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Holiday movie preview: What to see over Thanksgiving weekend and beyond

The mix of movies opening between the Thanksgiving holidays and the end of the year is as varied and diverse as can be, from heartfelt, hard-hitting human drama to screwball comedy to factory-honed sequels, sci-fi thrillers and big-budget animated romps.

The mix of movies opening between the Thanksgiving holidays and the end of the year is as varied and diverse as can be, from heartfelt, hard-hitting human drama to screwball comedy to factory-honed sequels, sci-fi thrillers and big-budget animated romps.

The positioning for Oscar nominations, for Golden Globes slots, for critics group's kudos and other end-of-year awards is well underway - teams of studio publicists and marketeers banging the drums, tweeting the tweets, steering the talent to talk shows and galas.

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story looks like it will dominate the December box office - you know, it's got the Force and all that. But look for La La Land, a full-fledged movie musical of all things, to go tap-dancing into the stratosphere, too. Here's a roundup of most of what's to come as we wind down 2016.

Nov. 23

Allied. Brad Pitt and Marion Cotillard team up in this World War II romance, set in Nazi-occupied Morocco and blitzed Britain, and rife with espionage, intrigue, dubious French accents (Pitt's, as a Québécois intelligence officer) and tips of the beret to Casablanca. Robert Zemeckis directs. R

Bad Santa 2. Life is surely cruel, making us wait 13 years for the sequel to the Yuletide classic starring Billy Bob Thornton as a hard-drinking, foulmouthed, pocket-picking department store Mr. Claus. Well, here it is, and it's sure to be a subtle, sophisticated, and heartwarming thing. Tony Cox is back as the butt of a lot of little-people jokes, and Oscar-winner Kathy Bates, sporting fake tattoos and a sneer, joins the fray, playing Thornton's Willie T. Stokes' tough, tattooed mom. R

Elle. A revenge thriller starring the fearless French actress Isabelle Huppert as a video-game-company exec who is raped by an intruder, and who then goes after him. Paul Verhoeven, of Basic Instinct and Black Book (and Showgirls and Starship Troopers - the man is a genius!), directs. R

Moana. A Polynesian princess (well, a chief's daughter, anyway) joins forces with a shape-shifting demigod (no, not a shape-shifting demagogue) to bring peace to a troubled South Pacific isle. Songs are sung, cutesy sidekicks are introduced, oceanic canoe trips are taken, in Disney's 56th animated feature. With the voice talents of 2016's sexiest man alive, Dwayne Johnson, and Auli'i Cravalho in the title role. PG

Rules Don't Apply. Warren Beatty stars as the famously reclusive billionaire Howard Hughes in what is essentially a love story, between a starry-eyed ingenue (Lily Collins) signed to Hughes' stable of aspiring actresses and a young, ambitious Hughes employee (Alden Ehrenreich). Beatty wrote, produced, and directs - his first behind-the-camera job since 1998's Bulworth. PG-13

Nov. 25

Manchester By the Sea. Oscar buzz for Casey Affleck, starring as an apartment building handyman who returns to his small New England town in the wake of a family tragedy. Kenneth Lonergan wrote and directs. With Michelle Williams, Kyle Chandler, and Lucas Hedges. R

Seasons. From the award-winning filmmakers behind the nature spectacles Winged Migration and Oceans, a new one that looks at forest life in the present and the past, and the connections between the animal kingdom and humankind. PG

Dec. 2

The Love Witch. "She loved men . . . to death" goes the tagline on the poster for indie director Anna Biller's feminist horror flick. Samantha Robinson stars as the spell-casting seductress in this homage to '60s sexploitation and scare fare. No MPAA rating

Man Down. Shia LaBeouf is a Marine veteran returning home from Afghanistan, profoundly shaken by his experiences in combat. Kate Mara and Gary Oldman also star. R

Dec. 9

Office Christmas Party. Actually, it's a "nondenominational holiday mixer," or so says Kate McKinnon in the trailer for this rowdy comedy, in which a cold-blooded corporate boss (Jennifer Aniston) threatens to shut down her company's failing Chicago-branch - and the Chicago branch's knucklehead employees (Jason Bateman, TJ Miller, McKinnon, etc.) decide to throw an epic bash and somehow save their jobs at the same time. No MPAA rating

Old Stone. Chinese-Canadian psychological thriller about a cabdriver caught up in a Kafka-esque nightmare of bureaucracy after he crashes into a motorcyclist. No MPAA rating

Dec. 16

The Brand New Testament. A dark comedy about God, who apparently lives (quite miserably) in an apartment in modern-day Brussels. Belgium's official entry in this year's foreign-language Oscar run, much praised on the international circuit. No MPAA rating

Collateral Beauty. "What if Love, Death, and Time are trying to help you?" Edward Norton says to a tragedy-struck Will Smith in the trailer for David Frankel's Capra-esque parable, about a successful ad exec who retreats from life after something terrible happens, and then runs into a bevy of English actresses (Winslet! Knightley! Mirren!) who try to help him. Yes, Love and Death and Time are characters. Mr. Smith Goes to Mushington? PG-13

Jackie. Natalie Portman is Jacqueline Kennedy in Pablo Larrain's intensely close-up, personal portrait of the first lady in the tumultuous days and weeks following her husband's assassination. A surprise hit at the Venice Film Festival, and a likely Best Actress nomination for its star. R

La La Land. The opening-night smash of the Philadelphia Film Festival, with Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone as a struggling jazz pianist and a struggling actress in modern-day Los Angeles - a modern day Los Angeles where people break into song, and start dancing, just like Fred and Ginger used to do. A full-fledged musical from Whiplash auteur Damien Chazelle. PG-13

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. The first in a planned anthology of stand-alone Star Wars adventures, with Felicity Jones as a defiant Rebel Alliance fighter and a bunch of other thespians (Diego Luna, Ben Mendelsohn, Forest Whitaker, Riz Ahmed, Mads Mikkelsen) as a bunch of other characters, good and bad, who inhabit the Star Wars universe. For context: Rogue One takes place sometime between the end of Revenge of the Sith and the beginning of the original Star Wars, aka Episode IV - A New Hope. Expect a few people to want to see this. Not yet rated (PG-13 anticipated)

Dec. 21

Lion. A little boy in Calcutta gets lost and then winds up in the care of an Australian couple, who take him home and raise him. Twenty-five years later, he decides to search for his biological parents, using Google Earth as a guide (good luck with that!). Based on a true story, with Dev Patel, Rooney Mara, and Nicole Kidman. The last movie to star Patel and to wow the crowds at the Toronto International Film Festival, like this one did, was a little thing called Slumdog Millionaire. PG-13

A Monster Calls. Adapted from the award-winning British children's book about a little boy whose mother is dying, and who seeks solace and counsel from a giant, treelike talking beast. With Rogue One's Felicity Jones as the mom, and Liam Neeson as the voice of the gnarled-limbed and fiery-eyed behemoth. PG-13

Passengers. "I think something went wrong with the hibernation pods - we woke up too soon!" And so Jennifer Lawrence and Chris Pratt have a big spaceship all to themselves, which could be kind of cool and romantic except what happened to all their deep-sleep comrades, and what's going on with the ship, and what century are we in? Sci-fi from Doctor Strange and Prometheus scriptwriter Jon Spaihts, directed by The Imitation Game's Morten Tyldum. PG-13

Sing. A computer-animated musical about a koala bear who organizes a song competition. Look out as Matthew McConaughey, Reese Witherspoon, Scarlett Johansson, and Seth MacFarlane burst into song - songs by Paul McCartney, Taylor Swift, The Zombies and, yes, a version of Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah" (from Tori Kelly.) Plus a new tune, "Faith," from Stevie Wonder and Ariana Grande. PG

Dec. 25

Fences. August Wilson's Pulitzer- and Tony-winning play, brought to the screen with Denzel Washington as the hard-pressed father and Viola Davis as his long-suffering wife, reprising their roles form the 2010 New York stage revival. Washington directs, too, in his third turn behind the camera. Prestige pics don't get much more prestigious than this. R

Gold. Matthew McConaughey discovers gold - billions of dollars' worth - in the jungles of Borneo. But then things get complicated. Based on "true events." R

Hidden Figures. Based on the true story of Katherine Johnson, the African American physicist and mathematician who led a team of black women who were instrumental to the success of NASA's early manned space missions. Taraji P. Henson stars, with Octavia Spencer, Janelle Monae, Kevin Costner, and Kirsten Dunst. PG

Dec. 30

20th Century Women. From Mike Mills of Beginners fame, a coming-of-age tale about a sensitive teen and the three women in his life: the high school girl he's desperately in love with (Elle Fanning); the punky, artsy tenant in his house (Greta Gerwig); and his chain-smoking, go-it-alone mom (Annette Bening). Set in late-1970s California, with Lucas Jade Zumann as the young man trying to figure stuff out. R

Paterson. Adam Driver is in the title role, and also in the eponymous north Jersey town, where his character drives a bus, and writes poetry when he's not. Golshifteh Farahani is his kooky, cupcake-baking wife. Jim Jarmusch directs. R

A number of high-profile and specialty releases open in New York and Los Angeles at the end of the year to qualify for Academy Award consideration. These films will find their way to Philadelphia in January and early February.

The Eyes of My Mother. Sundance horror hit, from Portugal, about a lonely woman (Kika Magalhaes) and the weird stuff that happens to her on an out-of-the-way American farm. No MPAA rating

I, Daniel Blake. From the prolific, politically-charged British director Ken Loach, a story about a carpenter in the north of England who suffers a heart attack - and then, post-recovery, is run through a horrific bureaucratic maze. Winner of the grand prize, the Palme d'Or, at Cannes. No MPAA rating

Julieta. Pedro Almodovar's latest, adapted from a trio of Alice Munro stories in her Runaway collection, and starring Emma Suarez and Adriana Ugarte. R

Live By Night. Based the Dennis Lehane novel set in the Prohibition era, with Ben Affleck as a bootlegger, and with Affleck as director, too. A lot of Oscar buzz for this one. R

Patriots Day. Peter Berg directs this 2013 Boston Marathon bombing story. Kevin Bacon, John Goodman, Michelle Monaghan, and Mark Wahlberg star. R

Silence. Andrew Garfield and Adam Driver are Jesuit priests from Portugal who take their mission to Japan, encountering violence and persecution in the process. The 17th-century drama also stars Liam Neeson as a fellow priest, their mentor. Adapted from the Shusaku Endo novel. Martin Scorsese directs. R