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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Universal via Everett Collection
Valentine’s Day can be grating when you’re single. Restaurants jack up prices, people fail to pull off the color red, and everyone is fixated on love. It’s time to reclaim February 14 and celebrate Single’s Awareness Day. The fact that it bears the acronym S.A.D. is purely coincidental. If you’re looking for a day free from romance, Valentine, and reminders of your partner-less existence, why not get cozy with these movies? They have been selected for their distinct level of awesome and lack of amour.
The Avengers It may be more than a year before The Avengers 2: Age of Ultron hits theaters. Why not re-watch this epic superhero film, or catch it for the first time? There aren’t any cheesy romantic subplots. There are a couple fleeting moments of people in relationship,s but the action, snark, and dead Chitauri make up for it. It helps that the cast is chock full of lookers, including Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth, Scarlett Johansson, who also deliver in butt-kicking action.
Hansel & Gretel: Witch HuntersThis is the movie you might never have an occasion to watch but you won’t want to miss. Jeremy Renner and Gemma Arterton play a fresh take on the storybook brother and sister. Slightly anachronistic and chock full of witch wounding weaponry, this movie is a future cult movie that blends horror, action, and the right level of cheese. The other bright side: there’s no love story. Just some heartwarming sibling companionship.
This Is the EndIf you’ve been told you wouldn’t be considered as a mate even if you were the last person on Earth, this is the movie for you. This apocalyptic comedy finds James Franco, Seth Rogen, Jonah Hill, and their friends trying to navigate the post-Rapture Hell on Earth. This comedy features bizarre cameos by almost everyone in Hollywood (mostly really just Judd Apatow’s Rolodex, though), and offers nothing close to romance except the special relationship between a man and his co-dependent friends.
Identity ThiefLaugh the pain away with this hilarious buddy comedy. Jason Bateman and Melissa McCarthy have bizarre chemistry and best of all it’s in no way relationship-based. This was one of the most popular movies of 2013. If you haven’t seen it you may want to look into real estate that isn’t under a rock. Why eat an entire chocolate cake while crying when you can binge on the laughter of McCarthy, the soon-to-be-crowned Queen of Comedy?
ClueThis cult classic deserves an annual watching, so why not make it Single’s Awareness Day? This film adaptation of the popular board game came ages before Hollywood decided to make a movie out of everything (lest we forget Battleship). This comedy is full of murder, mystery, and Tim Curry. It’s highly quotable and deviously hilarious.
The Cabin in the WoodsA horror movie on V-Day might be a little cliché. This revisionist take on the genre is hard to pass up. It’s also a little hard to classify since so much changes. Why not opt for something to engage your adrenaline and your mind. Plus, it’s from the genius mind of Joss Whedon. What more could you ask for?
PathologyIf sex and violence are you bag, enjoy this dark thriller about a bunch of forensic students that get addicted to performing the perfect murder. It stars the sexy Milo Ventimiglia, Alyssa Milano, and Lauren Lee Smith. It's super angsty and emo, so feel free to let out your inner-Goth kid and enjoy this twisted psychological drama.
Kill Bill - Vol. 1 & 2If you’re feeling super resentful, annoyed, or just plain pissed off, why not watch both of these classic Quentin Tarantino films? Uma Thurman gets tons of vengeance so let her dispose of your ex…in your head at least. Plus, there’s nothing more relaxing than the dulcet tones of a Hatori Hanzo setting a score. The entire movie is set on killing the worst possible ex so why not get it out of your system.
What starts out as a case of mistaken identity turns into a war between two of New York’s most rival crime bosses: The Rabbi (Ben Kingsley) and The Boss (Morgan Freeman). They both believe laid-back Slevin (Josh Hartnett) staying at his absent friend’s apartment is the guy who owes them money--and they both set about to make sure he pays them back one way or another. The happy-go-lucky girl next door (Lucy Liu) tries to help Slevin unravel the mystery but the whole mistaken identity thing gets him into even more hot water when a relentless detective (Stanley Tucci) hounds him--and an infamous assassin Goodkat (Bruce Willis) tracks him. Looks like Slevin is going to have to come up with his own ingenious plot to get himself out of this fine mess he’s in. And I do mean ingenious. With character names such as “The Rabbi ” “The Boss ” “Goodkat ” and “The Girl Next Door” you know you’re in for some style over substance which is probably why the script attracted such a top-notch cast. Josh Hartnett (who starred in Slevin director Paul McGuigan’s weirdly romantic Wicker Park) tries something different as the affable Slevin a guy who seems pretty smooth on the surface but who has some seriously twisted ulterior motives. Liu also veers from her usual icy villainess to play Slevin’s kooky love interest bouncing all over the screen like a pinball. Willis revisits his Jackal character but adds a certain panache to the hit man role. And then there’s Kingsley and Freeman. As the Rabbi Kingsley deliciously chews things up while Freeman deftly plays his usual understated self as the Boss. When these two have their one and only confrontation the Oscar winners show us exactly what acting is all about. Lucky Number Slevin is a bit of an enigma. It starts off shaky. You feel like you’re watching something you’ve seen done a million times before: Mistaken identity quirky crime lords who want him dead the bumblin’ cop the hardened assassin. But in the capable hands of Scottish director Paul McGuigan(Gangster No. 1) things aren’t what they appear to be and soon you are thoroughly involved forgiving its formulaic beginning. Much like the recent Inside Man this is yet another excellent example of taking something prescribed and turning it on its ear. Of course much of the intelligence comes from the smartly written script by Jason Smilovic who supplies the actors with plenty of juicy mouthfuls. But Slevin makes you think. It makes you want to find the clues so you can figure out the puzzle. Or if you didn’t catch the clue have it shown to you in an inventive way. Thank god independent film these days offers such new and resourceful ways to watch staid themes.
A light-hearted look at America's fascination with mysteries in their various forms -- films, television shows, books, plays, board games, mystery weekends, etc. Included in the program are film and television clips, interviews with mystery authors and actors, and some rare newsreel footage of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, creator of Sherlock Holmes.