Each week on Atom Insider, we’re giving you the heads up on the biggest and most talked about films arriving in theaters. This week, audiences have plenty of new and seriously diverse releases to choose from as we reach the middle of the spring movie season.
‘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.
Stay tuned next week for our recap of how these films fared at the box office. T
Meanwhile, if you missed the last few weeks, allow us to catch you up…
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.
FOR THE WEEKEND OF MARCH 29
A ‘Dumbo’-Sized Event
At this point, Disney’s brand of live-action remakes fit into a wide, but diverse handful of categories. There are the princess reimaginings (Beauty and the Beast, Cinderella, and the upcoming Little Mermaid), the subversive spins (Pete’s Dragon, Maleficent), and the stylish repeats (Jungle Book, Alice in Wonderland, and the upcoming Lion King and Aladdin). There’s overlap, of course, especially when trying to factor in the role of Dumbo, one of the more classic Disney films with an opportunity to impress with otherworldly visuals (this is Tim Burton, after all), while also evolving aged material.
Like the original, Dumbo doesn’t quite fit into the exact same categories as a lot of its contemporaries, which if anything, is an exciting sign for this movie to do something different with a familiar story. Fortunately, the live-action family film has a strong pedigree of talent, with Tim Burton as ringleader (director) and a star-studded cast that includes Colin Farrell, Eva Green, Michael Keaton, Alan Arkin, and yes, Danny DeVito. Dumbo also includes Danny Elfman as composer and Ben Davis as cinematographer, giving us more than a few reasons to see just how high this flying elephant can soar.
‘The Beach Bum’ Gets A Happy Hour – And A Half
Clocking in at 95 minutes, Neon’s The Beach Bum features Matthew McConaughey at his most mellow, which is seriously saying something. The film follows the stoner antics of Moondog (McConaughey), our titular beach bum who soaks in the sun, shrugs off responsibilities, and…well, that’s actually about all we know so far based on the trailer and synopsis.
Written and directed by Harmony Korine (Mister Lonely, Spring Breakers), The Beach Bum recently premiered at SXSW and co-stars Snoop Dogg, Isla Fisher, Jimmy Buffett, Zac Efron, Martin Lawrence, and Jonah Hill. It’ll be opening in about 750 theaters this weekend.
Diane (IFC Films) opens in just three theaters this weekend and stars Mary Kay Place (The Big Chill, Being John Malkovich, Sweet Home Alabama). This is the feature film debut of Kent Jones, and after premiering at Tribeca Film Festival, Diane has already gained universal acclaim from critics.