GRETA. Back, back into the distant, dusty past, the long ago of the 1990s, when the second wave of New Hollywood cinema was peaking, Neil Jordan rose to prominence — notoriety? — for revealing (26-year-old spoiler alert) a penis where people weren't expecting it in The Crying Game (1992). Jordan had been making movies here and abroad for about a decade, but The Crying Game was a hit (the old-fashioned equivalent of going viral) and earned him a brief run at Hollywood prominence. Just as those new glory days mainstream American cinema came to a piteous end, so, apparently, did Jordan's career there. He's still been kicking around, though, and returns, albeit to the desolate late-winter-release-scape, this land of misfit movies, with a quasi-thriller he co-wrote with relative newbie and horror scribe Ray Wright (The Crazies, 2010; Pulse, 2006). It's a well-cast, well-acted, handsome-enough picture that probably didn't really need making.
Frances McCullen (Chloë Grace Moretz), recently graduated from college and mourning the recent death of her mother, has relocated to Manhattan. Her best friend Erica (Maika Monroe) has been gifted a remarkably airy and well-appointed flat in Tribeca by her unseen but obviously well-heeled father. The two young women live there without any apparent financial hardship, in spite of the fact that Frances waits tables (with decreasing alacrity, but we can put that down to the events of the story) a few nights a week and Erica intends to "try to be a model." Anyway, our protagonist is a pensive, caring sort and when she one day looks up from her book to discover a handbag left behind on the subway, she makes a point of returning it. She finds the owner of said bag, Greta Hideg (Isabelle Huppert), to be a pensive, caring sort herself, at least at first blush. Greta lives alone on a semi-industrial Brooklyn block, ostensibly teaching piano lessons and missing the company of her own young adult daughter. (From out in the seats alarm bells are already ringing, of course, but to sweet young Frances it seems like a good match).
Soon enough the two of them are having dinner together and Frances is helping Greta adopt a shelter dog. But then, as must naturally happen, Frances discovers a cabinet full of identical purses in Greta's house, each tagged with the name and telephone number of a different girl. Shaken, she attempts to distance herself from her new and clearly troubled friend. But as we all know by now, having seen movies, this only raises Greta's ire and the situation escalates precipitously.
Greta isn't a total mess: The leads make formidable onscreen foils and it is undeniably enjoyable to watch Huppert flit from mousy to pixyish to walls-climbing bonkers — sometimes in the course of a single scene. And Jordan is a tested veteran behind the camera, so the design and assembly of the movie are beyond proficient (he also throws in a couple of trademark shock images for good measure). Even the structure and pacing, with their gentle rolling out of the narrative, distinguish the movie from what-has-become-average thriller shock. But the components of the thing, intentionally crafted and selected though they may be, don't fit together into a functional whole. Frances' relationship with her father, for example, seems to be intended as a centerpiece of her state of mind but instead feels like an attempt at misdirection. And the dismissal of Greta's French accent as an affectation (she's apparently a Hungarian maniac — the rich and problematic legacy of Hungarians depicted as maniacs in cinema is a subject for a separate discussion), is too easily blown by in context.
The success of this thing, I think, would have been in the execution of the details, where the weirdness and discomfort could have been brought to life. With a few exceptions — brief, delicious, twisted instances — though, Greta isn't nearly as sick or as fun as it ought to be. R. 98M. BROADWAY, MILL CREEK.
THE MAN WHO KILLED HITLER AND THEN THE BIGFOOT. Since we've already harkened back to the dim of long ago, let's take a moment for a kinda-sorta throwback. This one calls back to — or maybe synthesizes — times when genres could be fluid, conventions could be subverted and stories told through them of more substance than a cursory first examination might reveal.
That might be a slight over-ascription, in this case, but I'll give credit for apparent intent, even if it doesn't completely carry through in execution.
Calvin Barr (Sam Elliott), a self-described old man (don't say that, Sam) with a terrific psychic burden, lives as a semi-recluse in a quiet town of tree-lined boulevards. He relives his wartime past, when he was groomed for a formidable covert operation. Well, it's in the title — no need to be coy.
As we learn about the vagaries of Calvin's troubled past, he is approached by representatives of the Canadian and U.S. governments to — yep, in the title again — kill the Bigfoot, carrier of a modern plague, rampaging through rural Canada.
The combination of historical fiction, old-school horror aesthetic and novelistic meditation on the real cost of violence will likely not work for everyone, nor will the fact that this is literally a movie about a man who killed Hitler and then the Bigfoot. But it's a fun exercise in seemingly bygone styles with a winning lead performance, despite some flaws in tone and timing. STREAMING ON AMAZON PRIME.
— John J. Bennett
See showtimes at www.northcoastjournal.com or call: Broadway Cinema 443-3456; Fortuna Theatre 725-2121; Mill Creek Cinema 839-3456; Minor Theatre 822-3456; Richards› Goat Miniplex 630-5000.
CAPTAIN MARVEL. Brie Larson goes super sheroic as Carol Danvers, crushing Earth's foes like toxic fanboys in an MCU flashback with de-aged Samuel L. Jackson. PG13. 124M. BROADWAY, FORTUNA, MILL CREEK, MINOR.
FREE SOLO. Clench your teeth through this documentary as Alex Honnold free climbs in Yosemite. PG13. 101M. FORTUNA,
THE WIZARD OF OZ (1935). Are you a good witch or a bad witch? PG13. 127M. BROADWAY.
WOMAN AT WAR. Icelandic comedy about a woman (Halldóra Geirharðsdóttir) whose quixotic guerrilla battle against the local aluminum industry is complicated by the chance to adopt a child. NR. 101M. MINOR.
ALITA: BATTLE ANGEL. A CG-heavy hodgepodge of the original manga and a host of lifted sci-fi movie elements built for a sequel nobody wants. PG13. 122M. BROADWAY, FORTUNA, MILL CREEK.
COLD PURSUIT. Hans Petter Moland's "reimagining" of his own revenge drama Kraftidioten is a cold mess of improbable plot and character quirks without the storytelling foundation to support it. Starring Liam Neeson, best left in the snow. R. 118M. FORTUNA.
FIGHTING WITH MY FAMILY. A young woman (Florence Pugh) from a family of traveling wrestlers takes her shot at the WWE. With Dwayne Johnson and Nick Frost. PG13. 108M. BROADWAY, MILL CREEK.
THE GOSPEL OF EUREKA. Drag queens and evangelical Christians put on their respective passion plays in a Southern town. NR. 75M. MINIPLEX.
GREEN BOOK. The cringe-worthy story of a racist white man driving a black concert pianist around the South in the '60s buoyed by Viggo Mortensen and Mahershala Ali's immersive performances. PG13. 130M. BROADWAY, MILL CREEK.
HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON: THE HIDDEN WORLD. This installment finds Hiccup (Jay Baruchel) looking for more creatures like his dragon buddy. BROADWAY, FORTUNA, MILL CREEK MINOR.
ISN'T IT ROMANTIC. Rebel Wilson and Liam Hemsworth star in a semi-wicked send-up of beauty myths and cultural "norms" that teases and pays tribute to the rom-com genre. PG13. 88M. BROADWAY, MILL CREEK.
THE LEGO MOVIE: THE SECOND ONE. More blocky animated action voiced by Chris Pratt and Elizabeth Banks. PG. 107 M. BROADWAY, MILL CREEK.
A MADEA FAMILY FUNERAL. Tyler Perry once again ensconced in foam and wigs for a comedy about an unexpected death. PG13. 109M. BROADWAY.
A STAR IS BORN. Bradley Cooper's directorial debut casts him and Lady Gaga (who amazes) as leads in a surprisingly real examination of love, art, celebrity, addiction, sacrifice and depression. R. 136M. MILL CREEK.
WHAT IS DEMOCRACY? A documentary traces the roots and history of democracy around the world, you know, before it's gone. NR. 107M. MINIPLEX.
— Jennifer Fumiko Cahill