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!"
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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.
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Top Story: Rob Lowe Joins Schwarzenegger Campaign
Action star-turned-gubernatorial candidate Arnold Schwarzenegger has tapped former The West Wing co-star Rob Lowe to join his campaign. According to Variety, the Schwarzenegger campaign said Lowe will coordinate a coalition of artists and entertainers in endorsing the candidate. "Arnold is exciting and dynamic to the Hollywood community and we're thrilled Rob has decided to bring on as many artists and entertainers to the campaign as possible," Schwarzenegger spokesperson Sean Walsh said. Plans to officially announce Lowe and other coordinators will be announced later this week. But how much does Lowe, who portrayed a White House political adviser on NBC's The West Wing, really know about real life affairs of state? The actor teamed with Jane Fonda to support a California clean water initiative in 1986 and supported then-Massachusetts Gov. Michael Dukakis's failed 1988 presidential bid. In fact, it was in a hotel room during the Democratic National Convention in Atlanta that year that Lowe videotaped himself in a sexual tryst with two women--one of them underage. Lowe, a longtime Democrat, joins billionaire investor Warren Buffett and Ronald Reagan's Secretary of State George Schultz on Schwarzenegger's team.
Coleman, Carey To Enter "Debating Game"
Actor Gary Coleman and adult film star Mary Carey will take part in a gubernatorial candidate debate to be broadcast Oct. 1 on The Game Show Network, The Associated Press reports. The diminutive star and the porn actress are among 135 candidates seeking to replace Gov. Gray Davis if he's recalled in the Oct. 7 election. They will be among a panel of five who will appear on the show titled Who Wants To Be Governor of California? The Debating Game. According to the network, the contestant receiving the most votes in the election will receive $21,200, the maximum corporate campaign contribution allowed by California law. Three more contestants will be announced over the next two weeks, the network said.
Seabiscuit Star Thrown From Horse
Top American jockey Gary Stevens, who portrays jockey great George Woolf in the biopic Seabiscuit, was hospitalized after being thrown off his horse, Storming Home, just a few strides past the finish line in the Arlington Million in Illinois Saturday. A hospital spokesperson says Stevens's left shoulder was stepped on when he fell off of his mount but he is listed in fair condition. According to Reuters, Stevens didn't move for five minutes after the fall, but eventually sat up and moved his legs before he was carried on a stretcher and later taken to Northwest Community Hospital. Storming Home placed fourth in the race.
Ziering's Former Housekeeper Convicted of Grand Theft
Actor Ian Ziering's former housekeeper, Gloria Lopez, was convicted Friday of grand theft for stealing a pendant and other items from the former Beverly Hills, 90210 actor that had belonged to his late mother. Lopez, 48, also was also convicted of petty theft for stealing a cell phone from Ziering's friend, actor David Sheinkopf of the cable television show Design on a Dime. In testimony, Ziering said after the items disappeared he went to a friend's house where he knew Lopez also worked and found "a treasure trove" in Lopez's car. Lopez's attorney told jurors the housekeeper found the items in the trash. According to the AP, Lopez was ordered jailed without bail and faces a maximum of three years and six months in prison when she is sentenced Sept. 11.
Disney and DreamWorks Settle Release Date Scuffle
Disney and DreamWorks's battle for the Nov. 5, 2004, weekend is over, Variety reports. DreamWorks had chosen that release date for its animated shark feature Sharkslayer but when Disney and Pixar announced the release of The Incredibles that same weekend, DreamWorks backed off from the date to avoid going up against a Pixar juggernaut. Instead the studio will release Sharkslayer on Oct. 1, 2004. Next November is proving to be a busy month for animated fare: Warner Bros. will release its all-CGI pic Polar Express from Tom Hanks and Robert Zemeckis, while Paramount is set to bow its Spongebob SquarePants feature.
Fox Sends Out Web Coupons for DVDs
Sales of 20th Century Fox's Daredevil DVD are benefiting from a fairly new technology: the printable online coupon. According to The Hollywood Reporter, Fox's latest monthly e-mail newsletter, which is sent out to 1 million subscribers, featured a $5 off coupon for the Ben Affleck superhero pic. Although it will be months before the studio can determine the effectiveness of the campaign, Richard Ashton, director of database marketing at 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment, said the coupons at least leave a paper trail showing how their customers are shopping. Fox limited the number of online coupons to 50,000 and prevented exact copies of them from being made by using bar codes.
Never-Before-Released Elvis Song To Be Issued
This fall, RCA Records is putting out a never-before-released song recorded by Elvis Presley nearly 40 years ago, Reuters reports. The recently unearthed single, "I'm a Roustabout," will be issued as part of a new collection of favorites from the King of Rock 'n' Roll. The song was originally written for the 1964 Presley film Roustabout and was even recorded by Presley, but the song was rejected by producers and never used. A completely different song eventually became the title song for both the movie and the No. 1 album of the same name. Presley died Aug. 16, 1977, at age 42.
R&B Songwriter Ed Townsend Dead at 74
Ed Townsend, the rhythm-and-blues songsmith who wrote the 1958 hit "For Your Love," died of a heart attack Wednesday in Sun City, Calif., at the age of 74, Reuters reports. During a career that spanned five decades, Townsend, known as ""Big Papa" by friends, penned over 200 songs. He is credited with helping to shape a string of R&B hits recorded by