Too bad the beleaguered pedant in The Class didn't share the talent of the bookbinder in Iain Softley's INKHEART (January 23), who could summon up the characters in the stories he reads to his daughter. Not all of them, though, are very nice.
The dad in Pierre Morel's TAKEN (January 23) also has special skills. He's an ex-spy and his training comes in handy when his daughter is kidnapped by slave traders. Liam Neeson, Famke Janssen, and Maggie Grace star. But poor LAST CHANCE HARVEY (January 23): all he knows how to do is write jingles. Will it be enough to woo the lonely woman he meets at an airport bar en route to his daughter's wedding? Joel Hopkins directs; Dustin Hoffman and Emma Thompson star.
Well, at least Harvey can afford drinks. No such luck for WENDY AND LUCY (January 23), a young woman and her dog caught up in the downward spiral of homelessness that is becoming all too common a fate. Kelly Reichardt directs Michelle Williams in this minimalist heartbreaker.
But maybe even Wendy might think she's got a better deal than the heroine in Charles and Thomas Guard's THE UNINVITED (January 30); she returns home from a mental hospital only to be tormented by her stepmother, her father, and a ghost. Elizabeth Banks stars.
VIDEO: The trailer for Coraline
Taking up the theme of otherworldly menaces from The Unborn and The Uninvited, CORALINE (February 6) is about a young girl who opens a secret door into an alternative version of her life. Henry Selick adapts the Neil Gaiman novel in this animation featuring the voices of Dakota Fanning and Ian McShane. But whatever Coraline finds probably pales before GHOSTS OF GIRLFRIENDS PAST (February 6), in which a Scrooge-like Lothario suffers the title haunting on the eve of his brother's wedding. With Matthew McConaughey and Emma Stone.
Perhaps these spectral exes have not read Greg Behrendt and Liz Tuccillo's book HE'S JUST NOT THAT INTO YOU. In Ken Kwapis's adaptation, stars Ginnifer Goodwin and Scarlett Johansson and others find that the men played by Justin Long, Ben Affleck, et al., are pigs. Other required reading for neurotic women is Sophie Kinsella's CONFESSIONS OF A SHOPAHOLIC (February 13). P.J. Hogan adapts this tale of a woman whose spendthrifty ways are enabled by her job as a financial journalist in Manhattan. Isla Fisher and Hugh Dancy star,
Here's a sign of hope: it's already a week into February before the first paranoid conspiracy thrillers are being released. In Paul McGuigan's PUSH (February 6), a government agency pursues a bunch of teens with other paranormal powers. Dakota Fanning and Djimon Hounsou star. More down to earth are the bad guys in Tom Tykwer's THE INTERNATIONAL (February 13), in which an agent investigates a corporation's role in a weapons deal. With Clive Owen and Naomi Watts.
Kind of gets you FIRED UP (February 20), doesn't it? And if you're the two high school football players in Will Gluck's farce, you'll quit the team for the cheerleading squad where you'll have a better chance of meeting babes. It stars Nicholas D'Agosto, Eric Christian Olsen, and Sarah Roemer. After getting Fired Up, you might consider giving up on teen comedies as a genre. But before you do, take a look at Miguel Arteta's YOUTH IN REVOLT (February 20), about a kid from a trailer camp who tries to hook up with his true love while his parents head for divorce. Michael Cera and Justin Long star.