Welcome back to Defamer Attractions, your official tastemaking Bible for everything new and noteworthy at the movies. The second week of the fall season offers another mixed harvest of Oscar bait, multiplex placeholders and indie hopefuls, none more eagerly anticipated than the historically skeevy Dakota Fanning 2.0 drama Hounddog. But we'll get to that momentarily, along with this week's worthwhile DVD releases and an all-call for your own recommendations. As always, our opinions are our own — in times like these, who really wants to share? WHAT'S NEW: The first genuine Oscar-chasing release of the fall, The Duchess will likely split its viewership between pro- and anti-Keira Knightley factions before anyone bothers to acknowledge its broader, bodice-ripping appeal. So yes, Team Knightley: She deftly portrays Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire, the late-18th-century heroine with the bitterly controlling husband (Ralph Fiennes), the rabble-rousing side dish (Dominic Cooper) and a surfeit of corsted, pre-feminist longing. The star and the film are beautiful, the direction assured and the awards-season creds affirmed — particularly Fiennes', whose customary wretchedness as the Duke acquires a kind of fascinating tenderness with age. If anyone should be on the Oscar bubble (besides the art and costume crew, which are locks), it's him.Still, in limited release, Duchess isn't competing for any box-office glory; that distinction belongs to Lakeview Terrace, the not-entirely-miserable Neil LaBute thriller featuring Samuel L. Jackson as a sociopathic cop out to get the hot interracial couple next door (Patrick Wilson and Kerry Washington). Against sturdy holdovers (Burn After Reading, The Family That Preys) and middling newbies (the Dane Cook slog My Best Friend's Girl, Ricky Gervais's leading-man debut Ghost Town), Lakeview will top out at $15.6 million. Cook will follow with $13.2 million; with half the screens and even less promotion, Ghost Town should still manage an even $6 million. Also opening: Ed Harris's old-old-school Western Appaloosa; Chris Smith's tiny, acclaimed Indian excursion The Pool; the gay-conversion melodrama Save Me; the wrenching immigrant day-in-the-life tale Take Out; and the Duchess-correcting, misogynist fantasia The Pink Conspiracy. THE BIG LOSER: You know, after we just predicted the Weinsteins would once again find their step in the multiplex, trust in Harvey to not only dump another subpar animated fairy tale on an unsuspecting public, but to essentially disown it. Such is Igor's lot, with its backers AWOL, its reviews tepid, and its voice talent (John Cusack, Molly Shannon, Steve Buscemi) trapped in a Straight-to-Flopz™ patchwork about a hunchback pursuing his dream of becoming a mad scientist. MGM is left to collect the grosses for this one, which won't break $5 million on 2,300 screens. Or, as they call it at Weinstein HQ, business as usual.
THE UNDERDOG: As members of the privileged few to have seen Hounddog in its spectacularly atrocious Sundance '07 cut ("It was unfinished!", the director screams), we long doubted not only the film's release potential, but also the redeemability of those souls who actually made it. But fair is fair, and while the reedited Hounddog remains the infamous Dakota Fanning Rape Movie — full of overripe Southern hokum comprising snakes, magical Negroes, Elvis worship and borderline inbreds — it has since obtained a sort of culty, gunpowder gloss embracing all of its wrecked potential. It's finally refined its badness enough to be good, even serviceable for at least an hour, with Fanning's vulnerability dynamically intact opposite the predatory, 'shine-swilling archetypes around her. Bonus points, however, to David Morse, whose full-retard debasement here must be seen to be believed. FOR SHUT-INS: It's Celebrity Bomb Week among new DVD releases, including Mike Myers's stroppy folly The Love Guru; the Wachowski abortion Speed Racer; the Pacino pratfall 88 Minutes; Patrick Dempsey's rom-com Made of Honor; and at not-so-long last, the complete first season of Chuck. Aw, NBC — you shouldn't have! No, really. You shouldn't have. So what's your Top 3? Is it a Keira weekend, or is Officer Sam pulling your ass over? And how's our math, anyway? Clear your calendars and call your shots — you're among friends here. Even you, Harvey!