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Friday, June 16, 2017

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

Posted By on Fri, Jun 16, 2017 at 4:48 PM

Hillel Kogan: We Love Arabs ★★★ ½ Through Saturday, June 17 Reynolds Industries Theater, Durham Perhaps it’s a matter of timing, but it’s hard not to consider Hillel Kogan’s dance-theater farce, We Love Arabs, as something of a step backward in the region’s performing-arts conversation about the presence of Arab people, their cultures, and their concerns. The American Dance Festival presented the work earlier this week at the Cary Theater before tonight and Saturday’s performances in Reynolds Industries Theater. It appears here at the conclusion of Carolina Performing Arts’ probing "Sacred/Secular," a yearlong exploration of Arab cultures around the world, which...

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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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Thursday, June 15, 2017

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

Posted By on Thu, Jun 15, 2017 at 10:19 AM

Tea with Edie & Fitz★★★ Through June 18 N.C. State's TheatreFEST, Raleigh When youth conspicuously throws itself at age, a stratagem or two is usually involved. Whether or not brash Jazz Age chronicler F. Scott Fitzgerald actually admired the literary achievements of patrician The Age of Innocence novelist Edith Wharton, he certainly envied her financial success and old-money social connections among Manhattan’s upper crust. So, the stories say, he literally flung himself at her feet, declaring at least a belletristic ardor during a chance encounter at Scribner’s. That—plus a signed copy of The Great Gatsby, hand-delivered—got Fitzgerald an invitation to...

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Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Dance Review: Renay Aumiller Dances' boneGlow Was Full of Compelling Ideas That Were Hard to See

Posted By on Wed, Jun 14, 2017 at 3:26 PM

Renay Aumiller Dances: boneGlow ★★★ Friday, June 2 Living Arts Collective, Durham Renay Aumiller’s dances are tethered to the celestial. As a choreographer, she works to make visible the line that connects us to what’s beyond. I mean this literally: in 2015’s Blood Moon, performers took turns in a harness system, levitating in a sprawling posture one second, with a grounded dancer supporting the flyer’s body weight, and spinning in release the next. In boneGlow, which had its premiere recently as the penultimate performance of Durham Independent Dance Artists’ third season, the four dancers matched up with four metal, gemlike...

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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

Theater Review: Matilda the Musical Is Sweetly Subversive and Secretly Heady

Posted By on Fri, May 26, 2017 at 5:09 PM

Matilda the Musical★★★★ Through Sunday, May 28 Raleigh Memorial Auditorium, Raleigh We not only have the power to tell our stories and those the wide world hands us; we can edit and rewrite them as well. Count those among the heady takeaways from Matilda the Musical, the sweetly subversive musical whose kinetic, touring Royal Shakespeare Company production closes Sunday at Raleigh Memorial Auditorium, courtesy of North Carolina Theatre and Broadway Series South. Adaptor Dennis Kelly’s 2010 adaptation of Roald Dahl’s children’s novel is a broadside against a number of present-day discontents, and satirical songwriter Tim Minchin’s lyrics are the works of...

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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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Thursday, May 25, 2017

Theater Review: Finding Neverland Turns a Tragedy into a Funny, Flouncy, Bouncy Crowd-Pleaser

Posted By on Thu, May 25, 2017 at 11:18 AM

Finding Neverland★★★★ Through Sunday, May 28 Durham Performing Arts Center, Durham The story of Peter Pan has never wavered in the popular imagination. That’s partly because its case for the necessity of imagination rings true universally and eternally, and partly because its premise was built to prove itself with time. Playwright and author J.M. Barrie dreamed of a gamine boy who would never grow up, but we’ve actually watched him not growing up for 113 years and counting—first onstage, and then, at regular intervals, in notable books, movies, cartoons, and musicals. Given this relentless exposure, it’s surprising that it took...

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Friday, May 19, 2017

Theater Review: For Better and Worse, Hunchback Flees the Realm of the Well Made Play for Wilder Pastures

Posted By on Fri, May 19, 2017 at 4:11 PM

Hunchback★★★ Through May 20 Walltown Children’s Theatre, Durham Kenneth Burke once compared Dadaism to a child mimicking a disabled man hobbling down a street—not out of sympathy or mockery, but sheer curiosity. There’s more than a whisper of Dada in Hunchback, the devised work replacing the adaptation of William S. Burroughs’s Naked Lunch originally slated as Little Green Pig Theatrical Concern’s season closer. Among disjunctive sequences, Dana Marks’s character entertainingly deconstructs a TED Talk when she removes everything except the nouns from John Berger’s essay “Why Look at Animals?” Before that, Germain Choffart’s suave opening tribute to Julio Iglesias is...

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Theater Review: Curious Accidents & Unintended Consequences Explores the Dramatic, Not Comical, Side of Improv

Posted By on Fri, May 19, 2017 at 3:30 PM

Curious Accidents & Unintended Consequences★★★ Through May 20 Research Triangle High School, Raleigh By now, it’s a set piece in action-adventure films: the sequence where two protagonists escape from a hundred-foot well by crouching, back to back, and walking their way up the walls. Director J. Chachula’s intriguing new theatrical experiment with Flying Machine Theatre Company is a lot like that. The long-time Meisner instructor and improvisational comedy maven has been teaching both Meisner methods and improv comedy to a sextet of actors in recent months. The goal is improvisational theater, where actors explore the dramatic instead of the comic potential...

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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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Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Dance Review: Rabble & Twine's The Mesoplanets Shines in Multimedia Atmosphere but Needs Stronger Movement

Posted By on Wed, May 17, 2017 at 3:51 PM

Rabble and Twine: The Mesoplanets★★ Saturday, May 6 Living Arts Collective, Durham When the music, projections, and visual design of a dance performance are as strong as those in Rabble & Twine’s The Mesoplanets, the most recent offering from Durham Independent Dance Artists, it’s disappointing when the choreography lags well behind. But the polish and flashes of imagination that we repeatedly experienced during a drolly narrated guided tour of our interplanetary B-team—ten moons, asteroids and dwarf planets selected from the host that meander throughout or at the edges of our solar system—came for the most part from the costume and...

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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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Friday, May 5, 2017

Theater Review: In Marjorie Prime, Human Replicas Help the Living, But at What Cost?

Posted By on Fri, May 5, 2017 at 4:27 PM

Marjorie Prime ★★★ ½ Through May 13 Manbites Dog Theater, Durham The theory of the “uncanny valley” has taken on increasing importance in recent years. It refers to the phenomenon that human replicas prompt feelings of distaste and distrust when they  look, talk, act or move like human beings, but not quite. The idea has become a subject of significant research and the subject of films like Ex Machina, television shows like Star Trek: The Next Generation, and plays including Francesca Talenti’s 2013 drama The Uncanny Valley at UNC and Marjorie Prime, now at Manbites Dog Theater. But the concept is actually...

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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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Justice Theater Project and Young Students Band Together Against Arts Funding Cuts

Posted By on Fri, Apr 28, 2017 at 10:13 AM

Justice Theater Project's Forum Theatre Workshop Saturday, April 22 Umstead Park United Church of Christ, Raleigh A plastic, gold-painted crown isn’t part of the standard-issue uniform for public school principals. But it somehow fits the character who sits at a desk on the dais at the Umstead Park United Church of Christ. After reading a sticky note handed to her by a lackey, she picks up a phone and imperiously announces on the school’s public address system, “There will be no more art and chorus from now on.” Then her assistants walk across the stage and confiscate the drawings, art...

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Friday, April 21, 2017

Theater Review: In On Golden Pond, Stage Veterans Contemplate What's Gone Before and What's to Come

Posted By on Fri, Apr 21, 2017 at 11:46 AM

On Golden Pond ★★★½ Through April 23 Theatre in the Park, Raleigh The thought, though it’s more than a touch morbid, applies as much to summer idylls as it does to theatrical productions, regardless of their ambition or achievement: only a finite number is allotted to any of us. What comes after is, at best, unclear. Playwright Ernest Thompson’s family drama became a part of motion picture history when the Oscar-winning film version, a box-office behemoth with Henry Fonda, Katharine Hepburn, and Jane Fonda, became the second-highest grossing movie of 1981. (The top? Raiders of the Lost Ark). A television adaptation...

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Thursday, April 20, 2017

Theater Review: Durham Newcomer Addled Muse Fire Theater Has Cirque Chops. Now It's Time to Build on the Theater Side.

Posted By on Thu, Apr 20, 2017 at 2:06 PM

Addled Muse Fire Theater: Purgatoire★★★ Saturday, April 15 Durham Central Park, Durham Theater begets theater, dance begets dance. After a group of artists honing their craft coalesce around a director, choreographer, or company, they branch out to start practices of their own. The same is true of cirque and flow arts; a brief online search now finds more than half a dozen regional groups and practitioners devoted to the style of eccentric aerial and land-based acrobatics and choreography originally championed locally by Raleigh’s Cirque de Vol. Last Saturday, on a perfect night under the stars in Durham’s Central Park, the...

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Friday, April 14, 2017

Theater Review: PlayMakers' My Fair Lady Fleshes Out Edwardian Culture and Cuts Against the Romanticism of the Songs

Posted By on Fri, Apr 14, 2017 at 1:47 PM

My Fair Lady ★★★★ Through April 29 PlayMakers Repertory Company, Chapel Hill Education changes everything. That’s one of the reasons George Bernard Shaw’s twist on the Pygmalion tale, adapted as the musical My Fair Lady at PlayMakers Repertory Company, could be something of a tender subject in a region where the transformative powers of learning have long been championed. It is widely held here that, through scholarship, people can transcend the limitations of culture, economics, class, and gender. And that statement is true—at least, insofar as it goes. But for many, transcending the limits of their native culture involves the painful...

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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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Friday, April 7, 2017

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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The Carolina, the Varsity, now the Chelsea. These movie houses were among the reasons we moved here 25 years ago. …

by JO in CHNC on The Chelsea Theater, the Last Old-School Art Cinema Standing in Chapel Hill, Might Close at the End of the Year (Arts)

The Chelsea Theatre has to be saved! Chapel Hill and the Triangle would be greatly diminished without it. Other theatres, …

by Jonathan H on The Chelsea Theater, the Last Old-School Art Cinema Standing in Chapel Hill, Might Close at the End of the Year (Arts)

...as did I, Ms. Margolis -- in a very small handful of moments over a two and a half hour …

by Byron Woods, INDY Theater and Dance Critic on Theater Review: The South Is Hard to Hear in the Opera Version of Charles Frazier's Cold Mountain (Arts)

I certainly heard the accents.

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The Carolina, the Varsity, now the Chelsea. These movie houses were among the reasons we moved here 25 years ago. …

by JO in CHNC on The Chelsea Theater, the Last Old-School Art Cinema Standing in Chapel Hill, Might Close at the End of the Year (Arts)

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