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Movie critics: Our advice to friends when we're not on duty

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In January, a time warp separates me from my friends and family. I’ve seen everything big now playing at the multiplex; sometimes I’ve seen a movie months ago, and sometimes twice. But everyone else who’s not in the same business as I am is just beginning to have access to those movies, many of which are just going wide now. So, my movie-loving friends and family ask me, “How’s It’s Complicated? What about The Hurt Locker? Have you seen Avatar?” A parent asks, “Can I take my daughter to Fantastic Mr. Fox?” My dentist asks, “What’s worth seeing?”

Thing is, at this time of the year, my own critical assessment has little to do with how I respond. Instead, I become a little bit of a matchmaker, a little bit of a shrink, and a little bit of a listings guide. I mean, I know the value of when to let go of my brilliant argument that Invictus is square and lazy filmmaking, and instead let the cousin who’s a big Matt Damon fan know that she’ll like him as a rugby player. I can talk until I swoon about how much I love The Hurt Locker, but I would never urge it on the friend who hates war pictures and flinches at all scenes of violence; for her, instead, I suggest It’s Complicated — a movie I know she’ll enjoy, much as I harrumphed at it in my review.

So as a service to moviegoing friends everywhere in these first days of the new year — and to my dentist, too — I offer Lisa’s Mild Guide to the Megaplex. And yes, by all means, take your daughter to Fantastic Mr. Fox — it’s great.

Avatar: Big! Blue! Looks great! Forget the script and story!

Crazy Heart: It’s all about Jeff Bridges. Nice music.

Invictus: Morgan Freeman and guys in sports shorts save South Africa!

The Lovely Bones: Have you read the book? Then definitely skip the movie. If not, well, it’s still meh.

Nine: A crazy dull mess. Oh, but you say you liked Chicago? Well, it’s still a crazy dull mess.

The Princess and the Frog: Love it.

A Single Man: Love it. It’s a about a gay man whose lover dies, by the way, whatever the posters suggest.

Up in the Air: Love it. Yes, George Clooney is good.

The Young Victoria: Nice.

The Last Station: Nice, especially for Mom.

Did You Hear About the Morgans?: Awful, especially for humans.

Want to add to my Mild Guide? Here’s your chance.

Image credit: Melinda Sue Gordon