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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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Wednesday, November 11, 2015

The INDY Audiobooks Poll: Triangle fiction writers talk reading technology

Posted By on Wed, Nov 11, 2015 at 11:14 AM

For an essay on audiobooks this week, the INDY sent a questionnaire to authors around the Triangle. We were delighted by the variety and volume of their responses, which are reproduced in full here.  CHARLIE LOVETT: 1. Have you ever made an audiobook? If so, what was the experience and the result like? If not, would you ever want to? Why or why not? I've never recorded one myself, and I don't think I'd want to. Although I have a theater background and people say I have a voice for radio, I am in awe of what professional audio book...

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Friday, November 6, 2015

Movie review: Suffragette is a fiery political thriller disguised as a British prestige picture

Posted By on Fri, Nov 6, 2015 at 3:08 PM

Suffragette ★★★★ Now playing Those expecting a proper period piece will be sorely disappointed by Suffragette, a restless and angry drama that sometimes plays out like a violent political thriller. The film is set in London, eight years before the 19th Amendment was ratified in the U.S., at the moment when the women's suffrage movement was turning militant. Carey Mulligan plays Maud Watts, a desperately poor washerwoman eking out a miserable existence in London circa 1912. Maud is a wage slave in an era when the term is, for all practical purposes, nearly literal. The industrial laundry she's been laboring at...

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Movie review: Reclaiming original Bond lore, Spectre is a step back for the franchise

Posted By on Fri, Nov 6, 2015 at 11:52 AM

Spectre★★  Now playing Until now, Ernst Stavro Blofeld and the rest of the SPECTRE global crime syndicate hadn’t appeared in a James Bond film since 1971’s Diamonds Are Forever. But in 2013, after decades of rights-wrangling, MGM and the estate of film producer Kevin McClory finally reached a legal settlement, allowing Bond’s original infamous foes to return to the franchise. As its title might let on, the 24th Bond film is overeager to reintegrate its birthright, shoehorning it into the narrative reboot that began with Daniel Craig’s 007 and temporarily rejuvenated the franchise. But the slapdash Spectre is a nostalgic...

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Friday, October 30, 2015

Geeking out with John Hodgman at the Carolina Theatre

Posted By on Fri, Oct 30, 2015 at 2:03 PM

John Hodgman Carolina Theatre, Durham Saturday, Oct. 24, 2015 You got me: I was being a little cheeky about my dislike of John Hodgman in my preview for the INDY. I’m a fan. Yes, he’s something of an epicure and clothes horse, a blue-blooded New Englander. Yes, he plays ukulele and sings in a lovely tenor voice. And yes, he has a permanent twinkle in his eye. But he’s also a huge nerd, and this is where my affection for him begins. In his Carolina Theatre show, Vacationland, Hodgman revealed that he grew up watching Doctor Who. He admitted a...

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The Strange Beauty Film Festival is a warm, unpretentious haven for experimental film

Posted By on Fri, Oct 30, 2015 at 8:12 AM

Strange Beauty Film Festival Shadowbox Studio, Durham Thursday, Oct. 22, 2015 We pull into the Ample Storage facility off East Club Boulevard. Glorified storage units line up like a mini-strip mall. A plumbing business, a hair salon and a church, among others, make up a wonderful little community of entrepreneurs. Shadowbox Studio, where we have sometimes hosted our experimental film series, Unexposed, stands out from the others with its artistic, homey vibe. As we’re buying tickets for the Strange Beauty Film Festival, an hour before its kickoff, Tom Whiteside of Durham Cinematheque is setting up his double-projector 16mm film in...

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Thursday, October 29, 2015

Movie review: The Assassin is a gorgeous, unusually intimate martial-arts costume drama

Posted By on Thu, Oct 29, 2015 at 1:45 PM

The Assassin ★★★ ½ Opening Friday Listen, I’m not going to mince words: Good luck finding out what the hell is going on in The Assassin. Renowned Chinese filmmaker Hou Hsiao-Hsien’s first movie in seven years, which earned him the best director award at this year’s Cannes Film Festival, is an epic martial-arts period piece that’s beguiling, ambiguous and—for some, at least—frustrating in its storytelling. Good thing it’s also one of the most visually breathtaking films you’ll see this year. Nie Yinniang (Shu Qi, a ravishing Hou regular) is an assassin in 9th-century Tang Dynasty-era China. She’s ruthless and efficient,...

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PlayMakers Repertory Company appoints Obie-winning actor and director Vivienne Benesch as its new leader

Posted By on Thu, Oct 29, 2015 at 8:47 AM

In a press release yesterday afternoon, PlayMakers Repertory Company announced that Vivienne Benesch will become its new producing artistic director as of Jan. 1, 2016, replacing outgoing artistic director Joseph Haj. Benesch, who was chosen from group of five finalists after a six-month national search, has directed three shows at PlayMakers in the past five years. She takes the position shortly before her fourth, a production of Anton Chekhov’s Three Sisters, opens on Jan. 20. She was tapped to direct the show for the company’s current season in March, more than two months before the selection process for the new artistic...

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Friday, October 23, 2015

Movie review: Steve Jobs is a bittersweet symphony about the man who put a thousand songs in your pocket

Posted By on Fri, Oct 23, 2015 at 11:52 AM

Steve Jobs★★★★ ½ Now playing Steve Jobs is essentially a three-act opera. Each part is set at different times, inside different California concert halls, with composer Daniel Pemberton’s soundtrack accompanied by dollops of Bob Dylan and indie rock. The same characters rotate through each act, and at one point, Jobs (a mesmerizing Michael Fassbender) likens them to an orchestra that he conducts. But instead of being sung, the lyrics are set in screenwriter Aaron Sorkin’s distinctive cadence. When scolded for shunning his young daughter, the stubborn, visionary and messianic Apple guru retorts, “God sent his only son on a suicide...

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Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Theater review: A dreamlike, spiky and star-studded Antigone at Carolina Performing Arts

Posted By on Wed, Oct 21, 2015 at 1:51 PM

Antigone★★★★ Friday, Oct. 9, 2015 Carolina Performing Arts at Memorial Hall When Juliette Binoche insists the new production of Sophocles' Antigone she stars in is really about Kreon, it sounds like the kind of counterintuitive reading actors use to freshen up classic works that seem to have run out of things to say. This 2,500-year-old mainstay of classical Greek tragedy certainly qualifies. Dozens of translations and adaptations—verse, prose, drama, opera, flamenco, on and on—have flourished in the last 150 years, by tough competition including the likes of Brecht, Heaney and Anouilh. But when the play sold out Memorial Hall Oct. 9...

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Friday, October 16, 2015

Movie review: Tom Hanks is a Cold War Atticus Finch in Spielberg's Bridge of Spies

Posted By on Fri, Oct 16, 2015 at 2:00 PM

Bridge of Spies★★★ ½ Now playing The childlike wonder that once accompanied the release of a Steven Spielberg film has been supplanted by an appreciation of the director’s finely honed craftsmanship, a maturation that parallels his preferred story lines. The now 68-year-old Spielberg still dabbles in the adventure flicks of his filmmaking yesteryear. But now they turn out like The Adventures of Tintin and Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. Bridge of Spies is Spielberg’s stab at a Cold War spy film, filling another chronological gap in his growing oeuvre of historical dramas. The titular thoroughfare refers...

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