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The Family Filmgoer

By Jane Horwitz
Special to The Washington Post
Friday, April 1, 2005; Page WE45

BEAUTY SHOP (PG-13, 105 minutes)

"Beauty Shop" proves nearly as entertaining and audience-friendly as a female-focused spinoff of the "Barbershop" films. By now the concept seems a tad watered-down and sitcomish, but it is a pleasant enough diversion for high schoolers, with an amiable message about embracing diversity. Queen Latifah brings her tough-but-tender persona to the lead, softer than Ice Cube's in the earlier films, but similar. Stylists and customers in "Beauty Shop" talk a lot of trash, though, making the film iffy for middle schoolers. The dialogue includes strong sexual innuendo that occasionally goes beyond hinting and into explicit sexual slang and discussion of sex practices and sex organs. The script features occasional profanity and gay humor, some of it homophobic. Characters chat about breast implants and Botox injections, which some parents might not want teen girls to see glamorized. Drinking is also shown.

Queen Latifah plays Gina, first introduced as a verbal sparring partner for Cedric the Entertainer in "Barbershop 2: Back in Business." A single mom, Gina has left Chicago for Atlanta so her gifted pre-adolescent daughter, Vanessa (Paige Hurd), can study piano at a top school. Gina gets fed up with the arrogant Jorge (a droll Kevin Bacon), her boss at an upscale salon, so she quits, buys a run-down, inner-city beauty shop and struggles to make a go of it. She brings along shampoo girl Lynn (Alicia Silverstone), a wannabe stylist, and two of Jorge's rich customers (Andie MacDowell and Mena Suvari). Lynn, who is white, has a tough time gaining acceptance from Gina's African American stylists (Alfre Woodard, Golden Brooks, Sherri Shepherd and Keshia Knight Pulliam). Their sniping gives occasion for benign, funny venting.

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FRANK MILLER'S SIN CITY (R, 124 minutes)

With its tough-talking, bullet-eating, skull-smashing, sexy, film noirish crime stories, "Frank Miller's Sin City" will thrill fans of the graphic novels on which it is based. Taken from three of Miller's "Sin City" tales, the movie paints ravishing pictures, designed by director Robert Rodriguez and Miller, who co-directed, to look as much like the graphic novels as possible. It was shot on high-definition video with live actors enveloped in an artificial world of digital effects -- black-and-white, but with sudden splashes of surreal color. Yet along with its groundbreaking look, pitch-perfect performances and great retro dialogue ("You're pushin' 60 and ya got a bum ticker!"), this is an intensely violent, even sadistic film that objectifies women and glorifies gore. It would be irresponsible to recommend it for anyone under 17.

The violence may be ultra-stylized and the blood white, but it feels real. We see heads and limbs lopped off, shootings, and, it is strongly implied, though not graphically shown, men's privates mutilated. Other mayhem features an electrocution, the whipping of a bound woman, skull smashings, characters shoved headfirst into toilets, a priest shot in a confessional and a graphic gun suicide. "Sin City" has one explicit sexual situation, other sexual innuendo, much semi-nudity (toplessness, bare derrieres), profanity and drinking.

Each antihero narrates his own tale. Bruce Willis plays Hartigan, an aging cop who rescues a girl from a rapist/child killer. His story resumes after she grows up (played by Jessica Alba). Mickey Rourke plays Marv, a hatchet-faced ex-con who awakes to find the pretty girl he slept with murdered. He hacks his way toward the culprit. Clive Owen plays Dwight, who saves a waitress (Brittany Murphy) from her abusive ex (Benicio Del Toro), then helps Sin City's prostitutes (led by Rosario Dawson) battle crooked cops.

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