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Friday, June 16, 2017

Movie Review: Letters from Baghdad's Experimental Approach Doesn't Entirely Work, but Its Subject, Gertrude Bell, Still Fascinates

Posted By on Fri, Jun 16, 2017 at 1:32 PM

Letters from Baghdad★★★ ½ Chelsea Theatre, Chapel Hill Describable only as an experimental documentary, Letters from Baghdad tells the story of Gertrude Bell, the British government official, explorer, and occasional spy who helped draw the borders of modern-day Iraq in the years after the first world war. Bell is sometimes called the female Lawrence of Arabia, although this film argues she was much better at her job than T.E. Lawrence ever was. Bell was born into a wealthy British family, and her devotion to exotic travel made her useful to the officers of imperial Britain in the Middle East....

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Movie Review: Cars 3 Is a Smooth Ride Because It Runs on Cruise Control

Posted By on Fri, Jun 16, 2017 at 10:05 AM

Cars 3 ★★★ Now playing The most perplexing part of Pixar’s Cars universe is that while anthropomorphized automobiles are the sole living creatures, they clearly inhabit a world that’s either parallel or subsequent to our own. It’s full of landmarks we know, from Route 66 to the Eiffel Tower. Cities exist and crops are grown, all for no discernible reason. The American flag even appears at one point. Recently, Cars creative director Jay Ward offered a wholly unofficial explanation: the franchise takes place in a near-future in which the autonomous cars we're developing now turned into something like the machines in...

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Monday, June 12, 2017

Movie Review: Megan Leavey Lavishes Love on the Bond of a Marine and Her Bomb-Sniffing Dog but Gives Short Shrift to Everything Else

Posted By on Mon, Jun 12, 2017 at 1:19 PM

Megan Leavey★★★ Now playing Yeah, Megan Leavey feels like a fugitive from the Lifetime channel. But, with a singleminded focus on the bond between a Marine and her bomb-sniffing dog, its earnestness eventually tames its pat predictability. Leavey (Kate Mara) is a wayward twenty-something whose broken upbringing leads her to enlist in the Marine Corps. She’s an early screw-up there, too, until she finds the discipline she needs to convince a gunnery sergeant (Common) that she has the touch to become a K9 handler. Teamed with a pugnacious German Shepherd named Rex, Leavey is deployed for two tours in Iraq,...

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Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Movie Review: Family Apocalypse Survival Saga It Comes at Night Could Use a Dash of M. Night

Posted By on Wed, Jun 7, 2017 at 4:20 PM

It Comes at Night★★★ Opening Friday, June 9 Leading with a cold open of patricide, followed by a suffocating bleakness that never relents, It Comes at Night doesn’t suffer from a lack of atmosphere. The latest thriller/horror picture distributed by A24 is a grim fairy tale set in a black forest, a milieu that drives the narrative more than plot or dialogue. It feels as if writer-director Trey Edward Shults (the critically acclaimed Krisha) has a high concept in his head that never fully makes it onto the screen. It’s a psychological parable that’s minimalist to the point of inertia. The...

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Friday, June 2, 2017

Movie Review: The Parallels of Ancient Mythology and Modern Superheroes Become Literal in Wonder Woman

Posted By on Fri, Jun 2, 2017 at 4:18 PM

Wonder Woman★★★ ½ Now playing The long-overdue Wonder Woman film is an origin story that doesn’t shrink from the beauty or brawn of a hero in whom the parallels of ancient mythology and modern superhero fiction become literal. Diana (Gal Gadot), the precocious daughter of Queen Hippolyta (Connie Nielsen), is a princess of the superhuman Amazons. The all-female tribe, originally created by Zeus to protect mortals, eventually withdrew to the mystical "Paradise Island" of Themyscira to escape man’s wickedness. But mankind interrupts paradise when American soldier and spy Steve Trevor (Chris Pine) crash-lands on Diana’s doorstep, during the First World War,...

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Friday, May 26, 2017

Movie Review: Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales Swashbuckles Under Its Own Weight

Posted By on Fri, May 26, 2017 at 11:27 AM

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales★★ ½ Now playing In Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales, Captain Jack Sparrow, the role that once earned Johnny Depp his first Oscar nomination, literally jumps a shark. It’s a ghost shark, but the metaphor couldn’t be more conspicuous. A little of the rakish Sparrow has always gone a long way, but in the latest films in the Pirates of the Caribbean series, he's shifted to the center of the swashbuckling. In this fifth voyage, the inebriated pirate’s preening and trademark non sequiturs seem more hoary—he twice pleads for mercy...

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Friday, May 19, 2017

Movie Review: Alien: Covenant Gets Psychosexual In a Bloody, Baroque, Deeply Weird Story

Posted By on Fri, May 19, 2017 at 2:20 PM

Alien: Covenant ★★★★ Now playing It's generally acknowledged that the creature in the Alien franchise is the scariest monster in all of science-fiction cinema. Based on original designs by Swiss artist H.R. Giger, it's a triumph of sinister design—a Freudian nightmare of biomechanical sex and death. Alien: Covenant, the latest installation by veteran sci-fi director Ridley Scott, burrows into the psychosexual roots of the monster to present a bloody, baroque, deeply weird story. A sequel to 2012's inscrutable misfire, Prometheus, the new film concerns yet another spaceship crew encountering yet another alien infestation. All the franchise elements are present: derelict...

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Friday, May 12, 2017

Movie Review: In King Arthur: Legend of the Sword, Guy Ritchie Gets Medieval on Our Collective Asses

Posted By on Fri, May 12, 2017 at 4:50 PM

King Arthur: Legend of the Sword ★★★ Now playing In the would-be franchise starter King Arthur: Legend of the Sword, director Guy Ritchie gets medieval on our collective asses by twisting Arthurian legend into a British caper film. Hunky Charlie Hunnam is our hero, Jude Law is the baddie, and the future Knights of the Round Table are portrayed as a gang of streetwise fixers from the mean streets of Londinium circa 573 AD. Critics are slamming the movie as a ridiculous attempt to transpose an august mythology onto a laddish action picture. They're not wrong, but they're mad for...

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Thursday, May 11, 2017

Film Review: The Rise and Fall of Liberty Asks What Is Lost in Durham’s Urban Renewal

Posted By on Thu, May 11, 2017 at 10:23 AM

Walker Stone’s voice is gruff but flavorful, like the tobacco leaves that were once hauled into his auction warehouse in Durham to be sold to the tobacco companies that dotted downtown. “Durham was built on tobacco,” Stone says at the onset of The Rise and Fall of Liberty, a film by local documentary filmmaker Carol Thomson and a project of the Southern Documentary Fund. One only needs to walk Durham’s streets and landmarks to see the truth of Walker’s words. But Liberty tells the story behind—and literally inside—those familiar landmarks and raises questions about the consequences of unchecked economic...

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Friday, April 28, 2017

Movie Review: Land of Mine Is Both a Classic War Film and a Powerful Anti-War Statement

Posted By on Fri, Apr 28, 2017 at 1:34 PM

Land of Mine ★★★★ Now playing In the final months of World War II, German forces buried more than 1.5 million landmines on the western beaches of Denmark. Germany believed that the Danish shore was one of the probable landing spots for an Allied invasion. After Germany's surrender, Danish officials commandeered four thousand German POWs to remove the landmines. By then, most of the original occupying forces were dead or gone. The final wave of German soldiers sent to Denmark were mostly teenagers—children, essentially—conscripted by Hitler in a cruel last gasp. This largely forgotten episode of World War II history...

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Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Movie Review: Animated Fable The Red Turtle Uses No Words, and No Words Do It Justice

Posted By on Tue, Apr 11, 2017 at 12:32 PM

The Red Turtle★★★★½ Now playing Dutch writer-director Michael Dudok de Wit’s first animated feature is quiet, mysterious, and breathtaking. It is almost entirely void of vocal language, other than the occasional emotive grunt. It complements silence with the audible twisting and turning of the tropics—leaves whistling in the wind, ocean waves washing onto the sand, unseen life bustling and breathing. The light bleeding off de Wit’s trademark watercolors render the island of The Red Turtle into some kind of spiritual being. When a nameless middle-aged man finds himself stranded on an island after his ship is swallowed by a storm,...

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Monday, April 10, 2017

Full Frame: Dina Is Earning Acclaim for Its Portrait of Love and Autism. But Is It Illuminating or Exploitative?

Posted By on Mon, Apr 10, 2017 at 1:36 PM

Full Frame Documentary Film Festival: Dina ★★ Friday, April 7 Carolina Theatre, Durham It speaks to the high quality of Full Frame that the films in its perennial programming range in quality from “above average” to “transcendent.” Any chagrin is typically reserved for experimental submissions that might not suit the taste of some viewers or docs that delve into controversial subject matter. You certainly don’t see many missteps among the invited films—the ones not in competition but chosen due to the pedigree of the director or the film’s previous accolades. Foremost among the invited fare at Full Frame this year...

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Sunday, April 9, 2017

Full Frame: All Skate, Everybody Skate Peeks Inside a Post-Office-Slash-Skating-Rink with a Five-Decade History on Topsail Island

Posted By on Sun, Apr 9, 2017 at 7:00 PM

We first meet Doris Jenkins onscreen at the Topsail Beach Skating Rink, standing behind a counter, flanked by a shelf of roller skates and an old record player. She wears a loose white T-shirt with her name airbrushed on the front in neon colors. You know, the kind of souvenir you get at the fair—or the beach. But at the rink she’s owned and operated for more than fifty years, this is a uniform for Jenkins. Durham filmmaker and Elon University professor Nicole Triche spent March through September of 2015 filming All Skate, Everybody Skate, a short documentary about the rink...

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Full Frame: An Avetts Agnostic Finds Some Faith in May It Last: A Portrait of the Avett Brothers

Posted By on Sun, Apr 9, 2017 at 4:59 PM

Full Frame Documentary Film Festival: May It Last: A Portrait of the Avett Brothers★★★★ Saturday, April 8 Carolina Theatre, Durham I’m not particularly a fan of the Avett Brothers, which made me the odd person out in Fletcher Hall last night, judging from the outbursts of mid-screening applause and the fawning post-screening Q-and-A. Through fifteen years of dogged persistence, the brothers from Concord, North Carolina, and their adopted musical family have built a devoted global fanbase for their soulful, punk-tinged acoustic bluegrass and folk. When singer/banjoist Scott Avett and cellist Joe Kwon showed up with codirector Michael Bonfiglio after the...

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Full Frame: 2017 Award Winners Announced

Posted By on Sun, Apr 9, 2017 at 1:11 PM

For ticketing details on this afternoon's encore screenings of the festival's award winners, visit Full Frame's website. 2017 Award Winners THE REVA AND DAVID LOGAN GRAND JURY AWARD Sponsored by The Reva and David Logan Foundation QUEST by Jonathan Olshefski Encore 4 – 4:40 pm, Fletcher Hall Honorable Mention: Last Men in Aleppo by Feras Fayyad Encore 7 – 7:20 pm, Cinema 1 FULL FRAME JURY AWARD FOR BEST SHORT Provided by Drs. Andrew and Barbra Rothschild Heaven Is a Traffic Jam on the 405 by Frank Stiefel Encore 6 – 5:00 pm, Cinema 3 Honorable Mention: The Great Theater...

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Saturday, April 8, 2017

Full Frame: What's the Use of Looking Back? In the Case of Two Towns of Jasper, It Helps Us Gauge Our Progress from Then to Now.

Posted By on Sat, Apr 8, 2017 at 4:31 PM

Full Frame Documentary Film Festival: Two Towns of Jasper Friday, April 7 Carolina Theatre, Durham In 1998, an African-American man was murdered by three white men in the seemingly peaceful town of Jasper, Texas. Not long after the incident took place, filmmaker Whitney Dow, intuiting the complexity of the story, asked his colleague Marco Williams to join the project of documenting it. Together they determined that they needed two film crews, one white and one black, which would explore the story from the perspective of the white and black townspeople, respectively. Two Towns of Jasper, the result of this unconventional...

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Friday, April 7, 2017

Full Frame: An Interview with the Director of Purple Dreams, a New Doc Capturing the Power of Art Education in a Charlotte High School

Posted By on Fri, Apr 7, 2017 at 5:58 PM

Full Frame Documentary Film Festival: Purple Dreams Friday, April 7 Carolina Theatre, Durham It was by sheer luck that I wound up sitting next to Joanne Hock and Heidi Dove, the director and assistant director of Purple Dreams (which has its world premiere in a primetime slot at Fletcher Hall tonight), at a screening this morning. “That’s the fun part about coming to these festivals, meeting people,” Hock remarked when I pulled her aside in the hall to learn more about her film, which is about the first high school (a magnet school in Charlotte) allowed to stage the musical...

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Movie Review: Do Not Go, in Style or Otherwise, to Zach Braff's Going in Style

Posted By on Fri, Apr 7, 2017 at 10:56 AM

Going in Style ★ Now playing Going in Style, the new “comedy” from “filmmaker” Zach Braff, has a familiar setup: three old friends, played by veteran actors in their golden years, run into trouble and reunite for one last caper. In this case, the actors are Morgan Freeman, Alan Arkin, and Michael Caine. The caper is a bank heist. The jokes are tame (and lame) and the entire film hinges on the accumulated good will these performers have earned over their lifetimes. If it feels like you've already seen this movie, you have, figuratively and literally. This iteration tells the story...

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Friday, March 24, 2017

Movie Review: Life Wants to Be Alien SO. BAD. But It's Just Another Creature Feature.

Posted By on Fri, Mar 24, 2017 at 12:45 PM

Life ★★ ½ Now playing As a B-minus movie with an A-plus cast, the sci-fi horror specimen Life is the latest in a looong line of films that recycle the same imperishable plot: a group of explorers in a hermetically sealed environment encounters a hostile creature, which sneaks through the facility and picks off the crew one-by-one. This monster-in-space template has been around since at least 1958 (It! The Terror From Beyond Space) and it was, of course, perfected by Ridley Scott in 1979 with Alien. So, with a movie like Life, it's not a matter of whether it's derivative; it's an...

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Friday, March 3, 2017

Movie Review: Table 19 Goes for Grown-Up John Hughes But Spreads Out a Banquet of Winces and Cringes

Posted By on Fri, Mar 3, 2017 at 3:54 PM

Table 19 ★ ½ Now playing Science has yet to identify the precise biomechanical workings of the cringe. A function of the sympathetic nervous system, it's an involuntary muscular reaction that occurs when we see or hear something embarrassing or unpleasant. Watching Table 19, the new ensemble comedy starring Anna Kendrick, I'm pretty sure I strained several important cringe muscles. It's a surprisingly bad movie, the kind that usually get detoured into foreign markets or a DVD/digital release well before any U.S. theatrical distribution is negotiated. It's a genuine curiosity to see a specimen like this on the big screen....

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Friday, February 24, 2017

Movie Review: Jordan Peele Crosses Guess Who's Coming to Dinner with a Racially Charged The Stepford Wives to Brilliant Effect in Get Out

Posted By on Fri, Feb 24, 2017 at 1:17 PM

Get Out ★★★★ ½ Now playing The go-to synopsis for Get Out, the brilliant new horror film from writer-director Jordan Peele (Key & Peele), is that it's Guess Who's Coming to Dinner crossed with a racially charged update of The Stepford Wives. That's about right, but Peele's game-changing film is more than that, and it's the best thing to happen to the horror genre in twenty years. Brooklyn photographer Chris Washington (Daniel Kaluuya) is about to meet the parents of his new girlfriend, Rose Armitage (Allison Williams), on a weekend getaway upstate. That's stressful enough as it is, but Chris...

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Friday, February 10, 2017

Movie Review: John Wick: Chapter 2, a Solid Return for Keanu Reeves's Laconic Hit Man, Runs on Muscle Cars and Muscle Memory

Posted By on Fri, Feb 10, 2017 at 10:24 AM

John Wick: Chapter 2 ★★★ ½ Now playing “You’re not very good at retiring,” observes a crime lord played by Laurence Fishburne in John Wick: Chapter 2. “I’m workin’ on it,” responds Wick, the laconic hit man reprised by Keanu Reeves. This reunion of Neo and Morpheus is apropos, as Reeves was very much workin’ on his de facto retirement following the end of the Matrix trilogy in 2003. Forgettable parts in forgettable films were suddenly and rather inexplicably interrupted in 2014, when the original John Wick, an unheralded neo-noir, become an instant cult classic and resuscitated Reeves’s career. Director...

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Thursday, February 9, 2017

Movie Review: Everyone Says Lego Flicks Are Uniquely Fun for Kids and Adults. We Sent One of Each to The Lego Batman Movie to Find Out.

Posted By and on Thu, Feb 9, 2017 at 12:16 PM

The Lego Batman Movie Now playing One statement you are guaranteed to hear regarding any Lego-based movie, TV special, or video game is that it offers fun for young and old alike. Testing that, the INDY sent two reviewers—one thirteen, one demonstrably older—to The Lego Batman Movie. THE KID: Not the jokes you need, but the jokes you deserve ★★★★★ I enjoyed The Lego Batman Movie immensely, mainly for the comedy. There are some absolutely hilarious jokes, like when the plane carrying a lot of bombs is called McGuffin Airlines. There are also enough butt jokes to please any kid,...

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Wednesday, February 8, 2017

An Epilogue for Unexposed Microcinema's Bold, Meaningful Year of Holding Down a Stable Venue for Experimental Film

Posted By on Wed, Feb 8, 2017 at 11:51 AM

Not all art spaces are meant to last forever. You swallow hard and get them up and running on a shoestring. You host great programming and build an audience and sustain it as long as you can. There are triumphs, when you pack the house and get good coverage, and then there are the nights when the performers outnumber the audience. And eventually, one month when you’re writing the rent check that you know will bounce or you’re snaking the stopped-up sink for the umpteenth time, you get that awful feeling in the pit of your stomach. It’s over. It’s...

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Friday, February 3, 2017

Movie Review: Men Are From Mars and Women Are Typecast in The Space Between Us, a Garishly Inauthentic Interplanetary Romance

Posted By on Fri, Feb 3, 2017 at 2:17 PM

The Space Between Us ★ Now playing As if the surfeit of YA weepies hadn’t proliferated enough, now it’s invading other planets. Men are from Mars and women are typecast in The Space Between Us, which may as well describe the void left by an absence of adequate filmmaking. Set in the not-too-distant-future, it imagines a world with private space travel, self-driving cars, and the ability to Skype between planets, yet teen slang and the products and prices at Sam’s Club haven’t changed a bit. A blustering, floundering Gary Oldman plays Nathaniel Shepherd, the Richard Branson-esque head of a billion-dollar...

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Wow. I guess you can't recognize brilliant satire when you see it. This was an amazing performance that if you …

by Sam Bayer on ADF Review: Hillel Kogan's We Love Arabs Lags Behind a Cultural Conversation Already Well Underway in Our Region's Performing Arts Scene (Arts)

The photo in this article is of Jackson Cooper and Katie Barrett, as F. Scott Fitzgerald and Zelda, not of …

by David Akiva Klionsky on Theater Review: The Amusing Tea with Edie & Fitz Strains to Make Hay From a Gin-Soaked Dust-Up Between Edith Wharton and F. Scott Fitzgerald (Arts)

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