Welcome back to Defamer Attractions, your weekly guide to peaks, valleys and pratfalls among the latest new movies in theaters. And finally, after consecutive weekends when we thought God had up and abandoned us with the feral makers of College and Disaster Movie, we have some real films to write about. So read on for our typically expert preview of what's what at the box office, including Coen surprises, Alan Ball atrocities, potential ladyfights, timely new DVD's and one melodrama to rule them all. As always, our opinions are our own; you simply can't fake this kind of refinement, taste and acuity. WHAT'S NEW: So Burn After Reading is good — more admirable than likable, really, with the Coen brothers returning to their parched well of overmatched dolts in possession of objects way beyond their ken. This time it's Brad Pitt and Frances McDormand attempting to blackmail a CIA analyst (a bracingly potty-mouthed John Malkovich) whose "memoirs" they've found lying on their gym's floor; Tilda Swinton and George Clooney join in as awkward archetypes of paranoia and aloof, striving America. If we sound glib, that's Burn for you — a plot- and style-allergic screwball comedy that succeeds primarily as an almost-clean break (even Pitt's character is ultimately a red herring) from two decades of recycled Coen tropes.Alas, it's 20 years too late for some moviegoers, whose Coen aversion will keep Burn and its high-octane ensemble around $16 million for the weekend. That might be enough to surpass the De Niro/Pacino miscarriage Righteous Kill for second place overall, but we don't think anybody will overtake The Family That Preys — or, excuse us, Tyler Perry's The Family That Preys. The distinction matters, too: Even with 1,000 fewer screens than Kill, the dude is a box-office witch with a cult following and increasing crossover juice (Kathy Bates!) that'll push Family to $19.5 million in three days. Not that we've seen it — Perry doesn't avail his films to the press — but it's still fascinating stuff; we'll have more on him here later in the day. Also opening: The chatty, mostly misleadingly titled Young People Fucking; Takashi Miike's acid-trip spaghetti Eastern Sukiyaki Western Django; the flashback-y Jewish family drama A Secret; the enviro-alarmist doc FLOW: For Love of Water; and Matthew McConaughey's shirtless adventure Surfer, Dude. THE BIG LOSER: Here and elsewhere, we've made little secret of our disdain for Towelhead, Alan Ball's thoroughly revolting, exploitive, amateurish, illiterate and borderline retarded sketch of molesty, multi-ethnic suburban ennui. It's not worth getting into again — that's what Google's for — but look at it this way: Warner Independent Pictures didn't fold because it couldn't compete; it was poisoned. If you pay money to see this movie, you could be next.
THE UNDERDOG: Don't look now (oh, all right, go ahead) but The Women is up to a 9 percent approval rating at Rotten Tomatoes! The comeback is on! Sort of! Still, don't expect some Sex and the City blockbuster shocker; director Diane English can preach gay quadrants and underserved audiences all she wants, but she's only got her cast — not an HBO institution — to rely on. And how much does a Meg Ryan/Annette Bening/Eva Mendes/Jada Pinkett film open to these days? Not a ton, but more than most are predicting on 3,000 screens. We'll call it for $11 million and not a penny less. FOR SHUT-INS: This week's new DVD's include the hit Sarah Palin comedy Baby Mama; Tarsem's visually sumptuous Flopzterpiece™ The Fall; the long-awaited (we're serious this time) restoration of the Cinerama benchmark How the West Was Won; the 10th-anniversary edition of The Big Lebowski; and, extraordinarily, Child's Play: Chucky's 20th Birthday Edition. Chucky! 20! Christ, we're like grandparents now. This is more like it, right? Is there anything better than a week when we won't be writing about The Dark Knight and Tropic Thunder on Monday? And when we can finally throw dirt on Towelhead's fetid corpse? Oh, fall. We missed you. Choose your own adventure, and share below.