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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He's Baaaaack: Over the years FX has been know as a bastion for smaller-budget, edgier comedies (It's Always Sunny, Louie, The League) but with Charlie Sheen's classic multi-cam Anger Management and now George Lopez' new show Saint George, we might be in for a change. Lopez made a ten-episode deal with the network, and (like Sheen's show) if it meets ratings precedents it will get picked up for 90 more. [Deadline]
... And So Is She!: It was a lucrative day for older comedians with broad fan bases and failed TV shows: Case in point, Wanda Sykes just signed a first-look deal with NBC to develop and produce a non-scripted project. Hopefully, it will go better than Wanda At Large. [Deadline]
Giovanni Ribisi Joins Fox Comedy: Sorry, Mindy's funny ex-boyfriend Josh from The Mindy Project — Giovanni Ribisi has stolen your thunder. TMP's hilarious Tommy Dewey has been replaced by Ribisi in Dads, Seth MacFarlane's Fox comedy that already has a six episode order. This decision was made after the show's first taping, likely due to the fact that Ribisi is close to the producers. Ouch. [Deadline]
A Rough Night For Laughs: ABC comedies struggled in the ratings last night, as American Idol and Survivor held steady. Suburgatory's season finale was down two tenths in its demo, with How to Live With Your Parents... also shedding about 20 percent of its viewers from last week. [TVLine]
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With the White House hinting that war in Iraq will likely break out just prior to the March 23 Academy Awards ceremony, insiders are facing up to the possibility of the show's postponement. According to Variety, Academy insiders say the ceremony could be delayed for two days in the case of war. But while a 48-hour postponement would cause only minor readjustments, a greater delay would wreak havoc with talent as well as network commitments worldwide. Presenters and nominees from out of town, for example, would have to return to Los Angeles and, as one exec pointed out, many might not want to fly in the event of war. A worst-case scenario is a major story breaking just before the Oscarcast or during the ceremony. A delay could also spell out bad news for ABC, the network airing the Oscarcast, since major news developments could cause viewers to flip over to news broadcasts. A spokesman for the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences told Variety it is useless to speculate on a possible postponement because there are simply too many variables to consider.
Michael Jackson had his lawyers file complaints Thursday with Britain's Independent Television Commission and the Broadcasting Standards Commission over the just-aired documentary about his life. According to The Associated Press, Jackson's legal team claims that Jackson was not allowed to see the documentary, Living With Michael Jackson, as promised before it was broadcast. It also said the show's voiceovers, questions and editing gave credence to allegations made against him in 1993 of a sexual offense against a child. A whopping 27 million viewers tuned in to the broadcast of the documentary on ABC's 20/20 Thursday night.
The New York Daily News reports that Al Pacino filed suit in Manhattan Family Court Jan. 23 against longtime girlfriend Beverly D'Angelo for custody or visitation rights, two days before the twins' second birthday. A court date scheduled for Wednesday was postponed until Feb. 24. Pacino's spokeswoman, Pat Kingsley, told the Daily News she had not heard of the lawsuit, and lawyers for both parties had no comment.
Caroline Barrett, who worked as a personal assistant for Marlon Brando for 25 years, filed suit against the actor in a Los Angeles court on Thursday, claiming he was trying to force her to repay $185,000 that he gave her as a gift to buy a home in London, Reuters reports. The lawsuit claims Brando gave Barrett the money to buy a house in London after he moved there in 1985 and repeatedly assured her that she did not have to pay the money back. Barrett said Brando told her he would have to classify the transfer of money as a loan to avoid "dire tax consequences," and she agreed to sign a promissory note and to use her Los Angeles home as collateral to further the appearance of a loan, the suit said.
Angelina Jolie will play an accomplished aviatrix in the pre-World War II adventure pic The World of Tomorrow, Variety reports. The film, which also stars Jude Law and Gwyneth Paltrow, begins shooting in March in London. Giovanni Ribisi and Bai Ling are also in talks to join the film. Jolie would star as a pilot teamed with a swashbuckling colleague (Law) and a probing journalist (Paltrow).
Steven Spielberg is in final negotiations to direct his Catch Me If You Can star Tom Hanks in DreamWorks' airport comedy Terminal, Variety reports. Shooting is set to begin sometime toward the end of the year--a scheduling move that could make him available to helm Paramount Pictures' fourth installment of the Indiana Jones franchise. Hanks would play an Eastern European immigrant who gets stuck a New York airport terminal when a war breaks out and erases his country from the map, voiding his passport.
Jennifer Lopez's second ex-husband Cris Judd has joined the cast of I'm a Celebrity--Get Me Out of Here!, the AP reports. Judd will rough it in the Australian Outback with Melissa Rivers, Robin Leach, Downtown Julie Brown, Alana Stewart and others while viewers decide who stays in the rainforest and who comes home, voting each night via phone or Internet. The show will air live for 15 straight nights starting Feb. 19 on ABC.
The Rolling Stones played their first free concert in 33 years on Thursday at the Staples Center in Los Angeles. Actors Leonardo DiCaprio, Pierce Brosnan, Lisa Kudrow, Larry David, Mira Sorvino and Cameron Diaz as well as singer Christina Aguilera and director Rob Reiner attended the concert, which was introduced by Bill Clinton.
Rather than sell the Bad Boy label he says is worth $100 million, rap entrepreneur Sean "P. Diddy" Combs signed a three-year distribution deal with Vivendi Universal's Universal Records, Reuters reports. In the deal, Universal pays marketing and promotion costs while giving Combs an undisclosed up-front fee, allowing him to get the backing of the biggest record maker without selling his own company in a down market.
According to a TV Guide poll, fans want Jennifer Lopez and Britney Spears to move on in their love lives--meaning no going back to Sean "P. Diddy" Combs or Justin Timberlake, girls. Now that Lopez has split from her husband, Cris Judd, 73 percent of those polled don't want to see Lopez return to Combs, while 59 percent hopes Spears moves past Timberlake.
The Lord of the Rings star Sir Ian McKellen and actress Sharon Gless of Showtime's Queer As Folk fame will act as the grand marshals of San Francisco's Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Pride Parade on Sunday, July 7. They'll ride in a pink Cadillac.
Woody Harrelson is off the hook--for now. The London taxi driver who claimed the actor trashed the inside of his cab last month has dropped the charges, according to Reuters. Harrelson's alleged odd behavior in the cab was followed by a chase through the streets of London, where police finally apprehended the Cheers star. Harrelson was reported to have paid the taxi driver $800.
Comedian Chris Rock and his wife welcomed their first child, daughter Lola Simone, on Friday in New York.
Tom Arnold, the host of Fox Sports Net's Best Damn Sports Show Period and the man formerly married to Roseanne, has gotten hitched again. On Saturday, June 29, he wed girlfriend Shelby Roos at the Four Seasons Hotel in Beverly Hills, Calif.
Australian supermodel Elle Macpherson was the victim of a home burglary in the posh Notting Hill district of London, Scotland Yard revealed on Monday. Apparently, the robbery happened on May 23, and an investigation is being carried out. A Scotland Yard spokeswoman would not give any details "at the victim's request" on what was stolen, Reuters reports.
Fans of the late martial arts great Bruce Lee may be pleased to learn that American Movie Classics will be airing a documentary about him, Bruce Lee: A Warrior's Journey, Tuesday night. In it, 33 minutes of finished footage from Lee's last film, Game of Death, will be shown, presented according to an original outline by Lee. The film was released in 1978, five years after Lee's death at age 32, but some considered it a joke because he appeared in only 11 minutes of the film.
More celebs are joining folk singer Bob Dylan on his first foray into acting. Ed Harris and Giovanni Ribisi have joined the cast of Masked & Anonymous, about a wandering troubadour/ex-con who performs one last concert. Other cast members include Jessica Lange, Angela Bassett and Jeff Bridges.
Sean Penn and Kevin Bacon are looking to work together in Clint Eastwood's new film Mystic River. Eastwood will direct the film, about three childhood friends brought together after 25 years when the daughter of one of the friends is murdered.
George Michael is back--large and in charge. His latest song, "Shoot the Dog," released Monday, is a political satire and by far his most controversial yet: He describes British Prime Minister Tony Blair as President George Bush's poodle. Nice image.