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Saturday, October 7, 2017

Dance Review: In Pam Tanowitz and Simone Dinnerstein's New Work for Goldberg Variations, a Daunting Idea Works Just Right

Posted By on Sat, Oct 7, 2017 at 5:24 PM

Pam Tanowitz Dance & Simone Dinnerstein: New Work for Goldberg Variations ★★★★½ Friday, Oct. 6 & Saturday, Oct. 7, 8 p.m. Duke's Reynolds Industries Theater, Durham In complete darkness, Simone Dinnerstein draws out the first few notes of the aria that begins Bach’s Goldberg Variations. Then, slowly, a stage light fills in the outline of the pianist and a group of figures scattered upstage, softly illuminated in periwinkle. When the aria returns after thirty variations, they gather in a similar formation, and the light closes in on Dinnerstein’s final gesture, levitating just above the keys. “What a pleasure it has...

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Friday, October 6, 2017

Movie Review: Blade Runner 2049 Reminds Us It Works Best to Mess with the Classics When There's Actually Something Wrong with Them

Posted By on Fri, Oct 6, 2017 at 9:16 AM

Blade Runner 2049 ★★★★ Now playing Blade Runner was influential and groundbreaking cinema, a science-fiction film noir that applied classic philosophical and religious themes, particularly on creation and mortality, to humankind’s technological and moral trajectory. It is also insistently inscrutable and bears the scar tissue of excessive, repeated editing, first in a futile effort to make the theatrical release more accessible and then to restore director Ridley Scott’s original narrative vision. Like its retrofitted future, the film is heady bricolage. Set thirty years after the original, Blade Runner 2049 achieves the best of both worlds. The same basic premise remains:...

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Sunday, October 1, 2017

Theater Review: The South Is Hard to Hear in the Opera Version of Charles Frazier's Cold Mountain

Posted By on Sun, Oct 1, 2017 at 10:41 AM

Cold Mountain★★½ Thursday, Sep. 28, 7:30 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 1, 2 p.m. UNC’s Memorial Hall, Chapel Hill It’s a first principle of adaptation: the main reason to translate an artwork into another medium is to explore it more fully, to draw out facets its first form could not. Ultimately, an adaptation stands or falls on two points: how it enhances our experience of the work that inspired it, and how faithful it is to that work. These criteria leave us with mixed thoughts on Cold Mountain, composer Jennifer Higdon and librettist Gene Scheer’s operatic adaptation of Charles Frazier’s best-selling novel,...

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Friday, September 29, 2017

Movie Review: In Battle of the Sexes, Billie Jean King Overhand Smashes a Paper-Thin Glass Ceiling

Posted By on Fri, Sep 29, 2017 at 2:43 PM

Battle of the Sexes ★★★½ Now playing The most pitched battle in Battle of the Sexes is not strictly on the tennis court. Odds makers and popular opinion alike were very much against Billie Jean King (Emma Stone) in her famous 1973 tennis match against Bobby Riggs (Steve Carell). The question the match posed was not whether a professional female player could beat a male peer. It was whether the best female tennis player in the world could beat any competent man, in this case, a cartoonish, fifty-five-year-old former pro. The film’s true foil is a male-dominated culture ripe for...

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Movie Review: In American Made, Tom Cruise Is Back in the Cockpit—But For Coke, Not Country

Posted By on Fri, Sep 29, 2017 at 8:09 AM

American Made ★★★½ Now playing In Top Gun, a young Tom Cruise played an eighties-era pilot in the service of the U.S.A. More than thirty years later, Cruise—still flashing a cocksure facade of pearly whites and aviator shades—goes back to the eighties to portray the real-life pilot Barry Seal, a cynical analog to that previous role. In American Made, the enemy is no longer faceless bad guys in black fighter planes. The hindsight of history reveals a tangled web of black ops and duplicity, with splintered American law enforcement agencies as much at odds with one another as with their...

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Thursday, September 28, 2017

Theater Review: At Sonorous Road, Sandi Toksvig's Silver Lining Is a Needed but Shaky Showcase for Older Female Actors

Posted By on Thu, Sep 28, 2017 at 3:42 PM

Silver Lining★★½ Through Sunday, Oct. 1 Sonorous Road Theatre, Raleigh True confession: it’s still a thrill when a new theater company hangs out its shingle, and the fewer names I recognize on a press release or playbill, the greater my curiosity is. That was particularly true of Peony Productions and its first project, the dark comedy Silver Lining at Sonorous Road. Decades before the Women’s Theatre Festival came to the Triangle, women here were having difficulty finding meaningful roles outside of the constricting bandwidth of ingénue, femme fatale, or loving wife; past a certain age, they basically went missing on our stages....

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Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Theater Review: After His Audacious Hamlet, Director Jeremy Fiebig Makes Another Theatrical Gamble in King Lear

Posted By on Wed, Sep 13, 2017 at 2:08 PM

King Lear★★ Through Sep. 24 William Peace University’s Leggett Theatre, Raleigh There’s a moment near the end of King Lear when the blind Earl of Gloucester wonders if he’s been misled. Though he has asked a companion to lead him to the edge of a dramatic precipice, the ground underfoot seems less than mountainous. Regrettably, this joint production by Raleigh’s Honest Pint Theatre and Fayetteville’s Sweet Tea Shakespeare left us feeling much the same way. By conspicuously lowering the play's stakes, director Jeremy Fiebig reduces Shakespeare’s theatrical Everest to something nearly unbelievable: an ultimately cheerful jaunt around a rustic barn. Last...

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Friday, September 8, 2017

Movie Review: It Is Plenty Scary, But It Also Has Heart

Posted By on Fri, Sep 8, 2017 at 3:52 PM

It ★★★★ Now playing Theodicy is a theological term that refers to the problem of evil as an active force in the world.  More specifically, it's an attempt to resolve the dilemma in many Western religions of how evil can exist in a universe supposedly created and governed by an all-powerful and benevolent God. It's a puzzler, all right. In the very excellent, very scary horror film It—based on Stephen King's famous novel—there's no ambiguity about the existence of evil. In the hard-luck town of Derry, Maine, the power of darkness manifests as a terrifying clown named Pennywise, a shapeshifting demonic...

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Friday, September 1, 2017

Movie Review: Though Brightened by Its Lead Actor, Patti Cake$ Is a Sub-8 Mile Hip-Hop Contrivance

Posted By on Fri, Sep 1, 2017 at 3:05 PM

Patti Cake$ ★½ Now playing As Chuck D sagely warned us, so many years ago: Don't believe the hype. Patti Cake$, the hip-hop drama that premiered at the Sundance Film Festival earlier this year, is getting a lot of frankly baffling hype as it rolls into theaters for a late-summer release. Fox Searchlight Pictures, the boutique imprint that has backed a long list of very good films over the years, including Birdman, Slumdog Millionaire, Sideways, Little Miss Sunshine, and Beasts of the Southern Wild, snapped it up at Sundance. But Patti Cake$ doesn't belong anywhere near that list, and it's...

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Thursday, August 31, 2017

Theater Review: Count Dispels the Anesthetic of Distance from Death Row

Posted By on Thu, Aug 31, 2017 at 1:30 PM

Count★★★½ Closed Aug. 27 Kenan Theatre, Chapel Hill Distance is a powerful anesthetic. The farther we live from neighborhoods blighted by the ammoniac stench of a commercial hog farm’s waste lagoons, for example, the less likely we are to feel their pain. If we never see the bodies crippled by black lung, which is on the rise again among Appalachian coal miners, or the stolen adolescence of foreign textile workers, it’s easier for us to deny their reality. Count, the profoundly disquieting new docudrama by Lynden Harris, makes it clear that the same is true of capital punishment, particularly the...

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Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Movie Review: Ferguson Documentary Whose Streets? Portrays a Police Force and Judicial System Obsessed with the Idea of Black Criminality

Posted By on Wed, Aug 30, 2017 at 2:35 PM

Whose Streets?★★★ Now playing Three years ago, Darren Wilson, a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri, shot unarmed eighteen-year-old Michael Brown, whom Wilson was attempting to apprehend for stealing a box of Swisher cigars from a convenience store. Following the police’s destruction of Brown’s memorial, a series of riots ensued that would play out in months of unrest, highlighting systematic police brutality against African Americans as one of the most pressing issues facing the country. Whose Streets?, the new documentary by Sabaah Folayan and Damon Davis, tells the story of the Ferguson uprisings. It powerfully stages the issues roiling our historical...

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Friday, August 11, 2017

Movie Review: Scary Nuns, Creepy Dolls, and Not a Few Plot Holes in The Conjuring Franchise's Latest Spawn, Annabelle: Creation

Posted By on Fri, Aug 11, 2017 at 4:33 PM

Annabelle: Creation ★★★½ Now playing On a recent library whim, I picked up an anthology of contemporary horror stories—nominees for the annual Bram Stoker Award for short fiction, I think it was. It was a very nice surprise, actually. Fans of the genre will be happy to hear that innovative and sophisticated horror is alive and well in that old-fashioned analog medium we call books. Annabelle: Creation, the latest installment in The Conjuring horror series, plays like a pleasant little short story, and by pleasant I mean eerie, disturbing, and occasionally gory. Technically a prequel to a spinoff, the movie...

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Theater Review: A Southern Baby Shower Goes Off the Rails in Sweet Tea and Baby Dreams

Posted By on Fri, Aug 11, 2017 at 2:04 PM

Sweet Tea and Baby Dreams★★½ Through Sunday, August 13 Meredith College's Jones Studio Theatre, Raleigh It was a split decision on a show that first got me into theater criticism, twenty-four years ago—a production so problematic, of a new script so promising, that I was convinced critics would focus on the former and disregard the latter. So I wrote a different opinion. Someone decided it was worth publishing. Things, as they say, progressed from there. I’m experiencing a bit of déjà vu while considering Sweet Tea and Baby Dreams, Maribeth McCarthy’s dramedy about the worst possible baby shower in the most Southern...

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Wednesday, August 2, 2017

ADF Review: Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Company Complete Their Analogy Trilogy, a Total Work of Art, in Durham

Posted By on Wed, Aug 2, 2017 at 3:24 PM

Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Company: Analogy/Ambros: The Emigrant ★★★★½ Saturday, July 29 Durham Performing Arts Center, Durham In the mid-1800s, European culture thought it had a fairly clear idea of what the ultimate synthesis of art forms looked and sounded like. Opera works like Wagner’s Ring Cycle combined music, literature, choreography, theater, and visual art in set and costume design, attempting to create a transcendent experience: a Gesamtkunstwerk, or total work of art. If the American Dance Festival performance of Analogy/Ambros: The Emigrant didn’t fully illustrate director Bill T. Jones’s hunger for such an artistic fusion in the service of...

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Friday, July 28, 2017

Movie Review: Atomic Blonde Is More Like Dime-Store John le Carré than Joan Wick or Jane Bond

Posted By on Fri, Jul 28, 2017 at 4:38 PM

Atomic Blonde★★★ Now playing There’s a futile fatalism floating around Atomic Blonde, set in 1989 during the days leading up to the fall of the Berlin Wall. The East-versus-West spy game still carries life-or-death stakes, but it also feels propelled by a dutiful inertia, predestined to play out like the gunslingers in Once Upon a Time in the West squaring off for a final climactic duel before getting freight-trained by the march of capitalism. This contrast figures prominently in Antony Johnston’s 2012 source graphic novel, The Coldest City. Adapted for the screen by David Leitch (codirector of John Wick) and...

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Raleigh Supercon's Debut Proved the Oak City Is Upholding Its Rep as One of America's Geekiest Places

Posted By on Fri, Jul 28, 2017 at 8:53 AM

Raleigh Supercon Friday, July 14–Sunday, July 16 Raleigh Convention Center, Raleigh It may not approach the 130,000-plus crowd that recently invaded San Diego for the annual Comic-Con International (“SDCC” to those on social media), but the recent debut of Raleigh Supercon offered ample evidence that the Oak City is upholding its reputation as one of America's geekiest places. Over three hot days in mid-July, 30,000 fans came to the Raleigh Convention Center to get their pictures taken with celebrities, commune with fellow fans, and occasionally even buy an actual comic book. The success of Supercon—due to return in...

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Thursday, July 27, 2017

Dance Review: Justin Tornow and COMPANY Look at Dance From Every Angle in No. 19/Modulations

Posted By on Thu, Jul 27, 2017 at 11:16 AM

COMPANY: No. 19/Modulations ★★★★ Wednesday, July 19–Monday, July 24 21c Museum Hotel, Durham "Modulation" can refer to controlled changes in a wide variety of signals, from musical pitch and vocal inflection to radio and television broadcast frequencies. In these examples, the changes either technically enable the coherent transmission of content or alter the meaning being conveyed. We can therefore attest to the truth in labeling of No. 19/Modulations, the latest evening-length work by the dance group COMPANY. Choreographer Justin Tornow and a design team including visual artist Heather Gordon, videographer Alex Maness, lighting designer Steve Tell, and four musicians significantly...

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Wednesday, July 26, 2017

ADF Review: Dance Is an Expression of Its Era in the ADF-Commissioned Footprints

Posted By on Wed, Jul 26, 2017 at 4:19 PM

Footprints ★★★½ Tuesday, July 25 & Wednesday, July 26, 8 p.m. Reynolds Industries Theater, Durham In many ways, last night's Footprints program was classic ADF. Packed with an uber-stylish crowd consisting largely of young dancers, Reynolds Theater trilled with excitement when legendary choreographer Bill T. Jones stood up from his seat and gave an artsy wave to the crowd. And when Lucinda Childs, who received the Samuel H. Scripps/American Dance Festival Award that night, mentioned that she’d once been a student at ADF, a hushed flurry ran through the hall. There was a feeling of community, of coming together in a timeless...

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Friday, July 21, 2017

Movie Review: Like the Films of Terrence Malick, Christopher Nolan's Dunkirk Is Both Epic and Meditative

Posted By on Fri, Jul 21, 2017 at 3:57 PM

Dunkirk ★★★½ Now playing The evacuation of the British army from Dunkirk in 1940 holds an iconic, solemn place in British culture. Any film made about this historical flashpoint will have a prewired emotional impact for English audiences, as movies about Pearl Harbor or 9/11 do for Americans. In Dunkirk, British director Christopher Nolan assumes, intentionally or otherwise, that viewers will arrive with the necessary contextual underpinnings already in place. It’s an English film for English people, so historical exposition is scarcer than usual. In its optimal format—Nolan, long an IMAX advocate, shot most of the film using 70mm IMAX...

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Movie Review: Luc Besson Breaks the Bank for the Visually Extravagant, Emotionally Empty Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets

Posted By on Fri, Jul 21, 2017 at 2:02 PM

Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets★★½ Now playing Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets, the latest sci-fi extravaganza from famed French director Luc Besson, aims to be the cinematic equivalent of a perfect dessert soufflé: rich and sugary-sweet yet light as air. With a budget of about $180 million, it’s said to be both the most expensive European film and the most expensive independent film ever made. Besson saturates every frame (or every gigabyte) with wacky aliens and design concepts, and every big action set piece zips along at a clip just shy of incomprehensible. In...

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Thursday, July 20, 2017

Theater Review: Dogfight's Regional Premiere at NRACT Is Rich in Emotion But Meager in Staging

Posted By on Thu, Jul 20, 2017 at 4:10 PM

Dogfight ★★★ Through Sunday, July 30 North Raleigh Arts and Creative Theatre, Raleigh Because local companies regularly present regional and state premieres, we see a refreshing collection of new plays in the Triangle each season. But that's never been the case with musicals, which is understandable. They're exponentially more expensive to stage and larger companies have a vested interest in minimizing risk. When touring productions stick to proven Broadway hits and local producers don’t spend much time off Broadway, we get big-ticket shows like Spamalot and The King & I instead of overlooked gems like The Fortress of Solitude or...

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Friday, July 14, 2017

Movie Review: War for the Planet of the Apes Isn't Kidding with That "Ape-Pocalypse Now" Joke

Posted By on Fri, Jul 14, 2017 at 5:02 PM

War for the Planet of the Apes ★★★★ Now playing The war for the planet of the apes is seemingly fought on two fronts. On one side is the troop of freedom-fighting primates still led by their hyper-intelligent leader, Caesar (Andy Serkis). On the other is an unseen but approaching human army, temporarily tasked with terminating one of their own, with extreme prejudice. In the middle is a colonel (Woody Harrelson) whose name tape reads McCullough, but who may as well be called Kurtz. The bald colonel speaks in messianic riddles, controlling his renegade paramilitary faction, named Alpha-Omega, through fear...

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Two Fine Exhibits at Raleigh's Block Gallery Are Also Case Studies in How Deeply Environment Changes the Experience of Viewing Art

Posted By on Fri, Jul 14, 2017 at 1:57 PM

Precarious Edifices Through Friday, July 21 The Block Gallery, Raleigh Plausible Worlds Through Friday, July 21 The Block2 Gallery, Raleigh Ginger Wagg and Jaclyn Bowie: Granite in Reverse Friday, July 14, 9 p.m., free The Block2 Gallery, Raleigh The Block Gallery, which is curated by Stacy Bloom Rexrode through the Office of Raleigh Arts, is currently running two exhibits. In the main Block Gallery, a two-floor space in the Raleigh Municipal Building, is Precarious Edifices, an exhibit of abstract art by local artists Ashlynn Browning and Chieko Murasugi. Nearby in Market Plaza, the outdoor gallery Block2—which features a screen that...

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Tuesday, July 11, 2017

ADF Review: Life in a Perpetual State of War in Yossi Berg and Oded Graf Dance Theatre’s Come Jump with Me

Posted By on Tue, Jul 11, 2017 at 1:10 PM

Yossi Berg and Oded Graf Dance Theatre: Come Jump with Me ★★★ Monday, July 10–Wednesday, July 12, 7 p.m. Nasher Museum of Art, Durham By the end of Yossi Berg and Oded Graf’s Come Jump with Me, the performance space at Duke’s Nasher Museum of Art is littered with spent props, giving it the air of a site where some kind of hard living—an acid trip, a raging party, or maybe a war—has recently taken place. And in a way, it has. Over the course of an hour, performers Berg and Olivia Court Mesa have moved through an incredible range...

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Friday, July 7, 2017

ADF Review: Pilobolus's Enigmatic Echo in the Valley Portrays a Murder Mystery in Reverse in a Kentucky Cave—Maybe

Posted By on Fri, Jul 7, 2017 at 12:42 PM

Pilobolus★★★ Friday, June 30 & Saturday, July 1 Durham Performing Arts Center, Durham Pilobolus Dance Theater has visited many worlds in forty-six years of producing some of the most accessible works in modern dance. In its latest collaborative work, Echo in the Valley, which premiered at the American Dance Festival last Friday, the veritable first family of the banjo, Bela Fleck and Abigail Washburn, guided choreographers Renée Jaworski and Matt Kent into the Appalachian dark. Choreographers have visited these hills before. Decades after Martha Graham’s improbably bucolic Appalachian Spring, Doug Varone choreographed The Bottomland to a suite of Patty Loveless...

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I certainly heard the accents.

by Elizabeth A Margolis on Theater Review: The South Is Hard to Hear in the Opera Version of Charles Frazier's Cold Mountain (Arts)

Nice write up. Love the twists and turns and I hardily agree with the ultimate statement (and Camus since I …

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Just saw this last night. Did Rubin say that being around the Avetts would make life "matter" or just that …

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She made me a peanut butter and banana sandwichwithout bread. Now that's art.

by Geoff Dunkak on ADF Review: Queering Objects and Decoding the Body in Cherdonna's Clock that Mug or Dusted (Arts)

Maybe the lack of young people in attendance is partly because of the way the NC Gay and Lesbian Film …

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Comments

I certainly heard the accents.

by Elizabeth A Margolis on Theater Review: The South Is Hard to Hear in the Opera Version of Charles Frazier's Cold Mountain (Arts)

Nice write up. Love the twists and turns and I hardily agree with the ultimate statement (and Camus since I …

by Perry on As the Durham Bulls Enter the Playoffs, We Wonder: What Exactly Is the Value of a Minor-League Championship? (Arts)

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