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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Who made off with Sharon Stone's stones?
A 48-year-old ex-housekeeper of the "Basic Instinct" star was due to be arraigned in a Los Angeles court today on charges she purloined more than $300,000 in jewelry and other items from the actress' West L.A. home, authorities said.
Socorro Del Carmen Membrano faces one count of grand theft. She was arrested Tuesday following a police investigation, the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office said.
Membrano worked for Stone for three years, prosecutors said. It was not known what was allegedly stolen -- or when.
Stone's camp declined comment.
SEEING RED? The Halle Berry hit-and-run saga unfolds, as Los Angeles deputies now believe the actress ran a red light before striking a 1996 Pontiac Sunfire Feb. 23 and fleeing the scene in West Hollywood.
On the heels of this update comes news that Berry was involved in a similar incident three years ago in which no charges were filed. Berry and the other driver "worked out a settlement on their own," Los Angeles County Sheriff's Deputy Rob Kenessey said of the prior incident.
Berry's case has been turned over to prosecutors, who are reviewing 911 tapes. Investigators reportedly have recommended the filing of criminal charges.
CRABBY APPLE: Singer Fiona Apple gave New York fans quite a show Tuesday when she stormed off the stage 40 minutes into her concert.
According to MTV, the 22-year-old, who recently contributed music to boyfriend Paul Thomas Anderson's "Magnolia," was plagued by sound-equipment problems and couldn't hear herself sing. After complaining and apologizing for the poor quality, she began to cry. The cry snowballed into a meltdown, and the singer reportedly yelled, "All you critics out there better not [expletive] tear me apart or I'll [expletive] kill you."
Finally, Apple announced that the band was leaving for five minutes so the monitors could be fixed. But after 20 minutes, a representative appeared and said Apple would not finish the show and asked fans to save their ticket stubs, saying another -- and better -- New York show would be scheduled.
Apple, whose latest album title, "When the Pawn ..." is longer than a Barbra Streisand acceptance speech, appeared on David Letterman's CBS show the night after the incident. We're happy to say the sound was working fine, and she made it through without incident.
MUSIC BEAT: Surprise, surprise -- Santana's multiple-Grammy-winning "Supernatural" stayed at the top of the Billboard charts this week, hitting the nine-times-platinum mark. It's followed by Dr. Dre's "Dr. Dre 2001." Christina Aguilera's self-titled album also received a Grammy boost to No. 3; Kid Rock's "Devil Without a Cause" and Eiffel 65's "Europop" rounded out the Top Five.
The Top Five singles in the country are as follows: 1. "Amazed," Lonestar; 2. "Maria Maria," Santana featuring The Product G&B; "Breathe," Faith Hill; "I Knew I Loved You," Savage Garden; 5. "Get it on Tonite," Montell Jordan.
OBITS: The Oscar-nominated composer for such films as "From Here to Eternity" died Sunday in a San Diego hospital of cardiovascular disease. George Duning was 92. Duning picked up five career Academy Award nominations. He never won. ...
... David Levy, a former network executive who helped birth the TV version of "The Addams Family," died Jan. 25 in Los Angeles following a lengthy illness, it has been learned. He was 87. During his run as an NBC programming exec, Levy was also instrumental in bringing "Dr. Kildare" and "Bonanza" to the Peacock network ...
... Begona Palacios, actress and widow of director Sam Peckinpah, died Wednesday of a liver disorder. She was 58. Palacios was best known in Mexico for action movies such as "The Saint Against the Strangler" in 1963. Peckinpah died in 1984 ...
QUICK TAKES: Is it over for The Cure? It might be. The alt-rock band's 13th studio album, "Bloodflowers," deals with finality, and lead singer Robert Smith -- a k a the Well-Lipsticked One -- says the song "Maybe Someday" is a specific farewell. "I just feel that it would be good to stop while we're still good," Smith told Reuters ...
... Pee Wee King, the singer, bandleader and songwriter who co-wrote "Tennessee Waltz," is in guarded condition after suffering a heart attack, a spokeswoman for Jewish Hospital in Louisville, Ky., told Reuters. King is 86 ...
... Cameron Diaz, who went frumpy in "Being John Malkovich," will return to glam (hopefully) as a presenter for the 72nd Academy Awards, to be held March 26 at the Los Angeles Shrine Auditorium ...
... "Go" director Doug Liman has lost his dog, Jackson, and is offering a combined reward of $1,000 and a part in his next film to whoever finds the Australian shepherd, last seen Feb. 18 in Washington. Liman tells the New York Post: "I keep hearing from actors who are out there looking."
--With additional reporting by Joal Ryan.