The Grinch

In both the original Dr. Seuss book, Cindy-Lou Who is a tiny toddler, “no more than two,” whose interaction with a Santa-Claus-disguised Grinch revolves only around questioning him about why Santa is taking their Christmas tree in the middle of the night.

In Universal Pictures and Illumination’s new version of The Grinch, she’s a little older, and she’s on a mission to trap Santa to ask him to help her over-worked, over-tired mother. “We wanted to find a character who was the antitheses of the Grinch,” producer Chris Meledandri says. “Someone who was incredibly helpful and embodied the optimism that childhood allows us to have. She’s a very positive character, but there’s a certain wisdom to her as well. We talked a lot about why her path was going to cross with Santa’s — or the-Grinch-as-Santa — and giving her a sense of mission and intention. Her determination puts these two characters on paths that we know are going to collide.”

That collision ultimately becomes the catalyst for the Grinch’s change (and growth) of heart. “She starts the whole process of the Grinch’s transformation,” says Benedict Cumberbatch who lends his voice as The Grinch. “She’s this very excited girl who kind of represents everything that Christmas should be about: thinking about other people, being generous and kind. And it sorts of melts the Grinch. She’s not thinking about what presents she wants for herself, and that really stuns him. It’s the first piece in the puzzle that helps him discover the real reasons Christmas is being celebrated.”

“Cindy-Lou is the light,” director Scott Mosier says. “She sees the good in everybody, and she wants more than anything to help her mother. She wants nothing for herself. That selflessness, that love, shatters what the Grinch believes to be true about the Whos, Christmas — everything really.”

For the role, the directors cast child actor Cameron Seely, who had played PT Barnum’s daughter Helen in The Greatest Showman. “When you set out to cast a child you have two choices,” Meledandri says. “You either cast a child or you cast somebody much older who’s able to give you a voice that sounds like a child. It’s generally our preference to see if we can cast a child, but you’re dealing with a much greater unknown, and it involves a wide search. So when our team found Cameron, Scott immediately responded to her vocal audition, then spent time working with her. From the minute he started to work with her, he saw her potential, and boy, was he right. She performed like a pro with fifteen years of experience, and she’s not even ten years old.”

Now playing in Philippine cinemas, The Grinch is distributed in the Philippines by United International Pictures through Columbia Pictures.  Follow us on Facebook at


Mortal Engines

Peter Jackson, director of the critically acclaimed The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit trilogies, wasn’t exactly looking to make another world-building fantasy film when Scholastic Media president and Mortal Engines’ producer Deborah Forte first sent him the Mortal Engines book around 2005. After all, Jackson and his fellow filmmakers Fran Walsh and Philippa Boyens, fresh off the success of the LOTR films, were already receiving fantasy projects left and right.

(Check out the film’s trailer HERE.)

Fortunately, Jackson was excited by the dystopian world ideas and the imagery of Mortal Engines right from the start. “Society has rebuilt a semblance of what it used to be, except the cities are now actually moving,” Jackson says. “They are huge traction cities. London is over a mile long, and they chase and hunt smaller cities across this landscape called the Great Hunting Ground, which is essentially Europe.”

Embedded in author Philip Reeve’s depiction of the future is the concept of Municipal Darwinism. “In its simplest form, the bigger cities eat the smaller ones,” Jackson says. “The smaller cities eat the smaller towns, and the smaller towns eat the tiny little towns. They see that as a very natural evolution. When we join this story this has been going on for over 1,000 years so it is very established.” He pauses. “The trouble with Municipal Darwinism is that there is a limit to it. Eventually the big cities eat so many of the smaller cities that there are none left, so they have to either turn on each other or find something else to hunt.”

Jackson loved the concept of cities on wheels devouring each other, and the tale’s narrative and emotional elements of love, compassion, vengeance, and liberation. “You are always looking for stories with humanity,” Jackson says. “Mortal Engines has that.”

Jackson’s Wingnut Films optioned the property and then began pre-production on Mortal Engines in New Zealand in 2008, but the project needed to be placed on the back burner for several years while Jackson and his fellow filmmakers created The Hobbit trilogy.

Award-winning team

After the release of the final Hobbit film, Battle of the Five Armies, in 2014, Jackson decided to write and produce Mortal Engines, and he and Fran Walsh asked their longtime collaborator Christian Rivers to direct it. “I always wanted to produce something for Christian, and this was the perfect moment in time,” Jackson says. Rivers was the visual effects supervisor the LOTR films and King Kong, for which he won an Academy Award.

Rivers’ experience in visually translating complex worlds from page to screen is definitely a big plus for the Mortal Engines film. As is the screenplay-writing team-up of Jackson, Fran Walsh, and Philippa Boyens.

From the beginning, the award-winning collaborators understood that the script needed to explain the world of Mortal Engines to the audience without sacrificing the speed and agility of the narrative. “This world of Mortal Engines felt like a very fresh idea,” Boyens says. “At the same time, the story itself pulled together all the surviving threads of humanity.”

That humanity is at the core of all the stories they tell on film. “There’s no point in making a movie unless you’ve got characters that you can relate to,” Jackson says. “I mean, why bother? We may be projecting ahead about 1,700 years in Mortal Engines, but human beings are still human beings. If we went back two or three thousand years, we could sit down and have dinner with a person in Ancient Egypt or Rome, and we would probably still find a lot to laugh about and connect with, even though that person comes from a totally different world. The environment may change, the society may change, but humanity is always there. No matter how crazy or fantastical the world we create around them may be, we make sure that world is inhabited with characters that you can connect with.”

Mortal Engines is distributed in the Philippines by United International Pictures through Columbia Pictures.  Follow us on Facebook at



Based on the popular U.K. television series of the same name, created by Lynda La Plante,  “Widows” is directed, co-written and produced by Academy Award®-winning filmmaker Steve McQueen, whose 12 Years a Slave won the 2013 Academy Award® for Best Picture.

                When McQueen approached renowned screenwriter Gillian Flynn (Gone Girl) to co-write the script, she says she jumped at the opportunity.  “Steve McQueen called me, which was a great phone call to get out of the blue,” she recalls. “He knew I lived in Chicago, and he wanted to do a heist film starring four women, so I’m already in. Then it’s going to be shot in the town I live in and love, Chicago, which is such an underused town and such a cool town.  And he wanted to use all the neighborhoods and really employ the city as its own character.  And you just don’t see Chicago enough, the real Chicago in film. So, I was immediately, like, ‘Where do I sign up?’”

                According to Flynn, the story offers a twist on the typical heist film in that each character that intersects comes from different ethnic, financial and social background. “My favorite part about heist films are when the team comes together. I love that,” she notes. “That’s one thing I wanted to keep about that heist feel, was that these women were coming together, not because one was a jewel thief, and one was a safe cracker, that type of thing, but because they just happen to all be connected by their husbands. “

                The filmmakers assembled an impressive cast of actors for the film. McQueen says it was very important to make his cast feel comfortable and at-home, so to speak.  “It’s very simple: they’re all great actors and you need to create an environment in which they feel safe to experiment and explore. That’s what I hope I provide actors, a safe space to fall on their faces, brush themselves off and try again in search of some kind of truth.”

                Academy Award-winning actress Viola Davis says it’s a role that she never imagined she’d be asked to portray. “It’s a huge departure for me,” she exclaims. “I wouldn’t imagine myself being in this. First there’s a nice love scene in there. It’s kind of action-packed. I don’t know, I just didn’t see it.  So, Steve McQueen literally coming to me and saying, “I do see you in this role,” was sort of exhilarating to me.”

                In the film, Veronica is married to career criminal Harry Rawlins, played by Liam Neeson. When you first meet them, the couple have already been damaged by a tragic death. “They very much are bonded by grief,” she notes. “And then Harry dies in a heist accident… and she’s left with nothing, literally nothing. Nothing in terms of finances and nothing in terms of even emotional reserve. But she decides to live.”

                She decides to live by finishing the heist Harry was supposed to commit. Step one: employ her crew, the widows of Harry’s cohorts in crime. “It just starts off with all of us being strangers,” Davis explains. “But the one familiar element is that all of our men died in this fire, and they were all thieves. That’s the only thing that binds us together.  And, also the fact that we’re all broke and we need to survive now.  We’re in survival mode.  But other than that, we couldn’t be any more diametrically opposed.”

               Rated R-16, “Widows” opens December 5 in cinemas nationwide from 20th Century Fox.


Florian “Big Nasty” Munteanu as Viktor Drago

Making his memorable film debut in Warner Bros. Pictures’ action-drama “Creed II” is real-life amateur fighter Florian “Big Nasty” Munteanu as Viktor Drago, the son of Ivan Drago (Dolph Lundgren), the Russian boxer who killed Apollo Creed in the ring three decades earlier.

When the “Creed II” filmmakers were looking for the actor who could play Viktor Drago, they needed someone who physically resembled the tall, imposing character and could also act and box. After months of reviewing hundreds of photos, videos, and audition tapes, producer, screenwriter and castmember Sylvester Stallone found the 235-pound, 6-foot-4 boxer from Germany named Florian “Big Nasty” Munteanu.

“I had a feeling about Florian,” Stallone says. “It’s very hard to get the whole package when you’re casting a role like this. We could find big guys who could fight but couldn’t act. Or guys who looked great but couldn’t fight. Florian is unique.” Munteanu, an amateur heavyweight with a 68-10 (with six draws) record, was told by his fight manager that the producers of “Creed II” had seen his photos and videos and wanted to know if he was interested in auditioning. Soon thereafter, the twenty-seven-year-old Romanian-German boxer — who grew up watching the Rocky films with his father, an avid boxer — was told “Sylvester Stallone wants to Skype with you.”

“It was absolutely surreal, doing a Skype audition with Stallone, who was a childhood hero of mine,” says Munteanu. “Especially as a boxer, growing up with all the Rocky movies that I watched over and over again. I couldn’t really describe the feeling I had when that computer screen opened, and I saw Stallone in front of me and realized it was actually happening.” When the positive feedback from that session was followed up by a meeting with Caple and more good feedback, the good news came in a very cinematic way, Munteanu recalls. “I had my last audition in Los Angeles just before Christmas, and then I went home to Munich,” says Munteanu. “I got call from my manager the night of December 23, but my parents were already sleeping. So, the next day, I had a nice Christmas dinner present for my parents — that I had gotten the part. You couldn’t write a script like that.”

Stallone says the months-long casting and audition process to find Viktor Drago was very similar to the nine-month search he undertook more than thirty years ago when he was looking for an actor to play Ivan Drago. “Finding someone to play Ivan took nine months, and we went through thousands of photos, tapes, and auditions before we found Dolph Lundgren,” remembers Stallone. “Dolph was unique. He was great looking, tall, blonde, and he could fight! He had been a world champion in karate for many years in Sweden and across Europe, so he understood what it took. Florian is the same way. He actually knows how to fight for real. Plus, he’s incredibly large and muscular. When I met him, I thought, ‘Wow.’ And then we saw he could act.”

Lundgren was also struck by the many parallels between himself and Munteanu. “There are many similarities,” Lundgren says. “He’s the same age I was when I played Ivan. I’m from Europe; he’s from Europe. We both started at age ten working out and fighting. I was involved in karate and he was involved in K-1 kickboxing and boxing. I think Michael and Stallone are about the same size, and Florian is my height, so the physical contrast is similar.”

Michael B. Jordan, who spent months training and learning fight choreography with Munteanu, was also impressed with his boxing and acting skills. “Florian is super humble, eager to work and learn, and we picked up chemistry really fast in the ring with the boxing choreography,” says Jordan. “He brings a lot of emotion and range to the role. It’s a very layered performance by him.” Munteanu says the opportunity to work with Jordan and his “mentors” Lundgren and Stallone made him “a better actor and a better person.” “You only get better if you surround yourself with people you can learn from, people who are better than you or more experienced than you,” he says.

“Michael and I are almost exactly the same age, and we’re also pretty much on the same side when it comes to the values we appreciate,” adds Munteanu. “He’s a family guy who appreciates loyal people and honest people around him. We immediately clicked, and after a few weeks we became good friends. It was a great thing for me because besides the fact that I was the new guy on set, I also had no family or friends with me while filming. Michael said if there’s anything I needed, I can come to him, and I really valued that.”

In Philippine cinemas November 28, “Creed II” is distributed worldwide by Warner Bros. Pictures, a WarnerMedia Company.


Mortal Engines

Universal Pictures and MRC present Mortal Engines, the startling, new epic adventure directed by Oscar®-winning visual-effects artist Christian Rivers (King Kong), based on the award-winning book series by Philip Reeve. Joining Rivers are the three-time Academy Award®-winning filmmakers of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings trilogies, Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens and Peter Jackson, who have written the screenplay.

Hundreds of years after civilization was destroyed by a cataclysmic event, a mysterious young woman, Hester Shaw (Hera Hilmar), emerges as the only one who can stop London—now a giant, predator city on wheels—from devouring everything in its path. Feral, and fiercely driven by the memory of her mother, Hester joins forces with Tom Natsworthy (Robert Sheehan), an outcast from London, along with Anna Fang (Jihae), a dangerous outlaw with a bounty on her head.

Check out the new Spot for Mortal Engines and watch the film in Philippine cinemas December 5.


It would take seven years for author and illustrator Philip Reeve to pen his first young-adult novel, Mortal Engines, which was first published by Scholastic in 2001. “The biggest idea I could think of was a city on wheels but then I had to ask, ‘Why would you want a city on wheels?’” Reeve says. “It seemed arcane, but then I realized, you would want a city on wheels to chase a smaller city on wheels…and when I worked that out everything fell into place.”

The acclaimed novel, which earned the Guardian Children’s Fiction Prize, the Los Angeles Times Book Award, the Smarties Gold Award and Blue Peter Book of the Year distinctions and was shortlisted for the prestigious Whitbread Award, would evolve into a series of four books known as The Mortal Engines Quartet: Mortal Engines, Predator’s Gold, Infernal Devices and A Darkling Plain.

Reeve’s story takes place centuries after civilization was destroyed by a cataclysmic event known as the Sixty Minute War. Humankind has adapted and a new way of living has evolved. Gigantic moving cities now roam the Earth, ruthlessly preying upon smaller traction towns. Tom Natsworthy—who hails from a Lower Tier of the great traction city of London—finds himself fighting for his own survival after he encounters the dangerous fugitive Hester Shaw. Two opposites, whose paths should never have crossed, forge an unlikely alliance that is destined to change the course of the future.

During his time at art college, Reeve had experimented with a Super 8 camera but decided it would be easier to illustrate and write novels than make movies. (“You don’t have to give people lunch or dress them in costume,” Reeve says, dryly.) Still, he had a clear vision of his story’s cinematic future. “Mortal Engines always wanted to be a big action movie when it grew up,” Reeve says. “It has a three-act structure and big set pieces. It was just itching to be filmed.”

Scholastic Media president and Mortal Engines’ producer Deborah Forte agreed. “There is a little bit of an actor in Philip, and a little bit of a director, so when he writes it’s in a very cinematic way,” Forte says. “You know what the world is, how it looks and sounds and what it feels like to be there.” And Forte, who had helped bring The Golden Compass to the big screen, immediately thought of the one filmmaker with the extraordinary vision and peerless sensibility to adaptMortal Engines into a blockbuster movie experience: Peter Jackson.

Mortal Engines is distributed in the Philippines by United International Pictures through Columbia Pictures.  Follow us on Facebook at