Tag Archives: Astro

Grim Reaper

Liam Neeson takes a stroll on the Big Apple’s dark & seedy side


A Walk Among The Tombstones

Starring Liam Neeson & Dan Stevens

Directed by Scott Frank

R, 113 min.

“Behind you! Behind you!!!” the lady seated beside me urgently whispered to the screen, to Liam Neeson’s character, as unseen danger crept toward him from the shadows.

At this stage of his career, Neeson is fairly accustomed to threats in the shadows—and often it’s him. At 62, he has emerged as one of Hollywood’s leading “older” action stars, playing weathered, well-worn men well-versed in covert ops, and more extreme activities when needed, in the successful three-movie Taken franchise and the recent high-in-the-sky airplane drama Non-Stop.

A Walk Among The TombstonesIn the new thriller-chiller A Walk Among the Tombstones, based on a novel by popular crime-mystery writer Lawrence Block, he’s Matt Scudder, a rumpled, crumpled New York City ex-cop loner on the trail of two pervs plucking women off the streets and subjecting them to unspeakable horrors. The title helps set the creepy stage right off the bat, and the opening credits—which play over a “dreamy” scene that you slowly realize is actually a nightmare—hit you like a punch to the gut. The grim atmosphere is orchestrated by cinematographer Mihai Malaimare Jr., who shoots the grungy New York locations in muted, washed-out tones and smoky pastels that match Scudder’s bleak, bleached emotions, drained of color and joy after all that he’s seen…and done.

The story is set in 1999, which also plays into the look of the movie—it was a time before much of the Big Apple’s modern urban-renewal polishing, and it burrows into the city’s shabbier side streets and seedier locations to give real-life dimensions to its down-and-out drama. Scudder’s a recovering alcoholic, which also contributes to the theme of brokenness—and also the hopeful idea of working toward reparation.

A Walk Among The TombstonesBrian “Astro” Bradley plays a homeless teen—and aspiring detective—who becomes Scudder’s tag-along sidekick. Dan Stevens (Matthew Crawley on Downton Abbey) is a prosperous heroin traffiker whose wife’s kidnapping draws Scudder down an ever-darkening trail that ultimately leads him to the tombstones of the title.

This is a movie about violent, twisted people, although much of the violence is left to the imagination rather than depicted. Most of the story is about the process, the escalating cat-and-mouse game, the “procedural” that will be familiar to anyone who watches TV shows like CSI, Law and Order or Criminal Minds. But that doesn’t make it any less unsettling, especially when one of the victims is a 13-year-old girl, or when the camera lingers on a kidnapper fondling the bloodied tools of his torture trade, or asking one of his terrified, bound captives a question that should make the skin crawl on any woman, of any age.

“People are afraid of all the wrong things,” says the movie’s tagline. The wrong things, it suggests, are “scary” but benign places, like cemeteries, or the fear of death. The true terrors, and the real monsters, it so chillingly reminds us, can be ordinary-looking people in a cargo van cruising up and down the street, in a house next door—or sneaking up from the shadows right now, behind you, behind you!

—Neil Pond, American Profile Magazine

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Sounds Like Spielberg

Tale of little crash-landed space alien has familiar extra-terrestrial ring


Earth to Echo

Starring Teo Halm, Astro & Reese Hartwig

Directed by Dave Green

PG, 89 min.

E.T., phone home—your cell number’s been hacked.

And your identity’s been stolen. But most of the audience for this adolescent sci-fi adventure yarn, about a crash-landed space critter and the kids who discover and assist him, won’t remember the 1982 Steven Spielberg classic to which it obviously owes its inspiration.

Originally made by Disney then sold off to another company for distribution, Earth to Echo features a cast of unknown young actors in a storyline setup that will feel familiar to anyone who’s seen E.T.—or many other movies, for that matter: Three “misfit” best friends (a nerd, a foster child, and one’s who’s practically “invisible” to his parents and older brother) are about to be split apart by a massive freeway construction project that’s going to pave over much of their suburban neighborhood.

Earth To EchoWhen cell phones in the subdivision begin freaking out (“barfing” on their display screens, the kids call it), the trio discerns something that looks like a map in the digital patterns. They follow the hijacked signals one night, on their bikes, to a deserted field, where they’re led to a crusty canister containing the little owl-like, beep-beeping robotic alien creature they name Echo.

Then come the mysterious white-jump-suited grownups with clipboards and flashlights, a cute female classmate who wants in on the action, and lots of things younger viewers will find funny, heartwarming and exciting as the kids learn about Echo’s plight and band together to help him “go home.”

Making his big-screen debut, director Dave Green keeps things light and basic, setting up most of the action around the search for parts Echo needs to facilitate his journey. The kids and their little outer-space friend—who already, conveniently, looks like a toy in a fast-food kids’ meal—have a series of close calls in a pawnshop, a game arcade and a biker bar, always one step ahead of the men in white.

ECHOThe young, mostly inexperienced cast is convincing as friends who’ve discovered something crazy-cool, and they also work well—and naturally—with the movie’s contemporary format: The entire story unfolds as a movie-within-a-movie, a back story the trio of boys made about their out-of-this-world experience. So we see the ’tweens as they document each other, fiddling constantly with their equipment, their camera phones, cameras mounted on the handlebars of their bikes, spy cams in their eyeglasses—it’s a movie for today’s tech-saturated, digital doo-dad, reality-TV times.

Grownups and geeks may fixate on how much the movie borrows—there’s also more than one nod to Spielberg’s Close Encounter of the Third Kind, and a significant parallel to Super 8, which he produced but didn’t direct, and it will likely make anyone who’s seen Stand By Me recall the potent nostalgia in its tale of childhood pals on a thrilling mission one life-changing summer that bonded them forever.

But kids likely won’t catch any of that—and likely won’t care. Instead, they’ll see a movie that entertains them, makes them laugh, makes them think a bit about friendship and belonging, and makes them root for a little waylaid spacebot just trying to make his way home.

—Neil Pond, American Profile Magazine

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