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Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Theater Review: The Consequences of Virtual Play Laid Bare at Manbites in The Nether

Posted By on Wed, Apr 13, 2016 at 3:51 PM

The Nether ★★★★ Manbites Dog Theater, Durham Through April 23 In The Body in Pain, Elaine Scarry writes about how technology has extended our physical abilities and senses. The hammer and handgun concentrate applied force; the telescope lengthens eyesight; microphones and loudspeakers amplify voices; bicycles and cars expand mobility. But as networked computers exponentially increase our computational, sensory, and data-gathering powers, some say the human body is becoming increasingly dislocated in the digital rush. Soon, it might be all but discarded. Jennifer Haley explores a very unsettling facet of this possibility in The Nether, her creepy 2013 sci-fi drama. Director Jules...

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Monday, April 11, 2016

Full Frame: A Quirky Sunday Surfing the Net With Werner Herzog and Reading New Yorker Cartoons

Posted By on Mon, Apr 11, 2016 at 3:31 PM

Lo and Behold: Reveries of the Connected World Very Semi-Serious Full Frame Documentary Film Festival, Durham Sunday, April 10, 2016 This weekend’s late-spring freeze turned attendees of the nineteenth annual Full Frame Documentary Film Festival into puffy little cotton balls, their down jackets swishing together in tight theater aisles, making the cinemas feel even fuller than usual. By Sunday, everyone had gotten the hang of the ticketing process, screening locations, and which bathrooms had the fastest moving lines. The festival moved like a well-oiled, well-bundled machine. I’ll admit it: this was my first time at Full Frame. I was afraid...

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Movie Review: City of Gold Deliciously Translates a Celebrated Food Critic's Style to the Screen

Posted By on Mon, Apr 11, 2016 at 12:19 PM

City of Gold ★★★ ½ Now playing For dedicated foodies, City of Gold is the best dinner-and-a-movie option to hit local theaters since Jon Favreau's underrated Chef. This sprightly new documentary profiles the life and work of Los Angeles Times writer Jonathan Gold, the first food critic to be awarded a Pulitzer Prize. Gold made his bones in the eighties by wandering away from the usual high-end French restaurants and exploring the city's humbler eateries, often tucked away in dodgy neighborhoods or shabby strip malls. Gold's abiding love of Los Angeles and its endlessly colliding cultures powers his writing and...

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Sunday, April 10, 2016

Full Frame: Underdogs Get Their Place in the Spotlight

Posted By on Sun, Apr 10, 2016 at 1:37 PM

Sonita (★★★½) Life, Animated (★★★) Raising Bertie (★★) Full Frame Documentary Film Festival, Durham Saturday, April 9, 2016 Perseverance is a common theme in documentaries, usually involving the tenacity of a film’s subject and occasionally the filmmakers. Three docs featured during day three of this year’s Full Frame Documentary Film Festival ply this premise, with decidedly different results. Sundance sensation Sonita chronicles the story of Sonita Alizadeh, an undocumented Afghan teenager living in Iran. We first meet the 18-year-old Alizadeh rapping for fellow displaced children in their Tehran group home. Alizadeh harbors Western sensibilities and dreams of hitting it big...

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Saturday, April 9, 2016

Full Frame: Who Run the World? Girls. And Noise.

Posted By on Sat, Apr 9, 2016 at 3:49 PM

In Pursuit of Silence, Hooligan Sparrow, Chisholm '72: Unbought & Unbossed Full Frame Documentary Film Festival, Durham Thursday, April 7, 2016 Early on Full Frame's Friday presentations, In Pursuit of Silence provided a beautifully shot exploration of sounds, noise, and the absence thereof. The documentary took several approaches, from the spiritual to the slightly technophobic, but almost all of the angles provided intriguing insight to the importance of quiet time. As it turns out, constant exposure to noise has serious, harmful effects on our minds and bodies. For those with occasional loner tendencies, the film works well as a validation...

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Friday, April 8, 2016

Full Frame: The Newsploitation Industry Made Anthony Weiner a Punch Line, But the Joke's on Us

Posted By on Fri, Apr 8, 2016 at 6:24 PM

Weiner ★★★★ Full Frame Documentary Film Festival, Durham Thursday, April 7, 2016 Look, I’m sorry, but there’s no other way to say it: Everyone at Full Frame last night seemed very excited about Weiner, and all the delicious innuendo it unleashed. For example, when I said I was looking for Weiner, one usher at the Carolina Theatre gave me a subtle smirk that seemed to say, "We don’t need to go there, but we know." Another shot back a much franker double entendre. “I’ve been waiting all night to say that,” she added, laughing, “and you looked like the guy.”...

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Thursday, April 7, 2016

Theater Review: Trapped Somewhere Between Ape and Man in Kafka's Monkey

Posted By on Thu, Apr 7, 2016 at 2:08 PM

KAFKA’S MONKEY★★★★ Common Ground Theatre, Durham Through April 9, $10–$15 History has shown that when captives address their captors, the experience can transform each party. It can even transform the cultures and times in which they live, as in the cases of Martin Luther King Jr.’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail” and Albert Camus’s clandestine “Letters to a German Friend,” which he wrote in occupied France during World War II. But the words of the forcibly assimilated—from Southern slave narratives to the testimony of the Cherokee and Lakota—are sober reminders that transformation can also be ambiguous, corrosive, or fatal, a reality...

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Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Theater Review: A Star-Studded Sweeney Todd from PlayMakers Rep

Posted By on Tue, Apr 5, 2016 at 4:36 PM

SWEENEY TODD: THE DEMON BARBER OF FLEET STREET★★★ ½ Paul Green Theatre, Chapel Hill Through April 23 I was mildly aghast: noticeably tentative—and not always audible—voices, sometimes pitchy and off time? True, it was only a Facebook video preview for Sweeney Todd at PlayMakers Repertory Company, but as an online advertisement, it hardly instilled confidence in the show to come. So despite the marquee leads of Broadway’s David St. Louis and TV’s Annie Golden (Orange Is the New Black), and the up-to-now unshakable music direction of Mark Hartman, there was a somewhat larger question mark than usual hanging over...

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Friday, April 1, 2016

Broadway Composer Stephen Schwartz Halts N.C. Shows to Protest HB 2, Encourages Others to Follow

Posted By on Fri, Apr 1, 2016 at 3:14 PM

When Gov. McCrory called opposition to HB 2 “political theater,” he probably didn’t foresee a response from the national theater community. But now the curtain’s going up on the state’s first professional entertainment embargo, one whose effects have the potential to change the face of theater and other live entertainment in North Carolina. It follows a flood of negative responses from businesses, institutions, and civic groups, local and international. Broadway World reported Thursday night that composer Stephen Schwartz has revoked performance rights to his musicals in North Carolina in protest of the legislation, which denies transgender people the right to use the...

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Remembering Quail Ridge Books Founder Nancy Olson, a Reader's Best Friend

Posted By on Fri, Apr 1, 2016 at 9:59 AM

Like many book-lovers in the Triangle, I felt as though I lost a family member last Sunday. Nancy Olson’s passing at age seventy-five was not a complete surprise to those who knew her. For several years, she’d been battling kidney disease, which played a part in her decision to sell Quail Ridge Books, the independent bookstore she opened in Raleigh in 1984.  But she remained a vital presence at Quail Ridge, often appearing at store signings, beaming as authors were introduced and chatting with them like old friends afterward. Occasionally, I’d say hi, and she’d introduce me to the...

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Thursday, March 24, 2016

Movie Review: A Very Dark Knight and Cold Man of Steel in Superman v Batman: Dawn of Justice

Posted By on Thu, Mar 24, 2016 at 11:30 AM

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice★★★ Opening Friday, March 25 A millennium hence, our descendants might try to decipher our current superhero obsession the way we study ancient Greek legends. Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, which conflates modern religious and mythological allegories, will be rich material. In a span of minutes, eccentric nemesis Lex Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg, too manic by half) positions Kal-El, Superman’s Kryptonian name, alongside Zeus, Yahweh, and Horus. A messianic parable, the film explores how mortals might really react to the arrival of an omnipotent being. Eighteen months have passed since the calamitous climax of Batman...

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Wednesday, March 23, 2016

UNC Students Head for Cannes with Short Film Of Princes

Posted By on Wed, Mar 23, 2016 at 4:00 PM

Despite the lack of a film major at UNC-Chapel Hill, one group of passionate students didn’t just look for channels to pursue this interest. Instead, they created one. As co-founders of the video production company Uninsincerity, UNC juniors Riley Reid, Stuart Schrader, and Jan Bergengruen have produced several impressive works, including a campaign ad for student body president Bradley Opere and the short film Of Princes, which won a spot at the upcoming Cannes Film Festival. Of Princes was adapted from Schrader’s original concept, a six-part miniseries of ten-minute episodes. But he didn’t have time to implement this idea while...

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Friday, March 18, 2016

Movie Review: The Divergent Series: Allegiant Diverges From the Franchise's Intriguing Sci-Fi Sociology

Posted By on Fri, Mar 18, 2016 at 9:55 AM

The Divergent Series: Allegiant★★ Opening Friday, March 18 I have a suspicion that our future overlords (probably robotic) will look back at the first years of the twenty-first century and wonder: What was up with all the teenage wasteland movies? The Divergent Series: Allegiant is the latest installment in an increasingly weary genre, one in which Attractive Young People dodge strange perils in dystopian near-futures. Think The Hunger Games, The Maze Runner, and so forth. (For a superior specimen, look up the 2013 British entry How I Live Now, with Saoirse Ronan.) In the Divergent saga, Shailene Woodley headlines...

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Friday, March 11, 2016

Movie Review: 10 Cloverfield Lane Has Wit and Suspense, Not Just Mysterious Marketing

Posted By on Fri, Mar 11, 2016 at 1:08 PM

10 Cloverfield Lane★★★ ½ Opening Friday, March 11 The crazy survivalist just might be right, but he’s still crazy. That’s the lesson of 10 Cloverfield Lane, a film that begins like a prequel to Room and ends like a sequel to Alien. Or, well, Cloverfield. A gripping cold open introduces Michelle (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), a Louisiana seamstress sideswiped off the roadway while fleeing her estranged husband (a disembodied Bradley Cooper) and her presumably dispirited life. She awakes with an injured leg and an IV in her arm, chained to a water pipe in a barren concrete bunker. Its armed...

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Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Interview: Durham Author Travis Mulhauser on His Harshly Beautiful Debut Novel, Sweetgirl

Posted By on Wed, Mar 9, 2016 at 1:30 PM

Sweetgirl By Travis Mulhauser Ecco/HarperCollins, Feb. 2016, 256 pp. Sweetgirl, the debut novel by Durham resident Travis Mulhauser, is a slow-burning yet electrifying tale set in the dead of winter in northern Michigan. On the cusp of a snowstorm, Percy, an intelligent and eloquent sixteen-year-old high school dropout, embarks to find her meth-addicted mother, who might be with Cutler County’s biggest scumbag, Shelton Potter. The long, winding course of Percy’s evening changes drastically when she finds a not-quite-abandoned baby in a house with two passed out addicts. What follows, in alternating chapters, is Percy’s attempt to rescue the baby...

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Thursday, March 3, 2016

Movie Review: London Has Fallen Isn't the Action Movie We Need

Posted By on Thu, Mar 3, 2016 at 2:01 PM

London Has Fallen★ Opening Friday In London Has Fallen, U.S. president Benjamin Asher (Aaron Eckhart) is back after escaping capture in 2013’s Olympus Has Fallen. To paraphrase the eulogy for another Eckhart character, Harvey Dent in The Dark Knight, this isn’t the action movie we need, but it’s the one we deserve. A cavalcade of jingoism and xenophobia varnished in terror porn, it espouses a fanatical worldview fueled by Old Testament-style vengeance. Clumsily directed by Iranian-born Swede Babak Najafi, it makes 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi seem measured by comparison. Against the advice of his Secret Service director...

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Thursday, February 25, 2016

Opinion: A Local Filmmaker Says Indies Need to Lead Hollywood to Diversity

Posted By on Thu, Feb 25, 2016 at 12:29 PM

For many years, I had been a spectator of the big screen, watching from the sidelines and measuring whether there was any progress in diversity. Not finding it, I delayed my entry into the industry for years, and it profoundly affected my course after I got there. As an actress who studied the craft professionally, I did not want to jump into an industry where I didn’t see enough people who looked like me in roles considered Oscar-worthy. I wanted to see something beyond slavery and civil rights—movies depicting the diversity of black lives. I wanted to see espionage, action,...

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Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Interview: Actress and Poet Amber Tamblyn Surveys Hollywood's Toll on Women in Dark Sparkler

Posted By on Tue, Feb 23, 2016 at 12:02 PM

Amber Tamblyn Wednesday, Feb. 24, 7 p.m. The Regulator Bookshop You’ve probably seen Amber Tamblyn on TV—as a child actor on General Hospital, on her own show Joan of Arcadia, on the cult cop dramady The Unusuals (with Jeremy Renner), or in supporting roles in House and Two and a Half Men. Or maybe you’ve seen some of the many movies she’s been in, including the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants films. Tamblyn is also an accomplished poet with several published collections. Her latest, Dark Sparkler (Harper Perennial), was initially inspired by the abrupt death of Brittany Murphy. It’s a series...

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Friday, February 19, 2016

Movie Review: The Witch Conjures the Demon-Haunted World of English Settlers From Real Accounts

Posted By on Fri, Feb 19, 2016 at 12:34 PM

The Witch ★★★ ½ Now playing For seventeenth-century English Puritan Joseph Glanvill, belief in the supernatural was a prerequisite for belief in God. Folktales about ghosts, witches, and devils weren't just children's pastimes, but a vital part of the historical record. The stories Glanvill collected captured readers’ imaginations long after skepticism became the norm for England's educated bourgeoisie, inspiring early gothic novelists who saw supernatural fiction as a history of consciousness. Through meticulous research and detailed craftsmanship, director Robert Eggers returns to the roots of Anglo-American horror in The Witch, reconstructing the demon-haunted world of early English settlers from their...

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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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You stopped the arts coverage to cover the election..... You were probably better off just covering the arts, rather than …

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