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Reviews of "Play It to the Bone," "Angela's Ashes," "Cradle Will Rock" and on video, "Twin Falls Idaho" 

Quick Flicks

!B! "Play It to the Bone"
!B! "Angela's Ashes"
!B! "Cradle Will Rock"
!B! and on video "Twin Falls Idaho"


"Play It to the Bone" — Am I the only one whould like a moratorium on movies starring Woody Harrelson? That was my first thought after sitting through this disappointing retread of "White Men Can't Jump." Other than substituting boxing for basketball and Antonio Banderas for Wesley Snipes, writer-director Ron Shelton hasn't done much else to rework his trademark sports-related plotline. But worse than that, this uneven comedy about two small-time boxing buddies given one last shot at the big time is devoid of Shelton's usual wry sense of humor. Although Harrelson and Banderas embody Shelton's double punch of rough characters and are full of quirky, macho observances about the sporting life, it's not enough. "Angela's Ashes" - Alan Parker honorably captures the despair and desperation of Frank McCourt's Pulitzer Prize-winning memoir, but something vital gets lost in the transition from printed page to big screen: the author's wonderful language. But there's still plenty of heart and humor thanks to the subtly moving performances from Emily Watson (as the saintly mother Angela), Robert Carlyle (as the unemployable dreamer and alcoholic father Malachy), and the three young men who portray Frank (Joe Breen, Ciaran Owens and Michael Legge) at various ages. Parker and co-screenwriter Laura Jones have deep respect for McCourt's work, but they can't show us his elegant wit or his wonderful language. Reading about desperate poverty is quite different from seeing it depicted on screen. We need McCourt's prose — not just voice-over narration — to do justice to the pain and the love. "Cradle Will Rock" - Writer-director Tim Robbins focuses his multiple talents on this "mostly true story" about the arts and freedom of speech. It is set in the '30s, and it seems the Federal Theater Project (an offshoot of the famous WPA) has become a hotbed of leftist artists. While Congress probes the Project members' "un-American" tendencies, it shuts down a play about to be produced by the young Orson Welles. Among the large ensemble cast, newcomer Angus McFadden makes a wonderfully quirky Welles; John Cusack oozes charm as a young Nelson Rockefeller; Susan Sarandon has her moments as a propagandist for Mussolini; and Bill Murray shines as a ventriloquist who doesn't like communists because they just aren't funny. Despite too many subplots to keep up with, Robbins' ambitious enterprise does offer to more literate moviegoers an entertaining mix of history, politics and theater.
"Twin Falls Idaho" - This is perhaps the oddest film of 1999. Written and directed by, as well as co-starring real-life twins Mark and Michael Polish, "Twin Falls Idaho" explores the paradox of intimacy. Playing conjoined twins, the Brothers Polish use this closeness to look at dependency and individuality within a loving relationship. Searching for their mother out of town, the twins hire a prostitute (Michele Hicks) who begins to fall in love with one of the brothers. "Twin Falls Idaho" is an offbeat look at love and loyalty.
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