"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
"Because of Winn-Dixie" Based on an award-winning children's book by Kate DiCamillo and set in the very small town of Naomi, Fla., this story is about a 10-year-old (AnnaSophia Robb) who adopts a winsome, but sometimes skittish, pup that helps her connect with a handful of depressives and misfits. In less thoughtful hands, this story could have been an oppressively heartwarming mishmash of mindless uplift and computer-generated doggie smiles. But under director Wayne Wang ("The Joy Luck Club"), it is something better and more novel: a film that includes the nuance and moral messiness currently out of fashion in Hollywood entertainment for children. Unlike other children's films one is likely to see, it has something to do with human life. (PG) ***1/2 Thomas Peyser
"Constantine" It's a bird. It's a plane. It's a chain-smoking, postmodern Keanu Reeves. He's playing superhero exorcist John Constantine, of the DC Comics "Hellblazer" graphic novels, in an overlong movie that falls somewhere between "Van Helsing" and "Hellboy." Constantine's youthful attempt at suicide leaves him wandering a noir Los Angeles world between heaven and hell where he tries to earn salvation into heaven by exorcising demons. Another suspicious suicide involving at least two women played by Rachel Weisz forces Constantine to do some serious butt-kicking and soul-saving. Impressive special effects don't compensate for the film's muddled plot and inarticulate dialogue, but the source material's dark tone is consistent, and Peter Stormare relishes his turn as a tar-footed Satan with infectious glee. (R) ** C.S.
"Miss Congeniality 2: Armed and Fabulous" Sandra Bullock is an interesting actress. She's lovely, quick-witted and has a silky charm that smoothes her rough edges. Unfortunately, she seems forever tied to ill-fated fare like "Miss Congeniality 2," a movie that tries too hard at its theme and forgets the simple goal of being funny. A poorly written comedy-action sequel, the film's motor turns on the rescue of a kidnapped Miss United States (Heather Burns) and drags along as nearly every identically paced scene lies on the big screen like a dried egg on day-old toast. Pageant emcee William Shatner adds some surprisingly lively moments, but most of "Miss Congeniality 2" seems hurried and forced. (PG-13) ** C.S.
"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) * Wayne Melton
"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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