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Tucson Weekly Film Clips

MARCH 20, 2000: 

BOYS DON'T CRY. Eerie, beautifully shot, strongly acted and successfully emotional, Boys tells the true story of Teena Brandon, a Nebraskan girl who lived as a boy named Brandon Teena. In the desolate wastelands of the plains, her unorthodox lifestyle brought her into conflict with some extremely backwards characters, including a neanderthal sheriff and two hoodlums who befriended and then brutally betrayed her. A difficult film from an emotional perspective, Boys will probably steal an Oscar or two for the dead-on performances of Hilary Swank as Brandon Teena and Chloe Sevigny as her girlfriend Lana Tisdale. -- James DiGiovanna

DROWNING MONA. A mediocre comedy that draws from some strong performances and suffers from some weak scripting. Casey Affleck is superb as the Opie-esque owner of a landscaping business. His shifty-eyed and guilt-ridden "aw-shucks" innocence pretty much propels the film through its dryer parts. Also good are Bette Midler as the titular Mona, a woman so awful that when she dies the small town where she lived throws a party; and Danny DeVito as the sheriff who wants to solve the crime anyway. There are a few good laughs, and the film's tasteless humor is more tasteful than the gross-out stuff that's so popular these days, but it's not a must-see. -- James DiGiovanna

MISSION TO MARS. When a reconnaissance mission goes mysteriously awry in the year 2020, Gary Sinise and Tim Robbins lead the rescue mission to find out what happened at base camp Cydonia. During the two-year journey, audiences are treated to plenty of scenes in zero-gravity and on the wind-swept plains of Mars -- which, it turns out, look a lot like the Arizona/Utah border region (minus the crazy, worm-like Martian cyclones). But there's something even more odd about this movie than the strange architecture the astronauts discover on the red planet. Though directed by adult action movie big-shot Brian DePalma, with some creepy suspense early on and an all-adult cast (Sinise sheds his persona as earthly übervillian to become clean-shaven hero Jim McConnell), this is essentially a Disney movie aimed at a younger audience. The deeper into space it goes, the campier it becomes, culminating with a kaleidoscopic, holographic history of Mars that will have creationists in an uproar. Okay, not really. But it does reveal Hollywood's thinly veiled campaign to brainwash us with super-enhanced sci-fi movies depicting the secret origin of life. Okay, not really that, either. But the special effects are really neat! Also starring Don Cheadle and Connie Nielsen, as astronauts Luc and Teri. -- Mari Wadsworth

THE NINTH GATE. Director Roman Polanski answers the musical question "How many roads must a man walk down" in this occult thriller starring Johnny Depp and some old books. Depp plays a master text analyzer and spends much of the movie closely comparing the three surviving copies of a 17th-century Satanic tome. Only Polanski could make library work seem exciting, dangerous and sexy. The vampiric Frank Langella plays Depp's employer, a man who wears a fabulous suit and would summon Satan. Lena Olin plays a rival book collector who will do anyone in order to get her hands on the infernal volume. If you can get past some of the goofier aspects, Ninth Gate's tight plotting and odd characters promise a fun rideÉto hell! -- James DiGiovanna

WHAT PLANET ARE YOU FROM? The answer to the title question turns out to be "Who cares?" in this incredibly childish and gruelingly uncomfortable "comedy" from ex-wunderkind Mike Nichols (The Graduate, Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf, Carnal Knowledge). Garry Shandling plays a space alien who comes to Earth to impregnate our women. Lots of pee-pee and doo-doo humor, combined with a story about a middle-aged woman who can only find satisfaction in marriage and family, make this one of the most unpleasant films of recent memory. Oddly, Ben Kingsley, Annette Benning and Greg Kinnear all signed on, in spite of the fact that they are not usually to be found begging for scraps outside the offal house. Give this one a miss. -- James DiGiovanna

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