At the Movies: Non-Stop; The Wind Rises

I thought about going to see the “Son of God” movie until I learned it was rehashed scenes from last years’ ‘The Bible” miniseries. I lost interest in the miniseries after about 20 minutes so I don’t know if I would’ve lasted much longer with just the Jesus bits.

Fortunately I had other options.


Ever since 2008’s “Taken,” Liam Neeson has become the unlikely new face of action heroes. His latest, “Non-Stop” has him taking his no-nonsense brand of justice to the air.

non-stop-movie-poster-wallpaperNeeson stars as  U.S. federal air marshal Bill Marks, hoping for an uneventful flight from New York to London. Bill has had a rough go of it lately and things get rougher when someone on board the flight hacks into his phone and texts him a threatening message: Have $120 million deposited into a secret account or a passenger will die every 20 minutes.

Not only does the mystery man make good on his threat, he uses Bill’s troubled personal life to make it look like the marshal is actually the terrorist. Bill has to find the real hijacker despite having almost everyone on the plane — and on the ground — against him.

 “Non-Stop” is a pretty effective thriller up until the final act, when it just gets too preposterous. Director Jaume Collet-Serra nicely keeps the tension high and keeps us guessing up to the end. Unfortunately, we’re all conditioned by now to suspect everyone is the guilty party in these films so when the actual villain is revealed it’s more of a relief than a surprise. The bad guy’s motivation is also lacking in heft.

Neeson still proves that he can command attention and deserves to hold the action hero title for a while longer. On the Neeson Action Scale, “Non-Stop” falls below “Taken” but above “Taken 2.”

The Wind Rises

The latest, and possibly last, animated film by famed Japanese writer/director Hayao Miyazaki arrives in St. Louis this weekend. “The Wind Rises” is another beautiful, thoughtful film by Miyazaki but it’s also quite unlike anything he’s done before.

Miyazaki’s previous works — “My Neighbor Totoro,” “Princess Mononoke,” “Spirited Away” and “Howl’s Moving Castle,” among many others — are flights of fantasy set in magical places.  “The Wind Rises” is a historical drama about an aeronautical engineer and his tragic romance. It has its whimsical moments but it’s a much more serious, down-to-earth story.

(At this point I should mention that I saw the original Japanese version with subtitles, not the English dubbed version that is now in theaters. So I won’t be commenting on the vocal talents or referencing them.)

PHPtjvz24L0DSU_1_m“The Wind Rises” is a fictional biography of Jiro Horikoshi, who designed airplanes used by Japan during World War II. As a child Jiro dreams of flying and designing airplanes. In one of these dreams he meets Italian designer Caproni, who serves as his guide and inspiration.

Too nearsighted to become a pilot, Jiro goes on to become a leader in aircraft design. On a train ride back to university, Jiro’s trip is derailed by an earthquake. Amid the chaos he helps out a young woman named Naoko. Years later the two meet again and fall in love. They wed despite her frailness due to tuberculosis.

Nominated for an Academy Award for Best Animated Feature (which it will probably lose to “Frozen”), “The Wind Rises” is a touching film with lush animation and charming, bittersweet story.

While it was a big hit in Japan, it’s hard to predict how this will fare in the U.S. Animated films are usually treated as children’s fare here, and this really isn’t a children’s story. Young ones are likely to be bored through large swathes of the story and the ending deals with some pretty somber subjects.


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