BY GRACE MCQUADE
As we’ve entered the season associated with rebirth, renewed life and the religious rites of Easter and Passover, Hollywood will deliver a host of films involving miracles and resurrections, omens and magic, the supernatural and the spiritual.
The hidden realms between life and death, heaven and earth, and premonition and destiny are the weighty subjects in forthcoming dramas, thrillers, biopics and horror flicks.
Throughout film history, there have been stories told on the big screen that have explored the mysteries of the universe, the marvels of humanity, and the dominions where unrest souls lie.
Whether these motion pictures were intended to scare us (“The Shining”), inspire us (“Field of Dreams”), shock us (“The Sixth Sense”), make us laugh (“Heaven Can Wait”) or make us cry (“Ghost”), movies about the wonders of life — and the afterlife — continue to fascinate us.
Similarly, the films that will be unveiled this spring include stories about faith and awe that will uplift audiences, as well as depictions of malevolent spirts and exhumed beasts that promise to terrify.
So get ready for frightening thrills and breathtaking chills over the coming months, with a forewarning that moviegoers should keep their minds (and their eyes) open as they watch the following films.
“Pet Sematary” (April 5; horror/thriller): One of Stephen King’s scariest novels returns to the big screen, this time starring Jason Clarke and John Lithgow, in a story about the Creed family who move to rural Maine near a pet “sematary,” created (and misspelled) by the town’s children to bury the many pets killed on a high-traffic road. When the Creed cat suffers the same fate and is buried in the haunted plot, a wilder version of the feline returns to life. Then, after one of his children is killed, Mr. Creed takes the body to this once ancient burial ground, where it is resurrected into a demonic form.
“The Haunting of Sharon Tate” (April 5; R; drama/horror/thriller): One of the most horrific murders in history is Sharon Tate’s vicious killing at the hands of Charles Manson’s followers. This film takes a look at the last days leading up to the murder from Tate’s point-of-view. The 26-year-old actress, played by Hilary Duff, is pregnant with Roman Polanski’s baby and plagued by visions of her imminent death by Manson’s satanic cult in this foretelling version of the true and tragic story.
“Mary Magdalene” (April 12; R; drama/history/religion): In the year 33 AD, a woman named Mary from Magdala (Rooney Mara) rejects the traditional female roles of wife and mother. Believed to be possessed by her family, she seeks counsel from a preacher and healer who is becoming well-known throughout Judea, Jesus of Nazareth (Joaquin Phoenix). Inspired by his messages of peace and love, she joins Jesus, Peter (Chiwetel Eljiofor) and the other disciples on the revolution that inspired Christianity, culminating in the greatest miracle of all, Jesus’ Resurrection.
“Breakthrough” (April 17; PG; biography/drama): Based on a true story, a 14-year-old boy (Marcel Ruiz) falls through the ice on a Missouri lake and stays underwater for more than 15 minutes. At the hospital, he lays lifeless for more than 60 minutes until his mother (Chrissy Metz) prays to God to save him and her son’s heart miraculously starts to beat again. In just 16 days after his near-fatal accident and being clinically dead for an hour, the boy is completely healed in this film about the power of faith that also stars Josh Lucas and Topher Grace.
“The Curse of La Llorona” (April 19; R; horror/thriller/supernatural): La Llorona, the weeping woman, is trapped between heaven and hell. In life, she drowned her children. In death, her tears are eternal and those who hear her death call are doomed. In 1970s’ Los Angeles, a mother (Linda Cardellini) and her children are drawn into the spell and only a disillusioned priest (Tony Amendola) can keep the evil at bay as this Latin-American legend comes eerily back to life.
“Under the Silver Lake” (April 19; R; comedy/drama/thriller): A disenchanted young man (Andrew Garfield) finds a beautiful woman (Riley Keough) swimming in his Los Angeles apartment’s pool one evening. They spend a memorable night together, but she vanishes the next morning. Is she alive? Is she real? He then embarks on a surreal journey to uncover the mysterious circumstances behind her disappearance, leading him into bizarre underworlds and a “purgatory” party in the “city of angels.”
“Tolkien” (May 10; R; PG-13; biography/drama): The writer J.R.R. Tolkien, portrayed in this film by Nicholas Hoult, is known for creating otherworldly realms in his science fiction that includes “The Hobbit” and “The Lord of the Rings.” This biopic that also stars Lily Collins takes audiences inside the author’s brilliant imagination and the formative experiences that inspired his passion to write fantastical stories – from his early years as an orphaned youth, to his time at Pembroke College where he developed a “fellowship” with other outcasts, to his service in World War I.
“A Dog’s Journey” (May 17; drama/family): In “A Dog’s Purpose,” Bailey (voiced by Josh Gad) gets to live a dog’s life over and over again until he finally finds his human soulmate in a boy named Ethan. In this sequel, Ethan (Dennis Quaid) is now a grandfather. Bailey is leading the good life with his pal until he receives “the call” to help once again and is reincarnated into the life of Ethan’s troubled teenage granddaughter.
“Aladdin” (May 24; adventure/comedy/family): A Genie (Will Smith) comes to life to grant three wishes to a street urchin named Aladdin (Mena Massoud), who comes into possession of his magical lamp. Aladdin uses the lamp to turn himself into a Prince to win the heart of the Sultan’s beautiful and headstrong daughter, Princess Jasmine (Naomi Scott). But an evil sorcerer who wishes to unseat the Sultan and rule the land wants the lamp, too. Who will prevail and find love? Find out in this live-action retelling of the 1992 Disney animated film of the same name.
“Brightburn” (May 24; drama/horror/sci-fi): An infant from another galaxy crash lands on Earth and is taken in by a couple (Elizabeth Banks and David Denman) who are longing to have a baby. While this plot may sound like another version of “Superman,” think again. Instead of growing up to become a superhero devoted to helping mankind, the inhuman child (Jackson Dunn) brings death and destruction to all those around him.
“Ad Astra” (May 24; adventure/drama/mystery): It has been 20 years since a space engineer (Brad Pitt) lost his father (Tommy Lee Jones), who disappeared on a one-way mission to Neptune to find signs of extraterrestrial life. The slightly autistic son decides to embark on a mission of his own to the outer edges of the solar system to find his father and unravel the mystery of what happened to him in a film whose title means “to the stars.”
“Rocketman” (May 31; biography/drama/musical/fantasy): Stardom is the premise of this epic musical fantasy that tells the story of rock superstar Elton John, played by Taron Egerton. From his early days as shy piano prodigy Reginald Dwight to his meteoric rise to worldwide, chart-topping success with his over-the-top performances of songs like “Bennie and the Jets” and “Crocodile Rock,” John’s story comes to life in colorful, dream-like sequences that befit a biopic about the larger-than-life “rocketman.”
“Godzilla: King of the Monsters” (May 31; PG-13; action/adventure/fantasy): In this sequel to the 2014 “Godzilla” film, the mighty beast Godzilla is unearthed once again – this time to face off against other god-size monsters in a quest to either defend or destroy civilization while under the watchful eye of a cast of characters portrayed by Millie Bobby Brown, Vera Farmiga, Kyle Chandler, Bradley Whitford and Sally Hawkins.
“Dark Phoenix” (June 7; action/adventure/sci-fi): Spring winds down with the highly-anticipated next saga in the X-Men series, which stars Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence and James McAvoy, who return to face off against a powerful new adversary. This threat turns out to be one of their own (Sophie Turner), who is hit by a mysterious cosmic force while on a rescue mission in space, turning her into a Dark Phoenix capable of incredible destruction. Wrestling with this evil force inside her, the X-Men fight to save her soul and the planet from aliens who wish to rule the galaxy