‘Greta’ review: Menacing mommy issues

Neil Jordan’s ‘Greta’ is a campy psychological B-movie thriller elevated by its A-list talents.

If you find an unattended handbag on the subway, what will be your first course of action? Do you ignore it? Do you claim it for yourself? Or do you report it to the guards on duty? For the young waitress Frankie McCullen (Chloë Grace Moretz), it’s only rightful to peruse the contents for an identification, and personally deliver the bag to the owner’s house. This is the first of the many mistakes that Frankie does in the psychological-thriller Greta. The film’s premise borrows from the ‘90s stalker sub-genre – it’s as campy and as wacky as it can be. And yet because of its pedigree to that era, it almost feels fresh and exciting.

Frankie’s act of kindness leads her to a lonely French widow Greta Hideg (Isabelle Huppert) and the two instantly spark a maternal connection. You see, Frankie is recently devastated with the loss of her mother, while Greta is badly missing her estranged daughter. As they bond over motherly activities like adopting a dog and cooking dinner, Frankie’s best friend/voice of reason Erica (Maika Monroe) is mystified with their sudden closeness. “You’ve totally adopted this woman!” she says with a jolt of bratty millennial energy. Turns out, she has every right to be concerned for her friend. Frankie finds a stock of identical bags in Greta’s cabinet, suggesting that she deliberately sought her out. Greta’s solitude might just be a disguise for something sinister.

Something’s cooking inside Greta’s mind.
Chloë Grace Moretz and Isabelle Huppert in ‘Greta.’

From there, the film’s central theme of ‘mommy issues’ evolves into an obsession. Despite Frankie’s efforts to avoid her, Greta floods her phone with texts and voicemails, lurks outside the restaurant where she works and later, books a reservation. She keeps her stalking behavior within the boundaries of law but after being ignored for multiple times, she finally goes batsh*t crazy. The film’s highlight is a well-crafted sequence of Greta now decidedly stalking Erica while sending a stream of real-time photos to Frankie. Director Neil Jordan sets up a good pace in building up the tension in his proceedings. Within the span of 98 minutes, he squeezes in a lot of gruesome stuff – stalking, kidnapping and torturing. By then, the film goes off the rails, that all the silliness in its narrative don’t really seem to matter anymore.

For a film titled Greta, the eponymous character’s psychology is not much really delved to ground her preposterous actions. She remains enigmatic throughout with her madness as only an indication of her dark past. Still, there’s a sense of demented joy in watching a fantastic Huppert deftly transition from diplomatic to hysterical, from menacing to murderous, without ever losing her maternal vibe. She is the major reason to watch this film in the first place. There’s also intensity and pathos in Moretz despite her sympathetic and seemingly-rational character doing a lot of unintelligible decisions. Confronted with a barrage of calls from Greta, Frankie never blocks her calls nor puts her phone into silent mode. She’s a bit of a passive player. Had Erica been in her place, this film will all come to a premature end.

“I’m like a bubblegum, I tend to stick around.”
Maika Monroe and Chloë Grace Moretz in ‘Greta.’

It might not seem like it, but Greta is actually an elevated B-movie in disguise. Thrills aside, there’s not much subtext going on here. At it’s best, it shows how insanity masks in the face of loneliness, that such thing is for losers and psychos. Except that it’s not. It can work as a cautionary tale to never give away your personal information to anyone. That, however, is a general rule that you should know by now.

For the most part, it’s predictable but thoroughly enjoyable – especially that one involving a creative double fake-out sequence. It has the chance to fully own its campiness yet it settles for a dimwit ending to leave the door open for a possible sequel. Boosted by a slick direction and unhinged performances, Greta is a hard-to-resist, nail-biter that sends chills of suspense and anxiety to your spine. You can take it with silliness or sincerity, whichever you prefer.

3.5 out of 5 stars
Directed by Neil Jordan and written by Ray Wright and Neil Jordan, ‘Greta‘ stars Isabelle Huppert, Chloë Grace Moretz, Maika Monroe, Colm Feore, Stephen Rea and Zawe Ashton. 98 minutes. R-13.

Chloë Grace Moretz stars in memoir-turned-movie ‘Brain on Fire’

“Brain on Fire” is the astonishing true story of a young woman’s descent into madness in the face of a medical mystery starring Chloe Grace Moretz, Thomas Mann, Carrie-Anne Moss, Richard Armitage, Jenny Slate and Tyler Perry.

Based on the award-winning memoir and a New York Times bestseller, “Brain of Fire” is directed by Gerard Barrett and trails the challenges of Susannah Cahalan (Moretz), a young woman just out of university and living her dreams in New York City. She’s an up-and-coming journalist at the New York Post, and she’s falling in love with a musician named Stephen. When her boss gives her the big assignment that will jumpstart her career, things couldn’t be better.

Soon little things start going wrong. Susannah gets a flu she can’t shake, she forgets things, and she misses deadlines at work. She can hear people talking about her, she’s sure that Stephen has another girlfriend, and she can’t control her body. It soon gets worse; Susannah begins having violent seizures, and her increasingly psychotic behaviour means she must be watched at all times.

After repeated trips to the hospital, a team of doctors can find nothing wrong with her. As Susannah is admitted and spends days, then weeks, in a hospital bed losing her ability to move, talk, even eat, her family is repeatedly told that she is one hundred percent healthy. Her mom Rhona and her dad Tom are at a breaking point, waiting for their daughter to die while being told there is nothing anyone can do to help her.

With Susannah trapped in a body that continues to deteriorate, her family keeps hoping for someone, anyone, that can solve the mystery. Only when they finally find a doctor determined and curious enough to see her case through can Susannah begin to recover from her bizarre illness and try to get back to the vibrant young woman she was.

Witness an inspiring miracle when “Brain on Fire” opens February 22, 2017 in cinemas from Pioneer Films.

‘The 5th Wave’ opens in PH at No. 1, grosses P51.6-M in 5 days

MANILA, Jan. 25, 2016 – Columbia Pictures’ alien invasion action-thriller “The 5th Wave” took Philippine cinemas by storm, bowing at No.1 with a nationwide five-day opening weekend gross of P51.6-M (Jan. 20 to 24, 2016). This was announced today by a spokesman of Columbia Pictures Industries, Inc.

The film adaptation of Rick Yancey’s young adult novel gave lead star Chloe Grace Moretz her biggest opening in the country. She previously headlined past smash hits “If I Stay,” “Carrie” and “Let Me In.”

Ron Livingston, center left, and Chloë Grace Moretz, center right, and Zackary Arthur, below center, star in Columbia Pictures' "The 5th Wave."

Yancey’s book was published in 2013 to critical and popular acclaim, with over 20 weeks on the New York Times Bestsellers list. In “The 5th Wave,” four waves of increasingly deadly attacks have left most of Earth decimated. Against a backdrop of fear and distrust, Cassie (Moretz) is on the run, desperately trying to save her younger brother. As she prepares for the inevitable and lethal 5th wave, Cassie teams up with a young man who may become her final hope – if she can only trust him.

Trinoma took the biggest share of box-office gross with P1.83-M, closely followed by SM Mall of Asia (P1.80-M) and SM Megamall (P1.59-M).

In the elite Top Ten cinemas are SM North Edsa (P1.33-M), Glorietta 4 (P1.17-M), Greenbelt 3 (P1.14-M), Gaisano Davao (P910,152), Gateway Cineplex (P849,922), Greenhills Promenade (P 844,992) and Ayala Cebu (P 826,602).

Posting huge receipts are Alabang Town Center (P 823,989), Eastwood (P 736,683), Robinsons Magnolia (P 735,291), Market! Market! (P 732,913), Harbor Point (P 727,600), SM Aura (P 724,218), Powerplant (P 721,477), Robinsons Tacloban (P 680,680), Robinsons Ermita (P 661,799) and SM Clark (P 651,350).

Also contributing impressive sales are Shang Cineplex (P 633,582), SM Cebu (P 629,790), Bonifacio High Street (P 625,048), Newport City (P 597,537), SM Fairview (P 593,940), Centrio Mall Cagayan (P 548,672), Robinsons Galleria (P 537,300), Sta. Lucia East (P 530,280), SM Baguio (P 529,659) and SM Manila (P 528,896).

Nick Robinson in Columbia Pictures' "The 5th Wave," starring Chloë Grace Moretz.
Nick Robinson in Columbia Pictures’ “The 5th Wave,” starring Chloë Grace Moretz.

Columbia Pictures presents in association with LStar Capital a Material/GK Films Production, “The 5th Wave.” Starring Chloë Grace Moretz, Nick Robinson, Ron Livingston, Maggie Siff, Alex Roe, Maria Bello, Maika Monroe, and Liev Schreiber. Directed by J Blakeson. Produced by Tobey Maguire, Graham King, Matthew Plouffe, and Lynn Harris. Screenplay by Susannah Grant and Akiva Goldsman & Jeff Pinkner. Based on the novel by Rick Yancey.

Now showing across the Philippines, “The 5th Wave” is distributed by Columbia Pictures, local office of Sony Pictures Releasing International.

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‘Jurassic World’ teen actor Nick Robinson stars with Chloe Grace Moretz in ‘The 5th Wave’

Coming off the global blockbuster “Jurassic World,” young actor Nick Robinson stars opposite Chloe Grace Moretz in Columbia Pictures’ new action-adventure “The 5th Wave.”

Based on Rick Yancey’s imaginative 2013 young adult novel, “The 5th Wave” focuses on a young girl, Cassie Sullivan (Moretz), who is bidding to survive in a world that has been decimated by four waves — huge, earth-shattering events, from tidal waves to pestilence — which are unleashed upon the planet by some unknown force. Robinson plays a high school kid called Ben Parish.

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“Ben is the popular guy in high school, the heartthrob Cassie admires from afar but really doesn’t know,” explains director J Blakeson.

“One of the things that I like about ‘The 5th Wave’ is that the ultimate responsibility falls on the younger generation to fight back and to rebuild,” says Robinson, referencing life in the damaged world seen on screen. “And I think that has quite a lot of relevance in this day and age.”

“Ben Parish is your average high school kid. He’s the captain of the football team, the quarterback with a lot of friends, and an all-around nice guy,” says Robinson. “And, once the disasters strike, his life is changed forever. He survives, but he earns his nickname ‘Zombie’ after all the loss he’s been through.

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“He loses a lot of family and friends in the ensuing waves and he eventually finds himself at an army base,” the actor continues, “where he’s forced to lead a squad of young soldiers. He’s still trying to find out why he should even be fighting because he’s not sure exactly what’s left or what he’s fighting for.”

“Nick was really impressive, and just like Chloë, seemed to be beyond his years in his ability and emotional range,” adds the direcor.

“Ben Parish is the man, a solid dude. He’s the guy that everybody wants to be, the quarterback with a lot of friends, and an all-around nice guy,” says Robinson of his character. That all changes with the four waves of attacks. “He survives, but he earns his nickname ‘Zombie’ after all the loss he’s been through.”

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Many of Robinson’s scenes put the actor opposite Liev Schreiber, an intense, highly charged actor. But the veteran says that the young actor was up to the task. “As actors, we work so hard on our own, and we come into a scene with our own ideas. What’s really exciting is when another actor completely redefines the scene for you, and that happened for me with Nick,” says Schreiber. “I assumed that I knew better, because I was older. But I was really impressed that he had his own take, and that it had nothing to do with what I was doing. In fact, his take was actually a little more interesting to me, and that’s exciting and encouraging to see.”

Opening across the Philippines on January 20, 2016, “The 5th Wave” is distributed by Columbia Pictures, local office of Sony Pictures Releasing International.

Chloe Grace Moretz fights invaders back in ‘The 5th Wave’

“Cassie Sullivan is a great heroine – but she’d never describe herself that way. She’d say she’s just a girl who has lost her brother, and will do whatever it takes to get back to him,” says Chloë Grace Moretz, who takes on the lead role of Cassie in Columbia Pictures’ adaptation of Rick Yancey’s bestselling novel “The 5th Wave,” the first book in his planned trilogy.

In the film, four waves of increasingly deadly attacks have left most of Earth decimated. Against a backdrop of fear and distrust, Cassie is on the run, desperately trying to save her younger brother. As she prepares for the inevitable and lethal 5th wave, Cassie teams up with a young man who may become her final hope – if she can only trust him.

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For the filmmakers, Moretz combined the right combination of talents and traits: she is a seasoned performer (especially needed if the character would be appearing in multiple films), but, like her character, is herself just coming of age. The result was a perfect fit of actress and character – and a match that only became more deeply ingrained for the filmmakers as filming proceeded.

“As an artist and writer I do believe in serendipity,” comments Yancey. “I have the writer’s tendency to become overly emotionally involved with my characters. So it was very important to me when I heard that they will be making a film that they got the right actors, and everyone’s going to agree that they got the right actors. I can’t imagine anyone else but Chloë now in the role. From the very first scenes that were shot I knew that we had found our Cassie.”

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“Chloë became pretty much synonymous with the character because she inhabits Cassie so well,” adds director J Blakeson. “Playing somebody who’s normal in extraordinary circumstances, rather than somebody extraordinary in normal circumstances, gave Chloë the ability to plug into stuff from her own life, and you can really see that coming through in her performance. That allows the viewer to really go there with her and makes it easier to accept the big leaps of the story. Watching your own world slowly evolve into an Orwellian world is more terrifying than if we were just dropped there in the first place.”

“We were very lucky to get Chloë because she’s so proficient at everything,” Blakeson continues. “She’s fantastic at emotional scenes, family scenes, fun scenes, but she’s really good at the tougher action sequences – she’s wildly experienced for somebody so young.”

In fact, despite her age, Moretz has done so many action films that she has a very good sense of the sequences she can handle herself. “I’ve done action since I was 11 years old,” says Moretz. “Action is my second hand… it’s super fun and easy for me. It’s fun when it’s the real thing. The car fight ended up being my favorite sequence to shoot. It was really awesome and it’s exciting to see fighting done in close quarters.”

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The most important thing in Cassie’s life is her brother, Sam – and she’ll do anything to protect him. “Cassie and Sam are the yin and yang of this story – they’re both going through the same issues, in different locations and under different circumstances, that come up over and over again in the movie,” says Blakeson. “By the time they get back together, they’ve both been through a similar experience and are very different people from when they started.”

Opening across the Philippines on January 20, 2016, “The 5th Wave” is distributed by Columbia Pictures, local office of Sony Pictures Releasing International.

‘The 5th Wave’ sets emotional story within alien invasion

Up-and-coming director J Blakeson, whose first film was the thriller “The Disappearance of Alice Creed,” a film festival and critical favorite, takes the helm of Columbia Pictures new post-apocalyptic thriller “The 5th Wave,” based on the bestselling first novel in author Rick Yancey’s planned trilogy.

In the film, four waves of increasingly deadly attacks have left most of Earth decimated. Against a backdrop of fear and distrust, Cassie (Chloe Grace Moretz) is on the run, desperately trying to save her younger brother. As she prepares for the inevitable and lethal 5th wave, Cassie teams up with a young man who may become her final hope – if she can only trust him.

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“I wanted to make this movie because it allows us to create this big concept with scope – like an alien invasion – and use it to tell a story about the emotions and problems of everyday life in a more interesting way,” director J Blakeson says. “It was very important to me that this film was not about how terrible the world is, but how beautiful the world is and how you want to hold on to that beauty. My pitch was for Cassie to have hope and endurance; we keep the tone emotional, colorful, and cinematic, rather than have it be grungy and depressing.”

For Blakeson, directing “The 5th Wave” was something of a return to his roots. “When I was younger, I watched a lot of movies and read a lot of books involving teenage characters. They were transitional books that opened up literature to me,” he recalls. “There’s something about the way teenagers feel everything so intensely. Their emotions are on the surface and it really feels like the world’s coming to an end every day. The thing about this movie is that in Cassie’s life, the world really is coming to an end.”

At the heart of the story are the questions anyone faces as they make the transition to adulthood – not least of which is who can I trust? “In the movie, just like in real life, you can’t tell if someone is good or bad just by looking at them,” observes Blakeson. “Often in movies, the bad guy looks one way and the good guy looks another way, and it’s easy to tell them apart; in this movie, everybody looks the same. Cassie learns if you lose your trust in other people, it can take you down a dark path – humanity is about trusting each other and needing each other. ‘Trust no one’ if you want to survive, but you’ve got to learn to trust people if you’re going to win the war.”

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Moretz adds, “Cassie is really affected by the whole ‘trust no one’ idea – everyone could potentially be a threat. She wants to think she can trust people, but every time she does, something flips on its head. She realizes she is always let down when she begins to trust someone, and so she ends up just trusting herself.”

Opening across the Philippines on January 20, 2016, “The 5th Wave” is distributed by Columbia Pictures, local office of Sony Pictures Releasing International.

Newcomer Alex Roe joins Chloe Grace Moretz in ‘The 5th Wave’

Young British actor Alex Roe stars as the conflicted Evan Walker in the hotly anticipated sci-fi adventure-drama “The 5th Wave” opposite Chloe Grace Moretz.

The film is an adaptation of Rick Yancey’s hit novel, published in 2013. It focuses on a young girl, Cassie Sullivan, played by Moretz, who is bidding to survive in a world that has been decimated by four waves — huge, earth-shattering events, from tidal waves to pestilence — which are unleashed upon the planet by some unknown force. The likes of Nick Robinson (playing Ben Parish) and Liev Schreiber (Colonel Vosch) also star.

The story tells how in the midst of the wreckage, as one of earth’s last survivors, Cassie must fight to save herself, and her brother, as the fifth wave looms. She teams up with Evan, who may be her final hope, if she can learn to trust him. Trust, says Roe, is one of the key themes in the film.

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“Evan is definitely conflicted. He’s a real contradiction,” says the actor. “All of us are contradictions to some extent but he’s a contradiction in a really extreme way. His whole view on life is completely turned upside down when he meets Cassie.

“Sometimes, people walk into your life and do that. That makes it sound like it’s about a romance between them, but it’s really not. They don’t trust each other at all. They don’t give into any of the feelings that two human beings in a normal situation might give into.”

The complexity of the character and his situation appealed to Roe, who made his name in the UK with the teenage TV shows “The Fugitives” and “The Cut” before he moved to LA and bagged his role on “The 5th Wave.” He says that he connected with the Evan Walker character the moment he read the script.

“I read this character and went, ‘I know this guy,’” he says. “That happens sometimes because you agree with what the character says or what they believe in, or you understand why they’re like they are, maybe because of their background.”

Alex Roe, left, and Chloë Grace Moretz star in Columbia Pictures' "The 5th Wave"
Alex Roe, left, and Chloë Grace Moretz star in Columbia Pictures’ “The 5th Wave.”

He relates to Evan in a number of ways. “I think I’m quite physical in the way that he’s quite physical. He grew up on a farm and I grew up doing manual labor and things like that.”

Roe was perfect casting for the Evan role, says “The 5th Wave” director, J Blakeson, who brings the movie to the screen on the back of his film festival and critics’ favourite “The Disappearance of Alice Creed.”

“It was quite late in the process when I saw Alex’s tape but we flew him to New York to audition,” the director says. “When he read with Chloë, it was obvious that there was a really good rapport. Alex also has real presence, and he’s got these fantastic eyes that feel like they could either be threatening or extremely empathic.”

Certainly, “The 5th Wave” represents a major opportunity for the actor. “I do see this as an opportunity,” Roe says. “I was out in LA for three months and was building a little bit of momentum while I was there and was lucky enough to get the audition [for The 5th Wave].

“And then hearing that I was being flown to New York to have a chemistry meet with Chloë was just unreal. It seemed like something that was completely unachievable.”

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And yet here he is on the cusp of stardom with a prominent role in a huge studio picture. “This movie feels so big,” he says. “The sets are incredible. Before, I’d be walking onto a set of 50 people and now I am walking onto a set with around 200 people.

“Getting used to that was different but it is an amazing opportunity. You have to focus and then that becomes your job and it becomes normal. You are in Atlanta shooting with Chloë Grace Moretz and that becomes normal!” He smiles. “I would be the first one to say how lucky I am.”

Opening across the Philippines on Jan. 20, 2016, “The 5th Wave” is distributed by Columbia Pictures, local office of Sony Pictures Releasing International.

Young adult novel ‘The 5th Wave’ takes battle to big screen

A powerhouse cast led by Chloë Grace Moretz (“If I Stay”), Nick Robinson (Jurassic World”), Ron Livingston (“The Conjuring”), Alex Roe (upcoming “Rings”), and Liev Schreiber (“Salt”) stars in Columbia Pictures’ adaptation of Rick Yancey’s bestselling novel “The 5th Wave,” the first book in his planned trilogy.

In the film, four waves of increasingly deadly attacks have left most of Earth decimated. Against a backdrop of fear and distrust, Cassie (Moretz) is on the run, desperately trying to save her younger brother. As she prepares for the inevitable and lethal 5th wave, Cassie teams up with a young man who may become her final hope – if she can only trust him.

Yancey’s book was published in 2013 to critical and popular acclaim, with over 20 weeks on the New York Times Bestsellers list. The second book in the trilogy, The Infinite Sea, met with similar acclaim and success, with the third book, The Last Star, set for release next year.

“It’s hard to put this book down once you start reading,” says Tobey Maguire, who produces the film with Graham King, Matthew Plouffe, and Lynn Harris. “Rick’s writing is wonderfully cinematic and he has managed to write a version of an alien invasion that feels like it hits all of the classic science-fiction tropes while remaining grounded in a way we haven’t seen on screen before. The idea that the invasion happens in waves in order to pick apart civilization felt both unique and universally relatable. The loss of electricity, disease, earthquakes, tsunamis — these are fears that are really part of modern life right now. That immediately sets it apart from a lot of science fiction fantasy.”

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Producer Graham King says that though the exciting elements of the film will attract audiences, it is the heart of the film that will immerse them. “There’s an element to it of an alien invasion, there’s a threatening element as they’re taking over the planet, but the core of the film is really the breakup of one family and how they put it back together,” he says.

“The story has all these incredible elements, but the thing that put it over the top for me was that it was set in a very understandable reality with a lead character that we all know,” says Plouffe. “At the start of the story, our hero, Cassie Sullivan, is the girl that sits next to you in high school and lives in Anytown, America.”

One reason for the book’s popularity is the way that it crosses over from young adult fiction to adult fiction, and from sci-fi to general fiction. Author Rick Yancey says that the book focuses on the universal themes that we all face. “All my books, not just `The 5th Wave,’ have to do with what makes us human,” comments Yancey. “The thing that really appealed to me about this story was, when everything else has been stripped away, what are we left with? What are the important things? In the 21st century, we now have so many trappings, with so much technology, that take us one-step back from the human connection. In `The 5th Wave,’ all those things are taken away, and each character confronts in their own way, how do I deal with this new world? What are the things that really matter? What am I willing to sacrifice to have those things? Plus, it’s a thriller, it’s a survival story, it’s a story of people trying to prevail under nearly impossible odds, and it’s a love story too, about love in all its permutations.”

Plouffe says that he knew that The 5th Wave was not going to be your usual alien invasion story from the very first page. “Rick opens the book with a quote from Stephen Hawking about how if aliens come to Earth, it’ll be much like Christopher Columbus discovering America, which didn’t turn out very well for the Native Americans,” Plouffe recalls. “With that, I knew from the beginning that there was something a little different about this. It felt sophisticated and knowing from the get-go.”

Opening across the Philippines on Jan. 20, 2016, “The 5th Wave” is distributed by Columbia Pictures, local office of Sony Pictures Releasing International.