Welcome back to another week of Defamer Attractions, your regular guide to the fresh hell of what's new at the movies. After taking a Hancock holiday weekend to find ourselves, we're back in full-on summer anguish mode as yet another massive comics adaptation hits theaters, Brendan Fraser goes a-spelunkin' and Eddie Murphy returns with... we don't even know. But! We also have our eyes on a few alternatives both at the theaters and in the comfort of our air-conditioned caves, so all is not lost. As always, our opinions are our own and elegantly spot-on — which, of course, you've come to expect and we're happy to oblige!
WHAT'S NEW: This is a good weekend to maybe paint the house or just drink — a lot — as Hellboy II: The Golden Army, Journey to the Center of the Earth and Meet Dave jockey for Top 5 position against holdovers Hancock and Wall-E. We admit: We walked out of Golden Army's LA Film Festival premiere, annoyed with its wisecracking self-awareness and degradation of Selma Blair — but that's just us, it seems, as director Guillermo del Toro and his magical make-believe realm of creatures and bad screenwriting have dazzled most critics and are likely to nab $40 million over the next three days. Journey, meanwhile, which places Fraser in 3-D, PG-rated peril somewhere near what looks suspiciously like the Warner Bros. lot, will be lucky to surpass Wall-E for third place around $27 million.
It's a crowded weekend for indies and art houses as well, with the documentary Oscar hopeful Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired making its "official" theatrical debut after a sub-sonic run in April. The Spencer Breslin/Cuba Gooding Jr. balding-teen dramedy Harold also opens, as does Death-Defying Acts, the Weinstein Company shelf-casualty starring Guy Pearce as Harry Houdini and Catherine Zeta-Jones as the con woman who falls for him.
THE BIG LOSER: Speaking of jilted premieres, you can reasonably take Murphy's Meet Dave no-show at face value; the spiritual heir of Norbit should still break $20 million, but if Murphy's latest multi-role hackwork doesn't stop the travesty of Beverly Hills Cop IV in its developmentally-disabled tracks, we don't know what will. Oh, who are we kidding? They'll probably start shooting on Monday, box office (and worn-out welcomes) be damned.
THE UNDERDOG: We recommend the ensemble drama Garden Party with a few reservations: filmmaker Jason Freeland's forced script could use a dialogue polish or eight; it's got more twee sound cues than a Moldy Peaches set; and if wanna-be dreams come true this fast in LA, then we should all be doing lines off each other's asses today by happy hour. That said, the low-profile cast — particularly Vinessa Shaw as a cutthroat realtor (with a past, natch), Willa Holland as a teen looking for her absentee mother or a decent job, whichever comes first, and the endlessly fascinating Patrick Fischler as a skeevy, unassuming porn photographer — does quite a bit with not a lot. And there's a bonus: The most awkwardly choreographed gay-bar dance sequence since Cruising. You heard it here first.
FOR SHUT-INS: Among this week's notable DVD releases: the gross-out psych-horror thriller The Ruins; the pig-nosed Christina Ricci rom-com Penelope; the not-eagerly awaited MTV! Award! Winner! Step Up 2: The Streets; and the masterful Dallas: The Complete Ninth Season.
So what do you think? Anything good on TV this weekend, or any books you might recommend? Or is the Eddie Murphy completist in you racing to the multiplex as we speak. Be honest — nobody is judged here! Well, sort of. Anyway, when is The Dark Knight opening again?