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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There's an allure to imperfection. With his latest drama Lawless director John Hillcoat taps directly into the side of human nature that draws us to it. Hillcoat finds it in Prohibition history a time when the regulations of alcohol consumption were subverted by most of the population; He finds it in the rural landscapes of Virginia: dingy raw and mesmerizing. And most importantly he finds it in his main character Jack Bondurant (Shia LaBeouf) the scrappy third brother of a moonshining family who is desperate to prove his worth. Jack forcefully injects himself into the family business only to discover there's an underbelly to the underbelly. Lawless is a beautiful film that's violent as hell striking in a way only unfiltered Americana could be.
Acting as the driver for his two outlaw brothers Forrest (Tom Hardy) and Howard (Jason Clarke) isn't enough for Jack. He's enticed by the power of the gangster figure and entranced by what moonshine money can buy. So like any fledgling entrepreneur Jack takes matters into his own hands. Recruiting crippled family friend/distillery mastermind Cricket (Dane DeHaan) the young whippersnapper sets out to brew his own batch sell it to top dog Floyd Banner and make the family rich. The plan works — but it puts the Bondurant boys in over their heads with a new threat: the corrupt law enforcers of Chicago.
Unlike many stories of crime life Lawless isn't about escalation. The movie drifts back and forth leisurely popping in moments like the beats of a great TV episode. One second the Bondurants could be talking shop with their female shopkeep Maggie Beauford (Jessica Chastain). The next Forrest is beating the bloody pulp out of a cop blackmailing their operation. The plot isn't thick; Hillcoat and screenwriter Nick Cave preferring to bask in the landscapes the quiet moments the haunting terror that comes with a life on the other side of the tracks. A feature film doesn't offer enough time for Lawless to build — it recalls cinema-level TV currently playing on outlets like HBO and AMC that have truly spoiled us — but what the duo accomplish is engrossing.
Accompanying the glowing visuals and Cave's knockout workout on the music side (a toe-tapping mix of spirituals bluegrass and the writer/musician's spine-tingling violin) are muted performances from some of Hollywood's rising stars. Despite LaBeouf's off-screen antics he lights up Lawless and nails the in-deep whippersnapper. His playful relationship with a local religious girl (Mia Wasikowska) solidifies him as a leading man but like everything in the movie you want more. Tom Hardy is one of the few performers who can "uurrr" and "mmmnerm" his way through a scene and come out on top. His greatest sparring partner isn't a hulking thug but Chastain who brings out the heart of the impenetrable beast. The real gem of Lawless is Guy Pearce as the Bondurant trio's biggest threat. Shaved eyebrows pristine city clothes and a temper like a rabid wolverine Pearce's Charlie Rakes is the most frightening villain of 2012. He viciously chews up every moment he's on screen. That's even before he starts drawing blood.
Lawless is the perfect movie for the late August haze — not quite the Oscary prestige picture or the summertime shoot-'em-up. It's drama that has its moonshine and swigs it too. Just don't drink too much.
Alex Michel, star of ABC's The Bachelor, may be content with the girl of his choosing (Amanda) after Thursday's two-hour finale, but ratings indicate audiences are drooling for more.
According to Nielson Media Research, 18.2 million viewers tuned in to find out which woman Michel would choose, making the show second only to CBS' CSI: Crime Scene Investigation. But don't worry, ABC is getting ready to tie the knot on part two of The Bachelor. And the guys won't get to have all the fun--a network source revealed that ABC is casting Bachelorette as well. No word on when the shows will air.
Although Baretta star Robert Blake couldn't post bail to get himself out of jail while awaiting the trial for the murder of his wife Bonny Lee Bakely, he did manage to free his bodyguard, Earle Caldwell. The Associated Press reports Blake posted $1 million bail on Friday for Caldwell, who has pleaded innocent to one charge of conspiracy to murder Bakely.
The BBC reports Catherine Zeta-Jones joined singer Charlotte Church and former cricket player Ian Botham for the last two miles of a 229-mile, 9-day walk for charity in Wales on Saturday.
Dennis Quaid (The Rookie) must really like sports in the movies. The AP reports he's slated to star as Lee Petty, father of NASCAR record-winning champ Richard Petty, in an as-yet-untitled biopic of the driver.
Chicago police are still unsure if sex tapes allegedly featuring R&B singer R. Kelly and a woman who was not his wife involved any lawbreaking, but if new reports are true Kelly could be in some pretty hot water. On April 3, Sparkle, a singer who made the 1998 hit "Be Careful" with Kelly, identified the unknown woman in the tape as her 14-year-old niece to radio DJ Adimu of the Beat (KKBT), SonicNet Music reports. Police won't confirm if there is any truth to Sparkle's story.
Australian pop princess Kylie Minogue kicked off her European tour in Wales on Friday night with a futuristic show, the BBC reports, as she emerged from a Terminator-style robot wearing her signature thigh-high silver boots. You go, girl!
Rockers Mick Jagger and Keith Richards of The Rolling Stones and singers Tom Petty, Elvis Costello and Lenny Kravitz will all appear together on one upcoming episode of The Simpsons, the BBC reports. No word on when the show will air.
The irreverent VH-1 talk show Late World with Zach will air its final original episode Thursday at 11 p.m., CNN reports. Although it has only been on air since March 4, viewership was lower than expected.
Sean Penn presented Kevin Spacey and Warren Beatty with awards Thursday night at the 45th San Francisco International Film Festival, the AP reports. Spacey took home the Peter J. Owens Award for "brilliance, independence and integrity as an actor," and Beatty was given the Akira Kurosawa Award for lifetime achievement in directing.
Singer Michael W. Smith won six awards at the 33rd Annual Dove Awards for Christian music, CNN reports. The show took place Thursday night at the Grand Ole Opry House in Nashville, Tenn.