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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Last night on the Real Coeds of Pantyraid Quad it was like the first week in your freshmen dorm. So many people were entering this strange new and glorious world and no one knew anything about anyone. What do you do in that situation? You play nice and try to make friends with everyone, even though you know that it's never going to work out in the real world. You just go to their room and hear about how mean their mother was and their bulimia problem sophmore year and you help find that giant Biology class that you're both taking, but deep down inside you think, "I want to strangle this bitch with a pair of pantyhose. I can't wait until I find my real friends." And she thinks the same thing too, and by the time you take your first midterm you are barely even nodding your heads at each other when you bump into each other at the cafeteria.
That is what last night was like with all these new Housewives running around. Let's get right to them, shall we, starting with the one I like the best.
I would like Carole Radziwill to be my best friend. There, I said it. She's pretty, smart, and bordering on inappropriate, just like her hot pants jump suit. Don't you just love how when she got sick of talking about her dead husband she railroaded the conversation with some comment about her tits? Carole, you are a wild and brilliant creature, a sixteen point white stag with antlers that branch out for decades, and I want to shoot you, stuff you, mount you on my wall, talk to you when I'm feeling lonely, and dress you up in festive costumes for holidays. The thing I love most about Carole was when everyone was talking about their kids and she was like, "Yawn! I'm going to get a drink." That and her visit to Glamour where the editor-in-chief was like "We want you to interview the Kardashians," and you could see the look in her eyes that said, "Oh flagnabbit. Really?!" The editor keeps talking about it and you can see Carole nodding her head going "$4 a word. $4 a word. $4 a word." I love Carole. I don't know how great of a Housewife she'll be (she's comes off a little quiet, reserved, and too over it to really get in the muck with these satanic salamanders) but I'll be happy when she gets fired. Then we can hang out just the two of us. I hate sharing.
Okay, now let's talk about Aviva Drescher, whose name is like a Spanish soap opera. ¡Que Viva! (Every time you read that, imagine a snap of castanets following it.) That is what I shall call her. So ¡Que Viva! only has one leg. That is her defining characteristic. She only has one leg. She lost it in a childhood accident that had something to do with manure. She was on a farm with her cousin and they woke up early and she stepped into a huge pile of troll manure (this is a magic farm) and her leg got stuck and a witch appeared. She said, "You have stepped into a giant heap of magical troll manure and you will only break free if you sell me your soul!" ¡Que Viva! just flashed this witch the middle finger, broke her leg off, and then hobbled back home to her little cottage where they affixed her with a new prosthetic leg. She actually has two. One she calls Amanda, that is her normal flat foot, and one that she named Julie that is her high heeled foot. When she walked into to the pedicurist the polisher and filer thought, "Oh, thank god, that one-footed lady is here. This is like half the work." But then ¡Que Viva! makes them paint both Amanda and Julie and then it's like three times the work. It's like the three-boobed lady from Total Recall except she has three feet. And the feet totally correspond to different moods. When she's at home and taking it easy she's an "Amanda" and when she wants to go out and be sassy and party, she is a "Julie." Wow, it's crowded in ¡Que Viva!'s mind.
Other than her bum leg, I kind of want to hate ¡Que Viva! (mostly because she sort of looks like a character from The Dark Crystal) but I can't just yet. I think I will grow to hate her. Maybe I won't. I don't know, I should keep an open mind. OH! I forgot this part about ¡Que Viva!'s leg. Countess LuAnn of Crackerjacks said of ¡Que Viva!, "She's so poised and graceful and charming, you'd never know she has a handicap." Excuse me, what? Because a person's body has everything to do with their poise, grace, and charm? Well, it's hard to be graceful if you're stumbling around on crutches but the rest? Double You Tee Eff, CJ. Double You Tee Eff. You better volunteer at the paralympics right now, or the angry letters are going to start.
Oh, and let's not forget about ¡Que Viva!'s ex husband Harry, who went out with both the Dowager Countess of Crackerjacks and Sonja Morgan. So ¡Que Viva! and LuAnn are out at lunch and they're talking about how Sonja and Harry have been friends for forever and ¡Que Viva! is like, "I wonder if they slept together?" Um, do you know Miss Sonja Morgan? I don't mean this as a diss at all (I'm sluttier than a sorority house after a Jonas Brothers concert) but Sonja for sure slept with him. That's like asking, "Hmm, I wonder if Jessica Simpson ate that cake I left on her counter?" "Do you think Kathie Lee Gifford finished that bottle of wine?" "Oh, I'm sure that Lindsay Lohan is just holding my coke and it's all going to be in the baggie when I get back." This is all just crazy talk. Sonja totally boffed him. She probably still does when she's lonely and they're the only two at the party and the kids are at their father's and the batteries are dead in her vibrator and oh what the hell, repeats never count.
Alright, now we need to talk about Heather. I hate Heather. Done. It's done. I think it's done at least. The hatred. I feel like it's cemented like a blood-filled mosquito in a burp of amber. Heather is the kind of girl who says "Holla!" even in her weekly introduction on the show. Heather is the kind of girl who says "somethin' somethin'." Heather is the kind of girl who says, "Oh Em Gee" with a complete lack of irony. That is Heather. If you don't get why that is awful, I hate you too and you probably say "cool beans" and think that is okay. But it doesn't end there. Heather owns a company called Yummie Tummie. Sorry, but "yummie" is one of the grossest words in the English language along with moist, potty, detergent, Palin-esque, and FUPA. "Yummie" is an awful horrible word and so is "Tummie" and you put them together and you expect grown women with money to spend to say it out loud when talking about it to their friends? Oh Yummie to the Tummie. And then it's spelled with an "ie." God, that is just tackie.
These are most of the silly reasons that I hate Heather. But it also has something to do with her fake smile. She's always smiling like she just answered a question in a beauty pageant. It's not a real smile, it's some sort of screwed up rictus that she just can't turn off. It's like her resting face is the same as The Joker's. And, I'm sorry, but Ramona and Mario are right (as much as I hate to say it) she is a total interrupter. Even if she's just saying, "Yeah, Yup, MMMhmmm, So Right." She's always punctuating the conversation with her own insertions. Ramona is an interrupter too and listening to them talk to each other about interrupting each other was a thing of beauty. It was like some sort of death fugue of noises, going back and forth, a call and response, a continuous symphony in stereo that would drive you insane or would give you so much pleasure that you will orgasm and orgasm until you die like the evil organ in Barbarella.
The God of Legion secular Hollywood’s latest Biblically-inspired action flick is old-school an angry spiteful Almighty with a penchant for Old Testament theatrics. Fed up with humanity’s decadent warmongering ways He’s decided to pull the plug on the whole crazy experiment and start over from scratch.
Fortunately for us the God of Legion is also a rather lazy fellow. Instead of doing the apocalyptic work himself and wiping us out with a giant flood which worked perfectly well last time He opts to delegate the task to His army of angels — a questionable strategy that starts to fall apart when the archangel charged with leading the planned extermination Michael (Paul Bettany) refuses to comply.
Michael who unlike his boss still harbors affection for our sorry species abandons his post and descends to earth where inside the swollen belly of Charlie (Adrianne Palicki) an unwed mother-to-be working as a waitress in an out-of-the-way diner sits humanity’s lone hope for survival. Why is this particular baby so important? Is it the one destined to lead us to victory over Skynet? Heaven knows — Legion reveals little details its script devoid of actual scripture. What is clear is that God’s celestial hitmen want the kid whacked before it’s born.
But Michael won’t let humanity fall without a fight. Armed with a Waco-sized arsenal of assault weapons he hunkers down with the diner’s patrons a largely superfluous collection of thinly-sketched caricatures from various demographic groups led by Dennis Quaid as the diner’s grizzled owner Tyrese Gibson as a hip-hop hustler and Lucas Black as a simple-minded country boy.
Together they mount a heroic final stand against hordes of angels who’ve taken possession of “weak-willed” humans turning kindly old grandmas and mild-mannered ice cream vendors into snarling ravenous foul-mouthed beasts. They descend upon the ramshackle diner in a series of full-frontal assaults commanded by the archangel Gabriel (Kevin Durand) the George Pickett of End of Days generals.
Beneath its superficial religious facade Legion is really just a run-of-the-mill zombie flick a Biblical I Am Legend. Bettany an actor accustomed to smaller dramatic roles in films like A Beautiful Mind and The Da Vinci Code looks perfectly at ease in his first major action role wielding machine guns and bowie knives with equal aplomb. Conversely first-time director Scott Stewart a former visual effects artist does little to prove himself worthy of such a promotion serving up some impressive CGI work but not much else worthy of note.