5-25-77

BLU-RAY REVIEW:

MVD;
Comedy;
$19.95 DVD, $24.95 Blu-ray;
Not rated.
Stars John Francis Daley, Austin Pendleton, Colleen Camp, Steve Coulter, Neil Flynn, Emmi Chen, Katie Jeep, Justin Mentell, Gwen Kmiec, Christopher McLinden, Mark Buenning, Caitlin Barlow.

Director Patrick Read Johnson’s autobiographical comedy 5-25-77 is an offbeat ode to the spirit of imagination and a celebration of sci-fi filmmaking in the 1970s. This fictionalized recounting of Johnson’s formative years chronicles his growing up as a film fanatic in the 1970s and how he ended up seeing an early cut of Star Wars.

The film begins with Johnson as a boy seeing 2001: A Space Odyssey, sparking his love of cinema. He then spends his childhood making fan films based on the popular sci-fi and horror films of the time, from Planet of the Apes to Jaws.

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In high school, Johnson (played as a teenager by John Francis Daley) dreams of leaving his midwestern town and moving to Hollywood. On a whim, his mother calls the publisher of one of his favorite sci-fi magazines and arranges for him to meet with some producers, resulting in a visit to the early Industrial Light and Magic facility, where he meets Steven Spielberg filming Close Encounters of the Third Kind. But his mind is really blown with the ILM visual effects gurus show him a rough cut of Star Wars, making him the first person outside of Lucasfilm to see it (earning him the moniker of “Fan One,” the real Johnson says in a bonus Q&A).

Johnson then returns to Illinois to spread the gospel of Star Wars, hoping it will ignite a craze for sci-fi that would make him seem not so different from everyone else. There are certainly any number of potential viewers who grew up heavily influenced by Star Wars who can relate. The title, 5-25-77, references the release date of the original Star Wars.

Lending an air authenticity to the project is the fact that it was produced by Gary Kurtz, who also produced the original Star Wars as well as The Empire Strikes Back.

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The film has been in production since the early 2000s, with most of the filming taking place from 2004 to 2006. Complications arose when the agencies representing Johnson began merging, while distributors at the time didn’t think there was much of a market for “Star Wars” tie-ins anymore (this was between the release of Episode III and Disney’s purchase of Lucasfilm). Various visual effects were added over the next decade, and it made appearances at film festivals, but the final version wasn’t completed until 2022. To put the extended production time in perspective, Daley is now an established writer and director in his own right, while Kurtz died in 2018.

The Blu-ray includes a good commentary track with Johnson and collaborator Seth Gaven, plus a 52-minute Q&A from an early screening of the film at the Fantasia Film Festival in 2013. Also included are three trailers for the film, plus three behind-the-scenes photo galleries — the various slideshows run a total of about 18 minutes.

 

 

Superman: Man of Tomorrow

BLU-RAY REVIEW:

Street Date 9/8/20;
Warner;
Animated;
$24.98 Blu-ray, $39.99 UHD BD;
Rated ‘PG-13’ for violence, some bloody images, suggestive material, language, smoking and brief partial nudity.
Voices of Darren Criss, Alexandra Daddario, Zachary Quinto, Ike Amadi, Ryan Hurst, Brett Dalton, Neil Flynn, Bellamy Young, Eugene Byrd.

The latest DC Comics animated movie takes a look at young Clark Kent’s early days as Superman as a fresh-faced potential journalist newly arrived in Metropolis.

This version of Clark, while aware of his powers, has no clue about his Kryptonian origins. He begins attracting the attention of the press through a series of heroic deeds, though he has yet to be branded Superman or even don his iconic costume (though his reasons for needing the costume provide one of the film’s biggest laughs)..

However, his exploits also get noticed by the notorious intergalactic bounty hunter Lobo, who comes to Earth looking for a fight. Though Clark finds an ally in the mysterious Martian Manhunter, his battle with Lobo ends up unleashing a deadly creature known as Parasite, who grows stronger by absorbing energy and draining the life force of his victims.

To stop Parasite’s rampage, Clark (voiced by Darren Criss) must enlist the help of Lex Luthor (Zachary Quinto), a man destined to one day become his sworn enemy. But this story occurs before all those pieces fall into place.

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The movie also gives some attention to the young Lois Lane (Alexandra Daddario), a recent graduate looking to establish herself as the top reporter at the Daily Planet, where Clark has been working as an intern bringing everyone their coffee.

The film does a nice job of establishing Clark’s eagerness to fit in. He knows he’s an alien, but isn’t sure from where or who else knows, so he knows his heroic excursions come with an element of risk. In fact, one of the big motifs of the film is finding the humanity in beings who otherwise aren’t human, particularly as Superman tries to re-connect with the man Parasite used to be.

Man of Tomorrow, the 40th entry in the DC Universe series of animated superhero movies, is a standalone film, not connected to the brand’s recent string of interconnected movies, though it could very well prove a good jumping off point for a new continuity.

The animation is crisp and lively, and the colors pop in high-definition. The filmmakers have crafted some exciting action sequences, including the initial all-out brawl between young Clark Kent and Lobo. The third-act battle against Parasite takes on much of the flavor of a typical “Godzilla” movie, but for the most part this is a pretty entertaining Superman adventure. Fans of Lobo should get a kick out of finally seeing him in action in one of these DC movies.

The Blu-ray includes two Lobo-centric episodes from “Superman: The Animated Series,” plus a 10-minute featurette on the history and popularity of Lobo.

There’s also a nine-minute featurette about the legacy of the Martian Manhunter.

Rounding out the extras are a trailer, featurettes for earlier DC animated movies, and a 12-minute preview of the next animated DC movie, a kung-fu-style Batman adventure set in the 1970s.