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.
"Kings Ransom" Anthony Anderson ("Barbershop") is an egotistical and wealthy head of a major ad company who hatches a plan to stage his own kidnapping in order to avoid splitting his net worth with his ex-wife. The trouble is that two other factions have also planned to kidnap him. This slapdash comedy barely coughs up more than a couple of funny scenes as the story moves in predictable fits and starts before sputtering out of fuel halfway through the movie. Regina Hall ("Paid in Full") gives a standout performance as a dimwitted sexpot assistant and mistress. Jay Mohr is unimpressive as a half-witted malcontent who executes the kidnapping. (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.
"A Lot Like Love" Young Oliver (Ashton Kutcher) meets Emily (Amanda Peet) during a trip to New York, and both play hard to get, as if they don't even like each other. The precocious prelude is likeable but only intended to keep us guessing as the unloving couple connect and part over and over again. Next it is three years later, then two, then one, then six months, then three. Pretty soon you are wondering just how many more months of near-miss romance you can stand. Seeing two people gradually hook up in spite of missed opportunities over two hours can be at times funny, charming, poignant and even insightful. But none of that makes it a story. (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
"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.