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Can Malik Hammond, from left, Gabrielle Union, Khail Bryant, Katt Williams and Charles Q. Murphy have
Can Malik Hammond, from left, Gabrielle Union, Khail Bryant, Katt Williams and Charles Q. Murphy have "The Perfect Holiday"? The film, about a single mom (Union) who falls for a department store Santa Claus, opens Dec. 12. (¿ 2007 Yari Film Group Releasing)

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By Desson Thomson
Friday, December 7, 2007

Going to the movies, as opposed to staying in, has become something of an ordeal in recent years. But we continue to do it, especially this time of year when the studios send out their Oscar bait and prestige pictures.

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So despite all the holiday-related commitments on our to-do lists, we still try to get a consensus on what to see, and we cope with the expenses, such as parking, gas and that dependably oversize surcharge that theaters slap on your popcorn and soda (only $157.75 if you get the Hummer Size Pack!).

Once you're in the theater, there are all those wonderfully considerate patrons checking cellphones by the minute, talking to one another during the tender scenes, coming in late, bringing crying babies. It's enough to make you miss your artificial fireplace, your beer-filled fridge, your widescreen plasma and your special spot on the sofa.

That's why we can't help thinking of this year's holiday moviegoing as a sort of hunting exercise. So in this busy season, in which every minute seems to be occupied with social and family engagements, you don't want to waste a trip going to the wrong film. You want to come back with a good screen-time experience strapped to the roof rack of your memory. No fuss, no pain, no aggravation. And something to feast on for a long time.

You want to see the right movie, whether it's family-friendly fare, an action blockbuster, an Oscar contender or an art-house offering.

We like a few that we've seen already, including "The Savages," "The Diving Bell and the Butterfly" and "The Kite Runner." We've compiled this at-a-glance roundup of movies coming soon to area theaters to help you find that one good holiday experience. Who knows? Maybe you'll go for one more. And another. After all, this is the season.

All dates are subject to change. For an online guide to the season's big pictures, go to http://www.washingtonpost.com/holidaymovies.

DEC. 12

THE PERFECT HOLIDAY

The cast: Gabrielle Union, Morris Chestnut, Queen Latifah, Charles Q. Murphy, Terrence Howard and Katt Williams.

The story: A lonely single mother (Union) of three becomes romantically involved with a department store Santa Claus and part-time sales clerk (Chestnut).

The buzz: The always-luminous Union and a generous sprinkling of sassy humor (especially from Williams) should crack some needed pepper over this familiar holiday cheese.

DEC. 14

ALVIN AND THE CHIPMUNKS


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