Liam Neeson reunites with Unknown director Jaume Collet-Serra in Non-Stop, yet another movie destined never to be coming to an in-flight theater near you. Neeson is an alcoholic air marshal going through a rather rough patch: his daughter has died of cancer, his wife has divorced him and if that’s not enough–he has been receiving text messages while on a nonstop flight from New York to London, that passengers will begin to die every twenty minutes, unless a hefty sum ($150 million) is transferred to an off-shore bank account. He has to cope with any number of potential suspects (as in a planeload of passengers who resemble loud, obnoxious castoffs from the 1970 classic Airport), as well as off-camera superiors who think he’s lost his edge and his reason, and a suspicious, if not downright contentious flight crew.
The first hour of Non-Stop is actually pretty tense, with some interesting twists and developments, and the viewer is also kept wondering why Julianne Moore is in the picture (Support for her beleaguered seatmate? Attractive yet evil mastermind?—if you believe in guilt by casting. Caring, sensitive, secretive red herring?). Neeson brings conviction to the somewhat far-fetched, if intriguing proceedings; in his recent spate of action-driven films (save the megabudget Clash of the Titans opuses), you never sense a great actor is slumming. He handles the action scenes with verve and intensity, he agonizes eloquently, and there is one supremely funny moment (borne of his character’s discomfort) where he makes certain guarantees to the put-upon passengers. If the last half-hour lets bceomes regrettably conventional (as big secrets are revealed), Neeson, as well as Moore and Michelle Dockery (from Downton Abbey), manage to more than sustain audience interest.
Another aging action hero takes center stage in Three days to Kill; this time it’s Kevin Costner as a CIA operative (more like a legalized assassin) who, in the wake of a botched operation wants nothing more than to retire from service and make up for lost time with his estranged family, (wife Connie Neilsen but more importantly, teenage daughter (Hailee Steinfeld). However, ther may not be too much time, as he is suffering from terminal brain cancer and given a few months to live. Enter Amber Heard as an enigmatic, capable, and quite attractive superior who promises Costner access to an experimental drug that may just prolong his life—if he’ll do just one last job.
This drug does have its side effects, and at times, the movie reminded me of John Wayne in El Dorado, as the Wayne character in that film is incapacitated at the most inopportune moments (as in during a showdown), as Costner’s character is throughout. Like Non-Stop, Three Hours to Kill, really shouldn’t work—but it does, thanks mainly to its still formidable, if aging star. Costner, who could be a little bland and humorless in his younger roles, is never less than convincing as a seasoned, fatigued professional who comes face to face with his own mortality–while trying to overcome the perils of fatherhood. There are several moments when his worlds collide, as in an amusing scene where he convinces a reluctant hostage to provide a tomato sauce recipe for his unwitting daughter (via cell phone) and his scenes with the bad guy’s (referred to as the Albino) limo driver, who also happens to be a family man. As I say, none of it is plausible, but Three Hours to Kill is always engaging and never less than entertaining.
Some Oscar thoughts (or hindsight is always 20-20)
Just because Leo and Marty join forces to come up with another lengthy epic doesn’t mean it has to be nominated for Best Picture. I generally liked The Wolf of Wall Street, but it was too long by at least one hour and tended to belabor the obvious.
Bill Murray showed a lot of class with his acknowledgement of Harold Ramis and Ramis’ impressive comedic oeuvre.
No matter what innovations the show makes, it still manages to clock in at well over three hours. Case in point: I love Over the Rainbow, but was it really necessary?
I liked Ellen DeGeneres’ opening monologue, and some of the other jokes, but the pizza bit did go on a little too long.
If I were Idina Menzel, I’d thank my lucky stars for John Travolta. Everyone now knows her name, and they should, for she’s immensely talented on stage and film, and nothing less than gracious in person.
Those folks in the orchestra didn’t really cut off too many of the early acceptance speeches, then came back with a vengeance, only to lay low for select others. Don’t know what this proves, but I thought I’d mention it. By the way, it was fitting for Cate Blanchett to finally mention Woody Allen (during her protracted speech) after avoiding his name during the last few award shows.