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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This week’s Marvel Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. feels largely like a retread of the pilot episode. But without the fantastic J. August Richards adding heart to the monster of the week, things feel pretty cold and distant, which is especially disappointing considering the baddie of the week has the power to create fire.
The episode opens on a bustling street in Hong Kong where a street performer is doling out low-rent magic tricks to a crowd of semi-interested on-lookers. The magician turns up the heat and reveals that he has fire powers. But calling them "powers" is a little generous, considering he has the pirokinetic ability of a human bic lighter. The magician is approached by a sultry woman who takes special interest in his cigarette lighting abilities, but she turns on him in what is probably the most obvious kidnapping in human history.
The magician, named Chan Ho Yin, was being watched by S.H.I.E.L.D., and his disapearence sets of some alarms. It turns out that the folks at The Rising Tide were the ones who leaked the information to Chan's kidnappers. All eyes turn to Skye, who denies involvement. The team tracks The Rising Tide hacker to Austin where Ward gives him a chase, only to lose him after the guy employs some nifty hacking on the city's street lights. The Hacker get’s home only to find Skye there, who starts to berate him about stealing S.H.I.E.L.D info. The two then do the most logical thing to do when an impossibly powerful multi-national security force is searching for you, it's obviously time for a quickie. When the deed is done, Melinda May is waiting right behind the door, just as Skye is looking for her shirt in a terribly obvious reveal. Skye is in big trouble with Coulson and the gang, and she tries to pretend that they're only friends, as if that would make tipping off a rouge hacker okay.
Centipede is revealed to be behind the kidnapping and they inject the human bic lighter with the Extremis serum from the first episode, believing that his fire ability will stop the drugs' unfortunate side effect of blowing people up. Chan's powers multiply and he becomes more of a human blow torch. Centipede then steal his blood platelets (which were controlling his powers) resulting in some nasty burns. Chan then begins attacking both S.H.I.E.L.D. and Centipede agents, so Coulson must make the tough decision of killing him... though they didn't try all that hard to save him in the first place. I'm starting to think that Coulson likes to skip all the moralizing and just kill the "out of control good guy turned bad guy of the week" just so he can get back to his jet sooner. Lola needs a good buffing anyway.
An angry Coulson meets with Skye and demands to know what she's hiding. It turns out she joined S.H.I.E.L.D. to learn what happened to her parents, information that was redacted by none other than S.H.I.E.L.D.. For some reason, she's still allowed to be a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent after all of this. I guess Coulson lost his common sense when he got stabbed by Loki.
Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is still resting on the fact that action and superhero name checks are a suitable replacement for actually creating interesting characters and compelling stories. Everything about this episode was terriby bland. Everyone's decisions and actions ring false, and the show makes impossible to emphasize with anyone. It's trying to be a show for everyone, but it's failing at entertaining anyone.
Best Quips and Other Observations- "Oh crap. They gave him a name."- "Scorch" is such a lame name for a superhero. It's a shame Chan got so attached to it.- Even lamer than Scorch is Centipede. Really? You named your terrorist organization Centipede? Watch out for their fearsome sister-organization "Gentle Bug."- Couldn't Coulson just shoot the guy in the head when he snuck up on him instead of purpously blowing him up? How is that "minimizing the damage"? Thats actually increasing the damage... by a lot. - Just how long was Melinda May waiting behind the door while Skye and generic hacker guy were getting it on? Was she just waiting there listening? That's kinda creepy.
In Justin Bieber's latest act of douchebaggery, the 19-year-old pop star has surpassed our expectations and earned a lifetime ban from an indoor skydiving facility.
E! News reports that the teen hearthrob is not allowed back inside Las Vegas Indoor Skydiving following his behavior on Sunday, June 16. After arriving just before closing, Justin agreed to post a photo of himself midflight to promote the center rather than pay the $1,600 fee for his group to fly. In typical Biebs fashion, he partied like it was 3012... and then never posted the picture. According to a source, Justin "actually faked like he was posting something, per the agreement, but never did." In fact, Biebs and Co. reportedly left without paying or tipping the staff at all. Hmm... interesting behavior for Forbes' 3rd Most Powerful Celebrity with a net worth of a filthy $110 million.
Even if the staff was willing to let him get away with his actions just this one time, Bieber and his security team were reportedly also "a disrespectful bunch," creating a huge mess in the bathroom. The pop icon, who cuddled up next to one less lonely girl at the facility was "very standoff-ish toward mostly everyone outside of his crew," says a source, who also adds that he was "very disconnected from reality."
Where's your compassion, J-Biebs? Or even your common sense? It looks to me like you lost a lot more than your balance after falling down the stairs Sunday morning...
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To quote Obi-Wan Kenobi, “Hello there!” I am Christian Blauvelt, and I will be your new guide to all things Star Wars. At Entertainment Weekly I became the holocron keeper, if you will, for any matters pertaining to that Galaxy Far, Far Away—including the new developments revealed by Lucasfilm Animation’s ongoing Cartoon Network series, Star Wars: The Clone Wars. If you’ve been watching The Clone Wars at all over the past few years, you’ll know that this show has matured beyond anyone’s wildest expectations since its 2008 debut. As such, I recapped the show for EW.com, and drew quite a following among those who like to parse the Star Wars canon for even the tiniest, hair-splitting details. Don’t know the difference between a Kowakian monkey lizard and Krayt dragon? Then I’m your geek! And now I’m bringing my Clone Wars recaps to Hollywood.com!
First up, this weekend’s phenomenal arc-capping installment, “Tipping Points.” Every season, The Clone Wars gives us one grueling, muck-and-grime military campaign, usually spread over four episodes. That’s exactly what we got from the Onderon arc--a microscopic look at the galactic conflict from the ground-up perspective of civilians-turned-soldiers fighting for their freedom. As much as I enjoy episodes featuring Rex, Cody, and other of the Republic’s fine clone troopers, I still prefer looking at this war from the perspective of people who weren’t born in a vat. Maybe it’s as simple as the fact that the clone troopers are professional soldiers, but, to me, it's more interesting to focus on people like the rebels of Onderon who are actually fighting for a day when they won’t have to fight anymore. In short, the stakes are greater.
Last time we saw the rebels on Onderon, they had just rescued King Dendup from what would have been a nasty public execution. It was pretty thrilling, and I half expected rebel leader Steela to shout “Sanctuary! Sanctuary!” as she clutched the king, for full Victor Hugo-esque impact. Still, several questions kept nagging me about this rescue. Why didn’t the rebels also try to kidnap the Separatist-allied usurper, King Rash? Why didn’t they try to shoot and destroy the Seppie tactical droid, Kalani? And why does the true king, Dendup, sound so much like Palpatine? Does this mean he’s really evil too?
Actually, there’s at least a very good answer as to why they didn’t kidnap or kill King Rash. An answer that speaks to how sophisticated this show has become in demonstrating the intersection of politics and combat. Because of their thrilling rescue of King Dendup, there’s now rioting in the streets of capital city Iziz. That is, rioting against the government of the usurper Rash and his Separatist allies. It took an elaborate piece of heroic tactical theater to spur the people into action. Onderon is full of really, really apathetic folks, it seems, and if the rebels had done anything rash like kidnap Rash it may have spooked the populace into inertia. The ordinary Onderonian on the street might have thought the rebels to be no better than Rash’s administration if they had employed a similar tactic against him. It would have been a false equivalency for sure, but Steela and the rebel leaders have to factor in public perception when developing their strategy. That’s what I mean about how savvy and subtle The Clone Wars has become in showing aspects of the galactic conflict. Compare the Onderon arc in this regard to the Battle of Ryloth storyline in Season 1—where the Ryloth rebels just had to shoot their way to victory against their positively genocidal Separatist overlords—and you’ll see how far this show has come.
NEXT: The battle for King Dendup is over. The Battle for Onderon is about to begin.
Recognizing her tremendous leadership ability, Dendup gave command of the Army to Steela. Steela, in turn, gave Lux a kiss. Oh, Ahsoka, your on-again, off-again relationship with Lux seems headed for permanent off-again status. But there was no time for anyone to make love under the dappled-green skies of Onderon. Kalani ordered a full-scale assault on the rebels' mountain base. His secret weapon? New droid gunships that shoot bullets instead of lasers and possess powerful ray shields. The only time we’ve seen these before was in Revenge of the Sith when the Seppies used them against the Wookiees in the Battle of Kashyyyk. And for full Cylon-sinister effect, they even respond to Kalani’s orders with “By your command!”
Not gonna lie. The battle was very Avatar-y. But before you allege any copycatting afoot, consider that Onderon had been established as a jungle planet with flying-beast riders in the '90s, years before James Cameron’s opus, in Kevin J. Anderson’s Tales of the Jedi comics.
Anyway, this fight wasn’t going well for the rebels. They had no defense against the droid gunships’ aerial assault. Obi-Wan even told Ahsoka that she should evacuate what forces she could if it looked like defeat was certain. The Republic just couldn’t afford to send in clone reinforcements.
If you think about it, this is the first time, really, that we’ve gotten a sense of how limited the Republic’s resources actually are. That initial order of 3 million clones from Kamino has stretched pretty far for the Grand Army of the Republic in terms of fighting battles on fronts all across the Galaxy. But there are limits. And the recognition of those limits is part of what lent this whole arc a new level of realism for the show. The Republic would certainly like to see Onderon back in the fold…but they need for the people of Onderon to want to rejoin the Republic as well, and to fight on their own to make that happen. Therefore, the Jedi can only serve as military advisers to the rebels, not actually fight the war for them outright. And maybe--just maybe--they would even help send arms to their allies through a third party.
Enter Hondo. The pirate seemed like the perfect third party for Anakin to employ to deliver rocket launchers to the rebels that would help pierce the gunships’ ray shields. Especially since Hondo owes the Jedi a debt for saving his leathery hide from the horned menace of Darth Maul and Savage Opress. So he fired up his starship and delivered the shoulder-fired missiles to the rebs, and even flirted a little bit with Steela! That lusty bastard. But at the first sign of blaster fire, off Hondo went: “Well, my work here is done.” With the rocket launchers, the rebels turned the tide. But only because of these new weapons in their arsenal. Another reason why the Battle of Onderon shows how smart and strategic The Clone Wars has become in its depiction of warfare--this isn’t just a laserfire vs. laserfire light-show anymore.
NEXT: Somebody becomes One with the Force. But I’m not going to turn to the Dark Side and spoil it for you before you click into the next page. I did enjoy that little bit of Luke and Han-style interplay between Ahsoka and Lux, when the latter responded to Ahsoka’s “Steela sure leads by example” with “What good will that do her if she gets herself killed?” Unfortunately, Lux’s quip turned genuinely prophetic just a moment later when Steela in fact did meet her end. Though she successfully rescued King Dendup from a posse of droids that were getting ready to push him over a cliff, it was Steela who found herself dangling off the edge when a gunship nearly crashed into them. A gunship that her own brother, Saw, had brought down. As her last act, Steela pushed the king to safety, but lost her footing and got only a tenuous grip on the cliff’s edge. Lux ran to her rescue but nearly fell over himself. Ahsoka then stepped in, but made the mistake of Force-lifting Lux, who wasn’t in as immediate of danger, out of the way first. Then when she tried to do the whole Yoda-style “Size Matters Not” thing and lift Steela, a laser blast from the downed gunship broke her concentration, and Steela fell to her death. But she had sacrificed herself to save the symbol of her planet’s hard-won freedom: King Dendup.
It was a powerful moment, and one that shows the real consequences of war. It isn’t just candy-colored laser battles designed to get kids to buy action figures. People can die, tragically and senselessly. The price of victory can be very high indeed. That's what gives this show moral purpose and urgency--the very thing that makes it so unique among any animated TV series today. That's why we're recapping it on Hollywood.com.
The Seppies could possibly continue to root out the rebels…but it would take time. And Count Dooku is not a patient man. So he ordered Kalani to withdraw their remaining forces. He did just that, and cleaned up his last and biggest loose-end by casually shooting King Rash.
We were left with a full, Return of the King-style victory celebration as Dendup once again took up the throne that was rightfully his. Lux told Ahsoka that he planned to follow in his mother’s footsteps and represent Onderon in the Galactic Senate. He would steer his planet toward rejoining the Republic. It may be imperfect, it may even be outright corrupt, but at least it still allows for its representatives to try to make it a more perfect union. If it weren’t secretly ruled by a Sith Lord hellbent on plunging the Galaxy into darkness and tyranny, that is. But, hey, Lux doesn’t know that. Hindsight is 50/50, right?
Unfortunately, Ahsoka is now so uncertain about fighting this war that she’s even lost confidence in the purpose of the Republic. Meaning that she’s still not on the same page as Lux. They’ve swapped positions! These two will never be able to get together will they?
What did you think of the Onderon arc? Do you agree that it’s a prime example of the way this series has matured? Do you think Ahsoka really was as disillusioned by the Republic’s non-assistance during these episodes as I think she may be? And is there any chance for Lusoka?
See you next week!
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