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Quick Flicks

Capsule reviews of current films.

"The Amityville Horror" — Remakes of good films are shady prospects at best. But what do you say about a remake of a movie that was pretty much forgettable? Third-tier talent (Ryan Reynolds, Melissa George) update the Lutz family, who move into a Long Island house where a former resident went on a murder rampage. It isn't long before bad visions and creepy noises evict them. The original 1979 version came out during a vogue when the B horror genre had been given a shot in the arm by A films like Roman Polanski's "Rosemary's Baby" and Nicolas Roeg's "Don't Look Now" (and just before Stanley Kubrick's "The Shining"). The vogue is certainly back ("Freddy Vs. Jason," "Exorcist: The Beginning," "The Ring" series). The ground that was broken years ago released as its greatest legacy a particularly ghoulish type of producer. "Amityville" is a sad end for the soon-to-be-defunct MGM. (R) *1/2 — Wayne Melton

"Beauty Shop" — Take one part "Barbershop," one part Queen Latifah, sprinkle in a tablespoon of 'you-go-girl' attitude and stir to get the confection of "Beauty Shop." Gina (Latifah), who made her trash-talking debut in "Barbershop 2," moves to Atlanta and opens up her own salon. Gina hustles to raise her daughter, keep the shop afloat, and treat her customers to a vibe full of glam, girl-power and spunk. Brandishing curling irons and hair dryers, the ladies sling a sassed-up version of the ribald barbershop banter, gabbing about breast implants, Oprah, and the pros and cons of pubic hair. It's formulaic and the jokes are hit or miss, but Latifah's warm, toned-down performance gives "Beauty Shop" real heart. (PG-13) ** — Cole Smithey

"Fever Pitch" — The Farrelly brothers ("There's Something About Mary") set aside their usual inclination toward gross-out humor with a tender and earnest adaptation of a novel by Nick Hornby ("High Fidelity"). Avid sports fans will appreciate the all-engrossing passion that Ben (Jimmy Fallon) has for his local Boston Red Sox as he comes to realize that he must redirect some of that hardened loyalty to his newfound love Lindsay (Drew Barrymore). A schoolteacher by day, Ben lives for the annual baseball season when he can sit among his extended family at Fenway Park and cheer for the team that's given his life meaning since he was 11. As much as Lindsay admires Ben's youthful dedication to baseball, she wants to be more than an extra inning. Fallon and Barrymore are well matched in a crowd-pleasing romance comedy rooted in the love of the game. (PG-13) ***1/2 — C.S.

"Kung Fu Hustle" — The ever-shifting genre of martial arts films takes on yet another variation with writer/director/actor Stephen Chow's latest comic CGI spectacle. Set in an impoverished area of prerevolutionary China known as Pig Sty Alley, the movie follows an upstart extortionist (Chow) attempting to pass himself off as a member of a notorious mob group called the Axe Gang in order to steal money from the area's destitute residents. When the wannabe baddie bites off more than he can chew and his intended victims fight back, the real Axe Gang arrives in a zenith of cartoonish spectacle that includes a bullfrog-morphing Kung Fu master known as The Beast. This and Chow's considerable "Shaolin Soccer" show the actor-turned-director has a finely honed and highly individual idea of martial arts movies. (R)***1/2 — C.S.

"Melinda and Melinda" — If you like Will Ferrell as Will Ferrell, you will love him as Woody Allen. Ferrell plays Hobie, a hulking, twitchy mass of neurotic schmuckiness in this latest Allen treatise on relationships and love. Actually, it's two treatises — one a comedy, one a tragedy — about Melinda (Radha Mitchell), a lost Manhattan soul looking for love and purpose amid the daily dramas of her fellow bourgeois apartment dwellers. There are fine moments throughout, but the best belong to Ferrell, who wheedles and whines his way through the action as a bigger, lumpier version of Alvy Singer. The film is intended to show which version better satisfies human needs. In the end it only provides two satisfying stories, but that's no small feat these days. (PG-13) **** — W.M.

"Millions" — Director Danny Boyle has captivated and appalled audiences with the dark and dangerous movies "Trainspotting" and "28 Days Later." Neither would lead one to expect him to turn out a family film, but then "Millions" isn't typical family fare. Deploying all the cinematic flashiness he has previously applied to tales of drug addiction and urban plague, Boyle brings to this modern fable an attentiveness and energy that one rarely encounters in films suitable for children, which are usually slapdash, lazily conceived affairs. This story of two bereaved brothers who stumble into possession of a fortune could have been a cringe-inducing exercise, but Boyle turns it into an edgy and endearing exploration of childish faith knocking against the hard and mysterious facts of a world ruled by grown-ups. (PG) **** — Thomas Peyser

"The Ring Two" — Naomi Watts' Rachel tiptoes around this sequel about a creepy young girl who dwells in the innards of a videotape. Hideo Nakata, who helmed the Japanese originals "Ringu" and "Ringu 2," seems to have gone buck wild with his new Hollywood-sized budget. His film explodes with visual devices and camera trickery, before imploding into a heap of symbolic nonsense and visual crud. This one's weird even for horror movie sequels, a highly stylized, glittering monument of nothing. A brief appearance by Sissy Spacek seems like the icing on a cake of empty spectacle. (R) * — W.M.

"Sahara" — The latest adventure comedy from Paramount falls into a chasm as a shoddy derivative of the Indiana Jones and James Bond franchises. Matthew McConaughey plays generic sun-kissed treasure hunter Dirk Pitt, searching the Sahara with his quirky sidekick (Steve Zahn) for a Civil War ironclad. Penélope Cruz adds female distraction for the explorers as a doctor working for the World Health Organization to remedy a plague sweeping Africa from an epicenter in Mali. The movie is based on the popular novel by Clive Cussler ("Raise The Titanic") and is a feeble preview of the coming summer blockbuster season. (PG-13) *1/2 — C.S.

"Sin City" — High-contrast tour-de-force cinematic adaptation of Frank Miller's wickedly grotesque graphic novel pays homage to the hard-boiled shadowy style of Dashiell Hammett and Mickey Spillane. Robert Rodriguez teams up with co-directors Frank Miller and Quentin Tarantino to deliver a TKO of a movie. Constructed with state-of-the-art special effects, "Sin City" is a stylized, dark and gritty (and it must be said, quite risqué) film that weaves together three Frank Miller stories with eye-popping results that threaten to addict audiences to the movie for repeated viewing. (R) ***** — C.S.

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