'Witch Mountain,' 'Sunshine Cleaning,' 'Last House'

What do reviewers say about three new films? Out this week: Race to Witch Mountain, a remake of the 1970s children's film; the indie comedy Sunshine Cleaning; and the horror flick Last House on the Left.

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MADELEINE BRAND, host:

Well, how is this for choice, a family film, a quirky art house comedy and a grizzly horror remake. They're all opening today at the box office. And to tell us what the critics thought of these movies, here is Mark Jordan Legan with Slate's Summary Judgment.

MARK JORDAN LEGAN: Seeing how today is Friday the 13th, you should all be very careful which movie you choose to see. For those of you who feel like throwing caution to the wind, there's the remake of the 1972 Wes Craven grimey classic, "Last House on the Left." A gang of vicious escaped criminals come upon a house in the woods after brutally attacking some teenagers, and it seems they picked the wrong house to seek refuge from a storm. Wow, sounds like the perfect date movie.

(Soundbite of movie "Last House on the Left")

Unidentified Man #1: We've made the front page, that's what's going on. We figured they'd have my face on there sooner or later, but they got Sadie's(ph) to boot. Can you believe it, Paige, Mary?

Unidentified Woman: We won't say anything to anybody.

Unidentified Man #2: I don't know.

LEGAN: The critics don't know either. Most find the film repulsive. The New York Daily News calls it, one sickening piece of garbage. USA Today complains, plodding and completely predictable. But the Philadelphia Inquirer says, "Last House on the Left" is the best in the latest crop of slasher remakes.

Amy Adams and Emily Blunt star as two battling sisters in the indie comedy, "Sunshine Cleaning." When money problems begin to mount for single mom Adams, she convinces her unemployed sister and father, played by Alan Arkin, to go into the crime-scene cleanup business.

(Soundbite of movie "Sunshine Cleaning")

Ms. AMY ADAMS (Actress): (As Rose Lorkowski) We're the cleaning crew.

Unidentified Woman: I wanted to give you the keys.

Ms. ADAMS: (As Rose Lorkowski) OK.

Unidentified Woman: Do you need me to show you?

Ms. ADAMS: (As Rose Lorkowski) Oh, no. No. No. No. We can find it. Would you like me to sit with you for a little while?

Unidentified Woman: Yes, dear. I believe I would.

LEGAN: Well, just like with cleaning, some people like it, some people don't. The New York Times sighs, all in all, it's a mess. But Rolling Stone cheers, a funny and touching story, and the Los Angeles Times smiles, "Sunshine Cleaning" is a smartly done morality tale.

And some of you might fondly remember "Escape to Witch Mountain" and its sequel from the mid-1970s, but Disney has updated and re-imagined the main plot to bring us "Race to Witch Mountain". This time, Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson stars as a cab driver who picks up two strange kids with supernatural powers who insist he drive them out to the desert so they can save the world. Man, cab drivers lead such exciting lives.

(Soundbite of movie "Race to Witch Mountain")

Ms. ANNA SOPHIA ROBB (Actress): (As Sara) We would appreciate you pulling over so that he can relieve himself.

Mr. DWAYNE JOHNSON (Actor): (As Jack Bruno) Well, we don't have time for that. He should've went before we left Stony Creek.

Ms. ROBB (Actress): (As Sara) He isn't pleased with your attitude.

Mr. JOHNSON (Actor): (As Jack Bruno) Really? Is that the way he feels? Well, you remind him that I'm a man and he's a dog. And I'm not about to have this or any conversation with a dog. So, my answer is still no.

LEGAN: Well, most of the nation's critics enjoyed the race. Even though the Wall Street journal sniffs, filmmaking by the numbers meant to succeed by the numbers. Variety shouts, strikes a deft balance of chase movie suspense and wisecracking humor, and the Hollywood Reporter revs, entertaining with a crafty mixture of action, humor and drama. Wow, so a cabbie helped save the earth. I'm happy when my cab driver can just find the airport. Well, good luck with your Friday the 13th, but, you know, I think the whole Friday the 13th bad luck thing is a complete sham, you know, ooh, better be careful on this day, never know what's going to happen. (Laughing) Yeah, like what? I mean, what's going to happen that's so terrible? I mean, it's not like Day to Day is going off the air on a week or…

BRAND: Uh, Mark…

LEGAN: Wait a minute, what? (Whispering). What is that (unintelligible).

Never mind.

BRAND: Mark Jordan Legan is a writer living in Los Angeles. He always seems to be the last to know things.

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