Luke Skywalker’s epic journey from moisture farmer to cave hermit continues this Friday with Star Wars: The Last Jedi!

Wait, a movie with ‘The Last‘ in its title? Turns out we’ve seen that one before, prompting this week’s gallery of 24 best and worst Last movies.

Jigsaw is back in theaters this Friday, bringing back memories of the bygone era between 2004 and 2010 (the release years of the first and last Saw movies) when every horror movie released seemed to fall under the guise of ‘torture porn.’ They involved inflicting the most amount of pain in the slowest way possible, where dark fates could lead to death, or something worse: living on, literally broken in body and mind. Relive the pain with 24 best and worst (mostly worst) torture porn movies pieced and sorted by Tomatometer!

This week, get your Miley Cyrus fix with Hannah Montana’s feature-length trip to the big screen (Hannah Montana The Movie), or do a complete 180-degree turn with the latest Hollywood horror remake (Last House on the Left). Director James Toback goes the documentary route with boxing’s Iron Mike (Tyson), while David Lynch’s daughter Jennifer continues the family legacy for eccentric thrills (Surveillance, starring Julia Ormond and Bill Pullman). Actress Lori Petty makes her directorial debut with a personal indie drama (The Poker House) while Tilda Swinton turns in a powerhouse performance as an alcoholic kidnapper (Julia). An ’80s sci-fi gaming classic makes its way to Blu-ray (The Last Starfighter) and we take a look at a trio of Toho reissues and new TV on DVD inside!


Hannah Montana: The Movie


45%



The power of Hannah Montana cannot be denied. After a solid critical reaction to her ‘tween-fueled Best of Both Worlds Concert movie, Disney star Miley Cyrus brought her onscreen alter ego into theaters again, this time in a feature-length film. Cyrus stars as Miley Stewart, a Tennessee teenager who moonlights as the uber-popular pop singer, Hannah Montana; when her increasing celebrity threatens to take over Miley’s ego, her country music singing dad (played by Cyrus’s real-life country music singing dad, Billy “Achy Breaky Heart” Ray — stay with us here) takes her back to the homestead to get back to her roots. Teen sitcom clichés and plenty of Disney pop tunes ensue, making this a guaranteed hit among the young Hannah Montana faithful — if not among older audiences and critics. A generous menu of special features include bloopers, deleted scenes, director commentary, and more, and even the stodgiest of detractors can’t resist the disc’s piece de resistance, which you can watch exclusively here on Rotten Tomatoes: a how-to lesson on doing the Hoedown Throwdown Dance (“Pop it, lock it, polka dot it…”)!

Next: File under improbable –Ingmar Bergman gets the torture porn treatment?



While nobody was really clamoring for a remake of Wes Craven‘s marginally-celebrated 1972 exploitation horror pic — the original Last House on the Left only earned 65 percent on the Tomatometer — Hollywood served up the revenge story yet again, making good use of the recent boom in torture porn sensibilities for which modern audiences seem to have an appetite. (Interestingly, many argue that Craven’s first LHOTL is far more gruesome.) Garret Dillahunt stars as the ringleader of a vicious band of criminals; Monica Potter and Tony Goldwyn are the parents of his victim who decide to turn the tables. Critics were in part repulsed by the remake’s brutality and lack of intelligence, resulting in a hard-to-watch attack-vengeance tale ultimately not worth the ordeal. For the same story done better, check out Ingmar Bergman‘s Oscar-winning 1960 film, The Virgin Spring (94%), the medieval rape-and-revenge pic that inspired the first Last House.

Next: Carradine’s posthumous sea dog period comedy comes to DVD



A “horrid piece of filmed dinner theater” — (Scott Foundas, LA Weekly). An “arthritic romantic comedy” — (Ronnie Scheib, Variety). The raves keep comin’ for this misbegotten adaptation of a 1904 novel by Joseph Lincoln, which posits three grumpy old men — David Carradine, Bruce Dern, and Rip Torn — as a trio of septuagenarian sea captains looking for a house wife in Cape Cod, circa 1905. An abundance of turn of the century mariner slang and Mariel Hemingway‘s performance as the object of the Boys’ domestic desires might help keep things interesting, but you’ll likely wonder why this adaptation was made at all.

Next: James Toback gets up close and personal with Iron Mike in Tyson


Tyson


86%



Director James Toback (Fingers, Bugsy) detours into documentary film with this well-received portrait of infamous boxer Mike Tyson. Iron Mike himself provides much of the film’s commentary in intimate interviews that reveal the complex psyche of the man who became the undisputed heavyweight champion at age 20, served time in jail for rape, had his own 8-bit video game, and mounted a career comeback before biting off part of his opponent’s ear in 1997 on live television. Premiere footage and a commentary by Toback highlight the special features.

Next: Is director Jennifer Lynch (Surveillance) as twisted as her father?


Surveillance


58%



Julia Ormond and Bill Pullman star as Feds investigating a roadside killing in this Rashomon-esque thriller, directed by Jennifer Lynch. To preface, take a look at Lynch’s pedigree (her father is David) and her past work (she won a Razzie for her debut, Boxing Helena — a movie in which a woman has her limbs amputated by a lover). Critics say Surveillance is appropriately perverse, gory, and twisted, which you might find either good or bad, depending on taste; they also say a last-act twist threatens to undermine the whole affair. Decide for yourself which side of the Fresh/Rotten divide it belongs on.

Next: Tilda Swinton’s tour de force turn in Julia


Julia


70%



Tilda Swinton‘s performance as a struggling alcoholic takes center stage in Erick Zonca‘s Julia, a kidnapping thriller and character study that lets the usually-buttoned up Oscar winner let loose. Julia is addicted to partying and substance abuse, trapped in a downward spiral that leads her to accept a neighbor’s proposition to kidnap a young boy from his cushy home in Mexico, until a series of unfortunate events throw everything into chaos. Swinton fans should jump at the chance to watch the actress play out-of-control — a woman under the influence, as it were — in a film that has drawn comparisons to a Cassavetes flick on a rager.

Next: See, something good did come of In the Army Now



Years after meeting In Living Color‘s David Alan Grier (presumably when they both starred in the Pauly Shore vehicle In the Army Now), actress Lori Petty teamed up with her old friend to script this semi-autobiographical story based on her own childhood, which also marks Petty’s debut as a director. The familiar realm of indie dramas about abused and/or neglected kids toughing it out amidst unsavory adult types gets a jolt thanks to a trio of young actresses (Jennifer Lawrence, Sophia Bairley, and Chloe Grace Moretz) who, critics say, carry the picture with strength and nuance. Lawrence in particular shines as the 14-year-old protagonist Agnes, who is left to care for her younger siblings when their drug-addicted prostitute mother (Selma Blair) and dubious father figure (Bokeem Woodbine) fail them, and worse. Petty herself provides a commentary track.

Next: The Last Starfighter lands on Blu-ray!



There are those who champion The Last Starfighter as an unassuming landmark of ’80s science fiction, significant even while overshadowed by bigger, flashier, more memorable flicks of its kind. We think you guys just love it because (along with TRON and our sentimental fave, The Wizard) it legitimized those hours of obsessive video gaming as essential training, inevitably to come in handy when called upon by a higher power. Director Nick Castle (who would go on to direct the live-action Dennis the Menace movie, Major Payne, and script August Rush) employed impressive-for-the-era special effects in the tale of a trailer park teenager named Alex (Lance Guest) whose hobby of playing the Starfighter arcade game pays off when an alien from the planet Rylos reveals that the game was a test, and that Alex is to be the next “starfighter” in an intergalactic war. Looking back on The Last Starfighter now, the ’80s stylings are charming (to put it kindly), but even though it doesn’t quite hold up 25 years later, it’s a fun blast from the past on Blu-ray. Tons of retrospective features, a filmmaker commentary, and image galleries make for a comprehensive collection of bonus features.

Next: A Toho Studios trifecta!



Gojira fans, take note: the Japanese monster known stateside as Godzilla wasn’t the only camp-tastic science fiction hero to come out of the wacky world of Japanese cinema, circa 1960. Serving up three newly remastered genre classics from the makers (director Ishiro Honda and special effects pioneer Eiji Tsuburaya) and home (Toho Tokyo Studios) of such kaiju classics as Godzilla, Sony Pictures Home Entertainment is releasing The Icons of Sci-Fi: Toho Collection. In The H-Man (1958), radioactive bomb testing turns people into oozing, infectious slimy blobs; in Battle in Outer Space (1959), a sinister alien race use enhanced weapons and mind control to attack Earth. Finally, in Mothra (1962), the famous psychic, moth-like God and frequent Godzilla opponent is introduced, defending her island of worshippers from their capitalist kidnappers. While the collection is woefully short on bonus features, the films have been meticulously restored and offer multiple subtitle options.

Next: Gossip Girl, Sons of Anarchy, Swayze’s Beast and more TV on DVD


TV on DVD: Gossip Girl, Sons of Anarchy, Dexter, The Simpsons, The Beast, Greek


N/A



It’s a huge week for new TV on DVD releases, so we’ve collected them all here for your one-stop perusal. For starters, check out Season 1 of Patrick Swayze‘s recently cancelled show, The Beast, in which he plays an FBI agent of dubious methodology (A&E cancelled the show after one season due to Swayze’s declining health). The 2000-2001 exploits of Homer, Marge, Lisa, Bart, and Maggie Simpson also hit DVD, though beyond a guest starring spot from boy band *NSYNC, we’re hard pressed to recall any of that season’s specifics (The Simpsons Season 12). Fresher in our minds is the explosive debut season of Kurt Sutter’s Sons of Anarchy (Season One), FX’s Hamlet-with-bikers starring Charlie Hunnam, Ron Perlman, and Sutter’s wife, Katey Sagal. We’d also recommend picking up Season 3 of Dexter, in which Dex battles a frenemy and contemplates marriage. For lighter fare, there’s Season 3 of the campus dramedy Greek, along with the most OMG-inducing show of all: Gossip Girl Season 2, which includes the flashback episode leading to the would-be spin-off, Valley Girls.

Until next week, happy renting!

This week at the movies, we’ve got a supernatural quest (Race to Witch Mountain, starring Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and AnnaSophia Robb), a vengeance thriller ( Last House on the Left, starring Sara Paxton and Garret Dillahunt), and playmate pratfalls (Miss March starring Zach Cregger and Trevor Moore). What do the critics have to say?



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Race to Witch Mountain

Race to Witch Mountain finds Disney attempting to resurrect a franchise that delivered some sizable hits for the studio in the 1970s. However, critics say the reboot is only sporadically successful, despite the best efforts of a talented cast. Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson stars as an ex-con cabbie who picks up two teens with supernatural powers; together, they attempt to elude government officials and ominous forces. The pundits say the cast is just fine, especially the Rock, who mixes toughness and good humor with panache. But the rest of the film is alternately too noisy and not exciting enough to maintain interest throughout. (Check out star Carla Gugino‘s five favorite films, and our rundown of the finest live-action Disney films.)



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The Last House on the Left

Wes Craven‘s original The Last House on the Left was a horror movie touchstone, a film so violent in its time that even its poster had to reassure audience members that it was only a movie. Critics say the remake (which Craven produced) is stylishly crafted and effective in spots, but it misses the spirit of the original by miles, lacking Craven’s bleak artistry and his sense of social commentary. Sara Paxton stars as a young woman who is brutally attacked by a prison escapee and his flunkies. She flees to the supposed safety of her house, but when her parents discover that they’re harboring the very thugs who attacked their daughter, they exact their own brand of revenge. The pundits say the film is better-made than most, but it’s ultimately pretty generic, substituting the dark subtleties of Craven’s landmark film with oodles of gratuitous gore.



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Miss March

Unless your taste runs toward the bottom-of-the-barrel lowest common denominator, the critics say you may want to scratch Miss March off your calendar. The film stars Zach Cregger (who also directed with co-star Trevor Moore, both part of the the Whitest Kids U’ Know comedy troupe) as a young man who awakens from a coma to discover his once-chaste high school significant other is now a Playboy centerfold. The pundits say Miss March is crass, unfunny, and poorly made, a gross-out comedy with little beyond scene-stealer Craig Robinson to recommend it.


Also opening this week in limited release:

After five consecutive frames of beating the 2008 box office, ticket sales this time may have a tough job keeping the streak alive. Looking to knock the superheroes of Watchmen out of the top spot is the artist formerly known as The Rock, Dwayne Johnson, who headlines the new Disney live-action film Race to Witch Mountain opening on Friday. A pair of debuting R-rated pics will target older audiences. Universal unleashes the horror entry The Last House on the Left while Fox Searchlight releases the weekend’s only film not inspired by a 1970s classic with the comedy Miss March.

Dipping back into the Disney well after the successful hit The Game Plan grossed $90.6M, Johnson this time plays a Las Vegas cab driver who picks up a pair of teens with supernatural powers in Race to Witch Mountain. The PG-rated adventure is the latest in the studio’s long line of recycled films updated for a new generation of children. Kids and younger teens sick of seeing Paul Blart: Mall Cop and Coraline yet again, and who obviously were less than thrilled by the Jonas Brothers concert flick, make up the target audience here. Most of the major films in release right now target older moviegoers so Witch has a great opportunity to score.

The wrestler-turned-actor provides ample starpower and has family-friendly credibility too. Game Plan bowed to $23M in 2007 during the normally slow month of September. Actors Anna-Sophia Robb and Ciaran Hinds give the film cross-gender appeal plus the title will be familiar to parents making it a safe choice for the whole family. Marketing hype has been about normal for this type of pic which should be good enough to propel it to the top of the charts. Reviews have been fairly good which certainly can’t hurt. Opening in 3,187 theaters, Race to Witch Mountain may debut with around $27M this weekend.


Dwayne Johnson and co. in Race to Witch Mountain

Universal’s Rogue Pictures banner has a strong track record in the horror field and aims for another hit this weekend with the new update of The Last House on the Left. The R-rated revenge thriller is inspired by the 1972 film of the same name from director Wes Craven who sticks to producing this time around. This brutal fright flick will play to a core horror crowd and its Friday the 13th release date will help on opening night, even though it’s not a key element of the marketing campaign. Horror films for the most part have overperformed this year with big bows for Rogue’s The Unborn ($19.8M), My Bloody Valentine 3D ($21.2M), and Friday the 13th ($40.6M). No new offering from the genre has hit theaters since Jason’s return so direct competition will be weak for Left which will have a clear field ahead of it. Those looking for a good scare are ready for a new film. Breaking into about 2,400 locations, The Last House on the Left could take in roughly $14M this weekend.


The bad guys in Last House on the Left

Fox Searchlight goes after older teens and young adults with the raunchy comedy Miss March which tells of a young man who wakes up after a four-year coma to find that his former lady friend has become a Playboy bunny. The R-rated pic hopes to connect with spring breakers who may not have the cash for a trip to Florida or Cancun but want some sort of wild fun anyway. The plot is interesting, but with no starpower the film will only go so far. The audience should match to some extent the small crowds that came out for October’s R-rated Sex Drive ($3.6M opening) and last month’s PG-13 Fired Up ($5.5M). Entering 1,742 theaters, Miss March could take in about $5M this weekend.


Miss March

All eyes will be on Watchmen‘s second weekend to shed some light on what type of final gross Warner Bros. will extract from the domestic market. Given its fanboy following, the R-rated effects-heavy pic is built to draw the bulk of its business in week one so a sizable decline should be in store for the sophomore frame. Looking at recent early March action films from the studio that relied heavily on special effects, second weekend drops were 53% for last year’s 10,000 B.C. and 54% for the previous year’s 300. Watchmen is more of an upfront film pulling in its audience in the first few days, and there is little indication that the comic flick is branching out to non-fans of the source material. Word-of-mouth is not very strong either with over 7,000 users of Yahoo Movies giving it a B- average. Dr. Manhattan and pals might fall by 60% this weekend which would lead to a three-day take of $22M and a ten-day cume of $90M.

Liam Neeson‘s unstoppable revenge thriller Taken could dip another 25% to about $5.5M lifting Fox’s amazing cume to $125M. Tyler Perry looks to suffer a 45% drop for his highest grossing film ever Madea Goes to Jail. That would put the Lionsgate release at $5M for the weekend and $83M overall. Slumdog Millionaire could slip by 40% this weekend to roughly $4M and give Fox Searchlight $131M to date.

LAST YEAR: Fox teamed up with Dr. Seuss and generated a huge number one opening for Horton Hears a Who which bowed to a stellar $45M. With voices from Jim Carrey and Steve Carell, the animated hit went on to bank a sizable $154.5M domestically and $297M worldwide. The prehistoric drama 10,000 B.C. fell 53% in its second weekend to $16.8M ending up in second place. Debuting in third was the actioner Never Back Down with $8.6M on its way to $24.9M for Summit. Rounding out the top five were the Disney comedy College Road Trip and the Sony assassination thriller Vantage Point with $7.8M and $5.5M, respectively.

Author: Gitesh Pandya, www.BoxOfficeGuru.com

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