"The Grinch," which is already out in movie theatres, has the small-hearted Christmas hater sewing up a fake Santa suit. Picture: Illumination and Universal Pictures

Going to the movies this holiday season may feel like spotting a familiar gift bag under the Christmas tree. You know the packaging isn't new, but you hope you'll be excited about what's inside.

Classics such as "How the Grinch Stole Christmas" and "Mary Poppins" are dangerous to remake. Millions have seen the originals and are sure to make comparisons. This year's versions promise either new or more-developed characters to spark some interest.

Superhero fans certainly know Spider-Man, but the web-slinging hero has multiplied in "Into the Spider-Verse." (These Spideys aren't all "men," and one isn't even human!) DC Comics fans may have seen Aquaman cameos in two earlier movies, but this film dives deep into his underwater world.

And then there's J.K. Rowling's new movie. The first "Fantastic Beasts" had the wizardry that captivated Harry Potter fans. But its characters were either new or far removed from that saga at Hogwarts. The second film promises the return of Dumbledore. That fact alone makes "The Crimes of Grindelwald" a welcome gift for Potterheads.

"The Grinch"

The Dr. Seuss classic gets an animated freshening up with Benedict Cumberbatch as the voice of the fuzzy green villain. The Mean One is still gearing up to de-Christmas Whoville - a town where holiday decorating is nearly a competitive sport. Seuss' tale didn't give much backstory on the Grinch, but this time we get a peek into why his heart is two sizes too small. We also discover that Cindy Lou Who, the girl who spies the Grinch dressed as Santy Claus, isn't dreaming about floofloovers or tartookas in her stocking. It turns out that Christmas, to her, means a little bit more. 


"Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald"

Magizoologist Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) returns in this "Fantastic Beasts" sequel that moves closer to the world of Harry Potter. The wicked Grindelwald (Johnny Depp) escapes from jail and plans to unite pure-blood wizards to dominate Muggles and all non-magical creatures. A young Dumbledore (Jude Law) needs Newt - a former student of his at Hogwarts - to help stop Grindelwald. Potter fans will cheer to see the school of magic reappear in this movie. 

 

"Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse"

New York teen Miles Morales was bitten by a radioactive spider and thinks he's the only one with Spider-Man powers. Miles (voiced by Shameik Moore) meets Peter Parker (Jake Johnson), and the now-retired Spidey from another universe agrees to show the young superhero the ropes. But they aren't the only spider-folks. Gwen Stacy, Peni Parker, Spider-Man Noir and Spider-Ham swoop in from other universes, thanks to the experimenting of supervillain the Kingpin (Liev Schreiber). But the Spidey six will have more than one bad guy to take down. 


"Mary Poppins Returns"

Jane and Michael Banks, the children in the original "Mary Poppins," are grown, but aren't too old to need their practically perfect nanny to get them and Michael's three children through a tough time. Mary (Emily Blunt) calls on her friend Jack (Lin-Manuel Miranda), a lamplighter, for song-and-dance support. Dick Van Dyke, who played the chimney sweep Burt and the smaller role of Mr. Dawes Sr., returns as the miserly bank owner's son, Mr. Dawes Jr.

 

"Aquaman"

You may have seen Aquaman in "Batman v Superman" or "Justice League," but this is the first time the DC Comics character gets the full movie treatment. It's the story of Arthur Curry (Jason Momoa), who is raised by a human dad but learns that his long-lost mom is queen of Atlantis. Arthur embarks on a journey with Atlantean warrior princess Mera (Amber Heard) to find a lost weapon, a trident, and assume his role as king of that underwater world. He arrives just as powerful Atlanteans fear threats from the outsiders and decide it's time to do some damage on dry land. 

Washington Post