CATEGORIES Movies
Before children, my husband and I went to the movies every week -- and not just for whatever media screenings I was assigned to see. We'd frequent the multi-level, multi-screen chains for popcorn flicks as well as the artsy independent cinemas for foreign and award-caliber fare. But ever since the kids arrived, we've stopped going to the movies together unless it's a release my husband was dying to see. I still go for work, but for us to make a date night out of it requires us to arrange childcare for at least three hours, and who wants to pay for a sitter for a meh movie -- especially when we need to save our pennies to take the kids to family-friendly fodder like the latest Pixar or Blue Sky offering.

For those of you in a similar situation, we're here to help. We know how rare it is for parents with young children to get out at all, so if you're planning to head to the movies we've compiled a few titles for a grown-up, thought-provoking trip to the theater. Go on then, pick a movie, get the sitter, and treat yourself to night at the movies.

"Mud" (Rated PG-13) Directed by: Jeff Nichols ("Take Shelter") | Starring: Matthew McConaughey, Tye Sheridan, Jacob Lofland Runtime: 130 minutes Why It's Worth It: This is a surprisingly beautiful movie that's part coming-of age tale and part ode to a way of living that's dying (those who live on riverfront houseboats). Set in Arkansas, the drama chronicles the unlikely relationship between two young -- and very different -- 14-year-old best friends who encounter an enigmatic man on the run on an otherwise deserted island. That man is played to startling perfection by Matthew McConaughey, whose titular Mud wants the boys to help him get a boat down (after a natural disaster placed it in a tree) and in working order. One boy, a romantic, wants to help, because Mud says he's waiting for the love of his life (Reese Witherspoon) to join him. You're not going to regret -- or forget -- this touching relationship drama or McConaughey's Oscar-level portrayal of a complicated criminal. Critical Praise: "The movie itself is easy to love, almost every frame of it... 'Mud' stands as a model of what an independent feature can be, starting with the homely grabber of a title, which would never have made it out of a studio's focus group." - Joe Morgenstern, WSJ; "Glorious vision of youth and truth, love and loss, your name is Mud." - Mary Pols, Time.

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"The Place Beyond the Pines" (Rated R) Directed by: Derek Cianfrance ("Blue Valentine") | Starring: Ryan Gosling, Eva Mendes, Bradley Cooper Runtime: 140 minutes Why It's Worth It: Ryan Gosling and Bradley Cooper. One we've known is a superb actor since he was 18, and the other recently proved he's more than a shirtless beefcake with sense a humor. These two men play the kind of foils usually reserved for Shakespeare adaptations: Gosling's tattooed motorcycle daredevil Luke is a carnival drifter who turns to bank robbery when he realizes he has a son to provide for, while Cooper's Avery (also a new father) is a cocky, overly ambitious cop who is willing to sacrifice his virtue to get ahead. A tale of the sins of the father, of destiny, of tragic inevitability, "The Place Beyond the Pines" has the kind of awe-inspiring acting and directing that aspires for greatness and achieves it. Plus, there's Ryan Gosling and Bradley Cooper. Critical Praise: "Shaking up the cinematic doldrums of early spring, here comes 'The Place Beyond the Pines,' a self-confident, self-aware, almost cocky piece of filmmaking from the immensely gifted Derek Cianfrance." - Richard Roeper, The Chicago Sun-Times; "Don't let the quiet, indie stylings of 'The Place Beyond the Pines' fool you. This is a big movie with a lot on its mind. Slowly, it unfolds into a kind of epic." - Kyle Smith, The New York Post

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"Trance" (Rated R) Directed by: Danny Boyle ("127 Hours") | Starring: James McAvoy, Rosario Dawson, Vincent Cassel Runtime: 101 minutes Why It's Worth It: Think the mind-bending twists of "Inception" or "Memento" meets the unpredictable heist action of "The Thomas Crown Affair" or "Inside Man." Danny Boyle's newest drama follows James McAvoy's Simon, an auction house employee in cahoots with a French gangster and his cronies to steal a Goya painting worth more than 25 million pounds. But Simon -- who has suffered trauma-induced amnesia from the heist -- somehow swiped the painting from its frame and can't remember where he stashed it. Enter Rosario Dawson as a hypnotherapist who seems to know things she shouldn't and who teams up with Simon's thieving pals to figure out where the painting is, no matter the physical or emotional cost. Action, violence, sex, humor, and a super-stylized plot, this is a trippy (albeit unbelievable) thriller for a couple's night out. Critical Praise: "The trick in 'Trance' is all in the telling. A frisky, feisty heist flick with brains and charisma, the movie may make a few errors, but they're forgotten in the blink of an eye thanks to all the twists, turns and close shaves." --Joe Neumaier, The New York Daily News; "A devious mind game, 'Trance' is also the most entertaining smart movie so far this year," -Richard Corliss, Time.

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