Attractions: This is the Way the World Ends

Welcome back to Movieline Attractions, your regular guide to everything new, noteworthy and mostly premasticated at the movies. This week, Jackie Chan has come for your children, Denzel Washington has come for your soul, and everyone else has pretty much stayed home and watched the NFL. Make your own filmgoing call from the selections after the jump.

WHAT'S NEW: Box-office watchers have only one real question this weekend: Can Avatar be defeated in its attempt for a fifth straight No. 1 finish? Almost as quickly as you ask, though, comes the answer: "No." With a presumed drop even smaller than last week's (maybe 23 percent? Just 20 percent?), who's going to beat it at around $41 million? Not The Book of Eli, starring Washington as a post-apocalyptic hero/messiah figure with a gun and a mission. Warner Bros. is smart to sell this on the same faith angle that that helped motor their Blind Side past $200 million, and Washington is a historically a pretty reliable opener. Still, it's rated R, and his general female audience will probably take one look at his army surplus store threads against that desaturated wasteland and say, "Pass." But it can do all right with the boys, nestling into second place with $25.5 million.

The Spy Next Door doesn't stand much of a chance either. The Jackie Chan nanny-espionage-kung fu "effort" rolls in for the family audience, aided greatly by the Martin Luther King Day holiday and likely chop-sockying $12.5 million out of their wallets by Monday. That's it for wide releases; also opening are the middling Tolstoy biopic The Last Station (returning to theaters after its December awards-qualifying run), the tear-jerking Hurricane Katrina-pet-survivor documentary Mine (in NYC only), and the Holocaust doc Killing Kasztner: The Jew Who Dealt With Nazis (in L.A. only).

THE BIG LOSER: Last week's disappointing opening for the terrific Youth in Revolt portends a week-two drop I simply can't watch. Tell me when it's safe to look.


THE UNDERDOG: Starting last year at Cannes, Fish Tank dazzled the festival circuit with its gritty portrait of Mia (Katie Jarvis), a 15-year-old aspiring dancer drunk on lower-class British rage and whatever other, more tactile narcotic she can get her hands on. Director Andrea Arnold approaches her protagonist not like the film's title creature but as a caged animal, quickly locking the viewer in that cage alongside Mia as she attempts to kick, punch, pull and pry her way out. Her mean mother's charming boyfriend (Michael Fassbender) calms Mia down a bit, but is he playing mentor or predator? Jarvis expresses that confusion with grace and aplomb in her first film role, and Arnold's handheld take on the classic kitchen-sink melodramas of the '60s is fascinating (if overlong). It's in limited release this weekend but should hit IFC on Demand shortly; Jarvis is one to watch, and Arnold is definitely the one to watch her.

FOR SHUT-INS: A very full week of new DVD releases includes critical darlings The Hurt Locker, Amreeka, Moon and Big Fan, as well as Tyler Perry's I Can Do Bad All by Myself, Spike Lee's performance film Passing Strange, Halloween II, the Edward Norton-produced By the People: The Election of Barack Obama, and complete season sets of The Simpsons (#20!), Damages and ER.