SHOWBUSINESS: THE ROAD TO BROADWAY
Movie buffs who don't know their way around the Great White Way will be struck by the endless parallels to Hollywood in the Broadway documentary ShowBusiness: There are star-powered mega-productions (like the $10 million dollar Taboo, produced by Rosie O'Donnell) and smaller, hipper projects (the $3.5 million dollar Avenue Q); shows designed to draw the largest possible audience (Wicked) and more personal, intellectual ones (Tony Kushner's Caroline, or Change). Producer/director Dori Berinstein knows her way around a Broadway show—she's produced 11 of them, including her latest, Legally Blonde—and her insider status no doubt helped secure behind-the-scenes access as she tracks one season in the life of four musicals, and explains the unusual level of intimacy between interviewer and subjects. Those include a sampling of New York's theater critics who, unlike their film-watching brethren, have a much stronger influence on the bottom line. Still, their inability to predict the winners at the box office (who would see Avenue Q?) or at the Tony's (what could beat Wicked?) shows Broadway's inherent unpredictability, which makes for good entertainment in any art form. (Matt Singer) (Regency Lido, Newport Beach)
As a longtime series writer on The Sopranos, Terence Winter has admirably steered clear of most of the hoary old organized crime clichs. Instead, he's poured them all into director Michael Corrente's anemic urban drama about a trio of best friends growing up on the mean streets of Brooklyn in the pre-gentrified '80s. The always engaging Scott Caan stars as the preening wise guy wannabe who can't walk past a mirror without checking his slicked-back pompadour; Entourage's Jerry Ferrara is the good-hearted mama's boy who we know is a goner from the second he kneels to pray in front of a Catholic church; and just when you thought it was safe to go back into a movie theater, there's Freddie Prinze Jr., doing a tortured Sylvester Stallone impersonation as the kid from the wrong side of the tracks (or at least Prospect Park) trying to reinvent himself as Joe College. The characters have names like Carmine and Bobby and say things like "It's good to remember who your friends are." Alec Baldwin pops up just long enough to lop off some poor schlub's ear in the meat slicer of a Satriale's-like deli, and "Sympathy for the Devil" blares on the soundtrack—presumably because "Gimme Shelter" was already in use over at The Departed. (Scott Foundas) (AMC Pine Square, Long Beach)
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See "Long Day's Journey." (Edwards University, Irvine)
HOSTEL: PART II
This film was not screened in time for our reviewers. (Countywide)
See "The House Always Wins." (Countywide)
The cash-cow flippered ones rise again, this time as yellow-tufted surfer dudes riding the waves of life off the coast of an island that looks like a cross between Hawaii and Venice Beach. If you have to see another penguin blockbuster, you could do worse than this loose-limbed charmer written by, oh, a lot of jokesters and directed by a scant two, Ash Brannon and Chris Buck. The gimmick is a reality-television premise—just how knowingly ironic do we want our kids to be before they even hit their tweens?—but don't expect much fresh by way of plot, which is almost identical to that of Cars and every bit as pregnant with wholesome messaging. Shia LaBeouf voices Cody, a cocky but insecure Rockhopper penguin sorely in need of a father figure who bonds with a washed-up old champion surfer (a delightful Jeff Bridges) to train for a big surf-off, during which, it goes without saying, both learn to redefine the meaning of winning. As always the energy comes from a manic supporting cast, of whom the funniest hands-down is James Woods's Don King-like surf promoter. Surf's Up is copycat movie-making at its smoothest; its one imaginative innovation—billowing, silky, utterly sexy waves—is technical. (Ella Taylor) (Countywide)