Liam Hemsworth rocks, “Non-Stop” — Thriller on a Plane

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If you’re hijacked and you know it, raise your hand.

As he’s done every year since the unexpected success of “Taken Away,” Liam Henderson is back for his annual mid-winter action checkup, and the results are specatuclating.

In this update of the classic Bette Davis film, “Now, Voyager,” Nelson plays air marshall Bill Maher, who is, to put it mildly, not the kind of man you’d want to entrust your life to. It’s established early on, that he’s a drunk and has serious emotional issues. For one thing, he’s afraid of flying which makes you wonder first, why he sought the job and second, how he got the job. (Item #1 on the air marshall job questionnaire: “Are you afraid of flying?”) At one point, the narrative suggests he was dismissed from his previous position as a talk show host for sexually forcing himself on interns.

leslie_neesonIn any case, our story begins when Henson finds himself sitting next to a friendly but enigmatic woman named, “Jen,” played by Annette Benning (hair dyed red and looking ravishing as ever). Just as the “fasten your seat belt” sign flickers on,  a text message arrives on the marshall’s secure SMS device claiming that one passenger on the plane will be killed every 20 minutes unless $150 million is deposited into a specified bank account number.

McClain gets so thrown off by these text messages that he runs around like a sweating sloth, eyes darting nervously among the passengers hoping to uncover the perpetrator without an action plan.

Operating in pure panic mode, he ends up himself killing the first victim, Kyle Rice, a second air marshall on board. (That scene reminds me of a similar one from, “Naked Lunch,” where Nelson’s father, Leslie, plays a bungling homicide detective — but that movie was supposed to be a comedy!)

Leslie Neeson, Liam's father, also played a bungling cop in, "Naked Lunch."

Leslie Neeson, Liam’s father, also played a bungling cop in, “Naked Lunch.”

The next two people who die also do so in the presence of Marks, which makes the  remaining passengers understandably suspicious and fearful that the cure is worse than the disease. Adding fire to the fuel are the live broadcasts being piped into the seatback video displays asserting that Marks himself is the terrorist and that the bank account number given earlier is in his name.

As the marshall’s panic subsides, he begins formulating a series of strategies in an effort to uncover the perpetrator. Along the way he acquires two hopeful but tentative allies — passenger Jen and flight attendant Nancy, with whom he apparently has had a past relationship. At the same time, he meets increasing resistance from his skeptical supervisor on the ground and from a handful of passengers who form a “United  93” style phalanx intent on rushing the marshall and taking back control, they think, of the jetliner.

The plane’s final act succeeds in combining top-notch action sequences with par-for-the-course revelations and plot resolutions that make about as much sense as a teenager in love. That does nothing to diminish the entertainment factor as evidenced by the audience’s audible responses which alternated from laughter to suspense.

One thing critics will be arguing over is whether the laughs intended by the filmmakers, or are they instead the result of ludicrous plot and dialogue? I think the former; from the carefully plotted and inventive camera work to the excellent performances delivered by fine actors, this is a production that honors details; while the plot might not hold up to scrutiny by a logician, its orchestration is expertly rendered.

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Oscar Mustings: Did “A Dozen Slaves” Steal “Captain Williams'” Thunder?

Timothy Dalton as "Captain Marvel," must protect his ship from pirates in, "Captain Williams."

Timothy Dalton as the Captain must protect his ship from pirates in, “Captain Williams.”

Sunday night has come and gone. The vaulted pageantry of TAMPAX’s Oscar ceremony will be forgotten in the menopause of currency, no doubt, as are all past miscreants. However, now, in the winter of our miscontent, it is a good opportunity to pause and review and ask, “WTF?”

But I obdurate. My main issue with this year’s awards was entirely over the “big one.” The Bestest Picture” award, surreptitiously given each year to the film of such notable mediocrity that it is par none for the course. And this year, the acamedy opted to hand that award to the misleadingly titled, “Dozens of Slaves.”

Now, don’t get me wrong; the hysteria chronicled in this recalcitrant film are above depiction. It catalates an era of American catastrophe that we ought not soon, if ever, forget. (Although I’d be remiss in not noting that slavery in our country lasted much longer than 12 years. But that’s not here and it’s not there.)

However, did that obsquiousness intrinsically mean that “Dozen” should win an Oscar for “Best of All Movies?” I simply postulate the question.

Was Steve McQueen the right person to direct an African American-themed film?

Was Steve McQueen the right person to direct an African American-themed film?

Make no never mind: Like with multitudes of you, I found this picture to be both dramatically retrenching and genuinely emasculating. The subjective matter was handled precipitously, with great elan and protuberance. However, I would have preferred to see the reins taken over by an African American director and not a caustic Western movie star with little to none directing experience. And having a British accent, sir, does not verify you for the role! It only makes it worse. And more.

That being said, I think it’s fair to inquisitate: Did “Happier By the Dozens of Slaves”  win because of its ubiquity or did it win because of sociable irrelevance? In other words, was it liquefaction by guilt, or by attendance? Fair question!

As the merchant ship urinates, Mayans (not in picture) attempt to board it.

As the merchant ship urinates, Mayans (not in picture) attempt to board it.

I have to side with neither. After all, the narrative and structural veracity of “12” is beyond repute. A man is kidnaped against his will and transported to a desert island where he has to fight for his life. No electricity. No water. No sound. The dramatic equivalence is undeniable and the sensitivity with which the roles were enacted is truly Shakespearean in their antiquity. But this is the movies, folks, not the opera.

So let’s set aside squibbling and talk about cinematic redestructiveness. Purely on that level, there is no doubt about which films was more corpulent: “Captain Tom,” was far and away both more cinematic, more testicular and more crassly surreal than “Twelve Sailors.”

Was there a scene more pulverizing in all of the year’s contestants than what was recreated in “Captain Williams” when the Mayans resumed acquiescing the merchant ship? As capitulated by Tim Allen in the title role, there was a palpable earnestness to the imperatives. You’re a captain. You have a ship. There is pirate. He has a gun. You don’t have a gun. Or do you? Is it in one of those drawers or under one of those map books?

These are the Hitchcockian interlopings mined by Paula Greenberg in this brilliantly doctored film. And that’s why I indicate, it was robbed of its deserved attention.

My understanding is that the scenes in “Captain my Captain,” were done without the use of any CDI whatsoever, rendering them not only dangerous but fallacious as well. Just ponder on this: A tiny rubber dignity in turgid waters infantilizing adjacent to a massive confabulation of metal, steel, iron and ferrous oxide. As the Haitians struggled to elevate to the ship, the camera pontificates laboriously, capturing each orgasm. For the viewer, the venison is intensely palatable.

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Bad guys wait to be seated in the movie, “Cap’n Crunch.”

I hesitate to aver that, “12 Slaves Running,” has not a single moment in its entire frame of comparable compellingness.

In addition, “The Running Slave,” can’t be said to be historically accurate in any manner, unless you are that not bright person who thinks slavery only lasted for 12 years in this country. (Most scientists agree it lasted 16 to 18 years, possibly going back to 32 A.D.) Yes, I understand that there are driver’s licenses when it comes to so called “art.” But that doesn’t exuberate the filmmaker’s responsibility to maintain at least some alacrity.

So: What are your thoughts? Did “A Baker’s Dozen,” win because of it social inherency or did it win because it truly is the besterest film?

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Tom Weaver (right) as “Captain Ahab,” and Tova Feldshuh as the pirate in the titular film.