allen Gallery, portraying the boldness...

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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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In Fake It Till You Make It, Tommy Noonan and Compagnie Marie Lenfant Find Unstable Common Ground in the Masks of Politicians

Posted By on Fri, Oct 14, 2016 at 10:55 AM

Tommy Noonan & Cie. Marie Lenfant: Fake It Till You Make It Saturday, Oct. 15, 8 p.m. & Sunday, Oct. 16, 5 p.m., $15 Living Arts Collective, Durham It’s hard to pinpoint exactly who is saying what in my conversation with Tommy Noonan and Murielle Elizéon of Saxapahaw’s Culture Mill and three members of France’s Compagnie Marie Lenfant. A reply might begin in English and then gradually transform into French as it travels around the table, only to be translated back for me by someone other than the original speaker. Ideas and roles dissolve into a fluid welter. That’s much...

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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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Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Discover Ovation Cinema Grill 9 in Holly Springs, the Latest Addition to the Boutique Multiplex Scene

Posted By on Tue, Oct 11, 2016 at 3:41 PM

The light green accents scattered throughout Carmike Cinemas’s Ovation Cinema Grill 9 in Holly Springs suggest, ever so subtly, the vintage Art Deco motif of the early twentieth century’s golden age of movie houses. It’s the last bit of nostalgia you’re likely to detect in western Wake County’s newest cinema, the latest addition to the burgeoning boutique movie theater scene. The long-gestating Holly Springs multiplex concludes a weeklong soft opening tomorrow and begins showing first-run films on Thursday, October 13. The nine-screen theater includes eight traditional screens, three of them 3-D capable. It also sports Carmike’s branded BigD auditorium, only the...

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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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Thursday, September 29, 2016

In Rooftop Performance Quadrants, Stephanie Leathers Summons Humanity in the Face of Development

Posted By on Thu, Sep 29, 2016 at 2:31 PM

Stephanie Leathers Monday, September 26, 6:30 p.m. The Durham Hotel/The Viget building, Durham There’s the city that you live in, with its buildings and roads, neighborhoods and commercial zones, power lines and signage. And then there’s the city in your mind and body: the feeling of your favorite café’s door handle in your hand, the park you loved that they dug up for a high-rise, the sounds that put you to sleep when you leave the bedroom windows open all night. Durham-based choreographer, dancer, photographer, and artist Stephanie Leathers has been exploring the tension between those two cities—especially as rapid...

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Wednesday, September 28, 2016

A Tale of Two Galleries: Raleigh’s Lump and Flanders to Merge

Posted By on Wed, Sep 28, 2016 at 11:02 AM

In a lot of ways, Bill Thelen and Kelly McChesney’s stories as gallery directors couldn’t be more different. But they have been subtly bending toward each other for years, which culminates in the merger of the two galleries under one name and director, functionally by the end of this year and officially in February. Thelen is an artist; you can see one of his pieces in Southern Accent at the Nasher right now. Twenty years ago, he founded the experimental, collective-spirited project space Lump, as if bringing a grungy little slice of Bushwick to Blount Street, and never moved. McChesney...

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Friday, September 23, 2016

Movie Review: The Magnificent Seven Not Even a Five

Posted By on Fri, Sep 23, 2016 at 9:42 AM

The Magnificent Seven ★★ 1/2 Now Playing The only thing intriguing about The Magnificent Seven is its sledgehammer-subtle symbolism. A black man rides into town and, aided by his garrulous Irish sidekick, assembles a multicultural coalition to beat back the evils of twisted capitalism, embodied by a corrupt industrialist who wants to take over through fear and intimidation. In the end, our Obama analogue wants to head home, leaving it all in the charge of a woman who finds her mettle through adversity’s fire. The film’s script is a mixed-up bag, full of the promise you’d expect from screenwriter...

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Dance Preview: A Rooftop Pop-Up Performance of quadrants by Stephanie Leathers

Posted By on Fri, Sep 23, 2016 at 9:38 AM

Durham Independent Dance Artists (DIDA) Pop-Up Stephanie Leathers: quadrants Monday, September 26, 6:30 p.m. The Durham Hotel (rooftop) Free With the recent announcement of their 2016–17 season, the organizers of Durham Independent Dance Artists (DIDA) promised occasional pop-up preview events scattered between the group's “mainstage” offerings. “Mainstage,” isn’t the right term, though, since all this season’s shows take place outside traditional theater venues. And, from the looks of DIDA’s first scheduled pop-up—announced this week—these miniature performances will follow suit. This coming Monday, Stephanie Leathers will show quadrants, performed at sunset on the roof of the Viget building downtown. The...

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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

Comedy Preview: F is for Family Creator Bill Burr Makes His Dreams Come True

Posted By on Wed, Sep 14, 2016 at 4:33 PM

Bill Burr Thursday, Sept. 15–Saturday, Sept. 17, 8 p.m., $42–$60 The Carolina Theatre, Durham Stand-up comedian Bill Burr has recently garnered attention for his animated Netflix series, F is for Family, where his credits include co-creator, voice actor, writer, and co-producer. For nearly a decade, his Monday Morning Podcast has stood on its own without relying on pretentious intro music, stock sponsors—Burr humorously riffs when reading advertisements—or guests (he has just a handful each year). Now the second season of F is for Family is in post-production, the recording of Burr’s new comedy special is coming up, and he...

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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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Tuesday, September 6, 2016

A Loss of Words: Remembering PlayMakers Repertory Company's Connie Mahan

Posted By on Tue, Sep 6, 2016 at 3:25 PM

“There are words for everything in the mind but if you speak with your heart, your work will grow continuously.” As I sit at my desk at PlayMakers Repertory Company, thinking about the moment in the wake of our Associate Director of Communications Connie Mahan’s death, the proverb encompasses the impact she has had on PlayMakers and the greater North Carolina community. We received the news hours before our Season Kick-Off, usually a joyous event, to which subscribers and guests were invited to hear more about the upcoming season from Artistic Director Vivienne Benesch and members of the PRC staff....

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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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Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Theater Review: Creature Emerges Not Quite Fully Formed

Posted By on Wed, Aug 31, 2016 at 1:50 PM

Creature ★★ Through Sept. 11 Tiny Engine Theatre Company @ North Raleigh Arts & Creative Theatre Those who study acting and directing build upon their skills. Once they learn how to stage a monologue, they move on to scene work, and then full-length plays. Unfortunately, this Raleigh production of Creature is clearly stuck somewhere between the latter two. Though individual sequences amuse and occasionally move us in this Tiny Engine Theatre Company coproduction with North Raleigh Arts & Creative Theatre, they never truly cohere into a unified or satisfying whole. We’re sympathetic with playwright Heidi Schreck’s attempts to reimagine the life...

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