Welcome back to Defamer Attractions, your weekly guide to everything new, thrilling and thoroughly unnecessary at the movies. And we've got plenty of each to go around today as seven films are opening or expanding on 1,000 or more screens, a pair of Oscar-chasing indies open small and a legion of talking dogs threaten to overtake the box office. You can't say we didn't warn you. So read on for our picks, poxes and DVD alternatives for those of you too overwhelmed to face the multiplex. We feel your pain. As always, our opinions are our own, but with unfailing taste and accuracy like this, why argue?WHAT'S NEW: This is the week we've been waiting for since May, when Disney ignored our urgent plea to immediately release Beverly Hills Chihuahua from its high-camp captivity. And now that it's here, we're kind of over it; blame it on last month's chihuahua-only sneak preview. Not like the sadists at Disney need us: BHC is this week's only new family release and will do business accordingly, setting up for around $32.3 million over the three-day. The Michael Cera/Kat Dennings effort Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist will ride teens and the date crowd to about $17 million, which still won't be enough to overtake Eagle Eye for second place. Nothing else will break $10 million; Greg Kinnear's windshield-wiper biopic (!) Flash of Genius is on too few screens, Julianne Moore's dodgy drama Blindness will fall victim to the angry blind lobby, and Ed Harris's expanding Western Appaloosa couldn't find traction when it was on 1,000 screens, let alone 2,000. Most of the remaining release slate looks like a gang of orphans hassling tourists for change: Jia Zhangke's acclaimed Still Life; the timely, revealing political doc Boogie Man: The Lee Atwater Story, Rutger Hauer's psychological love-triangle drama Mentor; Obscene, the story of Grove Press publisher Barney Rosset; the Muslim stand-up concert film Allah Made Me Funny, and the Iraq-vet basket case drama The Violent Kind. THE BIG LOSER: MGM's hard-luck streak looks likely to continue with How to Lose Friends and Alienate People, the adaptation of Toby Young's thinly-veiled bestseller about his misadventures in the Conde Nast empire. It won't fail for lack of trying — at least not with a cast including Simon Pegg, Kirsten Dunst, Megan Fox and Jeff Bridges rocking his best Graydon Carter impression — and a month ago, in less-congested times, this may have even had some multiplex leverage. But in this glut, with the reviews it's receiving and audience awareness less than half of what it needs to be, expect a $3 million opening and quick dispatch to DVD. Where, in fairness, the Fox connection will more than make up for it stillbirth at the box office.
THE UNDERDOG: Religulous is already exhibiting legs in New York, where it opened Wednesday to $13,000 on two screens. It'll bulk up it Oscar doc creds this weekend alongside Rachel Getting Married, a genuinely brilliant piece of ensemble filmmaking by Jonathan Demme and an awards-season lock for Anne Hathaway. But like last week's evangelically supported Fireproof, which "shocked" everyone but us with a $6.5 million opening, watch the conservative satire An American Carol explode in the red states. Vivendi pushed it aggressively before and after last night's debate, it's critic-proof (not that it was available for review) and will fare far better on 1,600 screens — like "$6.3 million" better — than anyone will give it credit for. FOR SHUT-INS: This week's new DVD releases include Iron Man, Forgetting Sarah Marshall, Julian Schnabel's rock doc Lou Reed's Berlin, the steroid expose Bigger, Faster, Stronger* and, because you (or somebody) asked for it, Can't Hardly Wait: The 10th Anniversary Edition. So how do you plan to sort out the mess at the multiplex? Are there chihuahuas in your future? Can Kinnear's windshield wipers overcome? Can American Carol be the pandering sensation it aspires to? Call your shots, and aim carefully; there are too many innocent bystanders in the mix this week.