Rated PG-13 for sensuality, profanity, intense violence and drug use
Alcoholic Air Marshal Tested In Transatlantic Hijack Thriller
Bill Marks’ (Liam Neeson) life went into a tailspin after his young daughter lost her battle with childhood leukemia. The inconsolable police officer has since sought solace in a bottle of alcohol, an addiction which cost him his marriage and career.
Today, the ex-cop is lucky to be employed as an air marshal, a job he decided to take despite a terrible fear of takeoffs. On this particular evening, he’s been assigned to protect a packed transatlantic flight fromNew YorktoLondon.
The trip starts out uneventfully enough with Bill hiding his identity while making the acquaintance of the attractive passenger (Julianne Moore) sitting next to him. However, a crisis arises over the middle of the ocean soon after he receives a text from an anonymous caller claiming to be in the cabin and threatening to murder a passenger every 20 minutes unless $150 million is deposited into an offshore bank account.
Initially, he dismisses the message as a prank on the part of the only colleague (Anson Mount) aboard the plane, since a breach of the supposedly-impenetrable federal network is almost impossible and a criminal offense to boot. Nevertheless, once the first victim does indeed die, Bill realizes he has an urgent emergency on his hands.
Who might the hijacker be? The Muslim (Omar Metwally) sporting a skullcap? The trash-talking black teenager (Corey Hawkins) reluctant to surrender his cell phone? Somebody else? Of course, the actual perpetrator won’t be easy to pinpoint in this ever-escalating, deadly game of cat and mouse.
Directed by Jaume Collet-Serra, Non-Stop is yet another adrenaline-fueled vehicle featuring Liam Neeson. The surprising success of Taken has belatedly turned the rugged Irishman into an action star, as reflected in subsequent similar outings in The A-Team, Taken 2, Unknown, and the upcoming Run All Night.
Here, Neeson safely sticks close to the Taken formula, starting with his character’s name (Bill Marks as opposed to Bryan Mills) and his playing a broken soul in need of redemption. Again, he rises to the occasion in tough, two-fisted fashion, though also exhibiting a vulnerability certain to move you to tears during the closing credits.
Besides an engaging premise and a satisfying resolution, Non-Stop is blessed with an inscrutable plot which delicately ratchets up the tension as it winds its way toward an unpredictable denouement. Thus, the picture unfolds less like a mob scene disaster flick than a cleverly-concealed whodunit where everybody with a phone is a suspect.
Cells on a plane!
Excellent (4 stars)
Running time: 106 minutes
Rated PG-13 for sexuality, profanity, nudity, crude humor, and teen smoking, drug use and alcohol consumption
Boy Wonder Befriends Late Bloomer In Odd Couple At College Comedy
On the drive with his mother (Parker Posey) to his new school, precocious Eli Pettifog (Alex Wolff) is fretting about fitting-in with his classmates. After all, it’s not the 13-year-old’s first day of high school, but rather of college.
The clown-haired boy genius is entering Whitman College, an elite institution catering to students not quite bright enough for the Ivy League. Eli had hoped to attend Harvard, and is still bitter that he had to settle for his safety school.
Upon moving into the dorm, he makes the acquaintance of Leo Searly (Brendan Fraser), a fellow freshman living across the hall. Long in the tooth Leo is 41, and has belatedly matriculated less to crack the books than to recapture his fading youth.
Nevertheless, these two fish out of water forge a fast friendship as they make the awkward adjustment to campus life. Early on, we find the pair partying, with late bloomer Leo generally making a fool of himself while prepubescent Eli’s seduced by an attractive blonde (Elisabeth Hower) after being plied with alcohol.
The plot bifurcates and sobers a bit when Eli takes an interest in an eccentric townie (Julia Garner) his own age and Leo’s long-estranged daughter (Lizzy DeClement) shows up unexpectedly. But HairBrained is at its most inspired from the point Eli joins the trivia team representing his alma mater in the Collegiate Mastermind competition against other top schools likeStanford,Michigan andPrinceton.
Not surprisingly, all roads lead to a big showdown with Harvard. Thus, the burning question becomes whether the pint-sized brainiac will be able prove the exclusive school made a mistake by sending him a rejection letter.
Far more quirky than it is comical, HairBrained is an uneven, unlikely-buddies flick that’s only funny in fits and starts. Think a poor man’s cross of Napoleon Dynamite (2004) and Old School (2003) where a coming-of-age tale merges with a midlife crisis.
Good (2 stars)
Running time: 97 minutes
OPENING THIS WEEK
For movies opening March 7, 2014
300: Rise Of An Empire (R for sexuality, nudity, profanity and pervasive violence) High body-count sequel, set in 480 BC, finds triumphant King Xerxes (Rodrigo Santoro) now leading the Persian army against forces led by Greek General Themistocles (Sullivan Stapleton) in an epic naval showdown over Athens. With Eva Green,Lena Headey and Hans Matheson.
Mr. Peabody & Sherman (PG for mild action and rude humor) Animated adventure about a brilliant beagle inventor (Ty Burrell) who makes his mark on iconic moments in history when he travels back in time via Wayback Machine with his pet boy (Max Charles). Voice cast includes Ariel Winter, Mel Brooks, Stephen Colbert, Dennis Haysbert, Leslie Mann, Allison Janney and Stanley Tucci.
Awful Nice (R for profanity and sexuality) Tale of redemption about a popular college professor (James Pumphrey) who tries to mends fences with his deadbeat brother (Alex Rennie) as they drive cross-country to their father’s funeral. Cast includes Todd Sklar, Yakov Smirnoff and Laura Ramsey.
Bethlehem (Unrated) Middle East drama about an Israeli Secret Service agent (Tsahi Halevi) who induces a Palestinian teenager (Shadi Mar’i) to snitch on his terrorist older brother (Tarik Kopty). With Hitham Omari, Michal Shtamler and George Iskandar (In Hebrew and Arabic with subtitles)
The Face Of Love (PG-13 for a drug reference) Romance drama about a widow (Annette Bening) who goes to great lengths to hide from her new boyfriend (Ed Harris) the fact that he’s the spitting image of the husband she lost five years earlier. With Robin Williams, Amy Brenneman and Jess Weixler.
A Farewell To Fools (PG-13 for brief profanity and a violent image) World War II farce, set in a simple Romanian village, highlighting Nazi occupiers’ search for the perpetrator after the body of a German soldier is discovered by a local boy (Bogdan Iancu). Starring Gerard Depardieu, Harvey Keitel and Laura Morante.
The Grand Budapest Hotel (R for profanity, sexuality and violence) Droll dramedy, directed by Wes Anderson, chronicling an accommodating concierge’s (Ralph Fiennes) exploits at a legendary European hotel during its heyday in the ’30s prior to the outbreak of World War II. Ensemble includes Owen Wilson, F. Murray Abraham, Jude Law, Bill Murray, Willem Dafoe, Tilda Swinton, Edward Norton, Tom Wilkinson, Harvey Keitel, Adrien Brody, Jason Schwartzman and Jeff Goldblum. (In English and French with subtitles)
Grand Piano (R for profanity) Tale of redemption about a failed child prodigy (Elijah Wood) once crippled by stage fright whose attempted comeback is imperiled by an anonymous death threat if he plays even one wrong note during a performance. With John Cusack, Dee Wallace and Kerry Bishe.
In Fear (R for profanity, terror and disturbing violence) Primal horror flick about a young couple (Iain De Caestecker and Alice Englert) who gets spooked when they realize they’re not alone after getting lost while driving in the Irish countryside. With Allen Leech.
Interior. Leather Bar. (Unrated) James Franco and Travis Matthews co-wrote, co-directed by and play themselves in this sexually-explicit docudrama reimagining the 40 minutes of lost footage deleted from the homoerotic classic Cruising (1980). Supporting cast includes Val Lauren, Christian Patrick and Brenden Gregory.
Journey To The West (PG-13 for violence, sexuality, bloody images and partial nudity) comedy fantasy about a Buddhist monk (Zhang Wen) who develops feelings for the demon hunter (Qi Shu) helping him protect his village from a trio of evil spirits. With Bo Huang, Show Luo and Shing-Cheung Lee. (In Mandarin with subtitles)
Tasting Menu (PG-13 for brief profanity) Romantic comedy about ex-lovers (Stephen Rea and Claudia Bassols) who reunite to keep a reservation made a year earlier at a restaurant billed as the best in the world. With Fionnula Flanagan, Jan Cornet andTogo Igawa. (In English and Catalan with subtitles)