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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S11:W6 This week on Dancing with the Stars, the theme was Rock N’ Roll. Each couple performed two dances: one of the regular ones that are always the same, like the tango and the paso doble, and a second one, which was either the jive, swing, or the “lindy hop” (which was the dance that was performed in ANTZ, where all the ants are socializing together and drinking out of the anuses of even tinier bugs). Let’s start out with the first round of regular dances, WHICH SOMEHOW, BRISTOL PALIN SUCCEEDED AT.
Bristol and her partner Mark Ballas dressed up as marching band rejects and danced a tango, that for some reason had an air guitar solo in it. Oh, right. Rock week. But, considering that last week she danced in a gorilla suit and completely forgot her steps, it seems she's always throwing things into her routine to make up for how she isn't Jennifer Grey. The judges were shocked with Bristol’s progress, and the feathers she wore in her hair went home and talked a big game to their friends. Bristol and Mark got 23 points, which is the highest score they’ve ever gotten, and our Chinese food cooled down about 10 degrees because we were all busy all thinking what it would be like if she won this competition.
Rick Fox and Cheryl Burke also danced the tango. He spent this week working on becoming sexier and analyzing every single one of his steps, which proves the theory that basketball players aren’t good in bed because they’ve never had to be. Which also means they never had to be ready to employ the tango, either. The judges gave them 24 points.
Kyle Massey and Lacey Schwimmer danced the tango TO A GREAT ADAM LAMBERT SONG, but the dance itself got messy a few times (which they rectified by making sure the cameras captured how their lips were actually touching). Kyle got 23 points for saving it with the chemistry that his brother helped him practice.
Audrina Patridge and Tony Dovolani performed the paso doble. After she exclaimed that her breasts were in the way of her performing a step, Tony took Audrina to a mixed martial arts facility so she could get more aggressive and complain less about the body part she had paid to enhance. But when it was time to dance for the judges, she seemed limp. They, yet again, told her she had no personality, and it was pretty great. They got 24 points.
Kurt Warner and Anna Trebunskaya also danced the paso doble. To get Kurt’s inner rock n’ roll out, Anna invited Bret Michaels to their rehearsal to coach him on how to say goodbye to a woman, while making sure she doesn’t hear the soft utterance that she’s only the best part of some street in Ohio. They danced to “The Final Countdown” as gladiators or something, and they scored a sad 18 points.
Jennifer Grey and Derek Hough danced the paso doble, too. This girl wants to go home so badly! She is “taking walks” during rehearsals, saying her neck hurts to play a joke on Derek and make it seem like he hurt her because she's old and he's young, and waving her dress around like it’s an “oh, it’s not used! I swear!” white hanky! This girl wants to go back to knocking back the chardonnay at Jamie Lee Curtis’ house and using Christie Brinkley’s Total Gym machine! She is done with this! The judges said her dancewas out of control and they didn’t know what was happening to her. But they need to be careful, because when this girl gets upset, she takes it out on her face. They got 20 points for their dance. And finally, Brandy and Maksim Chmerkovskiy danced the tango. She wore a Lady Gaga inspired outfit, and danced to one of my favorite songs to play during a game of chicken with tractors. And,I’d be kidding myself AND all the Footloose DVDs that Netflix never got back if I said she wasn’t my favorite of the night. The judges gave them 26 points, which put them in the top spot on the leader board for the second week in a row. And now, on to the dance marathon! Who was able to dance for a BEHEMOTH four minutes?