Jason Ritter, son of the late John Ritter and star of the new film About Alex, doesn’t call himself a method actor, but he used some tricks to prepare for his latest role.
“There are certain times when I try to help myself get into a mindset by trying to create circumstances around me that mimic certain feelings,” said the 34-year-old actor.
The action in About Alex begins with the drained looking titular character (Ritter), feeling cut off from his closest friends, sending a farewell tweet before attempting suicide.
“I felt like Alex might have spent some sleepless nights, haunted and alone, so I spent a lot of time just wandering around my house. I made myself coffees and tried to stay up all night. Basically not giving my brain a chance to rest. It was just about transferring that over into a more extreme version, helping me get into a mindset of someone who doesn’t see any other solution and who wants the pain to end.”
The actor, who has a recurring role on the show Parenthood, says, “it would have felt a little bit strange to me if I had gotten a great night sleep, woken up, had a big breakfast and then had to jump into the scene. I guess I don’t trust myself enough to be able to jump straight into something that heavy.”
The movie takes on a Big Chill vibe as Alex’s best friends — played by Parks and Rec’s Aubrey Plaza, Maggie Grace of Lost, Max Minghella, Non-Stop’s Nate Parker and The New Girl’s Max Greenfield — gather at an upstate New York home to support him.
“I basically fell in love with every single one of the actors there,” says Ritter, who used the remote shooting location as another chance to get into his character’s head.
“We all really created friendships on that set but then they would all go away every weekend,” he says. “They’d go back to the city and see family and friends or hangout and I would just stay up there and really feel their absence. It was like a microcosm of what it would feel like to be Alex. He feels, even though it’s not true, that he’s been abandoned by his close friends.”
That desertion, in part, comes from social media. Alex’s cries for help via twitter “get lost in the sea of tweets,” so Ritter hopes people walk away from the film, “feeling like, ‘You know who I should call right now? This person.’ Call, don’t tweet.”
Synopsis: Liam Neeson joins the mile-high club in Non-Stop. He plays Bill Marks, an aging U.S. federal air marshal safeguarding the 150 passengers, including Julianne Moore, Corey Stoll, Linus Roache and flight attendant Lupita Nyong’o, on an international flight from New York to London. He’s also a burn-out, a lonely guy with a loaded gun and a propensity to get loaded on booze. The routine flight becomes fraught with danger when he receives text messages from a mysterious source threatening to kill a passenger every 20 minutes unless a ransom of $150 million is deposited into a bank account. When that account is discovered to be in Marks’s name, he’s accused of being a hijacker.
• Richard: 2/5
• Mark: 2/5
Richard: Mark, Non-Stop has more red herrings than a fish and chips shop. Clues are dropped and discarded and the plot is so ludicrous that every now and again someone has to say, “I can explain this,” so the audience has a fighting chance of making some kind of sense of the intrigue. The story is simple but is muddied by outrageous twists. Once I decided to not try and play along — this isn’t True Detective where every word and scene counts — I enjoyed watching Neeson in action man mode. He’s better than the movie and he made this movie better simply by showing up.
Mark: Richard, I liked the movie in spite of itself. I did play along right to the end, and enjoyed the ride. But it’s this Agatha Christie-like cheesiness that keeps threatening to sink the picture. And the answer to the movie’s riddle was far from satisfying. It felt tacked on and graceless. Neeson is great, but he’s getting so old for this sort of thing. Soon he’s going to have to chase after the bad guys with a walker.
RC: You wouldn’t say that if he was after you! Walker or no walker, the old boy has some life in him yet. There is a certain cheesy joy to be found in the image of Neeson floating in zero gravity, grabbing a gun out of the air and getting business done. He has carved a unique action niche for himself and seems to be having fun growling and gunning his way through trashy action movies.
MB: And what about Julianne Moore? What’s her excuse? Mortgage payments? She was actually the one passenger I didn’t believe in for a moment. I kept thinking, “Why is Julianne Moore in this picture?’ And like everyone else, she gets to do an emotional speech that proves she couldn’t be the villain. Which, of course, may or may not be the case. I know you liked Neeson’s zero gravity gun grab, but I also liked his fist fight in the airplane lavatory. Shot in such close quarters, it was very exciting.
RC: I hope Moore buys something nice with the pay cheque. She gets the job done, but that part could have been played by anyone. I feel bad for Lupita Nyong’o. She’s an Oscar nominee for 12 Years a Slave, but here she’s reduced to a Grace Jones impersonator with just a few lines.
MB: Weirdly, I did not feel very emotionally involved with the movie. Maybe because so much of the plot depends on texting, or maybe because the characters keep yammering on, Non-Stop, about their backstory.
Liam Neeson joins the mile high club in “Non-Stop.”
He plays Bill Marks, an aging U.S. federal air marshal safeguarding the 150 passengers (including Julianne Moore, Corey Stoll, Linus Roache and flight attendant Lupita Nyong’o) on an international flight from New York to London.
He’s also a burn-out, a lonely guy with a loaded gun and a propensity to get loaded on booze. The routine flight becomes fraught with danger when he receives text messages from a mysterious source threatening to kill a passenger every twenty minutes unless a ransom of $150 million is deposited into a bank account. When that account is discovered to be in Marks’s name he’s accused of being a hijacker.
“Non-Stop” has more red herrings than a fish and chips shop. Clues are dropped and discarded and the plot is so ludicrous that every now and again someone has to say, “I can explain this,” so the audience has a fighting chance of making some kind of sense of the intrigue. The story is simple but is muddied by outrageous twists. Once I decided to not try and play along—this isn’t “True Detective” where every word and scene counts—I enjoyed watching Neeson in action man mode. He’s better than the movie and he made this movie better simply by showing up.
There is a certain cheesy joy to be found in the image of Neeson floating in zero gravity, grabbing a gun out of the air and getting business done. Nothing can spice up a borderline action movie like the Flying Neeson Shot ™. He has carved a unique action niche for himself and seems to be having fun growling and gunning his way through trashy action movies.
Is “Non-Stop” great art? Nope, but did you really expect it to be? It’s the Neesonator after all.
Director Jaume Collet-Serra makes good use of the airplane’s small spaces, builds some nice scenes of claustrophobic tension and even makes a comment on how news organizations jump to conclusions, using conjecture instead of facts to fill the twenty-four hour wheel but story credibility is not his strong point.
Building tension, however, is. The movie is bookended by two terrific scenes. At the beginning Collet-Serra takes his time with the nicely shot boarding of the airplane sequence. Unease builds as the passengers, one of whom is a terrorist (not a spoiler, watch the trailer), take their seats.
The climax (SPOILER ALERT) is a typical ticking bomb sequence, but it’s an exciting one with cool visuals and the aforementioned Flying Neeson Shot ™.
The supporting cast is serviceable, in underwritten and generic roles. I hope Julianne Moore buys something nice with the pay cheque. She gets the job done, but that part could have been played by anyone. I feel worse for Lupita Nyong’o. She’s an Oscar nominee for “12 Years a Slave,” but here she’s reduced to a Grace Jones impersonator with just a few lines.
Despite a good pace and mounting tension, “Non-Stop is almost undone by superficial characters and a silly story. I say almost because it’s been Neesonized, the action movie equivalent of a sprinkle of fairy dust.
Much of the fun of 2008s Taken was watching beloved thespian Liam Neeson go all Chuck Norris in a dirty little Euro trash thriller.
In the action adventure movie Neeson played a former “preventer” for the US government. A specialist in black ops, he was an undercover agent who contained volatile situations before they got out of control. Retired, he lived in Los Angeles near his estranged seventeen-year-old daughter Kim (Maggie Grace). When she is kidnapped by a child slavery ring he has only 96 hours to use his “particular set of skills” to get her back. His rescue mission takes him on a wild rampage through the soft underbelly of Paris. “I’ll tear down the Eiffel Tower if I have to,” he says.
It’s a down-and-dirty little flick, classed up somewhat by the presence of Neeson in the lead role and it became an unexpected lightening-in-a-bottle hit. It also redefined Neeson’s recent career.
At an age when many actors are staring down the barrel of character parts and cameos, the sixty-one year old has made an unlikely U-turn into action movies. “I was a tiny bit embarrassed by it, “ he says of Taken, “but then people started sending me action scripts.”
Arguably best known for his Best Actor Oscar nomination as the charismatic but humble German businessman Oskar Schindler in Schindler’s List, the Irish actor has fully embraced his new career path. Vanity Fair even acknowledged the twist in an article called, “Wham! Bam! Thank You, Liam!”
His latest actioner is Non-Stop, a high-flying thriller that takes place on an international crossing from New York to London. Neeson is an air marshal who must prevent a crazed killer from murdering passengers in flight.
The actor’s rebirth as a gun-toting, neck snapping gravel-voiced Stallonite™—aging action star—works not only because he has the physical presence to be taken seriously as a hard man, but also because he has the acting chops to make us believe him as a ruthless and efficient killing machine.
Taken and Taken 2 (which were essentially the same movie) worked not just because the action sequences were out of control, but because audiences had some empathy for Neeson’s character as he kicked butt across Europe. It was a personal mission; he was trying to get his daughter back.
Action movies like Wrath of the Titans, The Grey and Unknown may not burnish Neeson’s rep as a great thespian, but when asked why he keeps making them, he has a solid reason: “Because they’re dumb enough to offer them to me!”