‘Non-Stop’ for non-stop action; afterthoughts on the Oscars

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After seeing Liam Neeson in the action-packed thriller "Non-Stop" my husband quipped, "this probably won't be a hit as an in-flight movie." How true, especially if a passenger is afraid of flying, such as the Liam Neeson's character Bill Marks, who it turns out, is the U.S. Air Marshall assigned to the fictional British Aqualantic Airline flight heading to Amsterdam. His seatmate, Julianne Moore, noticing his discomfort is told he doesn't enjoy flying, particularly the take-off.

After seeing Liam Neeson in the action-packed thriller "Non-Stop" my husband quipped, "this probably won't be a hit as an in-flight movie." How true, especially if a passenger is afraid of flying, such as the Liam Neeson's character Bill Marks, who it turns out, is the U.S. Air Marshall assigned to the fictional British Aqualantic Airline flight heading to Amsterdam. His seatmate, Julianne Moore, noticing his discomfort is told he doesn't enjoy flying, particularly the take-off.

The film begins with Neeson downing a Scotch from a paper cup in his parked car. He wants to back out of this particular flight, but it's too late now. As he reluctantly boards the plane he takes the time to comfort a little girl who is afraid of flying alone. He gives her some fatherly advice that seems to ease her mind as she is led to her seat by a lovely flight attendant (Michelle Dockery, who plays Lady Mary on TV's mega-hit "Downton Abbey.") The other attendant is Oscar winner Lupita Nyong'o from "12 Years a Slave."

Tension mounts when Neeson receives a threatening text on his secure network informing him that unless he arranges to have $150 million wired to a secure account, someone on the flight will die every 20 minutes.

From here on the film turns into a real nail bitter as we, along with Marshall Marks, try to figure out who is trying to hijack the plane for mega bucks. The screenwriters John W. Richardson, Chris Roach and Ryan Engle, along with director Jaume Collet-Serra, keep us in suspense and on the edge of out seats throughout, but along with the tension that continually mounts there are plenty of laughs.

Neeson, who earned an Oscar nomination for his excellent work in "Schindler's List," shows us that even at age 61 he can also be comfortable and very convincing as an action hero, a role he seems to relish. It all began when he made "Taken" for $25 million and the film went on to gross $250 million, opening up a whole new range of possibilities and action roles for the gifted stage and screen star.

In "Non-Stop," Neeson's latest action flick, he plays a man who is world-weary and depressed, but still capable of doing his job against almost impossible odds. And for us, the audience, we find ourselves checking out every passenger, along with Marks, trying to figure out just who might be capable of such despicable acts of violence on what just may be a doomed flight for all concerned. The writers toss us plenty of red herrings to keep us on our toes and on the edge of our seats throughout this fast paced action packed thriller. The excitement is so intense that we, like Neeson at the start, may want to go out for a Scotch on the rocks ourselves.

While you wouldn't want to be a passenger on this flight, "Non-Stop" proves to be a fun, but frenzied ride for the audience.

"Non-Stop," from Universal, is rated PG-13 for intense sequences of action and violence, some language and drug reference.        

                                                ******

The March 2 Oscar telecast was a class act in every way. Host Ellen DeGeneres joked with the star-studded audience but never made anyone feel ill at ease which isn't always the case. (Remember Seth MacFarlane from "Family Guy?") She also knew when to get out of the way, although the pizza patter went on a slice too long.
 

The format was also more well balanced and structured. There were brief film segments for each film category, including animation, which gave the viewer a sense of the nominated film, whether or not they had seen it in a theater. The writers also cut out a lot of the inane banter between presenters that got in the way and often slowed down the momentum in past years.

 

And the actors also were better prepared with clever or heart-warming acceptance speeches worthy of the occasion. Most speeches were touching, especially those given by Matthew McConaughey, Jared Leto and Lupita Nyong'o, while Cate Blanchette spoke out eloquently for films focusing on interesting women like those in contention for the Best Actress Awards this year.

 

Some speeches were poetic like the playful acceptance given by husband and wife song writers Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez which was presented in rhyme.
 

Another plus was the music. It was great to hear Pink sing "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" in honor of the 75th anniversary of the classic movie "The Wizard of Oz" and all of Judy Garland's children were there in the audience to celebrate the occasion. Bette Midler sang "The Wind Beneath My Wings" in tribute to all the performers and film-connected individuals who are no longer with us, like Philip Seymour Hoffman, Sid Caesar, James Gandolfini, Peter O'Toole, Roger Ebert, Shirley Temple and countless others who helped make memorable motion pictures.

 

And last, but not least Idina Menzel (Broadway's "Wicked") belted out the Oscar-winning song "Let It Go" from Disney's Oscar winning animated film "Frozen" so it was a grand night for singing.
 

Overall, it was a beautifully presented evening where the stars came out to shine in beautiful gowns and tuxedos. And throughout there was a strong sense of family as recipients thanked fellow performers, parents, spouses and their children.
 

Don't be surprised if Jimmy Fallon writes a "Thank You" note or two in honor of this very well presented evening honoring the best films and actors of 2013.