Welcome back to Defamer Attractions, your regular guide to everything new, noteworthy and/or Keanu-rrific at the movies. This week: Earth is doomed, Clint is done, and Che is looooonnng.
WHAT'S NEW: There's no wanting for prestige or variety this weekend, with Fox's remake of The Day the Earth Stood Still leading a saturated box-office charge on 3,600 screens. This time around, Keanu Reeves arrives from space to portend our imminent doom, evincing a timely environmental-awareness message with the aid of Jennifer Connelly and fitfully clusmy CGI. And if there's anything holiday moviegoers love, it's a Keanu apocalypse; expect Earth to pull around $38.3 million.
The next biggest opening is something called Delgo, the sci-fi quasi-Romeo & Juliet rendered with discarded Pixar 2.0 software and the budget voice talent of Freddie Prinze Jr., Jennifer Love Hewitt, Malcolm McDowell and Burt Reynolds, among others. We like this one for about $3.2 million en route to Flopz™, neck-and-neck with the Latino ensemble (plus Debra Messing for gringa kicks) laffer Nothing Like the Holidays at around $3.3 million.
Doubt, meanwhile, opens small this week against fellow Oscar groveler The Reader; the former is faring far better with critics than the latter (unfairly, we might add), but the Kate Winslet lookie-loo factor won't disappoint the Weinstein Company when the numbers come in Sunday night, probably around $41,000 per screen. Also, if you've got four and a half hours and a seat cushion to spare, pack a lunch and check out Che in its one-week-only Academy qualifying run. It's the kind of thing you can tell your grandkids about years from now when they tug on your sleeve and ask you to regale them with stories of cinema's good old bloated days.
A few stars are actually smattered elsewhere in the mire: Ethan Hawke and Mark Ruffalo's Beantown gang drama What Doesn't Kill You opens on three screens, while Michelle Williams's spare girl-loses-dog indie Wendy and Lucy arrives on two. Also opening: The noirish Dark Streets; the animated fantasy Dragon Hunters; the stop-motion Oscar hopeful $9.99; the Chinese vanity project Waiting in Beijing; the Kim Basinger revenge flick While She Was Out; and the polish Holiday tale Hania. Whew.
THE BIG LOSER: Not so much a "loser" as an example of what we wish there was less of in the world, Timecrimes is an acclaimed Spanish thriller that nevertheless orbits around the genre conventions of time travel. Not to be arbitrary about it, but dear film industry: Please let the time-travel movie die. They're ultimately the same hoary stunt performed again and again, illogically at worst (Primer) and amusingly at best (Back to the Future), and almost always forgettably. Let Timecrimes end it. Please.
THE UNDERDOG: Speaking of going out gracefully, Clint Eastwood says his performance in Gran Torino is his last. And why not? Eastwood's late-career revisionist streak has knocked off its last myth: The vigilante hero, a man who'd sooner revolt in Dirty Harry than keep pace with the degradation of social order. Torino's grizzled Korean War vet still takes the same vengeance on Hmong gangs and black thugs overtaking his Detroit suburb, but essentially in the service of a multiethnic utopia perceivable just over the horizon. (He even gives his Silver Star and titular vehicle to the tormented young man he's taken under his wing, a little more optimistic bellwether than Harry Callahan's climactic badge-tossing in 1971.) As a straight drama, Gran Torino isn't especially good — sort of a violent, profane revenge epic crossbred with an afterschool special — but! Viewed in context with the last four decades of Eastwood's mercury, it's a strikingly rich, funny, elegant and utterly fascinating valedictory.
FOR SHUT-INS: New DVD's this week include The Dark Knight, the thrilling, Oscar-chasing doc Man on Wire, the first four seasons of Happy Days, and holiday-ready complete-series box sets of The Wire, Get Smart and Deadwood.