What The Dickens! It’s Non Stop Movies


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IN THIS PRE-Oscar dead-zone, here’s a trio of movies that you needn’t make too much of an effort to view.

I’ll start with the one that’s had the highest, nay, glowing-iest reviews – “The Lego Movie”. Inspired by these reviews and fed up with the gloom within and without the cinemas, it seemed like a little humour could go a long way, so along I went with my bagful of laughs waiting for them to bubble out into multiple ha’s. They’re still waiting. Now humour has its own rules. Either you get it and it makes you laugh (which I guess for some people, accounts for Ben Stiller, Seth Rogan and most of Jenifer Aniston’s directors). Or, in this case, you don’t; and after an excruciating hour, you do as I do – and leave the cinema. Back to the damn incessant, rainy, cold, glum gloom without.

“The Lego Movie” is a marketing department’s wet dream. No doubt inspired by the success of the Transformers’ franchise that helped to revive Hasbro’s flagging fortunes of its dying and passé toy, Lego has followed suit and has turned its own flagging fortune into a hit movie. The Lego Movie has earned $200M in its first few weeks, and has attracted more viewers that all nine of the Oscar contenders. Combined. What with new design templates and under new management, Lego has turned itself around recently, saw its sales zoom skyward, and aided and abetted by the movie has suckered in about 30 million viewers, won raves, made people laugh and left one disgruntled viewer wondering whether he could get his money back. I guess I’ll now have to wait for the no doubt soon to be released Barbie and Ken rom com for a few laffs.

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And then there was that other non rom com, “The Invisible Woman” about Charles Dickens and his affair with a woman half his age. I had great expectations that this movie about Nelly (Felicity Jones), the daughter of one of his friends and admirers (Kristin Scott Thomas, down-graded from a lover – “The English Patient” – now to mother of lover. Such is the cruelty of age in Hollywood), would turn into something. But it simply turned into another beak, not particularly well furnished, house. Felicity is quite a stunner. And from the first moment, the imagination jumped to the unfortunate conclusion that here was yet another tale of an older man infatuated with the charms of a hot young thing.

But such crass thinking was not to be. Director Ralph Fiennes’ camera lingers lovingly on the elegant curves of Felicity’s neck, the gossamer hairs that glow like an aura along the slender gold of her arms and the inviting appeal of her ever so slightly parted lips. But this is no tale of two titties. Sadly, the director’s character – Dickens – shares nothing of the directors’ passion and, thanks to a meaninglessly choppy edit and directionless writing (by Abi Morgan and Claire Tomlin), we’re left wondering just what this affair was all about. The story suggests that Dickens and his portly wife (Joanna Scaanlan) no longer shared a marriage bed, but, despite Fiennes’ usual, nuanced acting, there’s no suggestion that the passions driving England’s finest writer reached all the way to women. Fiennes the director may have had the hots for Felicity, but, based on this wandering story, Dickens sure didn’t for Nell. Instead, what we have is a bloodless, high-minded affair that offers neither literary interest nor emotional engagement.

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Thank God for the pure, absurd, mindless entertainment of “Non Stop” with the ever put-upon Liam Neeson, here as US Air marshal, Bill Marks. He’s a MAN WITH A PAST: his daughter has died young, his wife has probably died as well, he smokes and – clear signifier of a dead-beat, good for nothing loser – he drinks. But this only serves to make him endearing, engaging and (along with the unfortunate fact that despite being an air marshal, he doesn’t like flying) a quasi-tragic hero. Who therefore better to blame for a potential in-air act of terrorism?

Bill is sitting next to Jen Summers (Julianne Moore), a woman who is dying of some sort of mysterious disease and who therefore must sit next to a window – to ensure that her last sights be of the open endless skies. Don’t ask. Their meaningless chatter is interrupted by two barriers: she just wants to sleep (it’s such a drag sitting next to a chatty, scared US Air Marshal), and he gets a message, on his access-restricted beeper, that a different passenger will die every twenty minutes unless $150M is transferred to a numbered account.

The numbered account happens to be his! Exclamation mark indeed!! Something’s fishy. WE know he’s a good guy, even if he was a bad cop in “The Lego Movie” (see above…these guys sure get around) and was Ra’s Al Ghul who nearly killed Batman. After all, we saw him rescue, first his daughter and then his wife from unimaginative Albanian human traffickers. He battled all sorts of odds in “the Grey” and in “The Next Three Days” he was finally able to prove his imprisoned wife innocent, or something.

But will he prove his own innocence? Will he stop more innocent passengers from being killed on this wonderful Aqua Atlantic flight – on an airplane full of empty toilets (where he can handily stack dead bodies and brief cases filled with cocaine and bombs)? Will he get the girl (Julianne)? Will flight attendant Gwen (Lupita Nyong’o) win an Oscar? Or will her fellow flight attendant Nancy (Michelle Dockery) return to “Downtown Abbey”? And what about that devious looking passenger Austin (Corey Stoll) who looks suspiciously like Peter Russo, the drunk congressman from “House of Cards”.

It’s just all too exciting for words.

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