It’s Looking Slightly Brighter

Why so serious, cone boy?It’s a bigger week for movie openings than usual — and the first week of the year to debut a brand-new movie that’s as good or better as the festival holdovers trickling out for Oscar season. Let’s get right to it:

Cassandra’s Dream“: I’ve never seen an audience work harder to turn a thriller into a comedy as I did at the TIFF press and industry screening for Woody Allen’s 2007 dud. And when they gave up and started to walk out, you could feel the sadness. I stayed, but then I’m an idiot.

Coraline“: Now, here’s a movie that knows precisely what it’s doing. Indeed, other than some pacing problems in the midsection, Henry Selick’s stop-motion delight is just about perfect. And see if you aren’t thoroughly creeped out by how much Other Wybie looks and moves like Heath Ledger’s Joker in the last act. It’s total coincidence … but man, is it disturbing.

“He’s Just Not That Into You”: That pop-culture catchphrase book from that “Sex and the City” writer becomes a multicharacter romantic dramedy … that’s 129 minutes long. Scarred by such efforts as “Playing by Heart”, I will wait for the DVD. But Susan liked it.

“Nurse. Fighter. Boy.”: I wasn’t able to catch Charles Officer’s directorial debut at TIFF, and it’s managed to elude me since. But it features actor-director Clark Johnson, who doesn’t spend nearly enough time in front of the camera, in my opinion, and the reviews are interesting — particularly Rad’s, which has generated a thread of comments that are much more civil than the one’s I’m used to — so I plan to check it out.

The Pink Panther 2“: Sitting through the first one was torture, but the sequel has some surprisingly clever moments mixed in with the dopey slapstick, and much more interesting casting (John Cleese, Lily Tomlin, Alfred Molina). When the DVD comes out, you can rent it with your head held high.

Push“: Is it a low-rent “X-Men” or a low-rent “Heroes”? I’m going with the former, since the whole point of “Heroes” was that ordinary characters were trying to cope with the sudden manifestation of super-powers, whereas the mutants here are already comfortable with their (exclusively psychic) gifts. The first half is pretty good; the second half, not at all. My review should be on the NOW site later today. UPDATE: There we go!

Wendy and Lucy“: I’ve been talking this one up for nine months now, so the small-scale, minor-key intimacy of Kelly Reichardt’s shattering American drama — see? I did it again — may come as a disappointment to some of you. But not too many of you, I don’t think. Seek it out. Take the ride into the city. It’s really that good.

And if this long, oppressive winter has put you in a particularly grim frame of mind, Cinematheque Ontario’s comprehensive Carl Theodor Dreyer retrospective might be just the thing to reawaken your faith in cinema. When will you next get the chance to see “The Passion of Joan of Arc” with live piano accompaniment?

Okay, they’re screening it again on Thursday. But when after that?