Welcome back to Defamer Attractions, your fail-safe weekly guide to everything new, noteworthy and/or potentially doomed at the movies. Today brings us another oversaturated batch of fall releases offering more variety than prestige (or quality for that matter), but we'll help you sort through the mess with a glimpse at the week's (and maybe the year's) best film, Ed Norton's latest loser and a sampling of what's new on DVD. As always, our opinions are our own, but franchise opportunities are available. Inquire inside!WHAT'S NEW: Excepting battles for second place, we haven't had a good duel at the box office for a while now. We don't really have one this week either, but we're keeping an eye on High School Musical 3: Senior Year and Saw V for symbolic value alone: Zac Efron, Vanessa Hudgens and the rest of their East High cohorts may be the first force to vanquish the splatter series on opening day since it launched in 2004. We talked a bit yesterday about HSM3's unprecedented market, and we stand by our $38 million call. Saw V will catch the older kids forced to drive their blubbering siblings to the mall; that and the fanboy cult should treat the film to a $29.7 million opening. As if HSM3 and Beverly Hills Chihuahua weren't enough of a full-time cultural assault, Disney has Tim Burton's The Nightmare Before Christmas in 3-D as well to court the Halloween crowd; that should pick up at least $5.3 million on 284 screens. Angelina Jolie and Clint Eastwood's missing-child melodrama Changeling also opens small today before platforming wide Oct. 31; we'll get into it a little more at that time. Also opening: The Anne Hathaway/Patrick Wilson ESP thriller Passengers (we hadn't heard of it either); the middling Disney/Bollywood animated effort Roadside Romeo; Kristin Scott-Thomas's Oscar bait I've Loved You So Long; and probably the best Swedish vampire coming-of-age film ever made, Let the Right One In. THE BIG LOSER: The week's other wide release, the shouty cop-family drama Pride and Glory, finally gets its furlough from the New Line tombs after a nearly two-year delay. But buzz is low, reviews are upside-down, and Ed Norton and Colin Farrell can't open a window these days let alone a big Warner Bros. offering. It'll be left with about $7 million worth of Max Payne's week-two scraps before being reassigned to a nice, quiet desk back at the precinct.
THE UNDERDOG: As predicted here last month, the confounding appeal of screenwriter Charlie Kaufman's directorial debut Synecdoche, New York will likely never play at the box office. But in Philip Seymour Hoffman's performance as a theater director attempting to stage his life's work despite a wayward wife (Catherine Keener), a quickly jaded paramour (Michellle Williams), a fragmented lover/aide (Samantha Morton, giving way to doppelganger Emily Watson), black holes in the time/space continuum and a variety of debilitating physical ailments, you will find the anchor in both the saddest, sweetest perplexity of Kaufman's career and quite possibly the best American film of the year. Just as no volume of words can or even should describe what's happening here (though we will try in our love letter to come later today), we can't recommend enough that you find two hours in your weekend — and then however many years of contemplation afterward — to accommodate this masterpiece. FOR SHUT-INS: This week's few DVD releases of note include The Incredible Hulk (both Marvel's folly from last summer and the collected TV series), the scary Liv Tyler sleeper The Strangers, Craig Lucas's Sundance blip Birds of America and for the exhaustive Hoff completist in all of us, Knight Rider: The Complete Series. Is a tween riot enough to keep you from the multiplex this weekend? Will you defy Saw V's marketing campaign and actually believe how it ends? Have you yet put off laundry for another day to take in Synecdoche, New York? Better yet, call in sick and let's make it a holiday. Tell your boss we said it's all right.