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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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Thursday, February 2, 2017

Movie Review: In The Comedian, De Niro Gives Us Too Much Insult and Not Enough Comic

Posted By on Thu, Feb 2, 2017 at 9:42 AM

The Comedian ★★ Opening Friday, Feb. 3 Comedy is equal parts material and delivery. The funniest quip will flop if told with bad timing, and a sharp style can’t carry leaden content. Unfortunately, both afflictions affect The Comedian, a character study that never digs below its protagonist's loathsome surface and a comedy in which the jokes fall flat. Robert De Niro plays Jackie Burke, a former sitcom star and comedy icon spending the twilight of his life slogging through the grimy stand-up circuit. He abhors his fading TV stardom, but his bitter temperament self-sabotages any effort to jump-start his...

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Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Theater Review: Don't Dismiss Intimate Apparel at PlayMakers as a Mere Period Piece

Posted By on Tue, Jan 31, 2017 at 1:54 PM

Intimate Apparel ★★★★ Through Feb. 12 PlayMakers Repertory Company, Chapel Hill It’s tempting to dismiss the faithful production by PlayMakers Rep of Lynn Nottage’s Intimate Apparel as a period piece. Based on the life of the playwright’s great-grandmother, the 2003 drama chronicles the life and the loneliness of Esther (Rasool Jahan) a black woman who carved out a life for herself as an independent seamstress in New York City, eighteen years after fleeing the South as a teenager during the northern migration in 1887. Her gifts at designing and handcrafting the titled commodity—colorful lingerie for the boudoirs of both the social upper-crust,...

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Friday, January 27, 2017

Scott Crawford Refused to Sell Us a Plate of Food at Crawford and Son

Posted By on Fri, Jan 27, 2017 at 3:18 PM

I expected to spend hours at Crawford and Son, the new restaurant from four-time James Beard semifinalist Scott Crawford, to review it for the INDY. Instead, I was there for barely twenty minutes before being told to leave. We were late for our reservation, made under my partner’s name. As he greeted the host, she stared at me, abruptly excused herself, and brought back a man who, well, stared at me. She then showed us to our table—a four-top, far from the other diners, close to the door. I counted the empty two-tops as one server, then another asked for...

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Movie Review: A Dog's Purpose Rolls Over and Plays Dead Under Its Own Heart-Tugging Weight

Posted By on Fri, Jan 27, 2017 at 2:17 PM

A Dog's Purpose ★★ Now playing Commercials for the new family film A Dog's Purpose give away the entire premise and plot, right up to the final scene. The movie follows the various embodiments of a reincarnating dog as he lives and loves his people over the course of multiple lifetimes. If you're a dog lover, it's a tearjerker of a pitch. If you're a dog lover with kids, you'll get immediate petitions and pleadings. Even if you just have fond memories of a childhood pet, you're going to get the urge to see this movie. You'll want to resist...

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Friday, January 20, 2017

Movie Review: How M. Night Shyamalan Got His Groove Back in Split

Posted By on Fri, Jan 20, 2017 at 11:33 AM

Split★★★ Now playing The time when M. Night Shyamalan was poised to become cinema’s next great master of suspense has long since come and gone, bulldozed by the hubris of effects-driven hokum and recycled self-parody. After a decade of five consecutive whiffs, last year’s The Visit was a cautious, low-budget return to form. Shyamalan’s comeback continues with Split, a psychological thriller (natch) blessed with competent acting and adroit direction. And just when it feels like the script is jumping the rails, well, here comes the Twist™. During a well-staged cold open, three teenage girls—Casey (Anya Taylor-Joy from The Witch), Claire...

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Thursday, January 19, 2017

Movie Review: Family Is a Slippery Thing in Mike Mills's Loopy, Lovely 20th Century Women

Posted By on Thu, Jan 19, 2017 at 11:52 AM

20th Century Women ★★★★ Opening Friday, Jan. 20 The slippery concept of family is at the heart of director Mike Mills's loopy, lovely, and largely autobiographical new film, 20th Century Women, a story that aches with bittersweet memory. It's 1979 in the Southern California enclave of Santa Barbara, and fifteen-year-old Jamie (Lucas Jade Zumann) is coming of age the traditional way, learning about sex, drugs, and rock 'n' roll from his family, friends, and pop culture. Jamie shares a strong bond with his single mom, Dorothea (Annette Bening), but his teenage years are taking the usual toll on their relationship. Jamie...

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Friday, January 13, 2017

Theater Review: An In-Process Adaptation of De Profundis Is Still Floundering in Oscar Wilde's Seas

Posted By on Fri, Jan 13, 2017 at 4:49 PM

De Profundis ★ ½ PlayMakers Repertory Company, Chapel Hill Through Sunday, Jan. 15 Last year, PlayMakers Repertory Company's second-stage series devoted an entire season to two-to-five-year-old repertory solo works by out-of-town playwrights, in a drastically smaller-scale, alt-theater version of the itinerant shows that visit DPAC and DECPA. So it was entirely appropriate to raise the stakes this season. In August, PRC² presented the world premiere of Mashuq Mushtaq Deen’s autobiographical solo, Draw the Circle. In late December, director Brian Mertes, designer Jim Findlay, and actor Nicole Villamil began a three-week residency to create a new stage adaptation of Oscar Wilde’s De Profundis,...

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Thursday, January 12, 2017

Movie Review: In Silence, Scorsese Taps a Deeply Spiritual Vein in a Visceral Story of Faith

Posted By on Thu, Jan 12, 2017 at 1:19 PM

Silence ★★★★ ½ Opening Friday, Jan. 13 We may never see the likes of Martin Scorsese again in American cinema. He’s the embodiment of what Orson Welles should have become: the master auteur and leader of a New Hollywood movement who nimbly balances fan-friendly and money-making gangster flicks, psychological thrillers, and edgy character dissections with highly personal and profound films. While his American New Wave contemporaries like Steven Spielberg, George Lucas, and Francis Ford Coppola have migrated to effects-driven sequels and semi-retirement, Scorsese continues to produces masterworks like Silence, one of the most deeply spiritual and religiously layered films...

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Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Movie Review: Passengers Proves a Bad Ending Can Ruin an Otherwise Good Movie

Posted By on Wed, Dec 21, 2016 at 4:08 PM

Passengers ★★ ½ Now playing Exhibit 2001 for the proposition that a bad ending can ruin an otherwise good movie: Passengers, a glossy interstellar vehicle for some provocative moral entanglements that ultimately implodes from the pressure of its star-driven, crowd-pleasing mission. The film’s December release date suggests it once harbored awards-season aspirations. Instead, it just ends up lost in space. Jim Preston (Chris Pratt) is one of more than five thousand people in cryogenic sleep aboard the Starship Avalon, on a 120-year voyage to colonize the distant outpost Homestead II. The ship’s sylvan destination stands in contrast to Earth,...

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Thursday, December 15, 2016

Theater Review: Take High Tea with Little Women in the Women's Theatre Festival's Holiday Production

Posted By on Thu, Dec 15, 2016 at 2:40 PM

Little Women★★★ Through Dec. 18 Women’s Theatre Festival @ Sonorous Road Theatre, Raleigh At its heart, the Women’s Theatre Festival is actually a conveyance: a theatrical vehicle intent on moving the region (and, by extension, our culture) forward by bringing a broader array of women’s voices and stories to the fore, and by leading women to more equitable states of theatrical access, training, and competency than they’ve had in the past. In this new production of Little Women, the group passes another milestone toward those laudable goals: a holiday show, in the vein of seasonal productions by more established...

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Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Movie Review: Rogue One, the New Star Wars, Is a Dazzling Space Drama

Posted By on Tue, Dec 13, 2016 at 2:13 PM

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story ★★★★ Opening Thursday, Dec. 15 As the first in a series of spinoff movies set in the Star Wars universe, Rogue One is an experiment of sorts. If it succeeds, you can expect to see a new Star Wars movie in theaters pretty much every year until the end of time. Fine by me. If Disney and Lucasfilm can deliver a movie as good as Rogue One on a yearly basis, we could declare it a kind of global movie holiday. May 4 would seem to be the proper date. Rogue One is essentially...

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Friday, December 9, 2016

Theater Review: A Leading Local Theater Artist Mines Her Life's Schisms, Contradictions, and Eerie Beauty in Ethelred the Unready

Posted By on Fri, Dec 9, 2016 at 2:56 PM

Ethelred the Unready★★★ ½ Through Dec. 10 Little Green Pig Theatrical Concern, various venues There are hundreds of professional actors in the area, but prior to Dana Marks’s Ethelred the Unready, only three have produced an autobiographical one-person show in the last decade. Why? Solo performance is daunting; autobiographical solo work is even harder. In the former, you merely spend an hour onstage, alone, before a live audience. In the latter, you also open some of the most private parts of your life—irrevocably—to public scrutiny. It’s more than enough reason, all told, for anyone to think twice. But monologists...

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Movie Review: Office Christmas Party Is Raucous, Rude, Lampoon-Worthy Fun

Posted By on Fri, Dec 9, 2016 at 1:54 PM

Office Christmas Party ★★★ Now playing I've been to exactly one office Christmas party in my life. It was in San Francisco during the dot-com bubble of the late 1990s, when the Internet held infinite promise and banks were hosing down new media companies with cash. Everyone was young and restless, designer drugs were cheap and plentiful, and money wasn't really money at all. We partied like it was 1999, because it was 1999. I remember thinking, "This party would be an excellent premise for a movie." (That's about all I remember.) Twenty years later, that movie has finally rolled...

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Thursday, December 8, 2016

Theater Review: Is The May Queen an Indictment of the Male Gaze or an Apologia for a Stalker?

Posted By on Thu, Dec 8, 2016 at 9:19 AM

The May Queen★★★ Through Dec. 11 PlayMakers Repertory Company, Chapel Hill Molly Smith Metzler surely intended her play The May Queen as more than an apologia for a stalker, but it’s hard to leave the current production at PlayMakers Repertory Company without the nagging sense that her critique of an annual, real-world rite of spring in a small New York State town, and of the social pecking order found in high schools everywhere, has somehow lost its way. Metzler’s hometown of Kingston has named a May Queen every spring since 1916. The tradition continues despite the ritual’s possibly sinister origins...

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Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Dance Review: Stephanie Leathers and Company Deconstruct Durham Development in Home: the metamorphosis

Posted By on Wed, Nov 23, 2016 at 4:53 PM

Stephanie Leathers: Home: the metamorphosis★★★ Saturday, Nov. 12, 6:30 p.m. Downtown Durham On the map on the wall, the usual “You are here” marker is absent. In its place are multicolored circular stickers, plotting scalloped pathways through downtown Durham. Some of these stickers presumably answer the question, “Where do you fall?” The ticket-taker encourages us to interpret the question broadly. Stephanie Leathers’s Home: the metamorphosis is friendly to queries of spatial orientation. The second offering from Durham Independent Dance Artists in its current season, Home is a traveling performance in the truest sense. Nearly every moment is locomotive. Leathers...

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Friday, November 18, 2016

Movie Review: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them Is a Promising Start for a New Rowling Franchise

Posted By on Fri, Nov 18, 2016 at 2:49 PM

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them ★★★ ½ Now playing I suspect that, for a while at least, it's going to be difficult to avoid processing every halfway applicable film through the nightmare lens of the recent elections. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, the latest installment in J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter universe, opens with a montage of headlines. “Anti-Wizard Sentiment Sweeps America,” reads one swirling paper as we're introduced to the setup. In the movie's alternate history, it's 1926 in New York City, and hateful fringe groups are agitating for the deportation of all witches and wizards, the...

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Movie Review: Barry Jenkins's Exquisite Moonlight Is a Meditative Character Study at the Nexus of Black Masculinity and Homosexuality

Posted By on Fri, Nov 18, 2016 at 8:46 AM

Moonlight ★★★★ Now playing Color looms large in Moonlight. The film is adapted from Tarell Alvin McCraney’s play In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue, and two characters are called Black and Blue. According to IndieWire, director Barry Jenkins and cinematographer James Laxton adjusted the lighting contrast to emphasize the skin tones of the African-American cast. Each of the film’s three chapters, covering different stages in the life of its protagonist, emulates different film stock to convey distinct hues and textures. Like Richard Linklater’s Boyhood, Moonlight tracks the life of its male lead across varying ages, though in this case the...

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Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Theater Review: Dividing and Conquering by Lying and Stirring Base Emotions in Richard III

Posted By on Tue, Nov 15, 2016 at 2:28 PM

Richard III ★★★★ Through Nov. 20 Bare Theatre @ Sonorous Road Theatre, Raleigh Seth Blum’s disarmingly matter-of-fact—and absolutely lethal—take on Richard, the implacable Duke of Gloucester, was one of the most vivid performances in a late-summer production of Henry VI: The War of the Roses. His patient explanations of Richard’s psychopathic plans to achieve the crown by pruning the royal family trees suggested a character from House of Cards, a “fifteenth-century Frank Underwood, minus the charming Southern accent,” as we noted at the time. So we were enthused to learn Bare Theatre let director Lucinda Danner Gainey continue pursuing that...

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Monday, November 14, 2016

Movie Review: The Communication Gap in Arrival Feels Painfully Relevant in America Right Now

Posted By on Mon, Nov 14, 2016 at 12:26 PM

Arrival ★★★★ Now playing This week, Americans sought to speak using the common language of the ballot. Now half the country is celebrating the arrival of an iconoclastic new leader, while the other half is gripped with despondency and even fear. It's hard not to think about this when watching Arrival, an aliens-to-Earth film that’s less about first contact than first communication. Twelve black, split-shaped ovoids simultaneously appear around the planet, each measuring 1,500 feet high and hovering mere meters above the surface. The arrival of these ships triggers immediate hysteria—air travel is grounded, gun sales are barred, food rationing...

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Friday, November 11, 2016

Theater Review: Two Turtle Doves Skims the Underside of Sports and Small-Town Sleaze

Posted By on Fri, Nov 11, 2016 at 1:49 PM

Two Turtle Doves ★★★ ½ Through Nov. 12 Common Ground Theatre, Durham There’s a hint of the unsavory from the outset of local playwright Mark Cornell’s Two Turtle Doves, now in its premiere production at Common Ground Theatre. The off-avocado wallpaper and aged amenities on designer Jeff Alguire’s set suggest a time-share resort half gone to seed. And after Meredith, a sullen girl with a flat east Carolina accent, cusses out a hotel clerk on the phone, our unease is unabated when a visibly uncomfortable—and much older—man named James emerges from the bathroom in a snorkel and swimsuit and tries...

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Friday, November 4, 2016

Movie Review: Doctor Strange's Feisty Magic Cape Is the Most Developed Character in His Movie

Posted By on Fri, Nov 4, 2016 at 12:26 PM

Doctor Strange ★★★ Now playing Held together by countless terabytes of computer effects, fortune cookie wisdom, and the backing of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Doctor Strange is an origin story that’s high on origin yet low on story. It features a hero you don’t particularly like, a villain who’s not well defined, and ephemeral stakes that are hard to embrace. Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) is an arrogant, skilled neurosurgeon who performs medical miracles by day, then dons designer suits and Jaeger-LeCoultre wristwatches after hours. His life of ease changes dramatically after he drives his Lamborghini off a cliff, incurring...

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Thursday, November 3, 2016

Movie Review: In Hacksaw Ridge, Mel Gibson Clearly Identifies with the Religious Persecution of Conscientious Objector Desmond Doss

Posted By on Thu, Nov 3, 2016 at 2:09 PM

Hacksaw Ridge★★★ ½ Opening Friday, Nov. 4 The history of cinema is littered with films that serve as allegories for the real-life persecution of their writers/directors. On the Waterfront is widely viewed as Budd Schulberg and Elia Kazan’s retort to those who objected to them naming names before the House Un-American Activities Commission. By contrast, writer Carl Foreman’s screenplay for High Noon is regarded as his response to the mistreatment he suffered after not cooperating with HUAC. Roman Polanski’s 1978 conviction for child rape and subsequent flight informs a large portion of his subsequent filmography. It’s unnecessary to refute Mel Gibson’s self-subscribed...

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Thursday, October 27, 2016

Theater Review: PlayMakers' The Crucible Is a Brisk Study in Paranoia and Suspicion

Posted By on Thu, Oct 27, 2016 at 4:29 PM

The Crucible★★★★ Through Nov. 6 PlayMakers Repertory Company, Chapel Hill From the outset, we all know what’s to come in The Crucible, Arthur Miller’s classic drama, now in a notable revival at PlayMakers Repertory Company. Stacked and dry as timber, the unspoken internecine grudges among the citizens of a small New England town will ignite when a new fear arises—that their neighbors have practiced witchcraft in secret against them. Given the homogeneity of the community’s Puritan beliefs, the conflagration will quickly spread, and with those beliefs so thoroughly codified in their laws, the courts will swiftly move against the...

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Dance Review: Fake It Till You Make It is a Delirious Fantasia with Trump and Travolta

Posted By on Thu, Oct 27, 2016 at 2:58 PM

Fake It Till You Make It★★★★ Saturday, Oct. 15, 8 p.m. Living Arts Collective at the Trotter Building, Durham When the lights went down on Tommy Noonan’s new solo, John, which formed half of DIDA’s season opener, Fake It Till You Make It, the man sitting next to me shared that he never wanted to hear the Bee Gees’ “You Should Be Dancing” again. It’s a reasonable sentiment, whether it comes from a passenger resigned to a companion’s fondness for KIX 102.9 or from someone who had just watched Noonan perform John Travolta’s disco solo from Saturday Night Fever...

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Thanks for the nice article and acknowledgement, Byron. I would like to put a gentle dedication out to my father, …

by RKlem on Common Ground Theatre Is Gone, But Some of Its Resources and Its Role Live on in Walltown Children's Theatre (Arts)

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I haven't seen the movie, so I won't comment on the reading of the documentary. Just want to say that …

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Thanks for the nice article and acknowledgement, Byron. I would like to put a gentle dedication out to my father, …

by RKlem on Common Ground Theatre Is Gone, But Some of Its Resources and Its Role Live on in Walltown Children's Theatre (Arts)

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