Universal Pictures via Everett Collection
Seventeen years ago, Harrison Ford grumbled four simple words that defined a genre, a demographic, and a country: "Get off my plane." In a pre-9/11 world, there was no shortage of jingoistic glee in a movie like Air Force One, in which a man's man American president doled out justice to a militia of Russian loyalist terrorists who made the silly mistake of attempting to hijack his flight home from Moscow. In 2014, we don't have the luxury of facing a plotline like this with reckless merriment. There's a damp gravity to the premise behind movies like Non-Stop, which in another time would have been nothing more than Taken on a Plane. But rigidly conscious of the connotations that attach to a story about a hijacking of a civilian international flight into John F. Kennedy Airport in New York City, Non-Stop doesn't play too fast and loose. It still plays, and has some good fun doing so, but carefully.
From the getgo, we're anchored into the grim narrative of Liam Neeson's U.S. Air Marshall Bill Marks, who settles his demons with a healthy spoonful of whiskey. A dutiful officer even when liquored up, Marks eyeballs every nameless face in London's Heathrow Airport, silently introducing the bevvy of characters who'll come into play later on. After takeoff, Marks finds himself on the unwitting prowl for the anonymous party who's attempting to take down the red-eye through a series of manipulative text messages, well-timed threats, and clandestine killings. Chatty passenger Julianne Moore and flight attendant Michelle Dockery join Marks in his efforts to identify the mysterious criminal before the entire aircraft falls to his or her whims. So less Taken, more Murder, She Wrote.
Our roundup of suspects challenges our (and their) preconceived notions, and quite laughably — most vocal among Neeson's fellow passengers are a white beta-male school teacher (Scoot McNairy), a black computer engineer with an attitude of entitlement (Nate Parker), a softspoken Middle Eastern surgeon whose headwear gets more than a few focal shots (Omar Metwally), a middle-aged white businessman whose latest account landed him more than your house is worth (Frank Deal), an irate black youngster draped in irreverence (Corey Hawkins), and a white, bald, machismo-howling New York cop who secretly accepts his gay brother (Corey Stoll). Just a few talking heads short of Do the Right Thing, Non-Stop manages to goof on each man's (notice that they're all men — Moore, Dockery, and a barely-in-the-movie Lupita Nyong’o are kept shy of the action for most of the film) distaste for and distrust of one another as they each try to sidle up to, or undermine the harried Marks.
Non-Stop plays an interesting game with its characters and its audience, simultaneously painting the ignorance of its characters with a thick coat of comedy while pointing its finger straight out at us with accusations that we, too, thought it was whoever we just learned it wasn't, and for all the wrong reasons. "Shame on you!" Non-Stop chides, adding, "But let's keep going, this is fun!"
The best player in the World for movie trailers, Hollywood interviews and movie clips.
It is fun — that's the miraculous thing. Without any "Get off my plane"s or "Yippee ki yay"s, Non-Stop keeps its action genre silliness in check (okay, there is a moment involving an airborne gun that'll institute some serious laugh-cheers), investing all of its good time in the game of claustrophobic Clue that we can't help but enjoy. It sacrifices some of its charm in a heavy-handed third act, tipping to one side of what was a pretty impressive balancing act up until that point. But its falter is not one that drags down the movie entirely. Fun and excitement are restored, sincerity is maintained, and even a few moments of sensitivity creep their way through. We might not live in a world of President Harrison Fords any longer, but Air Marshall Liam Neesons could actually be a step up.
Follow @Michael Arbeiter
| Follow @Hollywood_com
Popular Mills & Boon novelist Ida Pollock has died, aged 105. She passed away on Tuesday (03Dec13) in Cornwall, England. No more details were available as WENN went to press.
Pollock's prolific writing career stretched over more than 90 years and included more than 120 romance novels, most of which were written under pseudonyms, including Joan Allen, Susan Barrie, Pamela Kent, Jane Beaufort and Marguerite Bell.
Many of her books were released through Mills & Boon, a British publishing house famed for producing romantic fiction, and she continued writing up until her death.
She still has two more novels, her 124th and 125th books, due for publication in the new year (14).
Her husband, Hugh Alexander Pollock, was previously married to another writer - celebrated children's author Enid Blyton.
George Clooney has four feature film directing credits to his name — too few to accurately assess his sensibilities and broader obsessions. But with the announcement of his next project, which THR reveals is a film based on a May 28 New Yorker article detailing the life of William Alexander Morgan, an American who aided Fidel Castro in overthrowing the Cuban government, a sense of what drives Clooney's filmmaking side becomes a bit clearer. Clooney is solidifying himself as the premiere political filmmaker of the modern age.
Political dramas have been a common staple in Hollywood since cameras first started burning images into celluloid, but the genre swelled in the 1970s and '80s with domestic and international tension at a high, war bubbling across the globe. Filmmakers like Sydney Pollock, Francis Ford Coppola, Martin Scorsese, Roman Polanski were examining politics and the general state of the world through human drama and broader backdrops. Perhaps the most influential of them all was Alan J. Pakula, who delved into political conspiracy with films like All the President's Men, The Parallax View and, arguably, Klute. Oliver Stone carried the political torch into the '80s, aggressively depicting the faults of government while praising the faint glimmers of hope that were left in the country. Platoon, Wall Street, Born on the Fourth of July, JFK — movies that tackle relevant subjects with little constraint.
Jump to today. Sensibilities (and business models) of Hollywood evolved, and now political films are few and far between, low-budget documentaries being the suitable form of dissection, rather than multi-million dollar studio gambles. The sea change helped Michael Moore become a household name, but those looking for the qualities of a written, dramatic experience are out of luck. Popcorn entertainment trumps real world reflection. Even our Oscar-friendly movies fit that bill — not to slight it, but what did The Artist say about the life and times of today?
But Clooney is using his power to revive the old school method. Really, he's the only one with the clout to do it. The A-list actor made his political drive well-known: Clooney routinely trots the globe promoting social issues and reform for less-than-ideal governments. He's taken part in protests in Washington D.C. — and even found himself in handcuffs a few times. He's an advocate, and now he's using his position in Hollywood, his newfound position as a top-notch director, to reach a broader audience. Leatherheads aside, his films have all been prisms for reflecting politics: Confessions of a Dangerous Mind was steeped in that Paluka-esque paranoia; Goodnight and Good Luck depicted the hardships of journalism during the McCarthy era that feel all too familiar today; and Ides of March was is most on the nose effort to date, diving directly into the terrifying underbelly of election season. Unlike Oliver Stone, Clooney has the tenderness of being an actor too, helping to bring dimensionality to his characters. A great political film needs real people, not pawns, and Clooney avoids didacticism through performance. He may have his own political slant, but he's not one to drive home a singular message. Politics is a grey zone, and Clooney paints it as such.
If Clooney continues to tackle political films, the genre will be seen as his wheelhouse, which often translates to a comfort zone. That's narrow thinking — really, who else could be bringing these stories to life other than Clooney? With the actor-turned-director at the helm of heady political tales, audiences will have a few sizzling, undefinable pictures sprinkled among the usual biopic dramas of deceased celebrity or sweeping historical epics that often flood award season. If the guy can get a political drama made in the current Hollywood climate, he should. As Edward R. Murrow puts it in Goodnight and Good Luck: "This instrument can teach. It can illuminate and, yes, it can even inspire. But it can do so only to the extent that humans are determined to use it towards those ends."
Go forth, Clooney. Make movies that teach us something.
Follow Matt Patches on Twitter @misterpatches
George Clooney and Red Hot Chili Peppers Back President Obama
George Clooney Arrested at D.C. Protest
Cannes Chatter: Brad Pitt Takes a Shotgun to U.S. Politics in 'Killing Them Softly'
[Photo Credit: WENN.com]
Professor Brody (Jeff Goldblum) is a mad scientist type who spends his days locked in the test tube-filled basement of his upper middle-class home in hopes of developing a potential cure for dog allergies. A group of vigilante felines led by Persian cat Mr. Tinkles sets out to sabotage the professor's work in a bid to take over the world. The dogs in order to protect their standing as man's best friend decide to send out their best undercover agent to protect the professor's lab and the Brody household but a barnyard snafu results in them sending Lou an unsuspecting and clumsy beagle instead. Rather than replace the unskilled pup the dogs decide to make do with what they have and attempt to train Lou to be a cutthroat agent. Lou's greatest challenge however is that he is not allowed to develop a bond with the Brody's which would interfere with his mission and the greater good of dogs all over the world. It's a cute story that unfortunately gets boring really quickly which is not a good thing for a film marketed to kids with short attention spans.
Golblum plays the role of Professor Brody as well as such a one-dimensional role can be played. His character spends a little too much time in the basement emerging sporadically to test his vaccines by sniffing or at times licking the family pet. It's difficult to drum up sympathy for him and his family when they get kidnapped by Mr. Tinkle's henchmen in exchange for the professor's research. The part just seems too ridiculous for an actor like Goldblum and too sharp a contrast from his past roles like Seth Brundle in The Fly or David Levinson in Independence Day. Elizabeth Perkins as Carolyn his wife and Alexander Pollock as their son Scott have minimal and unmemorable roles. There were several impressive names in the voice cast including Tobey Maguire Alec Baldwin Sean Hayes Susan Sarandon Michael Clarke Duncan Jon Lovitz and Charlton Heston but none were distinctive enough to add anything special to their animal counterparts. Hayes is entertaining enough as Mr. Tinkles but a cat can only object to wearing a bonnet and getting bathed so often.
Boone Narr who was the animal trainer and stunt coordinator on the set does a mind-boggling job with the real-life animals and the Jim Henson Creature Shop which received an Academy Award for Best Visual Effects for the film Babe created the puppets so you know they're fantastic. The different visual effects used throughout the film-including puppets animatronics and computer-generated imagery (CGI)--morph together so well it is difficult to discern where the real animals end and the puppets begin. The sets are interesting enough visually especially the Flocking Factory with its industrial revolution machinery and the dog's secret headquarters (though one has to wonder why the dogs used a human keyboard made for bony fingers rather than a more ergonomically designed one for fluffy paws). Despite all the visuals the film lulls after the first 30 minutes and doesn't regain its momentum not even at the climax. The concept is great and while everyone loves a good turf war especially between dogs and cats there just isn't enough substance to pull this film together.