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20 big movies coming to theaters this winter, from live-action 'Mulan' to a Billy Crystal dramedy

Liu Yifei in the title role of Walt

Liu Yifei in the title role of Walt Disney Pictures's "Mulan." Credit: Walt Disney Pictures

Talking animals, creepy dolls, super-villains and the always-popular alcoholic sports coach are coming to theaters this winter to keep moviegoers – and the box office – nice and toasty.

Falling between the autumn rush of Oscar hopefuls and the summer blockbuster bonanza, the winter movie season is always a mixed bag. This year you can expect a generous helping of horror — from a spooky-looking "Gretel & Hansel" to a modernized "The Invisible Man" — along with such family fare as "Doolitte," starring Robert Downey Jr. as an animal-conversant veterinarian. Margot Robbie's popular anti-heroine Harley Quinn will take the lead role in "Birds of Prey," while Ben Affleck will play the aforementioned coach in "The Way Back." On a local note, on Feb. 21 we'll  see Billy Crystal in "Standing Up, Falling Down," a comedy-drama penned by fellow Long Beach resident Peter Hoare.

Probably the season's most buzzed-about release is "Mulan," Disney's live-action remake of its animated 1998 film. The original film is considered a landmark for featuring an Asian heroine — a rarity in the Disney canon — who poses as a boy to fight a horde of Huns. Trailers for the new version suggest a lavish action-spectacle along the lines of "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" with direction by Niki Caro, a New Zealander whose 2002 feature "Whale Rider" remains a staple of family movie nights. Other recent Disney remakes, such as "The Lion King" and "Aladdin," performed well at the box office; "Mulan" seems poised to do the same, especially if it resonates in the all-important China market.

Here are 20 big movies coming your way this winter:

Jan. 17

BAD BOYS FOR LIFE Will Smith and Martin Lawrence, who last played the chaos-prone Miami cops Lowery and Burnett in 2003's "Bad Boys II," reunite for "one last ride"— or so says Sony Pictures.

DOLITTLE Robert Downey Jr. plays the title role, an eccentric veterinarian who can speak to animals. The cast includes Antonio Banderas, John Cena, Michael Sheen and Marion Cotillard.

Jan. 24

THE LAST FULL MEASURE Thirty years after the Vietnam War, a Pentagon staffer (Sebastian Stan) investigates why a heroic soldier (Jeremy Irvine) was denied a Medal of Honor. Based on a true story. With Samuel L. Jackson.

THE GENTLEMEN An American ex-pat (Matthew McConaughey) discovers that London's marijuana trade can be a sticky business. With Henry Golding, Michelle Dockery and Hugh Grant. Written and directed by Guy Ritchie.

THE TURNING A nanny (Mackenzie Davis,  "Tully") is appointed to care for two strange children in this adaptation of Henry James' 1989 novella "The Turn of the Screw."

Jan. 31

THE RHYTHM SECTION Long Islander Reed Morano directs this thriller about a woman (Blake Lively) searching for the people who orchestrated her family's deaths. With Jude Law and Sterling K. Brown.

GRETEL & HANSEL In search of food and work, a poor girl (Sophia Lillis, "It") and her little brother (newcomer Sammy Leakey) venture into the woods.

Feb. 7

BIRDS OF PREY: AND THE FANTABULOUS EMANCIPATION OF ONE HARLEY QUINN Margot Robbie reprises her title role — the violent goth-grunge chick who first appeared in 2016's "Suicide Squad"— in this tale of women gone wild in Gotham City. Also with Mary Elizabeth Winstead.

Feb. 14

BLUMHOUSE'S FANTASY ISLAND The studio behind "Get Out" adapts the late-1970's television show about an island where fantasies come (sort of) true. Michael Peña replaces Ricardo Montalbán as the overseer Mr. Roarke.

SONIC THE HEDGEHOG Negative reactions to last year's trailer for this video-game adaptation led to a redesign of the CGI title character (Ben Schwartz provides the voice). Jim Carrey plays the villain Dr. Robotnik.

DOWNHILL When an avalanche approaches a ski resort, a man bolts for the exit without his family — then realizes there was no danger at all. With Will Ferrell and Julia Louis-Dreyfus. Based on Ruben Östlund's unsettling comedy "Force Majeure" (2014).

Feb. 21

BRAHMS: THE BOY II The life-size doll known as Brahms, which terrorized a nanny in 2016's "The Boy," returns for an encore. With Katie Holmes.

THE CALL OF THE WILD Harrison Ford stars in a live/animated adaptation of Jack London's 1903 novella about a pampered dog (rendered in CGI) who joins a sled team in the Yukon. Also with Karen Gillan.

Feb. 28

THE INVISIBLE MAN In a twist on the H.G. Wells story, a young widow (Elisabeth Moss) suspects that her abusive husband isn't really dead. Leigh Whannell, of the "Saw" franchise, wrote and directed.

Mar. 6

ONWARD Two teenage elves magically summon their late father — well, part of him — in this animated adventure-comedy from Disney-Pixar. With the voices of Chris Pratt and Tom Holland.

THE WAY BACK A once-promising basketball phenom (Ben Affleck), now an alcoholic, finds a chance at redemption when he begins coaching at his old high school. Directed by Gavin O'Connor, of the Affleck vehicle "The Accountant."

Mar. 13

BLOODSHOT A recently deceased soldier (Vin Diesel) is revived with technology that renders him super-powerful — but his mind is in someone else's control. Based on the Valiant comics title.

I STILL BELIEVE The true story of young Christian music star Jeremy Camp (KJ Apa) and his wife (Britt Robertson), who died of ovarian cancer shortly after their marriage.

Mar. 20

A QUIET PLACE PART II In the sequel to John Krasinski's hit horror film from 2018, the cloistered Abbott family (Emily Blunt, Millicent Simmonds, Noah Jupe) must venture outside where creatures hunt by sound. With Djimon Hounsou.

Mar. 27

MULAN Disney's 1988 animated adventure becomes a live-action fantasy with Liu Yifei in the title role. Niki Caro, of 2002's beloved "Whale Rider," directs.

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