CATEGORIES Movie NewsIf you don't have young kids, you have the luxury of seeing whatever you want whenever the mood strikes, so check out our Best Movies of 2012 and finish working your way through the top 10 films of the year. But when your parents, in-laws or adolescent nieces or nephews offer you that rare "free babysitting" night out during your holiday reunion, deciding which movie to see will become a task fraught with endless considerations. Having been there and done that for 10 years, I'm making things easy for you this December. Here's how to narrow down your options for a perfect-for-you movie date night.
1. Are your relatives willing to babysit for at least four hours? If the answer is Yes, go to question 2; if the answer is No, skip down to number 6.
(If your family can't babysit for more than two hours, you might consider going to dinner and streaming/renting a movie instead, or explain to your loved ones that it's the season for long movies, and they need to get with the program!)
2. Do you love history? A) Yes, of all parts of the world B) Yes, especially if it's the history of the good ole U.S.A. C) History? I can barely remember who won the Presidential Election (immediately go to question 5).
If the answer is A., one more question: Do you AND your spouse enjoy musical theater? If No, stay here for your movie pick. If Yes, go to question 3. If your answer is B., congratulations, you should see "Lincoln." With a fabulous cast led by the chameleonic Daniel Day-Lewis as America's 16th President, Steven Spielberg's perfectly cast ensemble drama recounts the final months of Lincoln's life, as he attempts to ensure the passing of the 13th Amendment abolishing slavery once and for all, before negotiating an end to the Civil War. It's historically accurate and features some of the best performances of the year (like Sally Field as Mary Lincoln, Tommy Lee Jones as abolitionist congressman Thaddeus Stevens). But if you're up for a revisionist look at roughly the same period in time, check out question 4.
3. Do you hear the people sing? Say no more, and remember to take your Kleenex in hand to see Hugh Jackman, Anne Hathaway, and Russell Crowe transform into Broadway's most enduring characters -- the reformed hero Jean Valjean, single-minded antagonist Javert and desperately doomed Fantine in "Les Miserables." Just remember that not all of the actors have voices worthy of the Great White Way, but they're all wonderful players, including breakout newbies Samantha Barks (Eponine) and Aaron Tveit (Enjolras). Oh, and consider yourself a very lucky woman if your husband is willing to sit through a 157-minute musical. Yes, you'll leave sad but also singing.
4. Do you know what Jules and Vincent, Col. Hans Landa, the Bride and Mr. Blonde have in common? Hurrah, you've correctly identified five of director Quentin Tarantino's most iconic characters, which means you're the right couple (provided you both actually liked those films) to see "Django Unchained," his revenge thriller about Django (Jamie Foxx), a slave who's given the unbelievable opportunity to track down and save his wife Hildegard (Kerry Washington) from the clutches of ruthless Mississippi slave-owner Calvin Candie (Leonardo DiCaprio) thanks to an enigmatic German dentist-turned-bounty hunter (Christoph Waltz, playing a pseudo good guy for once). It's bloody and bold and brilliant, but definitely not for those sensitive to violence. 5. Do the following "G" names mean anything to you: Gollum, Galadriel, Gandalf? If Yes, it's time to revisit middle-earth and see Peter Jackson's first of three installments in "The Hobbit." It's long, but your kids are safe and sound with grandma and grandpa, and you might as well see something so epic that a home theater's 60-inch LCD with surround sound won't do it justice. Bilbo Baggins' "Unexpected Journey" isn't as paid-babysitter-worthy as "The Lord of the Rings," but it's still visually dazzling enough to warrant seeing on the big screen.
6. Time is of the essence, so you need the most bang for your buck. Do you prefer A) quirky dramedies B) adrenaline-pumping action? If the answer is A., follow 2011's Sexiest Man Alive in "Silver Linings Playbook," which is hands down the best performance of Bradley Cooper's career, and features a similarly Oscar-nomination-worthy performance by Jennifer Lawrence. They play two emotionally fragile, slightly unbalanced people who comically help heal each other. It's got sports references, ballroom dancing, and amazing chemistry between Cooper and Lawrence. If that doesn't spell date night, we don't know what does.
Actually, we do. If the answer is B., it's time to catch up on the latest Bond flick and see Daniel Craig do what he does best in "Skyfall." It's widely considered the best of Craig's trifecta of 007 films -- with gorgeous visuals, whipsmart dialogue and one of the most memorable villains in the entire Bond universe, played by Javier Bardem. It's so good, you'll wonder if any other actor will ever compare to Craig's mastery of the signature spy role.