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Five 2009 films you don't want to miss

So here it is, Jan. 1, and you're looking at a three-day weekend. How will you spend it?

You could visit the gym, per your New Year's resolution - that should take 15 minutes. You could hit the mall (along with every other living creature in the metro area). Or maybe you should start checking off that nagging list of chores. Fun!

In your heart of hearts, you know exactly what to do: See a movie.

The multiplexes are full of Oscar contenders, family films and popcorn-worthy blockbusters, making this the perfect time to catch up on the must-sees you haven't seen, the cultural touchstones you've been meaning to touch. If you're trying to figure out what's worth your time, here are five good bets.

AVATAR

WHY SEE IT James Cameron's much-hyped, high-tech spectacular is this season's water-cooler movie - everyone will have an opinion. Don't be the one clutching your coffee cup in silence.

LOOK FOR The 3-D effects are revolutionary. If you're seeing this on a regular "flat" screen, you're wasting your money.

PRECIOUS: BASED ON THE NOVEL "PUSH" BY SAPPHIRE

WHY SEE IT This weekend may be the only time you'll have the mental energy to watch a movie about an impoverished, illiterate, morbidly obese, sexually abused teenage girl.

LOOK FOR Creative casting throughout, with newcomer Gabourey Sidibe as the star, comedian Mo'Nique as her monstrous mother and Mariah Carey as a no-nonsense social worker.

THE PRINCESSAND THE FROG

WHY SEE IT Disney's first African-American princess makes her debut here, an important cultural moment. But it's also a thoroughly enjoyable work of animation with the classic Disney touch.

LISTEN FOR Broadway veteran Anika Noni Rose as the princess and Oprah Winfrey in a small role as her mother.

UP IN THE AIR

WHY SEE IT Aside from the snowballing Oscar momentum, this comedy-drama has style, class and two dazzling leads in George Clooney (as a professional corporate downsizer) and Vera Farmiga (as the woman who touches the heart he didn't know he had).

LOOK FOR Real-life recession victims, woven into the narrative, talking about the trauma of losing their jobs.

SHERLOCK HOLMES

WHY SEE IT Rated PG-13, but directed by the usually R-rated Guy Ritchie, this amped-up version of the Arthur Conan Doyle character makes a fine action flick for boys of all ages.

LOOK FOR A rakish Robert Downey Jr. in the title role, Jude Law as a dashing Watson and Rachel McAdams as the requisite shady lady.

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