Non-Stop (2014)

Non-StopReleased: February 28, 2014. Directed by: Jaume Collet-Serra. Starring: Liam Neeson, Julianne Moore, Scoot McNairy. Runtime: 106 min.

As a film filled with enough red herrings to keep you guessing the whole way through, “Non-Stop” works as an effective mystery. It proposes the idea of what would happen if a trusted figure of authority turned into a supposed criminal; how would you feel about the state of national security? Not very good. It answers this in an action vehicle for Liam Neeson, who has taken to action films a bit later in his career than usual action stars. It just shows that he’s a versatile actor; and at least his characters have a good amount of humanity.

Bill Marks (Neeson) is a struggling alcoholic on an ordinary flight as a U.S. Air Marshall. Partly through the flight, he receives a mysterious text from somone on the same plane – on a secure network. The text says that the texter will kill someone every twenty minutes unless the killer is paid $150 million dollars in an off-shore account. How do you get away with murder on a crowded plane, you might ask? Well, this film shows pretty innovative ways. Marks must spring into action to save the people he pledged to protect, and simultaneously clear his name.

Neeson’s character might not be as impressive as his one featured in 2012’s “The Grey,” as far as the most human characters he’s portrayed in action flicks, but Marks is a decent character. Before I get into the character, it’s getting harder to differentiate some of Neeson’s characters… especially when some have the same initials. This film he’s Bill Marks, and in “Taken” he’s Bryan Mills. I’m bound to mix those up sooner than later. Anyway, Marks is motivated to protect the people of the plane because it’s his job, and he’s motivated to catch the suspect to clear his name. (Don’t have a cow, I don’t consider a major spoiler since it’s exposed in the film’s trailer.)  A short list of suspects become apparent when they look for any plane patrons using their cell phones on the plane’s monitors.

I won’t say who the suspects are narrowed down to, because that’ll just be boring; but they’re mostly just generic stereotypes representing a lot of cultural make-up, but you know the filmmakers aren’t going to make the Middle Eastern the perpetrator in a terrorism film. Because that might just cause an uproar. (Is that racist to assume that?) This is a terrorism film that is able to bend in suspsense in such a taut environment, something directors like Wes Craven are capable of, shown in 2005’s half-political thriller “Red Eye”.

The film’s actually pretty fresh, too. It’s not “Snakes on a Plane” fun, because Neeson repeatedly telling people to sit down and shut the front door becomes irrating after awhile. Something else that doesn’t help is that the action takes about 25 minutes to get into; and while there’s decent suspense welded in, the action isn’t non-stop. It comes and goes, but what a deceiving title. The only thing that doesn’t stop is the plane. Part of the problem with the action is the taut setting, it’s not a lot of room for the stars to beat the crap out of each other or anything like that; or shoot off a gun, since they’re in a plane. The cinematography is decent, there’s a sequence in the beginning where the world is seen through a “drunken vision” that isn’t that great. Everyone’s focused but the background is blurry. Wouldn’t alcoholics develop a tolerance to alcohol after awhile and it’d become harder and harder to get hammered?

The supporting cast is filled by Julianne Moore, who brings a good performance to the film; and damn, she is looking great for someone who’s fifty-three years old. Academy Award winner Lupita Nyong’o (“12 Years a Slave”) is in the background in her second movie role, as a stewardess. Scoot McNairy’s featured, too, and I think he’s just a great supporting presence.

A star of the film is the great sound editing, and awesome sound effects; especially when turbulence is present. The flick’s weak spot might just be the lackluster reveal of the perpetrator’s motivations. Just didn’t do it for me. And for a mystery, there are a few too many “Why did that happen…?” and “How does that make sense…?” situations throughout. This also has probably the most awkward exchange of dialogue as the final lines so far this year. All in all, it’s a decent watch and it keeps you guessing throughout. That’s the intention of a mystery – and this is a capable one.

Score70/100

Scream (1996)

Release Date: December 20, 1996. Director: Wes Craven. Stars: Neve Campbell, Courteney Cox, David Arquette. Runtime: 1hr, 51 min. Tagline: Someone’s Taken Their Love Of Scary Movies One Step Too Far!

Did you knowOriginally titled “Scary Movie” which was later used for a parody of the Scream and other pop culture horror films like it: Scary Movie (According to IMDb). [No wonder those two titles are sometimes confused by people!]

Scream is a fresh spin on the horror genre, and it oozes with sheer brilliance. It follows Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell), an average teen whose mother was killed last year, living in the town of Woodsboro. To add stress to the dreadful upcoming anniversary, a killer called Ghostface surfaces and begins to kill local teens one by one. As the body count begins to rise, Sidney and her friends find themselves contemplating the “Rules” of horror films as they find themselves living in a real-life one.

That premise is really one of the most original and best to ever hit the horror genre. The real treat about Scream is that it’s both a great satire and a great horror movie. It embraces the horror genre while simultaneously mocking it, in such a refreshing way. It also turns psychotic killings into something hilarious, and satirical  Assuming one can find the humour in stabbings, and it is satirical because it’s all really ironic, such as the time where Tatum says “You’re starting to sound like a Wes Carpenter flick or something,” or when Jamie Kennedy is watching Jamie Lee Curtis in Halloween, shouting “Come on, Jamie… Behind you!” at a time where he should look behind him. In this way, it feels like a self-aware film, even when the characters themselves are not aware they are in a movie. The characters discuss the “Rules” of horror films, while they themselves are trying to survive what is actually a horror movie.

The movie warns that, in most cases, if you have sex, drink or do drugs, among other things, you’re pretty much screwed. The movie dissects the genre and gets silly, scary and all-around intense. The concept is incredibly scary, because if one gets a prank call and the prank caller becomes increasingly violent, and the victim doesn’t have a good knowledge of horror movies, they’re basically screwed. Even when the scenes are incredibly long (the 42-minute party scene near the end, the crew made t-shirts that read “I SURVIVED SCENE 118”, and the Drew Barrymore scene at the very beginning lasts 12 minutes), it’s never boring. There are so many aspects of this film that could make this one of someone’s favourite horror flicks.

The primary characters are easy to care about (but when most are killed off, it really isn’t the end of the world) and it’s always suspenseful because the killer could be literally anyone. It could be you, the one reading this right now. Probably not. Ghostface is also hilarious because he’s so clever and witty and just downright psychopathic. He’s having so much fun, that, it’s really hard not to laugh along with this film.

Everyone is also incredibly well typecast and embrace their stereotypes. Sidney’s the virgin, Billy Loomis (Skeet Ulrich) is the number one suspect in the film, Tatum (Rose McGowan) is really just the slut, Stu (Matthew Lillard) is Tatum’s boyfriend, and Randy Meeks (Jamie Kennedy) is the horror movie (and general movie) buff, who’s kinda secretly head-over-heels for Sidney. And what cinephile cannot love a movie with a funny movie buff in it? We can’t forget Dewey (David Arquette), the Deputy of the town, and Gale Weathers (Courteney Cox), the selfish news reporter trying to keep the apparently innocent man, Cotton Weary, who was incarcerated for the murder of Sidney’s mother, off death row. We also grow to love her for her backbone and fine badassery. Is that a word?

This movie is practically just the perfect treat to watch on a Friday night with a few friends and a bucket of poppin’ corn. It’s hilarious, edgy, intense, mysterious, scary, it always keeps its viewer guessing, and it’s overall brilliant. It also has an amazing premise that it executes extremely well, and that’s easy to admire. Scream is one of those movies that one can watch over and over because of its iconic characters, its pure entertainment value, and its tremendous amount of originality. And there’s lots of blood and horror references. It also always should inspire a Scream-athon (I think I’ll watch them all in the summer, when I have them all on Blu-Ray) because the sequels are fairly entertaining. This is truly a bit of a wet dream for horror fans. Only one thing is left to be said: What’s your favourite scary movie?

100/100