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Movie Maven
by Gregg Shapiro

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Limited runs and special events:

— Adler Planetarium – (312) 322-0548: SonicVision – Chicago is the first city outside of New York to host the 'groundbreaking digitally animated alternative music show' SonicVision and it is well worth attending. The fastest and most thrilling 38 minutes you may ever spend in a planetarium theater, SonicVision blends extraordinary computer-generated visuals with some of the best in contemporary music (mixed by Moby). Beginning with music by Radiohead, the roof of the theater appears to open revealing a starry sky and galactic activity. Colorful things float and fly above the viewers' heads to the strains of Audioslave and U2. Giant glow-stick clutching robots dance like circuit party boys. Suddenly, we are transported to a coliseum whose columns dissolve into candles that emit colorful smoke. Giant hands with henna tattoos precede shifting drops of mercury that change shape to the strains of Goldfrapp. Carved stone windows let in light. Masks surround a giant face. Scenes from home movies accompany a David Bowie song and kaleidoscopic images illustrate a song by Coldplay. Laser-etched Spirograph designs are paired up with music by Fischerspooner and Prodigy is the soundtrack for a network of veiny wires. Other striking images include psychedelic concentric circles, giant jacks and a rotunda. Moby himself provides the music for images of tooth-like stars, which is followed by the sounds of The Flaming Lips, and an 'eye-opening' tune by Zwan. (A) - Open-ended run

— Chicago Filmmakers, 5243 N. Clark, (773) 293-1447: Third Party: Political Alternatives in the Age of Duopoly - Mar. 13; Speaking Of...: Recent Video by Jacqueline Goss (Jacqueline Goss in person) – Mar. 27

— Gene Siskel Film Center, 164 N. State Street, (312) 846-2800: Seventh Annual European Union Film Festival – highlights include: Bright Young Things: Mar. 13 & 18; Haute Tension: Mar. 13 & 18; Free Radicals: Mar. 14; Twentynine Palms: Mar. 20 & 22; Dogville: Mar. 20 & 24; The Galindez File: Mar. 20 & 25; Song For A Raggy Boy: Mar. 20 & 25; Thirteen - Special benefit screening and reception for Women in the Director's Chair with writer/director Catherine Hardwicke in person. – Mar. 13; Wrigley Field: Beyond The Ivy – Mar. 26 – 30; Maestro - Josell Ramos's documentary about 'the roots of the underground dance/music culture, centered in New York from 1960s through the 1980s' features footage of and interviews with Francis Grasso, Larry Levan, Frankie Knuckles, David Mancuso and others, as well as location shots of clubs such as Paradise Garage, The Loft and The Gallery. – Mar. 28, 29, 31 and Apr. 1

— Horticultural Hall (Lake Geneva) – (262) 740-BPFF: Black Point Film Festival - Apr. 21-25

— Leather Archives and Museum, 6418 N. Greenview, (773) 761-9200: Dominatrix Waitrix – Edith Edit's 'sci-fi musical queer sex romp.' – Apr. 9 & 10

— Navy Pier IMAX Theatre, (312) 595-5MAX (5629): Nascar: The IMAX Experience 3D – opens Mar. 12

In theaters:

The Reckoning (Paramount Classics) – Set in late 14th century England, at a time when church and state spoke with one voice, a priest named Nicholas (Paul Bettany) is run out of his parish for, among other things, committing adultery. While on the run, he encounters a troupe of traveling players led by Martin (Willem Dafoe) and soon joins their company. The troupe arrives in a strange village in time to witness the sentencing of a woman accused of murdering Thomas Wells, a young boy. When they realize that the woman was wrongfully accused, that the boy had in fact been sexually violated in addition to being strangled, at a time when the woman was away from the village working as a healer, they devise a method in which to tell her story and bring forth the truth. Abandoning their biblical theatrical presentations, they make a new play 'that belongs to a town,' they tell the story of the boy's murder. Implicating both the church (for procuring Wells and other boys) and the pedophilic nobleman who rules the village, Nicholas, Martin and the other players create a stir. Murky and bleak, The Reckoning speaks to contemporary viewers with its themes of corruption and the abuse of the young, but does so at a plodding pace that works to its detriment. (C+)

The Passion of The Christ (Icon/NewMarket) – In terms of sheer spectacle and epic filmmaking, religious zealot Mel Gibson has created a motion picture Bible story that rivals Cecil B. DeMille. Taking the viewer back many centuries to the hours before the crucifixion of Jesus Christ (a stoic and beatific Jim Caviezel), Gibson brings the gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John to the silver screen in vivid and graphic detail. Brief flashbacks (to the last supper, to an intimate mother/son moment) and the profound struggle of Pontius Pilate (Hristo Naumov Shopov) provide the only respites from the unrelenting, brutal violence inflicted on the Jewish carpenter and would-be rabbi whose claim to be the son of God caused him such horrific suffering and inspired worldwide devotion. Concerns about anti-Semitic portrayals of Jews haunt the movie like a holy ghost. The holy men, including high priest Caiphas (Mattia Sbragia), who accuse Christ of blasphemy and demand his crucifixion, are portrayed like the holy men of any faith who believe that they are acting in the best interests of the God that they serve. Parents and religious leaders would be wise not to subject any child under 18 to the gut-wrenching depictions of Christ's flesh-scoring beatings and eventual crucifixion, which unflinchingly portrays the driving of considerably sized spikes through Christ's hands and feet. In Aramaic and Latin, with English subtitles. (C-)


Queer As Folk: The Complete Third Season (Showtime): Having only seen half of the first season and none of the second season, I was curious about what it would be like to watch the entire third season all at once on DVD. After all, I'm one of those gay men who doesn't feel like the Queer As Folk phenomenon speaks to me (although I did recently learn that one of my aunts as well as my partner's mother are avid watchers), but as I discovered watching season three, that's what makes the show so intriguing. And intrigue is what powers these episodes. Brian (Gale Harrold), still the egomaniacal sex-machine of previous seasons, showed new signs of humanity in the ways in which he rose to the occasion in regards to both his relationship with Justin (Randy Harrison) and his professional dealings with homophobic police chief and mayoral candidate Jim Stockwell (David Gianopoulos). Lesbian moms Melanie (Michelle Clunie) and Lindsay (Thea Gill) took the necessary steps to expand their family, which included asking Michael (Hal Sparks) to be the sperm donor. Speaking of Michael, his relationship with HIV+ Ben (Robert Gant) undergoes serious stability threats, including Ben's secret use of steroids and the presence in their lives of teen hustler Hunter (Harris Allan), but the couple weathers these and other storms. Both Michael's mother Debbie (Sharon Gless) and his gay uncle Vic (Jack Wetherall) find themselves romantically entangled. And speaking of romantic entanglements, Emmett (Peter Paige) and Ted (Scott Lowell), begin a star-crossed relationship that suffers the slings and arrows of Ted's financial ruin and subsequent crystal meth addiction, as well as Emmett's sudden ascendance as a party planner. This sexually graphic gay soap opera has come into its own, making me (and my aunt and mother-in-law) eager to see what unfolds in the fourth season. (B)

Spy Kids 3-D: Game Over (Dimension) – Not even the presences of openly gay actor Alan Cumming and one-time Almodovar favorite Antonio Banderas can do anything to elevate this dismal sequel to the Robert Rodriguez series of kids' flicks about a family of spies. 3-D glasses and visual effects aside, nothing can hide the fact that the child actors in the lead roles of brother and sister Juni (Daryl Sabara) and Carmen (Alexa Vega) Cortez, have no charisma. Not even the over-the-top acting by Ricardo Montalban (as Juni and Carmen's grandfather) and Sylvester Stallone (as the evil Toymaker) were enough of a distraction. Let's hope that the 'game over' of the title is an indication that the Spy Kids have run their course. The double-disc DVD set includes 3-D glasses and a 2-D version. (D)

On TV:

here! Pay-Per-View – showing in March: Luster, Coming Out Party, Happy Birthday

Sundance Channel (check local listings for times) – Bhaji on the Beach - Mar. 11, 15, 24, 30; Last Dance - Mar. 11, 15, 27; The Marriage of Maria Braun (aka Die Ehe der Maria Braun) - Mar. 12, 15, 20; Lisa Picard Is Famous - Mar. 12, 21, 25; Karmen Geï - Mar. 14, 18, 27, 31; Herr Schmidt and Herr Friedrich - Mar. 15, 19, 28; Won't Anybody Listen - Mar. 15, 24, 29; The Fancy - Mar. 15, 29; 156 Rivington - Mar. 17, 22; Swimming - Mar. 18, 21; 24 Hour Party People - Mar. 18, 30; Carrington - Mar. 20, 25, 30; Fire - Mar. 23; The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant (Die Bitteren Tränen der Petra von Kant) - Mar. 25.

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