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: Oscar Organizers Say Show Will Go On
The Oscars show producer Gil Cates told nominees at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences' annual luncheon in Beverly Hills Monday that the show will go on--whether or not there is a war, Reuters reports. As the United States prepares for a possible invasion of Iraq, many nominees wondered whether discussing war at the March 23 awards ceremony would be appropriate. "If we go to war," Cates cautioned, "the telecast will reflect that reality both in those parts of the show that we can control and those parts that we can't control--your acceptance speeches."
Broadway No Longer Dark
Striking musicians settled a contract dispute with theater producers Tuesday to end a walkout that shut down 18 musicals since Friday, Reuters reports. The dispute that led to Friday's strike was over minimums, the smallest number of musicians required for a Broadway orchestra. After 12 hours of talks the union agreed to a smaller number of musicians in the largest Broadway theaters and both sides said that the theaters would reopen Tuesday night.
Brits Invade Rock and Roll Hall of Fame
The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inducted the Clash, the Police, and Elvis Costello and the Attractions on an emotional night at the Waldorf Hotel in New York Monday night, Reuters reports. British influence dominated the ceremony, as did antiwar sentiments expressed by a number of star musicians--a contrast to the recent Grammy Awards. "When people take to the streets to stop the war, the spirit of the Clash is there," Audioslave guitarist Tom Morello said. The Clash accepted their honors without vocalist-guitarist Joe Strummer, who died of heart failure last December at age 50.
Minnelli's Lawyers Call It Quits
Two lawyers for actress Liza Minnelli quit Monday, saying their relationship "has completely broken down" over a civil suit involving the aborted sale of her Beverly Hills home, claimed by Minnelli stepmother, and a couple who tried to buy it last year. Reuters reports that a Los Angeles Superior Court judge was scheduled to decide whether to allow lawyers Arthur Barens and Robert Kaufman to bow out of the case but Minnelli hired a new attorney, making a court ruling unnecessary. Last August Merhdad Saghian and Stephanie Jarin claimed Minnelli backed out of her agreement to sell the home to them for $2.75 million.
Erotic Mag Loses Suit Against Oprah
The publisher of a magazine of erotica and sadomasochism who claimed Oprah Winfrey's magazine of the same name was tarnishing his trademark lost a court battle yesterday, Reuters reports. U.S. District Judge John Koeltl threw out the lawsuit filed by Ronald Brockmeyer, who bought the trademark--a stylized letter "O" in large type enclosed in double arrow marks--in 1996. Koetl said readers could not confuse Brockmeyer's magazine containing photos of "whip-bearing, naked women engaged in sadomasochistic and lesbian acts" with Winfrey's publication, which is aimed at helping women improve their lives guided by the performer's values.
Dion Promises Family-Oriented Show in Las Vegas
Singer Celine Dion, who launches her three-year stint in Las Vegas on March 25, promises to keep the show family-oriented. According to Reuters, Dion tells Time magazine that people think her husband-manager, Rene Angelil, is going to gamble away all their money and their son is going to be raised by strangers. "We don't live in a casino, and I'm not going to change diapers on a craps table," Dion tells the magazine. Dion says she will leave home at 4:30 in the afternoon and be home by 10:30 at night. According to the singer, the casino doesn't want the show to go any longer than 90 minutes because "they want people to go back and lose money" at the slot machines.
Variety reports: Universal Pictures is remaking its classic monster film The Creature From the Black Lagoon, developed by a producer Gary Ross, whose father, Arthur Ross, wrote the original 1954 screenplay. The original Creature, which became a camp classic, featured the Gill Man terrorizing archaeologists in the Amazon while falling in love with a beautiful girl played by Julia Adams... Disney meanwhile has bought remake rights to the 1937 film Topper as a vehicle for director Adam Shankman and star Steve Martin. The original picture starred Cary Grant as a man haunted by a married pair of madcap ghosts... DreamWorks has bought the rights to Action News, which will feature Will Ferrell as a pompous newscaster in the 1970s who is matched with an ambitious and talented female journalist.
"The Insider's" Russell Crowe is looking to get the skinny on Claire Danes in the Jodie Foster-directed drama "Flora Plum."
The Hollywood Reporter notes that the actor is in negotiations to join Foster and company on the Depression-era romance, which is slated to begin filming in late summer or early fall.
The story involves a circus freak played by Crowe who falls for a penniless girl (Danes) after taking her in and helping her become a star. Steven Rodgers ("Hope Floats") is the screenwriter.
GOTTA HAVE HART: Melissa Joan Hart's obsession is the 1947 RKO romantic comedy "The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer". The teen fave's Heartbreak Films and RKO's independent film arm, Radio Pictures, are teaming up to remake the demi-classic. Hart will star and produce.
The original flick featured Cary Grant and Shirley Temple in the tale of a playboy sentenced by a judge to spend time with the court official's younger sister.
According to the Reporter, the all-new "Bobby-Soxer" will offer a "contemporary look at teen angst." Hart, of ABC's "Sabrina the Teenage Witch," was last seen on the big screen in 1999's "Drive Me Crazy."
KEEPING UP WITH THE JONZE: "Being John Malkovich" director Spike Jonze is investigating "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button."
According to trade-paper reports, the filmmaker is in final negotiations to make the Paramount Pictures drama. Charlie Kaufman, the screenwriter who penned "Malkovich," might reteam with Jonze on the project -- based on an F. Scott Fitzgerald short story. Robin Swicord ("Little Women") scripted the initial draft.
Fitzgerald's tale detailed the life of a man who ages backwards. At 50, he falls in love with a 30-year-old woman and is forced to deal with the consequences of their physical dilemma.
The Hollywood Reporter notes that no start date has yet been set.