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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Universal Pictures via Everett Collection
Endless Love has awakened something in me. Not a long dormant passion for an introverted high school classmate, or a sudden desire to break into the zoo after dark. A question about movies — more accurately, about movie criticism. The same question you would ask yourself if you fell drowsy in the middle of Citizen Kane, or welled up during the emotional climax of Just Friends. The question I ask myself now, as I recount the 103 straight minutes of asphyxiating laughter that I endured during a screening of Shana Feste’s would-be romantic drama: What makes a good movie?
We assign deference to some films, disgust to others — a lucky few of us make a living this way. But what, precisely, are we reviewing? A film’s mission or its execution? The product onscreen or the experience of watching it? All factors come into play when considering whether or not a movie “works.” But on rare occasions you’ll get a film that offers no common ground in its meeting of these standards. You’ll get Endless Love, which strives for dramatic sincerity, winds up with underwritten idiocy, and provokes in its viewers an unrestrained, absurdist revelry — the kind of joy you’d otherwise be forced to seek in a third viewing of The Lego Movie. Laughter at the ill-conceived antics and befuddling dialectical patterns of our central teen couple — a Mars native Gabrielle Wilde and her gaping mouthed beau Alex Pettyfer. Elated bemusement at the younger generation’s propensity for chaotic disrobing and didactically organized dance parties. Unprecedented ecstasy at the Mafia movie intimidation tactics of an overprotective dad (Bruce Greenwood) and the brain-dead disregard of a supportive one (Robert Patrick). As a comedy, Endless Love is unstoppable.
I can only hypothesize that it was not Feste’s intention to roll us in the aisles. I have no cold proof that her resolution in paving every nook in her Georgia-set remake with another farcical stone — Wilde’s instantaneous evolution from wordless ingénue to sexually aggressive spirit walker, Patrick’s loving caution-to-the-wind attitude regarding any situation that has to do with a girl, Rhys Wakefield’s “black sheep” character forming an odd amalgamation of Pauly Shore and Charlie St. Cloud — was not one of Wolf of Wall Street-like satire, or reappropriation in the vein of Spring Breakers. Here are two movies that earned scorn from viewers who read them literally, and in turn vehement defense from those who peered through the exaltation of cocaine and firearms into the filmmakers’ ironic intentions.
Universal Pictures via Everett Collection
To the latter community, one to which I subscribe, I ask: if we’re readily willing to dive deeper for Martin Scorsese and Harmony Korine, shouldn’t we grant Feste this benefit? If we’d defend the authenticity of the splendor we recognized in their movies, why am I inclined to write off the very same when present in this year’s Valentine’s Day cannonball? Why do I eagerly laud the merit in Leonardo DiCaprio directing Quaalude-charged tribal chants and relinquishing subhuman treatment upon anyone short a Y-chromosome, while instinctively shafting the invaluable merriment in Pettyfer’s goofily deliberate declaration that he likes to read into the category of happy accident?
But an even more precise question (one I was challenged to entertain by a friend and film critic far wiser than I am), and this time to the former community: does it matter? Did it matter to all those offended by gunplay and intrusive nudity that Korine set out to demonize youth culture and its omnipresent hedonism? Did considering his intentions make the endgame any less a visceral nightmare? If not, does it matter if Feste poured her soul into the machination of a timeless love story, only to produce a riotous cinematic episode that treads genre parody as expertly as anything from the golden age of the Zucker brothers? Does it matter that she didn’t intend for Wilde and Pettyfer’s sex scene to come off as super-hoke, for every mention of cancer to feel like soap opera send-up, or for Robert Patrick’s vindication of his son’s passion for menagerie trespassing to elicit the biggest laugh of a movie yet in 2014?
So long as I consider the power of cinema, I’ll never be sure if it matters. I’ll never be sure of the answers to any of these questions. But no matter where I find myself standing on this issue down the line, I had far too much fun at Endless Love — and entertained far too many questions on the nature of cinema and the way we react to it — to call it a movie that people shouldn’t see.
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The former reality TV star will reprise her role as Heather Chandler, the high school nemesis of Sarah Walker - the character played by Yvonne Strahovski - in October (10) in a scene involving a prison transfer gone wrong.
According to EW.com, Richie won't be the only returning guest star - wrestler 'Stone Cold' Steve Austin is also set to appear in the same episode as Hugo Panzer.
Richie originally appeared on the show in 2008.
A billionaire TV producer (Robert Mammone) has a great idea for a reality show that he wants to put on the Internet and his goal is to beat the 40 million Super Bowl audience. He has compiled a crack team of young hip and immoral tech geeks directed by Goldman (Rick Hoffman) and puts cameras throughout a remote island where former prisoners are going to kill each other while audiences watch after shelling out the pay-per-view fee. The location is done on a remote secret island and the death row prisoners are bought from prisons around the world with the promise that the survivor gets to walk free. Among the contestants are a rogue Aussie named McStarley (Vinnie Jones) a martial arts expert (Masa Yamaguchi) a husband-and-wife team (Manu Bennett and Dasi Ruz) a monstrous killer who doesn't do much more than grunt (Nathan Jones) and others known only as The Italian The German and other monikers quickly forgotten. Enter the sole American Jack Conrad (Steve Austin) who's in a South American prison for some obscure reason and is recognized on TV by his wife (Madeleine West) who tries to save him. However it looks like Conrad is pretty good at helping himself. Don't expect the acting to be much more evolved than what could be seen among the World Wrestling Entertainment superstars especially since many of them were plucked from the ring to star in this morality tale. But Austin (who had in a strong cameo in Adam Sandler's Longest Yard) proves he has a sense of humor as well as strength. Vinnie Jones is ridiculously over-the-top as the Aussie who's the hand-picked winner of this game shown setting up alliances Survivor style only to turn on them later. The supporting cast are refreshingly entertaining but one-note caricatures both in the contest and running the contest. It's obvious that they aren't going to be around long but the actors do milk their tiny roles for every bit of attention they can get. Rick Hoffman as the brilliant camera mastermind of the project is both whiny sniveling and mean-spirited so when he joins some of the rest of the crew and suddenly develops a backbone and a conscience he ends up stealing the movie with his acerbic humor. But it's the understated American hero Conrad who holds a mirror up to the people who like to watch this stuff. Director Scott Wiper who co-wrote this story has also acted in similar movies like this (A Better Way to Die). It’s obvious he knows what he’s doing with The Condemned and develops a sense of voyeuristic angst like those of us who can't keep our eyes off a train wreck. Like the darkly subversive Belgian film Man Bites Dog the camera crew remains safely distant and remote until the reality directly involves them. Then the crew wonders "What the hell are we doing?" while the audience might be thinking "What the hell are we watching?" Much like Series 7: The Contenders Rollerball and other movies which show a dark and bloody near future this kind of reality doesn't seem too far away and maybe proves that movies which provide this type of gladiator spectacle target a certain segment of the human population who need to blow off steam.
Top Story: Jackson's First Accuser May Testify
A young man who reaped millions by settling a deal with pop star Michael Jackson after a 1993 child molestation investigation may be called to testify at a grand jury examining similar charges currently leveled against the singer, Reuters reports. In an article from the Santa Barbara News-Press, which did not name sources, the prosecutors in the current molestation case against Jackson could include subpoenaing the man, who as a boy was at the center of the 1993 case, as well as employees of Jackson's Neverland Valley Ranch in Santa Barbara, and other witnesses who testified in 1993.
"Buck" Gets New Meaning for Hilton
Hotel heiress Paris Hilton took a nasty spill Friday in Florida when she was thrown from a horse, Reuters reports. She was taping an episode of The Simple Life 2, a second installment to her hit reality series in which this time she and pal Nicole Richie will travel across the southern United States in an Airstream trailer. A spokesman for the TV studio told Reuters Hilton was walking around after falling off the horse, "but to err on the absolute side of caution, we made a decision to Medivac her" to a nearby hospital in Tampa, Fla. Hilton did not sustain any major injuries.
And More on Star Injuries…
Pop princess Britney Spears canceled two concert dates in Chicago and Detroit after suffering a knee injury while performing in Illinois, Reuters reports. Spears, 22, was expected to resume her to Onyx Hotel Tour in Atlanta next Tuesday and would reschedule the missed concert dates for sometime in April, the spokeswoman said.
Janssen Gets Nip/Tuck
Actress Famke Janssen, best known as a former Bond bad girl in GoldenEye and a brilliant mutant in X-Men, will join F/X's hit series Nip/Tuck in a recurring role, according to The Hollywood Reporter. She'll play a woman who becomes a "life coach," or counselor of sorts, to Joely Richardson's character, Julia McNamara, the wife of one of the two plastic surgeons who are the focal point of the series.
Duo To Take Producers Leads
Brad Oscar and Roger Bart will replace Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick in the hit musical The Producers, Variety reports. Lane and Broderick, who originated the roles of Max Bialystock and Leo Bloom, respectively, and eventually left the show, made a limited return in December to boost the show's declining grosses. Oscar and Bart, who played Bialystock and Bloom after Lane and Broderick exited the show the first time, will reprise the roles April 6.
Role Call, Part I: Diesel Eyes Third Fast and Furious; MacLaine, Caine Join Bewitched
Universal Pictures is hoping Vin Diesel will reprise his role as Dominic Toretto for a third The Fast and the Furious. According to the Hollywood Reporter, the studio, which will release Diesel starrer The Chronicles of Riddick on June 11, is revving up a Fast team, hiring Chris Morgan (S.W.A.T.) to pen a script accommodating Diesel's return to the street-racing franchise. The studio says no deal is in place with the actor, just that it is "looking to bring back certain elements from the first two films." Diesel opted out of the last year's sequel 2 Fast 2 Furious, which starred the original The Fast and the Furious player Paul Walker as well as Tyrese and grossed $127 million … Shirley MacLaine and Michael Caine have joined the cast of Columbia Pictures Bewitched, a big-screen send-up of the hit '60s TV show, starring Nicole Kidman as kindly witch Samantha Stevens and Will Ferrell as her mortal husband, Darren. Variety reports MacLaine would play Sam's meddling mother Endora, originated by Agnes Moorehead on the TV show. Caine would star as Samantha's father, Maurice.
Role Call, Part II: Spielberg, Cruise Make War, Pitt May Buckle Up Spurs as Jesse James
Steven Spielberg and Tom Cruise are in cahoots to bring H.G. Wells' classic 1898 sci-fi novel The War of the Worlds to the big screen, Variety reports. The novel was immortalized by Orson Welles' Mercury Theater radio show in 1938, when a performance of it created nationwide panic when listeners didn't realize the war was fiction. In addition to the radio production, the book inspired a 1953 film starring Gene Barry and Les Tremayne. The Spielberg/Cruise production is looking at a late 2005 start date…Warner Bros. is wooing Brad Pitt to star as Jesse James in an adaptation of the Robert Hansen novel The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford. According to Variety, the story focuses on Robert Ford as a way to tell the James legend. Ford was a member of the James gang and started out worshipping the exploits of the fastest gun in the West. He eventually became envious and figured he'd take over the gang and garner his own reputation by shooting James in the back.
Nora (Olympia Dukakis) is bonkers enough to jackhammer tunnels beneath her suburban home while her three adults daughters (Deborah Hedwall Catherine Corpeny and Wendy Hoopes) are only marginally more stable. Then patriarch Tom (Roy Scheider) shows up after a 15-year absence with wild ideas about fortifying the homestead against attacks from the world's unfortunate. Who will triumph in the resulting battle for family domination?
Dukakis ("Moonstruck") is always a joy to see digging into a role as idiosyncratic as this one but even she starts to look a little foolish as the storyline grows increasingly ridiculous in the second half. The other members of the ensemble suffer more grievously from the uneven script though Hedwell (NBCs "Law and Order") gets in some good licks as a hard-bitten public defender prone to shouting her opinions. Veteran character actor Edward Herrmann ("Richie Rich") gives delightful deadpan as Nora's morose priest brother.
Adapted from George F. Walker's stage play Max Mayer's well-meaning debut feature generates some amusingly unpredictable moments early on. But things go horribly wrong when Tom arrives with his scheme to remake the family as a disciplined home-defense unit. The idea of the characters building a barricade around their house isn't believable for a second - worse it isn't funny. Inhabiting an uncomfortable area between drama and black comedy the piece disintegrates into a series of embarrassingly ineffective episodes.