'Speed Racer' Sputters Behind 'Iron Man' in Summer's First Tentpole Battle


Welcome back to Defamer Attractions, your weekly source of tips, hints and handicapping for the latest in moviegoing. Today we catch up with projections for the not-so-mystifyingly buzz-less Speed Racer, gauge Iron Man's potential for a second straight week at No. 1, survey the landscape for our favorite underdog on the scene (hint: She shoots a mean game of pool), and browse the DVD stacks for noteworthy new titles. As always, our opinions are our own, but they're also right — Wachowskis be damned.

WHAT'S NEW: Whereas last week the only question we faced was the degree of the Iron Man beating awaiting Patrick Dempsey and Made of Honor, today we're starting a pool to see how close (or how far) Marvel's $100 million hero will keep Speed Racer before pulling away in the Sunday home stretch. Most observers expect Iron Man's take to drop as much as 50% this weekend, but like last Friday, we think lingering word-of-mouth and irresistible talent will keep the film well in excess of expectations — as in $65 million to Speed Racer's $40 million. We'll get to the Ashton Kutcher/Cameron Diaz vehicle What Happens in Vegas in a second, but more painlessly for now, here are some of the other new titles bottlenecking theaters: Music video maven Tarsem's sumptuous (and apparently boring) labor of love The Fall; the John Leguizamo / teenagers-fucking satire The Babysitters; the espionage spoof OSS 117: Nest of Spies; and the canny Paskowitz family documentary Surfwise.

THE BIG LOSER: We've heard it said that What Happens in Vegas is Fox's idea of counterprogramming to Speed Racer, but what do you really call it when the weekend's biggest new release itself amounts to second fiddle overall? History will decide, but we think $20 million estimates are far too generous for the Kutcher/Diaz miscarriage. Try closer to $16 million and, as the gift that keeps on giving, a pan for the ages from Manohla Dargis: "[B]ecause its director, Tom Vaughan, brings nothing of interest to the movie, including filmmaking, there isn't anything to say other than to note its insulting ugliness and ineptitude. ... It's disheartening that Ms. Diaz doesn't seem to realize that there's no upside to a role that strips away her dignity even as it peels off her clothes, especially when she's playing the shrew." Now that's love we can all take to the bank.

'Speed Racer' Sputters Behind 'Iron Man' in Summer's First Tentpole Battle

THE UNDERDOG: A terrific Famke Janssen skips the glam in Turn the River, the writing-directing debut of actor Chris Eigeman (Metropolitan, Kicking And Screaming). As a single-mother gambler and pool shark planning to steal her young son away to Canada — but only after hustling her way to $50,000 — Janssen digs into River with both leading-lady aplomb and a wounded integrity most of her male contemporaries usually try to approximate through overwrought brooding. Co-star Rip Torn is good for a few ironic flourishes that redeem the late melodrama, all of which are outdone by Janssen's real pool-shooting exploits. We wouldn't bet against her — at least not this weekend.

FOR SHUT-INS: You can have your I'm Not There DVD's, your P.S. I Love Yous, your vagina dentata comedy Teeth, your fourth season of The 4400 and all that other bullshit. But there is really only one new title worth welcoming into the guilty sanctuary of your own home: The Hottie and the Nottie. Miraculously neither watchable nor as bad as it's made out to be, judge for yourself the blight of Paris Hilton vanity on this week's release calendar.

So are you down for or down on Speed Racer? Will What Happens In Vegas stay, ahem, in Vegas? Will newfound billiards talent Famke Janssen kick your ass for an easy 50 grand? Go all in and let us know where your money's riding this weekend.