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Holiday movie preview: Heroines, hobbits and dinosaurs

By Jeff Peterson

For the Deseret News

Published: Thursday, Nov. 14 2013 5:30 p.m. MST

Khumba” (Dec. 6) — This crisply animated 3-D adventure movie for kids comes all the way from South Africa. It tells the story of a young zebra who becomes ostracized for being born with only half his stripes. In order to win over the rest of his herd, he goes on a quest across the Great Karoo. Along with Jake T. Austin as the titular character, “Khumba” features the vocal talents of seasoned thesps like Laurence Fishburne, Liam Neeson and Steve Buscemi, among others.

Rating: Not yet rated

Relase date: Dec. 6

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug— Part 2 of Peter Jackson’s sprawling Hobbit trilogy, which has already made more than $1 billion in worldwide box-office sales. “The Desolation of Smaug” introduces Bilbo (Martin Freeman) and his companions to the titular dragon (Benedict Cumberbatch from “Star Trek: Into Darkness”). It also re-introduces a few faces that will be familiar to fans of Jackson’s original Lord of the Rings trilogy. Just like "The Two Towers," this middle film will likely be a little bit darker than its predecessor, which already had a fair share of intense moments. Because of that, parents might want to leave the little ones at home.

Rating: PG-13

Release date: Dec. 13

Saving Mr. Banks— Tom Hanks already knocked it out of the park once this year playing a real-life character (“Captain Phillips”), but in “Saving Mr. Banks,” he portrays one of the most iconic figures in entertainment history — Walt Disney — in a story about the behind-the-scenes struggle that led to one of the studio’s most beloved films, “Mary Poppins.” Emma Thompson co-stars as “Mary Poppins” author P.L. Travers in a film that’s already receiving awards season buzz. A must-see for fans of Disney history.

Rating: PG-13

Release date: Dec. 13 limited, Dec. 20 wide

Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues— More than nine years after the original “Anchorman” hit theaters, SNL alum Will Ferrell returns as inept San Diego news anchor Ron Burgundy, this time alongside a ridiculously loaded cast that includes everyone from Harrison Ford and Liam Neeson to Jim Carrey and Nicole Kidman. It's probably not the kind of holiday movie that's for everyone, especially kids, seeing as the original wasn’t exactly light on sex-related humor.

Rating: Not yet rated

Release date: Dec. 20

Walking with Dinosaurs 3D — A stunningly beautiful live-action/CGI hybrid, this family-friendly adventure from BBC Earth is set during the Late Cretaceous period 70 million years ago and follows Patchi, a pachyrhinosaur (think triceratops without the horns), on a journey to save his family. The cutting-edge 3-D animation meshes with the live-action landscapes of southern Alaska, creating something completely unlike anything else to hit theaters this holiday season. Highly recommended for families with an interest in natural history and science.

Rating: Not yet rated

Release date: Dec. 20

47 Ronin— First-time director Carl Erik Rinsch puts a fantasy spin on the real-life story of the 47 Ronin, a group of samurai in 18th-century Japan who avenged the murder of their master at the hands of a brutal Shogun. Despite the film’s troubled production, trailers make it look like it could be pretty fun for fans of stylized action a la "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" and "The Matrix." Alongside Keanu Reeves, who plays a half-British/half-Japanese swordsman named Kai, the film stars Hiroyuki Sanada (“The Last Samurai”), Tadanobu Asano (“Thor”) and Rinko Kikuchi (“Pacific Rim”).

Rating: PG-13

Release date: Dec. 25

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