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Tucson Weekly Film Clips

SEPTEMBER 11, 2000: 

ART OF WAR. I held vain hopes for the adorable Wesley Snipes that Art of War would be an eye-popping, Jet Li meets James Bond espionage adventure. Instead, it's an increasingly disappointing collusion of bad ideas and hasty screenwriting (exposition all but replaces any semblance of dialog here), in a truly ridiculous plot to inform the American public the time has come to replace our collapsing Cold War hostilities with a viable new cultural enemy -- and that enemy is China, with a little North Korea thrown in for good measure. The plot moves quickly from Hong Kong to New York, where the U.N. Secretary General (Donald Sutherland) attempts to sway China's capitalist future with lucrative trade agreements and costly counter-intelligence that turns appropriately Machiavellian as Snipes gets deeper and deeper into this wildly improbable web. Not even state-of-the-art violence, terrorism and destruction of personal property can muster up a sense of national pride here. Oh well. There is the requisite hip-hop soundtrack at the end, if that butters your popcorn. Otherwise, bring earplugs so you can enjoy the exploding pictures. --Mari Wadsworth

BRING IT ON. My friend Amy, whose favorite thing in the world is watching the national cheerleading championships on TV, thought that this was a nearly perfect film. As far as I could tell, the audience of adolescents agreed with her. In fact, Bring It On is witty enough to withstand adult viewing, and self-conscious enough to announce that "cheerleaders are dancers who've gone retarded," though the faults in that line are pretty much the faults of the movie. It's got the standard teen film stock characters (the rebel girl, the catty girls, the evil jocks, the cute gay boy) and never becomes so self-aware as to defeat its main goal, making money off 13-17 year olds. But so what. I mean, succeeding at hitting the side of a barn with a shotgun is still success. Plus, Bring It On features some excellent, well photographed choreography. It's kind of like Busby Berkeley for really, really, really horny teenagers.--James DiGiovanna

TITANIC TOWN. A difficult and challenging, but also extremely rewarding and well-crafted film about "The Troubles" in Northern Ireland in the early '70s, Titanic Town features devastating performances by Nuala O'Neil and Ciarán Hinds. O'Neil plays Annie McPhelimy, a teenager whose mother, Bernie, has begun a peace crusade. The IRA and their supporters begin to make life increasingly difficult for the McPhelimys, putting strain on the relation between mother and daughter and exposing the effects of violence and activism on the mundane world of human emotions. Hinds shines as Aidan McPhelimy, Annie's father, whose ulcer and general malaise contrast with his wife's overpowering zeal, giving him a sad and desperate quality that comes off with an unusual subtlety. --James DiGiovanna

WHIPPED. Three guys who meet each Sunday to talk about their weekend sexual conquests wind up falling in love with the same woman. If that hackneyed plot doesn't turn you off, try this on: The three lead males are such horrible actors that one wonders if they aren't the evil triplet offspring of Pauly Shore and Keanu Reeves. The script features not only the first rim-job joke in cinema history, but the first rim-job scene in a non-porn film. Then there's the pointless sequence where the guy reaches into a urine-filled toilet. And the incredibly annoying characters whose motivation remains a complete mystery. The only bright point is Amanda Peet as Mia, the woman the boys all fall for. Her performance may not be the greatest ever, but in contrast to the other actors she seems a cross between Liz Taylor and God. The sad thing is that there's an interesting story hiding beneath all this, a kind of sex-role-reversed take on Neil LaBute's In the Company of Men, but it only comes through in the final sequence, and by then it's way, way, way too late. --James DiGiovanna

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