Welcome back to Defamer Attractions, your guide to everything new, noteworthy and/or potentially toxic at the movies. This week: Will Smith is bad, Jim Carrey is affirmative, and Mickey Rourke takes a beating for Oscar.
WHAT'S NEW: Warners, Sony and Universal are the first round of studios to drop what's left of their 2009 slates — not quite the grand finale any of them were looking for, if reviews and box-office forecasts are any indication. Yes Man and Seven Pounds will battle for the week's top spot, with Jim Carrey's comedy about a man who says "yes" to everything (including shagging Zooey Deschanal, despite himself, we're sure) favored to defeat Will Smith's suck-a-riffic Seven Pounds by less than a couple million dollars. We're calling Yes for $28.4 million versus Pounds' $26.7 million, thus ending Smith's No. 1-opening run dating back to 2002. Or maybe the sheer virtuosity of pans like A.O. Scott's or Scott Foundas's will compel more viewers than they alienate, like footage of the Hindenberg explosion or news reports coaxing spectators to the site of a uniquely spectacular train derailment.
Universal will open third with the animated mouse fable The Tale of Despereaux, which will benefit from a bit of adult/counterprogramming crossover to a take around $17.3 million. The art-house infantry is bringing up the rear, led in part by Paul Schrader and Jeff Goldblum's post-Holocaust curio Adam Resurrected, the Valerie Plame/Judy Miller dramatization Nothing But the Truth, and, all the way from France in its Oscar-qualifying run, the Cannes prize-winner The Class.
Also opening: The acclaimed, brutal Italian mob-novel adaptation Gomorrah; Bruce Campbell's misbegotten paean to himself, My Name is Bruce; John Leguizamo's working-class drama Where God Left His Shoes; the Southern-fried ensemble piece (led by William Hurt) The Yellow Handkerchief; and — ZOMG! — Uwe Boll's nasty Vietnam War venture Tunnel Rats.
THE BIG LOSER: Nothing opening this week will flop as mightily as, say, Delgo (what ever could?), but if Six Flags doesn't soon develop a Day the Earth Stood Still Hell Plunge — "the steepest drop of any film-themed thrill ride in America!" — to commemorate the film's 65% freefall in week two, we'll trademark that shit ourselves as the main attraction at Defamer Gardens.
THE UNDERDOG: Neither The Wrestler nor Mickey Rourke need our help to pull in about $260,000 in limited release this weekend, but listen: Like last week's recommendation of Gran Torino, our interest is in your total filmgoing satisfaction in the face of the Carrey/Smith threat. And The Wrestler is as good as you've heard (Kenneth Turan be damned): Rourke is a staggering screen hero in a season full of mere mortals, Marisa Tomei does some of the most dynamic clothes-optional work of her career, and Darren Aronofsky directs with purpose thought lost after the over-indulgence of The Fountain. You'll laugh, you'll cry, you'll cringe, you'll never handle a stapler the same way again. Increasingly this fall, we don't take that kind of magic for granted, and you shouldn't either.
FOR SHUT-INS: This week's new DVD's include your aunt's fourth most-requested holiday gift Mamma Mia!; the season's gag-gift sensation The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor; the HBO miniseries Generation Kill; and the Criterion edition of Wong Kar-wai's Chungking Express. Spend wisely, and make your own sage recommendations below.