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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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Thursday, July 6, 2017

ADF Review: In Beth Gill's Brand New Sidewalk, Clothes Become Otherworldly Architecture

Posted By on Thu, Jul 6, 2017 at 5:26 PM

Beth Gill: Brand New Sidewalk ★★★ Wednesday, June 28 Reynolds Industries Theater, Durham Beth Gill creates choreographic moments that slip away from easy categorization. She’s known for minimalist structures that foreground form; her dances resemble moving sculptures. She won a prestigious Bessie Award for her 2011 work, Electric Midwife, a piece performed by two trios of women who mirror one another’s movements, creating a symmetrical image. Gill's ADF-commissioned Brand New Sidewalk also plays with threes. The triptych begins with Danielle Goldman, alone onstage and seriously bundled. The dance proceeds as Goldman gradually removes layers of wintry clothing. (Frequent collaborator Baille...

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Friday, June 30, 2017

ADF Review: Queering Objects and Decoding the Body in Cherdonna's Clock that Mug or Dusted

Posted By on Fri, Jun 30, 2017 at 4:41 PM

Cherdonna: Clock that Mug or Dusted ★★★ Monday, June 26 Living Arts Collective, Durham One statement recurred throughout Cherdonna Shinatra’s Clock that Mug or Dusted: “I’m not trying to be mean.” Early on, Cherdonna, the femme drag alias of Seattle-based performer Jody Kuehner, sweetly plied the audience with it. At the end, she was screaming it, having violently smashed a larger-than-life-size doll and bashed its face with the spike of a high heel. What happened in between? You could interpret the piece along a rough narrative arc. But Cherdonna’s world, presented within a bounded square in the Living Arts Collective, gets...

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Movie Review: Despicable Me 3 Shows Signs of a Franchise Wearing Thin, but Your Kids Won't Mind, Because Minions!

Posted By on Fri, Jun 30, 2017 at 3:58 PM

Despicable Me 3★★½ Now playing There's an old Hollywood story about Buster Keaton and animated movies. Apparently, the first time he saw cartoons on the silver screen, he nearly quit show business altogether. He immediately saw that he couldn't compete with the kind of physical comedy animation made possible. No matter how many elaborate stunts he invented, he could never simply ignore physics and gravity the way cartoons could. Another craftsman felled by technology. This story occurred to me early in Despicable Me 3, the latest installment of the reliable animated series starring Steve Carell as recovering super-villain Felonius Gru. Counting...

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Thursday, June 29, 2017

Movie Review: All Eyez on Me Claims to Be Tupac Shakur's Untold Story, but You Could Cobble Most of It Together with YouTube Clips

Posted By on Thu, Jun 29, 2017 at 3:20 PM

All Eyez on Me★★½ Now playing When I heard that legendary hip-hop artist and social activist Tupac Shakur was to be the subject of a biopic, following the box-office success of Straight Outta Compton, it seemed like Hollywood had finally realized that hip-hop could be at the forefront of cinema as well as of music. With the likes of 50 Cent, Biggie Smalls, and Eminem already having their own movies, I was ecstatic that Tupac’s story was coming to the silver screen. All Eyez on Me director Benny Boom had an impossible task: to tell “the untold story” of one...

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Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Theater Review: Struck's Promising Script Goes Awry When It Doesn't Trust the Audience to Grasp Its Nuances

Posted By on Wed, Jun 28, 2017 at 2:48 PM

Struck ★★½ Through Sunday, July 2 Kennedy Theatre, Raleigh At first, Struck playwright Sandy Rustin seems to have a solid premise well in hand. Her script takes on the unforeseen consequence of a recent advance in social justice, one we can’t disclose without spoiling the plot. A striking, unexpected twist at its center commendably reframes the narrative, forcing characters and audience to confront a little of the evil in the world. Actor Emily Kron plays Vera Resnick, an appealing, mildly neurotic New York actor who’s convinced the universe is trying to tell her something when college student James (Liam Yates) runs...

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Tuesday, June 27, 2017

ADF Review: Bill Young and Colleen Thomas & Co.'s Interleaving Is a Book We Want to Read Again and Again

Posted By on Tue, Jun 27, 2017 at 2:21 PM

Bill Young/Colleen Thomas & Co.: Interleaving | ★★★★ Natalie Marrone & The Dance Cure: Thresh | ★★ ½ Saturday, June 24 Reynolds Industries Theater, Durham A dance can look like a book, but it doesn’t have to. Dances proceed from their own artistic logics and create their own forms. To “read” a dance like a written text—to equate their material forms in a single interpretive approach—risks flattening embodied gestures to glyphs. But some of the most interesting movement-based work borrows from neighboring genres, incorporating other idioms in its technical foundation and playing with disciplinary categories. Bill Young’s Interleaving is one...

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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)

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

by Drew Rhys on Full Frame: An Avetts Agnostic Finds Some Faith in May It Last: A Portrait of the Avett Brothers (Arts)

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 …

by Jonathan H on A Twenty-One-Year-Old Finds a Welcoming Space at the Twenty-Two-Year-Old N.C. Gay and Lesbian Film Festival (Arts)

I agree that the vocal work is incredible! And, I thought that the well-made and beautifully-designed set really supported the …

by Judy Dove on Theater Review: Dogfight's Regional Premiere at NRACT Is Rich in Emotion But Meager in Staging (Arts)

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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)

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

by Drew Rhys on Full Frame: An Avetts Agnostic Finds Some Faith in May It Last: A Portrait of the Avett Brothers (Arts)

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