Welcome back to Defamer Attractions, your regular guide to everything new, noteworthy and quaintly Zellwegerian at the movies. This week: Liam Neeson battles the Blartocalypse, Elizabeth Banks goes bad, and The Class is in session.
WHAT'S NEW: Some weeks we don't even know why we bother surveying winter's new-release folly — like what compelled Fox to open a male-geared actioner like Taken in the dead zone of Super Bowl weekend, or what compelled DreamWorks to open (let alone make) The Uninvited at all. The latter film, a remake of the contemporary Korean classic A Tale of Two Sisters, is particularly confounding: Evil nurse Elizabeth Banks turns evil stepmother by marrying David Strathairn. Brows furrow, quick cuts and gloom ensue. Once upon a time this might have been a camp masterpiece. Now it's just another diluted mass-market solicitation to pay first, ask questions later, hopefully after the 'Works/'Mount has wrung $14.3 million from its shrugging public.
Taken, meanwhile, reinventing Neeson as the spry '00s equivalent of Charles Bronson, has bigger ambitions, namely to make the Super Bowl holiday safe for ass-kicking Euro-trash en route to at least a $25 million frame. The meddlesome Paul Blart: Mall Cop will suck a good $4 million of that under his Segway wake, alas, and we can look forward to a DVD rematch three months from now. Smashing.
Also opening: Widow Michelle Williams grieves her adulterous ass off in the buried Sundance tragi-drama Incendiary; the acclaimed Filipino porn-theater family saga Serbis; the Invisible Man reimagining The Invsible Chronicles; the indie B-thriller Sam's Lake;and Terence Davies' affecting Liverpool doc Of Time and the City.
THE BIG LOSER: We know better than to underestimate Lionsgate, especially with NFL counterprogramming like New in Town. But we also have a lot of faith in our first impressions, and Renée Zellweger's latest has an unusually stillborn pallor to it — a one-quadrant romcom facing opposition from the heartland to the Blart-land. $10 million and/or a Top 5 berth would be the coup of the young year; we like it for $7.9 million and maybe a photo-finish for eighth with Hotel For Dogs.
THE UNDERDOG: France's verite schoolroom drama The Class won Cannes, is a front-runner for the Best Foreign-Language Film Oscar, and is a prime candidate for the week's top per-screen average. If you don't see it this weekend you'll just have to beat a busier rush next month, so be the first on your block and get it out of the way.
FOR SHUT-INS: New DVD's include Officer Sam Jackson's sleeper hit Lakeview Terrace, Officer Colin Farrell's not-so-sleeper bomb Pride & Glory, the Rainn Wilson abortion The Rocker, Vicky Cristina Barcelona, Rocknrolla, and the faith-y Kirk Cameron blockbuster you've been waiting for, Fireproof.