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10 movies for families to be released this holiday season

Posted November 20

Actor Lewis MacDougall poses for photographers upon arrival at the premiere of the film "A Monster Calls" during the London Film Festival. (Deseret Photo)

For some moviegoers, the magical one-two punch of “Doctor Strange” and this weekend’s “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them” might be enough to tide them over through the end of the year. Luckily for the rest of us, 2016 isn’t done trying to impress. In fact, some of the year’s biggest releases are still on the way, to say nothing of all the smaller films that could wind up stealing the show this holiday season.

Here are 10 movies coming out between now and New Year’s that families might want to consider checking out in theaters:

“Moana” — A new Disney movie is always something to celebrate, but “Moana” looks like it might be extra special. Following a young girl (voiced by newcomer Auli’i Cravalho) on a journey between the islands of Polynesia, it boasts jaw-dropping visuals, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson as a Hawaiian demigod and music by none other than “Hamilton” star Lin-Manuel Miranda, who with his work on this movie, could, according to the Wall Street Journal, become the first person to ever achieve “MacPEGOT” status — i.e. winning a combination of a MacArthur genius grant, a Pulitzer Prize, an Emmy, a Grammy, an Oscar (the only award he’s currently missing) and a Tony.

Oh yeah, and the film's directors, Ron Clements and John Musker, are also the guys responsible for approximately half of everyone’s favorite Disney movies (“The Little Mermaid,” “Aladdin,” “Hercules,” etc.). Just saying.

Release date: Nov. 23

MPAA rating: PG for peril, some scary images and brief thematic elements

“Rules Don’t Apply” — Actor-writer-director Warren Beatty’s passion project about eccentric billionaire Howard Hughes took more than 40 years, according to Closer Weekly, to make it to the big screen, but it’s finally almost here. Surprisingly, with such a long gestation period, it’s not a bloated biopic about the filmmaker/inventor so much as an old-Hollywood love story. Lily Collins and future young Han Solo Alden Ehrenreich star as an aspiring actress under contract with Hughes (Beatty) and the driver assigned to her, respectively. Things get complicated for the two, however, when they start to fall for each other, breaking one of Hughes’ rules: Contract actresses are off-limits for all of his employees. “Rules Don’t Apply” marks Beatty’s first movie since 2001’s “Town and Country.”

Release date: Nov. 23

MPAA rating: PG-13 for sexual material including brief strong language, thematic elements, and drug references

“La La Land” — Damien Chazelle wowed audiences with his 2014 jazz drama “Whiplash,” and based on the multiple standing ovations he received at the Telluride Film Festival earlier this year, according to The Wrap, his follow-up film, “La La Land,” will probably do the same. Once again using jazz as a key ingredient, Chazelle’s latest is a romantic musical set in L.A. (Get it? “La La Land”?) that follows two young dreamers — one an aspiring actress (Emma Stone) and the other a jazz panist (Ryan Gosling) — as they navigate their new relationship while still pursuing their dreams.

Release date: Dec. 9

MPAA rating: PG-13 for some language

“Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” — The first in Disney’s ambitious plan to expand the Star Wars universe beyond just the main, episodic saga of the Skywalker family, this new film is directed by Gareth Edwards (“Godzilla”) and focuses on the Rebel Alliance’s top-secret mission to acquire plans for the original Death Star prior to the events of "A New Hope," episode four of the Star Wars saga. Felicity Jones, Diego Luna, Ben Mendelsohn, Forest Whitaker, Mads Mikkelsen and others make up one of the best casts for a blockbuster in recent memory, which is saying a lot. Hopefully the fact that it’s another Star Wars prequel won’t automatically doom it.

Release date: Dec. 16

MPAA rating: N/A (probable PG-13)

“The Space Between Us” — The first human born on another planet (Asa Butterfield, “Ender’s Game”) travels to Earth after spending his entire life on Mars. In the process, he gets to finally experience everything this planet has to offer thanks to a girl he meets online (Britt Robertson) in this sci-fi drama.

Release date: Dec. 16

MPAA rating: PG-13 for brief sensuality and language

“Assassin’s Creed” — Video game movies have had a rocky history, to say the least, but one thing that might help give this adaptation of Ubisoft’s mega-popular sci-fi action series a leg up is the fact that it reteams its stars, Michael Fassbender and Marion Cotillard, with filmmaker Justin Kurzel, who recently directed the two in an ambitious adaptation of Shakespeare’s “Macbeth.” Not a bad pedigree. Fassbender stars as Callum Lynch, who through “genetic memories” discovers he is a descendant of a 15th-century assassin named Aguilar.

Release date: Dec. 21

MPAA rating: PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action, thematic elements and brief strong language

“Passengers” — Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence. Alone. On a spaceship. With a robot Michael Sheen. That’s probably all it’ll take for this sci-fi romance to become a hit this holiday season. For anyone that needs more convincing, here’s the rest of the plot: With 90 years to go on a voyage to a distant planet, two passengers on a spacecraft are awakened early when their hibernation pods malfunction, leaving them completely alone for the duration of the trip — and possibly, the rest of their lives.

Release date: Dec. 21

MPAA rating: PG-13 for sexuality, nudity and action/peril

“Collateral Beauty” — After the tragic death of his daughter, an advertising executive (Will Smith) begins writing letters to things like Death, Time and Love as a form of therapy. His life takes a very “Christmas Carol”-like turn, though, when Death (Helen Mirren), Time (Jacob Latimore) and Love (Keira Knightley) all respond in person. Kate Winslet, Edward Norton, Naomie Harris and Michael Peña also co-star.

Release date: Dec. 21

MPAA rating: PG-13 for thematic elements and brief strong language

“Sing” — Talking animals have already proven to be pretty much the one guaranteed indicator this year of box-office gold, according to Box Office Mojo, with movies like “Zootopia,” “The Jungle Book,” “Finding Dory,” “The Secret Lives of Pets,” “Kung Fu Panda 3” and “Angry Birds: The Movie” all making money hand over fist. So a movie where animals sing? That’s got to be a winner, right? Matthew McConaughey voices Buster Moon, a Koala who decides to host a singing competition in a last-ditch effort to save his theater. Reese Witherspoon, Seth McFarlane, Scarlett Johansson, John C. Reilly and Nick Offerman are just some of the actors who lend their vocal talents.

Release date: Dec. 21

MPAA rating: PG for some rude humor and mild peril

“A Monster Calls” J.A. Bayona (“The Impossible”) directs this adaptation of the Patrick Ness novel of the same name about a boy (Lewis MacDougall) forced to come to terms with his mother’s terminal cancer when he begins receiving visits from a tree monster (Liam Neeson). The book won the Carnegie Medal for chldren’s literature, according to The Telegraph.

Release date: Dec. 23

MPAA rating: PG-13 for thematic content and some scary images

Jeff Peterson is a native of Utah Valley and studied humanities and history at Brigham Young University. Along with the Deseret News, he also contributes to the film discussion website TheMovieScrutineer.com.

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