Video Verdict: ‘Hannah Montana,’ ‘Last House on the Left,’ ‘Tyson’

Miley Stewart (Miley Cyrus) contemplates country life in "Hannah Montana: The Movie."

Miley Stewart (Miley Cyrus) contemplates country life in "Hannah Montana: The Movie."

This week’s DVD releases cover a lot of territory, with major titles ranging from a documentary about fighter Mike Tyson to an easygoing adaptation of Disney Channel’s “Hannah Montana” TV series.

 

 

Hannah Montana — The Movie
3 stars (out of four)
Rated G
Disney
Available on: DVD and Blu-ray

Director Peter Chelsom was charged with creating a big screen take on the wildly popular “Hannah Montana” sitcom, and the result is predictable yet enjoyable.

The series is built around the fact that average teen Miley Stewart (Cyrus) has chosen to lead a double life, going to school by day and transforming into pop star Hannah Montana at night. In the film, Miley is becoming increasingly frustrated with keeping her pop star identity secret, and an aggressive tabloid journalist is making things worse by trying to dig up dirt on the squeaky clean teen idol.

Everything comes to a head when Miley lobbies to skip her grandmother’s birthday celebration so Hannah can attend a music awards show in New York. Her dad, Robby (Billy Ray Cyrus), will have none of that. So, he whisks her off to their hometown of Crowley Corners, Tenn., to remind her what country life is all about.

While there, Miley reunites with her childhood friend, Travis (Lucas Till), and starts to appreciate the simple things in life. But it also becomes clear that Hannah is a definite part of her.

The story is frivolous and a number of sequences were borrowed — intentionally or otherwise — from better films. Still, the movie hits the mark for the young girls in its target audience, and most of the credit is due Cyrus, an exceptionally talented and charismatic young performer.

“Hannah Montana: The Movie” is available as part of multiple home video releases, including a three-disc combo pack that includes both Blu-ray and DVD copies of the feature. Extras vary.

 

Last House on the Left
2 stars
DVD contains rated and unrated versions of the film. The rated version received an R for sadistic brutal violence including a rape and disturbing images, language, nudity and some drug use
Universal Studios
Available on: DVD and Blu-ray

This remake of writer-director Wes Craven’s 1972 thriller has the potential to satisfy fans of low-budget horror, but that audience isn’t known for discerning taste.

The picture focuses on John and Emma Collingwood (Tony Goldwyn and Monica Potter) and their 17-year-old daughter, Mari (Sara Paxton). Shortly after the family embarks on a vacation to the woods, Mari finds herself in the grasp of a group of escaped convicts led by a sadist named Krug (Garret Dilahunt). He makes Mari’s life a living hell before — by chance — winding up at the family’s vacation home and placing her parents in danger as well.

It’s a typical horror setup, and director Dennis Iliadis doesn’t do anything to put a fresh face on the recycled story. Rather, “Last House on the Left” displays its low budget with pride, boasting numerous scenes that lack both production value and emotional depth. That’s not to say it doesn’t have genuinely suspenseful and scary moments. It does.

Sadly, these are countered by lengthy — nay drawn out — segments of violence and torture that do little to invest viewers in the story. For instance, there’s an extended battle sequence featuring a topless starlet and a rape/murder so brutal that I don’t want to see anything of its sort on film again. Of course, neither of these bits compare to the ending: a gore-drenched mess that was clearly manufactured for shock value but comes across as comical.

What’s missing are sequences that explain just who the characters are and why we, as viewers, should be invested in their journey. It would be particularly interesting, for instance, to know why Emma spends the entire movie — even the parts before things get violent — in a daze. Potter’s portrayal of her might have worked if Iliadis had offered an intriguing backstory, but he apparently left that footage at the last house on the right.

DVD extras include deleted scenes and a making-of featurette.

 

Tyson
3 stars
Rated R for language including sexual references
Sony Pictures Classics
Available on: DVD and Blu-ray

Manic and controversial yet unquestionably gifted, boxer Mike Tyson is one of the most interesting sports figures of the last half century, and that makes him the perfect subject for a documentary film.

Tyson, a self-admitted juvenile delinquent, remains the youngest man ever to win the World Boxing Council, World Boxing Association and International Boxing Federation heavyweight titles, and writer-director James Toback has done a fine job recapping his career while simultaneously capturing his eccentric demeanor.

Composed almost entirely of recent interviews with the fighter, the film tells Tyson’s story in his own words, and it’s fascinating to hear one of the most ferocious fighters on the planet talk about being bullied as a child.

In fact, Tyson’s insecurities are probably the biggest revelation Toback offers. Behind the muscle and tough-guy posturing, Tyson proves to be a man with doubts just like the rest of us. And, although he’s allowed to tell his own story with virtually no outside interference, he doesn’t come off as a saint. He admits that boxing essentially saved him from a life of crime.

Although he vehemently denies raping beauty queen Desiree Washington — an accusation that resulted in a conviction and three years jail time — Tyson frequently spouts misogynistic views about women and admits that he seeks to sexually dominate his lovers. In many ways, it’s an ugly portrait, but that makes it all the more fascinating.

Toback would have had a better film if he provided balance by including interviews with some of the important people from Tyson’s past, such as ex-wife Robin Givens and fight promoter Don King. Still, “Tyson” shines as an intimate self-portrait of a man who rose from the mean streets of Brooklyn to international stardom without becoming slick, polished or overly commercialized.

DVD extras include a commentary track and Q&A session with Toback, plus a bit following the director during the day his film premiered in Los Angeles.

 

ALSO OUT THIS WEEK

“Dexter” — The Complete Third Season: Season four of Showtime’s edgy drama about a serial killer (Michael C. Hall) who works for the Miami Metro Police Department and murders only deserving victims will premiere Sept. 27, giving you just over a month to get caught up. This collection — available on DVD and Blu-ray — includes all 12 episodes from season three.

“Gossip Girl” — The Complete Second Season: This CW teen drama is also slated to start a new broadcast season next month, and this set paves the way for what you’ll see then. The show is narrated by a blogger who examines the lives of teens attending a pricey private school in New York City.

“Pete’s Dragon” — High Flying Edition: Disney is rolling this 1977 fantasy feature out of its vaults. The movie, which combines animation and live-action footage, centers on the adventures of an orphan boy who has a dragon for a pal. Sean Marshall, Mickey Rooney and Helen Reddy star.

“The Simpsons” — The Complete 12th Season: This now-classic animated series about a dysfunctional middle-class family has run for 20 seasons, but only 11 of them were available on DVD … until now.

“Everybody Hates Chris” — The Final Season: The title says it all. This collection delivers the last 22 episodes of the TV sitcom based on comedian Chris Rock’s childhood.

British TV on DVD: Acorn media is offering the U.S. DVD debuts of “The Helen West Casebook” and “The Diary of a Nobody.” The former contains three feature-length television dramas based on author Frances Fyfield’s suspense novels about prosecutor Helen West (Amanda Burton). The latter is a TV movie starring Hugh Bonneville as Charles Pooter, a middle-aged clerk who lives a mundane life in Victorian England, yet documents his existence in painstaking detail.

 

Forrest Hartman is an independent film critic whose byline has appeared in some of the nation’s largest publications. E-mail him at Forrest@ForrestHartman.com

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