Each week on Atom Insider, we’re giving you the heads up on the biggest and most talked about films arriving in theaters. With just one week to go before the summer movie season kicks off with the next massive Marvel event movie, your options include yet another studio horror, a faith-based true story drama, and the latest documentary from Disneynature.
Ghost stories surrounding “The Weeping Woman” have existed in Mexican folklore for many centuries, perhaps all the way back to the Aztec civilization. The familiar sight of a ghostly woman dressed in white has long adorned the iconic figure, who is based on a peasant woman who drowns her own children after their nobleman father leaves her for a woman of higher status. The Curse of La Llorona (Warner Bros.) tells a more contemporary story about a haunting involving “La Llorona” in 1970s Los Angeles and.
It’s actually been over 50 years since a direct film adaptation of the witch herself has been made (La Maldición de la Llorona in 1963), though pop culture has seen influences of the character in many movies and TV shows over the years. James Wan produced this new take on the old story (yes, it’s part of the Conjurverse), which is directed by Michael Chaves (his feature debut after a few short films) with a screenplay by Mikki Daughtry & Tobias Iaconis. The gothic horror stars Linda Cardellini, Raymond Cruz, and Patricia Velásquez.
‘Breakthrough’ Is For Real
Breakthrough is based on the true story of a young Guatemalan teen named John who falls through an icy lake and is without oxygen for at least 15 minutes before getting rushed to the hospital. His life is presumed over by the medical professionals until his adoptive mother Joyce enters the room and prays over him, which apparently keeps him just barely alive and kicks off a fight for his life.
This will be one of the last films we see released by Fox 2000 (if not the last), since Disney’s acquisition of 20th Century Fox. It’s based on the book The Impossible by Joyce Smith with the screenplay by Grant Nieporte. The film was directed by Roxann Dawson (who starred in Star Trek: Voyager and has directed episodes of “House of Cards” and “The Americans”) and stars Chrissy Metz, Marcel Ruiz, Josh Lucas, Topher Grace, Mike Colter, and Dennis Haysbert.
The Secret Life Of ‘Penguins’
The Disneynature films are always a treat for audiences old and young alike because they find ways to tell cute stories about these animals that are as informative as they are entertaining. The best of these films also do well to stress how important it is to appreciate the planet as a whole and think of how our actions as humans affect the other creatures on Earth, which will hopefully be a through line in Penguins, the latest feature from Disneynature. This time, we’ll follow Steve, an Adélie penguin, as he treks across the Antarctic with his new Emperor penguin friend, Wuzzo, in order to find a life partner and start a family of his own.
Nature filmmaker Alastair Fothergill directed the film with the same team that made Bears and Chimpanzee for Disneynature. If you’re hoping to celebrate Earth Day in a few days, then Penguins just might be a worthwhile watch for the whole family.
Stay tuned next week for our recap of how these films fared at the box office. To get tickets to these movies and more, head to the Atom Tickets homepage.
Meanwhile, if you missed the last few weeks, allow us to catch you up…
FOR THE WEEKEND OF APRIL 5
‘Hellboy’ Oh Boy
It doesn’t feel like it’s been over a decade since the last Hellboy movie, at least for me, and that’s probably because while those initial two movies from Guillermo del Toro weren’t exactly cultural phenomenons (in terms of box office or ratings), they did come out at an exciting time for comic book cinema, when the possibilities felt a little more expansive and unrestricted compared to the mid-MCU era. In 2019, we’re in the full steam of a new era of comic book franchises that push the envelope on how far directors can go with their vision for these projects. A new Hellboy can be darker, gorier, and truer to the Dark Horse comics without being slavish to the fanbase. And judging from the trailers, that might be what we’re about to get with this R-rated reboot.
Directed by Neil Marshall (The Descent) and written by Andrew Cosby and Christopher Golden, Hellboy recasts our titular anti-hero as David Harbour of “Stranger Things” fame. Unlike the films made by Universal, Lionsgate and Summit have greenlit a reimagined Hellboy who leans far darker into the “give evil hell” aesthetic, along with a heavy-hitting cast that includes Sasha Lane, Milla Jovovich, Ian McShane, Thomas Haden Church, Daniel Dae Kim, Brian Gleeson, and plenty more.
The Not-So-Weakest Missing Link
From the studio that brought us some of the best stop-motion films of all time, here comes Missing Link, an animated film with a premise about as unique as its main protagonist, especially compared to some of the other films by LAIKA. The “missing link” in question is in fact Mr. Link, a tall and heavy-set “something” covered in fur and voiced by Zach Galifianakis. He one day comes across an adventurer named Sir Lionel Frost (Hugh Jackman), and the two embark on a journey to find Link’s long-lost relatives, eventually with the help of Adelina Fortnight (Zoe Saldana).
Written and directed by Chris Butler (ParaNorman), who is also the head of story at LAIKA, Missing Link doesn’t exactly capture the same scope and wonder of films like Coraline or Kubo and the Two Strings, at least judging by the trailers. Despite this, Annapurna Pictures is betting big on the film going over well with mainstream audiences, as it’s pushing a wide release clearly aimed for families and younger viewers.
Too ‘Little’ Or Too Late?
Like the name implies, Little is about a woman who is mysteriously transformed into a little girl, much to her own inconvenience as a high-power businesswoman with no interest in “growing down.” Little is, of course, an age and gender swap of the concept from Big, a comedy about recognizing the similarities and hilarious differences between our kid and adult selves. It should also be noted this is coming off the heels of Shazam!, a superhero movie with a similar body swap gimmick at play.
Little was directed and co-written by Tina Gordon Chism (Peeples), co-written by Tracy Oliver, and is based on an idea by Marsai Martin. The Universal film stars Regina Hall and Marsai Martin in the lead body-swapping roles, along with Issa Rae, JD McCrary, Justin Hartley, Tone Bell, and Caleb Emery.
Life ‘After’ Wattpad
Unlike most other low-budget teen romances based on YA novels, After comes to us from a self-published Wattpad series by Anna Todd, which was initially based on the bandmates from One Direction. Strange as that may sound (to some), After is really about a young woman who goes off to college and is tempted to cheat on her high school sweetheart with a Harry Styles-esque “bad boy.” Sold yet?
Yes, After has a very particular audience in mind, and based on the trailers, Aviron Pictures has basically nailed what made Todd’s novel so organically successful. This is the first narrative feature film directed by Jenny Gage (All This Panic), and the screenplay is by Susan McMartin. The cast includes Josephine Langford, Hero Fiennes Tiffin, Jennifer Beals, and Peter Gallagher.
FOR THE WEEKEND OF APRIL 5
Say My Name, Say My Name
The concept of Shazam! is that of true wish fulfillment. Anyone, of any age, just has to say the name “Shazam” and become the best, superheroic version of themselves. In the case of Billy Batson (Asher Angel), that “fully realized” adult self is played by Zachary Levi in a career highlight for the actor, best known for his TV roles and untimely demise as a side character in the Thor movies. But in the year 2019, Levi is getting his due in this action-and-laugh-packed superhero adventure from Warner Bros. about family, responsibility, maybe a dose of Greek mythology, and other comic book tropes that are bound to make audiences smile.
Shazam! was directed by David F. Sandberg (Lights Out, Annabelle: Creation) with a screenplay by Henry Gayden (Earth to Echo). The additional cast includes Mark Strong, Jack Dylan Grazer, Djimon Hounsou, Grace Fulton, Ian Chen, Jovan Armand, Cooper Andrews, and Marta Milans.
An Old Horror, Brought Back To Life
To be honest, most of Stephen King’s stories have failed to click with me, especially some of the more famous horror adaptations like The Shining and original Pet Sematary. But like It from 2017, Pet Sematary is getting another chance to re-enter the pop culture zeitgeist, and even I’m pretty excited about what we’ve seen so far. It just looks flat out creepy, centering around a family moving to a rural home where a nearby cemetery for neighborhood pets is home to some absolutely horrifying secrets and terrors.
The Paramount film was co-directed by Kevin Kölsch and Dennis Widmyer (Absence, Starry Eyes) with a screenplay by David Kajganich and Jeff Buhler. It’s of course adapted from King’s novel of the same name, which was first released in 1983. The cast includes Jason Clarke, Amy Seimetz, John Lithgow, and Jeté Laurence.
‘The Best Of Enemies’ With The Best Of Casts
At first glance, The Best of Enemies looks like a standard civil rights era drama centered around a story not so new to cinema. But it’s really the ensemble behind this film that promises a worthwhile and authentic narrative for these real-life figures from history. The film stars Taraji P. Henson as Ann Atwater, a renowned civil rights activist pitted in a contentious rivalry with KKK leader C.P. Ellis (Sam Rockwell) over school desegregation in Durham, North Carolina.
The obvious appeal of the STX film is to showcase the inspiring life of Atwater, but also to highlight the room for redemption when it comes to system racism and how it can be stamped out through legislative action. The Best of Enemies was written and directed by Robin Bissell in his feature directorial debut, and it’s based on the book of the same name by Osha Gray Davidson.
Amazing Grace (Neon) opens in select theaters this weekend, documenting the famous and powerful “Amazing Grace” concert by Aretha Franklin in 1972. Mike Leigh’s Peterloo (Amazon Studios) also hits limited release, telling the true story of the Peterloo Massacre in 1819. And The Wind (IFC Midnight) opens in just 35 theaters and is a western horror film from director Emma Tammi.