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Friday, July 21, 2017

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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Wednesday, July 19, 2017

ADF Review: Betroffenheit Is a Dark, Captivating Ride Through the Underworld of Grief

Posted By on Wed, Jul 19, 2017 at 3:00 PM

Betroffenheit (State of Shock) ★★★★½ Kidd Pivot & Electric Company Theatre American Dance Festival Durham Performing Arts Center closed July 15 Auteur director and choreographer Crystal Pite doesn't wait long to let us know how far in we’re over our heads at the start of Betroffenheit (State of Shock). With the glacial pacing and intensity we’ve seen in parts of Showtime’s revival of Twin Peaks, gray lights slowly reveal the unclean walls of designer Jay Gower Taylor’s dingy, industrial set. As we discern junction boxes mounted on a corner wall and a single, vertical I-beam, there’s an almost imperceptible movement...

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ADF Review: Unmistakably Israeli Movement in Roy Assaf’s The Hill and Ate9 Dance Company’s Exhibit b

Posted By on Wed, Jul 19, 2017 at 9:25 AM

Roy Assaf: The Hill and Ate9 Dance Company: Exhibit b ★★★½ Tuesday, July 18 Reynolds Industries Theater If I hadn’t seen the program notes, would I have known that both pieces in the show shared by Roy Assaf and Ate9 Dance Company were about Israel? Probably not. But I might’ve had a sense that both were by Israeli choreographers. Not because of my encyclopedic knowledge of dance makers’ vocabularies, but because there can be something very distinctive about Israeli choreographers and the pieces they create. Take the Roy Assaf piece, The Hill. Based on the 1967 Israeli folk song...

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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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The Bookshop Brought Many Rare and First Editions—and Two Famous Cats—to Franklin Street for Thirty-Two Years

Posted By on Fri, Jul 14, 2017 at 2:46 PM

“Books. Cats. Life is Good,” reads the standing sign outside The Bookshop in Chapel Hill. Sadly, that won’t be true for much longer. The Bookshop, a Franklin Street staple since it opened in 1985, announced in January that it would close its doors for good in July. Tomorrow will be the last day of its liquidation sale before it shutters, though on Sunday and Monday, you can haul off any remaining books for free if you bring your own containers and transport. Betty Schumacher, the manager of The Bookshop, says that the store had a consistent customer base, but multiple...

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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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Thursday, July 13, 2017

N.C.-Based Filmmaker Patrick Read Johnson, One of the First People to See Early Star Wars Footage, Relives the Magic Four Decades Later in 5-25-77

Posted By on Thu, Jul 13, 2017 at 2:18 PM

5-25-77 Thursday, July 13, 7:30 p.m., $10 North Hills Stadium 14, Raleigh The wheels of Hollywood turn slowly, and the term “development hell” is regularly thrown around to explain why a project hasn’t become a finished film. But Patrick Read Johnson, a faculty member at the North Carolina School of the Arts, waited an especially long time to see his semi-autobiographical comedy 5-25-77, which screens at North Hills in Raleigh tonight, on the big screen. Its release comes thirteen years after he started filming. “Did I set out to make a film that would take thirteen years? No. Am...

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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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Wednesday, July 5, 2017

ADF Preview: An Oral History of the Early AIDS Crisis Becomes Dance in Sean Dorsey's The Missing Generation

Posted By on Wed, Jul 5, 2017 at 11:54 AM

Sean Dorsey Dance: The Missing Generation Wednesday, July 5 & Thursday, July 6, 8 p.m., $10–$27 Reynolds Industries Theater, Durham What drives someone to devote well over a thousand hours of research, editing, and rehearsal to a single dance? For trans choreographer Sean Dorsey, who makes his American Dance Festival debut this week with The Missing Generation, part of it was the realization of how much even he, a longtime activist and a self-avowed “history nerd”, didn’t know about the time when the LGBTQ community faced its most existential threat. Dorsey had based an earlier dance, Lou, on the diaries...

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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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Friday, June 23, 2017

ADF Review: Claire Porter and Sara Juli's The Lectern Made Us Check Our Stubs to See If We'd Accidentally Gone to a Comedy Festival

Posted By on Fri, Jun 23, 2017 at 8:07 PM

Claire Porter and Sara Juli: The Lectern ★★ ½ Tuesday, June 20 Reynolds Industries Theater, Durham As to what can be “dance,” I’m super permissive. As long as bodies in space are at the core somehow, I’m on board, no matter how much interdisciplinary stuff—video, text, visual art, theater, whatever—gets piled on top. Of course, there’s the risk of a dance piece accidentally turning into something else entirely if the foundation isn’t strong enough to bear the load. But even then, if it works as what it is, I’m down, because the rewards in this high-stakes game are subspecies of...

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Thursday, June 22, 2017

Theater Review: The Promise of Justice Theater Project's Porgy and Bess Shines Through the Struggles of Late Personnel Changes

Posted By on Thu, Jun 22, 2017 at 4:11 PM

The Gershwins' Porgy and Bess ★★★ Through Sunday, June 25 Umstead Park United Church of Christ, Raleigh When a lead singer is forced to bow out of a performance due to a family medical emergency, we try to catch the show at a different time. But in regional theater’s busiest June in years, there was no other option for Justice Theater Project’s version of The Gershwins' Porgy and Bess. The good news is that understudy Juan Isler blossomed in the role of Porgy, the good man of Catfish Row, during last Sunday’s matinee. His mellow baritone evoked tender sentiments in...

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Wednesday, June 21, 2017

ADF Review: The Oldest Piece Made the Biggest Splash in the American Dance Festival's Opening Night Performance

Posted By on Wed, Jun 21, 2017 at 2:34 PM

Opening Night Performance ★★★ ½ June 15, 2017 Durham Performing Arts Center, Durham Though it was the evening's oldest piece by far, Minus 16 (1999), Ohad Naharin’s Gaga dance manifesto, was among the freshest works in the American Dance Festival’s 2017 opening night performance. That's not entirely surprising; Naharin intended Gaga to shatter modern dance conventions and pose continuing new challenges to his dancers and audiences. Clearly, it was still working Thursday night, when the sharp young troupe from the Charlotte Ballet (the rebranded North Carolina Dance Theatre, which performed during ADF’s first season in Durham) eagerly embraced the dance’s by-now iconic section...

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Theater Review: The Stonewater Rapture Grapples with Teen Sexuality in a Small, Conservative Town with a Big High School Football Program

Posted By on Wed, Jun 21, 2017 at 12:08 PM

The Stonewater Rapture ★★★ Through Friday, June 23 Imurj, Raleigh When playwright Doug Wright focuses on two teenagers grappling with their sexuality and their consciences in a repressive religious culture, The Stonewater Rapture seems like a modern-day (but non-musical) Texas update of Spring Awakening. That’s particularly the case when, in Aggregate Theatre Company's production at Imurj, the heart-rendingly earnest Carlyle (Lexie Braverman), a young girl raised in a house so strict The Scarlet Letter is contraband, assures Whitney (Matthew Hager), a torn preacher’s kid, that they will surely be forgiven if they sample each other’s forbidden fruits. But as both are exposed...

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Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Study: Durham’s Arts and Culture Industry Generates $154 Million in Economic Activity a Year

Posted By on Tue, Jun 20, 2017 at 9:52 AM

Durham County's nonprofit arts and culture industry generates $154 million in annual economic activity, according to a new study administered by the Durham Arts Council. The Americans for the Arts economic impact study was conducted in 341 communities nationwide and looked at spending by nonprofit arts organizations and art consumers. Nationally, nonprofit arts and culture is a $166 billion industry. Statewide, the total is $2.12 billion, meaning Durham accounts for about 7 percent of North Carolina's nonprofit arts industry. Sixty-nine local organizations and 824 audience members were surveyed to figure the local numbers. According to the study, Durham organizations spent...

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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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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)

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 …

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)

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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 …

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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