At what point did someone look at craggy, baggy Liam Neeson and proclaim “ah yes, but this brow-furrowingly serious, Oscar nominated star of Schindler’s List is the manly action hero for which we are in want”? For these days The Sloth can’t enter a cinema without Liam hurling himself and his Oirish twang across the screen in pursuit of all manner of baddies. This transition reaches what must surely be its apex in the wonderfully OTT Non-Stop.
Liam is Bill Marks, an air marshall operating out of the US. He doesn’t even try to do a US accent. Vague rumblings are mentioned of him ‘being originally from Dublin’ and that is that. Bill drinks to the point of can’t-leave-the-house-without-a-hipflask, which isn’t ideal in his line of work. We join him boarding a transatlantic flight on just another day at the office. Obviously, it isn’t.
Bill settles in his business class seat, exchanging meaningful comrades-in-arms glances with stewardess Nancy (Michelle Dockery). Shortly after takeoff, cryptic, threatening messages begin appearing on Bill’s pager. Unless several million dollars are wired to the anonymous sender’s bank account, passengers will begin to die at the rate of one every 20 minutes. And indeed they do. Alcoholic or not, Bill must save the day.
The premise is pure Agatha Christie. Who, in this plane load of passengers, is the orchestrating villain? Is it upfront, friendly Jen Summers (Julianne Moore)? Bill’s fellow air marshall Jack (Anson Mount)? Or the supposedly trustworthy Dr Fahim Nasir (Omar Metwally)? And marvellously, as Bill’s panic increases, the level of reality correspondingly decreases. Who knew airlines had a ‘bomb protocol’ involving piling suitcases against said bomb and basically crossing fingers? Or that pilots, when descending into a deep dive, bellow “come on you &*&%£*” at their plane? It’s ludicrous beyond all possible satire, but it’s also a heap of tremendous, utterly ridiculous fun.
UK release 28 February
We LOVE a cracking animation. We’ve watched Up more times than permissible for a grown adult and it never fails to make us laugh (talking dogs flying planes!!). So we approached The Lego Movie with nervous anticipation. Would it deliver that vital adult / kiddie crossover appeal?
Emmet (Chris Pratt) is a construction worker. He’s earnest, dull and always follows the instructions. Which is handy because Emmet lives in a Lego universe presided over by Lord Business (Will Ferrell), a megalomaniac despot determined to replace all creativity with rigid conformity, aided by his bi-polar henchman Good Cop / Bad Cop (a marvellous Liam Neeson). Literally rigid, as Lord Business intends to smother the Lego world in glue, never to be broken apart and rebuilt again.
Working to thwart this dastardly deed are an underground resistance movement of Master Builders, free-thinking liberals who NEVER follow the instructions, throwing together random Lego parts to create motorcycles, spaceships, bridges, the crazy fools. Headed by Vitruvius (Morgan Freeman) and assisted by action heroine Wyldstyle (Elizabeth Banks), they include every pop culture icon you can think of, from an exasperated Superman (Channing Tatum) who fends off The Green Hornet’s (Jonah Hill) creepy idolisation to arrogant babe-magnet Batman (Will Arnett) and a grandiose Gandalf (Todd Hansen). Vitruvius predicts a Special One shall appear, to save the Lego universe. Against all odds, that Special One turns out to be Emmet.
It’s bonkers. A kaleidoscopic rush of saturated colours and intense action that whirls from one scene to the next, taking in the Wild West, futuristic cityscapes and the trippy, candy coloured Cloud Cuckoo Land (if the writers didn’t ingest performance enhancing substances before coming up with that sequence, we’re a giraffe). Crucially, it’s backed with a witty and surprisingly satirical script that continually throws out surreal gems. From New Zealand described as the land of “Knights, poverty, leeches and illiteracy” to Bad Cop absent-mindedly crooning Danny Boy, there is much to savour. And look out for the live-action nostalgia trip towards the end. If that doesn’t warm your cockles then there’s no hope.
UK release 14 February