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Tucson Weekly Film Clips

AUGUST 23, 1999: 

BROKEDOWN PALACE. A women-in-prison film without a shower brawl or sexually harassing female guards? What's the point? Recent high-school grads Alice (Claire Danes) and Darlene (Kate Beckinsale) giggle their way through a vacation in Thailand until they're jailed for smuggling heroin. They fight over whether or not the drugs were planted, but no hair is pulled, and absolutely no head is dunked in the prison toilet. Only Lou Diamond Phillips embraces the angels-in-chains theme as exploitative, and he gives an enjoyably over-the-top performance as an ineffectual American Embassy employee. Unfortunately, he's in few scenes, and the only other actors allowed appropriate dramatic range -- some wonderfully cast cockroaches -- were passed over for dialogue. -- Polly Higgins

THE KING OF MASKS. Hong Kong director Wu Tianming deftly paints a simple yet moving picture of Wang (Zhu Xu), an elderly street performer who must find a male heir to carry on his mastery of a unique artform involving the rapid-fire changing of brilliantly colored masks. Things get messy when the little boy he finally adopts, "Doggy," turns out to be a girl (the adorable Zhou Ren-Ying, who makes the Olsen twins look like puke). I'm usually diabetic when it comes to sugary stuff like this, but Doggy's gutsy struggle to prove her worth to the old man (and to a culture that considers female children worthless) could pull a smile from the lips of Chiang Kai-Shek. The movie's visuals are as sweet as the plot, dishing out candy-colored images of surreal Hindu operas, monolithic religious icons carved from an entire cliff face, and the King of Masks practicing his astounding craft. It's a luxurious, satisfying film; I wanted to see it again a couple of hours later. -- Greg Petix

THE THOMAS CROWN AFFAIR. Pierce Brosnan plays billionaire art thief Thomas Crown in this remake of the 1968 Faye Dunaway/Steve McQueen film about a wealthy man who decides to get wealthier by stealing an impressionist painting. Rene Russo plays the insurance company detective sent to investigate him. Apparently, her dictionary defines "investigate" as "get it on with." Beautifully photographed in the style of late-'60s American cinema, TCA works well as a romance, a thriller and a meditation on aging. An interesting note about the evolution of the art market is contained in the difference between this film and its earlier counterpart: in the McQueen version, the painting is worth $3 million; in the Brosnan version it's worth $100 million. To make up for the increased cost, the filmmakers insert an obnoxious amount of product placement, coming just short of re-titling the film The Thomas Crown Pepsi One Affair. -- James DiGiovanna

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