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"Boys Don't Cry," "Boiler Room," "Pitch Black," "The Whole Nine Yards," and "Hanging Up"

Quick Flicks

!B! "Boys Don't Cry"
!B! "Boiler Room"
!B! "Pitch Black"
!B! "The Whole Nine Yards"
!B! "Hanging Up"

"Boys Don't Cry" - One of the most powerful and unsettling films I've seen, this true tale of a young woman who tried to live her life as a man will haunt you. Hilary Swank gives an amazing and authentic performance as Teena Brandon/Brandon Teena. Chloe Sevigny is equally moving as the young woman who falls for the sensitive, charming Brandon. But such alternate lifestyle choices don't go over big in America's rural heartland, and Brandon/Teena runs afoul of some good ol' boys. Despite its trailer trash, Jerry Springeresque plotlines, "Boys Don't Cry" rarely strays into sensationalism. Instead, the movie presents these flawed characters first and foremost for what they are — undeniably and disturbingly human. All about choices and role-playing and to thine own self being true, "Boys Don't Cry" is an amazing film.

"Boiler Room" - Brimming with testosterone and hot young actors, this paean to America's new guilt-free greed will keep you involved despite it's predictable plotting.

Giovanni Ribisi plays Seth Davis, an ambitious 19-year-old who drops out of college to join the ranks of a hot-shot new stock brokerage that isn't exactly on the up-and-up. Ben Affleck is the shady firm's pitch man, luring young lions into the fold with the guarantee that they'll make a million bucks in three years. But writer/director Ben Younger doesn't know when to leave well enough alone, glomming on a subplot about Seth really wanting to prove himself to his demanding, federal judge dad (Ron Rifkin).

As with every cautionary tale of quick, questionable success, things go really good before they go really bad. Despite its MTV camera style and its hardcore rap soundtrack, little in "Boiler Room" comes as a surprise.

"Pitch Black" - This latest "Aliens" wannabe offers up a few suspenseful sequences, an eager cast and a handful of horrific images, but then it shamelessly turns to imitating its better predecessors. Radha Mitchell has the Sigourney Weaver role: She's a spaceship crew member who reluctantly becomes a leader after crash-landing on a hostile, desert planet. The other crash survivors, including a future cop (Cole Hauser) and his dangerous prisoner (Vin Diesel) soon discover that the planet is littered with the bones of some very large creatures. Look out, here come the monsters — swift, hungry pterodactyllike carnivores who are afraid of the light. But the crew's limited light supply is quickly draining away, and you know what that means. Uh-huh, in space, no one can hear the audience snoring.

"The Whole Nine Yards" - "Friends" star Matthew Perry rescues this overwrought crime caper. As an anxious orthodontist straddled with a money-grubbing and unloving wife (Rosanna Arquette), Perry soon finds himself in trouble when hit-man-in-hiding Jimmy "The Tulip" Tudeski (Bruce Willis) moves into his quiet little corner of suburbia.

Little does Perry know that Arquette is trying to kill him for his life-insurance money. He thinks she's sending him to Chicago to squeal on Willis' whereabouts for a reward. But as only happens in the movies, he falls in love with Willis' better half — the gorgeous Natsha Hentsridge. Guess what? It seems Willis wants her dead, too. While Willis wears his usual smirk and concealed weapons with ease, it's Perry's performance that makes the ensuing hijinks funny. For once, his nervous nellie "Chandler Bing" schtick translates well to the big screen. However, "The Whole Nine Yards" is not the killer comedy it wants to be.

"Hanging Up" - Yikes! What a waste of talent. Meg Ryan, Diane Keaton (who directs) and "Friends" Lisa Kudrow star in this lame tale of three sisters whose relationship is strained when their cantankerous father (a shamelessly mugging Walter Matthau) becomes seriously ill. Keaton plays Georgia, the oldest, egocentric sister who launches a slick magazine bearing her name. Ryan is Eve, the responsible middle sibling. Kudrow is the youngest, Maddy, who just wants her two sisters to be quiet long enough to listen to what she has to say. Oddly, it's Kudrow whose comic timing and delivery shine.

Directed by Nora Ephron and written by her sister Delia, "Hanging Up" tries to mix humor with real emotion but fails because it tries too hard. Even Ryan's cute, ditsy charmer routine is grating here. If this one rings your sister-bond bells, trust me — don't answer.

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