Friday, April 29, 2011

French legends shine in Potiche

Posted By on Fri, Apr 29, 2011 at 2:29 PM


By Matt Brunson


DIRECTED BY Francois Ozon

STARS Catherine Deneuve, Gerard Depardieu

A Continental cousin to those plucky British comedies in which working-class peons struggle against their bourgeois employers (latest example: Made in Dagenham), the French romp Potiche is primarily an excuse for audiences to once again spend quality time with those two titans of Gallic cinema, Catherine Deneuve and Gerard Depardieu. Teaming up for the umpteenth time, the pair remain graceful in shared banter and spiritual chemistry if not exactly in physical terms (Depardieu's gigantic girth leaves us worried for his continuing health).

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Fast Five: Maximum overdrive

Rating: ***

Posted By on Fri, Apr 29, 2011 at 2:29 PM

By Matt Brunson

Justin Lin
STARS Vin Diesel, Paul Walker

Fast 5

Stating that Fast Five is the best of the Fast and the Furious series is perhaps like claiming that the Big Mac is the best hamburger served at McDonald's: It's not so much a declaration of excellence as an example of damning with faint praise. Still, fans of this high-octane franchise will find plenty to enjoy, newbies should be able to hop aboard the ride without getting left behind (any references to past pictures tend to be negligible or easy to absorb), and dates dragged against their can at least enjoy the comfortable auditorium seats.

OK, so the viewing experience admittedly offers more than just a soft chair. For starters, even with a generous 130-minute running time, the film never brakes for boredom. There's also a notable attempt on the parts of director Justin Lin and writer Chris Morgan to give everyone a moment to shine in the spotlight. And considering this entry brings back various characters from all four previous installments, that's a lot of illumination taking place.

Front and center, of course, is the triumvirate of bad-ass Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel), bad-ass wannabe Brian O'Conner (Paul Walker) and bland Mia Toretto (Jordana Brewster). Return offenders include Tyrese Gibson (who still can't act a lick, bless him) and the always engaging Chris "Ludacris" Bridges as two of the numerous car-crazy accomplices. New to the cast is Dwayne Johnson as a federal agent in hot pursuit of our anti-heroes. As for the plot, it concerns the efforts of — oh, who am I kidding? All that's important is that it involves lots of car chases, mucho macho posturing, a nonstop barrage of wisecracks (some amusing, some anything but), and the continued sight of Brian O'Conner trying to look like a bad-ass (or did I already mention that?). Oh, most of it takes place in Rio de Janeiro. Look fast and you can even spot a cameo appearance by Blu, the animated star of the current hit Rio. OK, not really, but wouldn't Rio and Fast Five make for a more intriguing cross-promotion than Rio and Angry Birds?

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Sharia law and face-stapling: Is there a link?

Posted By on Fri, Apr 29, 2011 at 1:24 PM

All right! We have our own anti-Sharia bill! Congratulations to the New Troglodyte majority running the General Assembly — they’ve done something I didn’t expect to see in this lifetime: a North Carolina legislature that’s almost as ridiculous as South Carolina’s. It’s a hell of an accomplishment, especially when you consider S.C.‘s long-established national reputation for being run by ignorant goofballs. Mecklenburg County’s own Rep. Ric “Voter ID” Killian, along with the always-interesting Rep. George Cleveland of Jacksonville, have proposed a bill mandating that:

"A court, administrative agency, arbitrator, mediator or other entity or person acting under the authority of State law shall not apply a foreign law in any legal proceeding if doing so would violate a constitutional right."

Because we all know how N.C. judges love to liven up their courtrooms by making plaintiffs and defendants bend to the word of the Koran.

Killian and Graham, apparently, didn’t want other states to receive all the love from Muslim haters, so they’ve put our state one step closer to enacting a law that boldly states the obvious: “We practice and enforce our own laws here, not those of other countries.”

Many make fun of the anti-Sharia crowd, but I say they could be on to something. We all know America’s overall education level is none too great, so perhaps what we really need these days are laws that will remind citizens of some basic do's and don’ts, like “In America, we enforce American laws.” The whole concept — call it the New Basics — is so simple, it’s bound to catch on. We’re so excited about the New Basics, we’ve come up with ideas for more laws that mandate the obvious and ban things that don't happen anyway. Here are a few:

  1. Before crossing a street, pedestrians must not assume that oncoming traffic will stop for them.
  2. After inhaling air, citizens must afterward exhale that air in order to be legally considered in a state of “breathing.”
  3. People who are caught in a rainstorm, and still have more than 100 feet to go before reaching their destinations or an available doorway, must either use umbrellas or place a magazine over their heads.
  4. Police are authorized to arrest anyone caught trying to feed himself by putting forkfuls of food in his ears, or, for that matter, in anyone else’s ears.
  5. When organizing sales presentation packets, interns may not staple office supplies to their faces.  And finally ...
  6. When proposing new laws, lawmakers must be able to prove that the problem the new law “fixes” is something that actually exists.

No more face-stapling -- it's the law!
  • No more face-stapling -- it's the law!

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Theater review: Agnes of God

Posted By on Fri, Apr 29, 2011 at 11:19 AM

Photo credit:
  • Photo credit:

Tempestuous women, baby killing, hypnosis, and stigmata are all in the pot for John Pielmeier’s Agnes of God. But as the current Carolina Actors Studio Theatre production shows us all too well, that pot has to be very artfully stirred. How else is one to explain why such an excellent cast generates so much heat but so little light?

Based on a lurid 1977 murder case in Upstate New York, Agnes wriggles itself into a pre-trial exploratory period when Dr. Martha Livingstone is sent to a convent to determine whether Sister Agnes is fit to stand trial or clinically insane. Toss in a Mother Superior trying to protect Agnes from the probing of the doctor and the punishment of the law, and all kinds of tensions are set loose in the one-on-one confrontations between science and religion. Those stigmata strengthen the brew, hinting that the child’s conception may have been the result of a miraculous visitation.

Of course, Pielmeier’s most sensational alteration of the real-life story was also his most wrong-headed. Who in the room can see the point – or the infallibility – of a divinity that would bother to beget a child that was destined to be strangled at birth?

Perhaps that was what prompted director Michael R. Simmons to make one of his most glaring mistakes, speeding up the pace and repeatedly overlapping the heated speeches of the combatants – so that in the cyclone of emotions we could forget how flimsy the underpinnings of the Mother Superior’s faith really are. Better to point up the clashes between faith and reason, innocence and evil – all brought to a boil by the confusion between healing and hurting, coddling and protecting.

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Behind Van Gogh's brain

Posted By on Fri, Apr 29, 2011 at 10:30 AM


This Saturday (April 30) Bechtler Museum of Modern Art presents a special lecture titled, “A Neurologist’s Portrait of Vincent Van Gogh.” Dr. Shahram Khoshbin will speak about the neurological disorders that affected the talented Dutch impressionist. After studying the artist for more than 15 years, she believes (and has a wealth of medical knowledge to back her claims) it’s highly probable that he suffered from an abnormality of the brain. For more information, click here. $10. Reception at 5 p.m.; lecture at 6 p.m. Knight Theater (Wells Fargo Auditorium), 430 South Tryon St., Charlotte.

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Meet Bill Johnson — the guy who may be Duke Energy's next CEO

Posted By on Fri, Apr 29, 2011 at 8:58 AM

Bill Johnson, future CEO of Duke Energy?
  • Bill Johnson, future CEO of Duke Energy?

As you've probably heard by now, Charlotte's Duke Energy is trying to merge with Progress Energy, which provides electricity to parts of North Carolina. If regulators approve the merger, Progress' Bill Johnson, a lawyer, will likely become Duke's new CEO.

Yesterday, CNBC published an interview with Johnson where he discussed the energy industry, how it makes money, plans for nuclear plants and more.

I'm going to skip to the last question, but you can read the entire interview here.

Q: Will you be comfortable in the role of the CEO of the biggest company in your industry?

A: Oh yeah, I'm quite comfortable with it. I grew up on my feet, trying cases. I'm pretty adept in speaking forums and I'm a pretty quick thinker. The things that matter in business don't change based on the size of the platform. But a couple of things do change. You are the biggest player so your impact on policy changes. I'm going to have to take a higher profile. It'll be a little different, but I'd say I'm looking forward to it.

Alrighty then.

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Wait. Who got married?

Posted By on Fri, Apr 29, 2011 at 8:56 AM

One of my favorite physicists: Michio Kaku
  • One of my favorite physicists: Michio Kaku

Listen up Americans: You're silly. We don't have royalty here, and haven't for more than 200 years. But, hey, whatever floats your boat. Get up at 4 a.m. to watch TV, skip your exercise routine and have a less-productive day. If that suits you, more power to ya.

I want you to know, though, that your interest in silly stuff drives the media to the edge of insanity. For proof, look no further than Sarah Palin, Donald Trump, Snookie, TMZ ... and the list goes on and on and on.

Every time you tune in, click links, Twitter about celebs, "like" goofy shit on Facebook, vote on who's best dressed or run around town with your Princess what's-her-name doll, you're telling the media that you want more silliness. So, you have no one to blame but yourself when the media, in turn, drives you crazy by over-covering such things. They're trying to give you what you want.

What would be great is if we could get scientific research trending on Twitter. Or, maybe we could get people to run around town waving their library cards, tweeting about how much they love to read books (remember those?) and voting on their favorite physicist.

I know ... I'm dreaming.

I wish the newly married royals all the best and all, but I also wish people in our society would focus on reality ... their reality, not the reality of others.

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Today's Top 5: Friday

Posted By on Fri, Apr 29, 2011 at 8:00 AM

Here are the five best events going down in Charlotte and the surrounding area today, April 29, 2011 — as selected by the folks at Creative Loafing.

Valarie Storm at The Comedy Zone Fort Mill


Man Man at Visulite Theatre

Grand opening for the Biergarten at EpiCentre

Eve 6 with American Aquarium at NC Music Factory

Origami for Japan at Dharma Lounge

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Thursday, April 28, 2011

Weekender, April 29-May 1

Posted By on Thu, Apr 28, 2011 at 5:08 PM

Check out these events going down in Charlotte and the surrounding area this weekend— as selected by the folks at Creative Loafing.

Friday, April 29


Knight Theater

Women are key in North Carolina Dance Theatre’s Spotlight. Each ballet in the show was created by a female choreographer. They include Twyla Tharp’s The Golden Section (pictured), Jacqulyn Buglisi’s Requiem and a new work by former NC Dance Theatre 2 dancer, Emery LeCrone. Show some support for these savvy choreographer ladies and enjoy a toe-touching performance.

Benefit The tsunami destruction and devastation in Japan has crept into most folk’s soft spots. During the event Origami for Japan at Dharma Lounge, you can do your part. The party will feature hundreds of origami birds, as well as go-go geisha dancers, a lion dance, vocals from Christine Navarro over house music from Jah Sun Rising and more. All door proceeds and a percent of bar sales will be donated to the Red Cross for aid in the relief efforts in Japan. more...

Music Charlotte Symphony's Pops’ That’s Amore is a concert celebrating all things Italian. The symphony will feature vocalist Frank Portone and special guest, Deana Martin. Daughter of the legendary Dean Martin, Deana adds her own special touches to some of her father’s hits. Special tribute to Luciano Pavarotti. more...

Saturday, April 30

Fashion Soul

Parking lot between Dharma Lounge and Marigny

As one local clothing designer recently told me, the clothes you wear make a statement about your personality. And Fashion Soul, presented by South End Soul (a community celebration of art and design), promises to make you rethink what you’re wearing. With three unique Charlotte fashion designers like Cigi Guzman, Luis Machicao and Joey Hewell, two locally owned boutiques like The Frock Shop and Niche, and an array of South End salons doing the styling, this event will showcase the diverse local talent we have here in the Queen City.

Music Benefiting Camp Care and Don't Break the Bond, this inaugural event hopes to become annual in order to help out people from "all walks of life" — AWOL. A diverse lineup, most with ties to Charlotte and the Carolinas, ensures this festival will be something people will talk about for a while. With Mike Posner, Matt & Kim, Paper Tongues, Simplified, Matrimony, Sugar Glyder, Lucky Five, BPL. more...

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Opening Friday

Posted By on Thu, Apr 28, 2011 at 12:00 PM

Fast Five
  • Fast Five

Fast Five - Vin Diesel, Paul Walker

Hoodwinked Too! Hood VS. Evil - Animated; voices of Hayden Panettiere, Glenn Close

Potiche - Catherine Deneuve, Gerard Depardieu

Prom - Aimee Teegarden, Yin Chang

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