5-25-77 (MVD Visual, Blu-ray, NR, 132 min.). Writer-director Patrick Read Johnson’s semi-fictionalized film about his youth is a refreshing, wonderful paean to filmmaking. However, it took a long time for it to get here.

Johnson began work on the film in 2004, with primary photography finished in 2006. A preview cut of this film was shown at “Star Wars Celebration IV” in Los Angeles on 5-25-2007, the 30th anniversary of the premiere of “Star Wars,” now known as “Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope.” In 2012, Johnson again began to work on the film, with additional photography in 2016-17. The nearly final cut was test-screened in 32 theaters on 5-25-17, the 40th anniversary of the original release of “Star Wars.” The finished film was finally released two summers ago.

Standing in as Pat Johnson is John Francis Daley (then known for “Freaks and Geeks”), an alienated teen who has spent his childhood making 8mm sequels to his favorite movies. His fascination with film began with seeing “2001: A Space Odyssey.” The whole sequence of his early movie attempts, which include “Jaws 2” made in the home swimming pool and an “apes meet the monolith” sequence for a “2001” follow-up, is pure joy. Pat has one good friend in Bill Holmes (Steve Coulter), who helps with the film projects. The real Johnson actually plays his own father.

Pat is stuck in Wadsworth, Ill. (population 750), but he desires to work on special effects and his dream is to meet Douglas Trumbull, who worked on “2001” and “Close Encounters of the Third Kind.” His efforts to contact Trumbull fail, but Pat’s mother (Colleen Camp as Janet) does contact Herb Lightman (Austin Pendleton), editor of American Cinematographer and wrangles an invitation for Pat to go to Hollywood and meet Lightman, who plans a visit to Trumbull’s work studio.

During the visit, Pat gets to see models and other items being used in the still-in-production “Star Wars” film. In fact – true fact – Pat becomes the first person to see a rough cut of the film and back home he tells everyone what a treat they will soon be seeing.

Also, Pat’s desire to leave town is even greater, putting a strain on his rather new relationship with Linda (Emmi Chen). Most of the acting here is a delight, especially by Daley. This is a very good-natured film.
Extras include audio commentary by Johnson; a Q&A with Johnson after a 2013 showing of a rough cut of the film at Fantasia Film Festival (52:43); and three photo galleries. Grade: film 3.75 stars; extras 3 stars

Rating guide: 5 stars = classic; 4 stars = excellent; 3 stars = good; 2 stars = fair; dog = skip it

Florence Pugh and Harry Styles star in “Don’t Worry Darling.” Courtesy Warner Bros. Entertainment.


Don’t Worry Darling (Warner Bros., Blu-ray + DVD, R, 123 min.). The film looks very good, keeps one’s attention and surprisingly ends up a lot like the recent Netflix series “1899” (by the same people who did the terrific three-season series “Dark,” which I highly recommend).

Jack (singer Harry Styles) and Alice (Florence Pugh) live in a utopian experimental community out in the desert, run by Frank (Chris Pines). During the day, the men all drive off to their super-secret jobs on the Victory Project (something about the development of progressive material), while the women, in a bit Stepford Wives fashion, clean house, raise children and socialize. The evenings often feature booze-soaked parties. The setting seems to be the 1950s, with lots of classic songs. For example, Ray Charles and Benny Goodman deliver the first two songs.

The film was directed by Olivia Wilde, who also plays Bunny, one of the wives. Others are played by Gemma Chan, Sydney Chandler, Kate, Berlant and Kiki Layne as Margaret, the first one to give some indication that something is wrong behind the curtain, so to speak.

The script by Katie Silberman, who also wrote Wilde’s directorial debut, “Booksmart,” explores the tyranny of the patriarchy, disguised as domestic bliss, but not that well. Pugh is terrific as usual, with Styles not really a match, although the camera seems to love him. The most interesting scene is a dinner party showdown between Alice and Frank, who goaded her. The film is filled with images of Busby Berkeley-style dancers, usually black-and-white, but in color during the closing credits.

Kudos go to cinematographer Matthew Libatique, production designer Katie Byron and costume designer Arianne Phillips. Extras include a making-of (17:12) and Alice’s deleted nightmare (54 secs.). Grade: film 2.25 stars; extras 1.5 stars

Emergency Declaration (South Korea, Well Go USA, Blu-ray or DVD, HR, 140 min.). Other than a couple of exciting scenes, too much of this film is a slow slog. A disgruntled, fired biologist boards an airplane with 121 passengers flying from Incheon, South Korea to Honolulu, Hawaii. He unleashes a deadly powder in one of the restrooms. Since he had posted an online video announcing the attack beforehand, he soon is in custody aboard the plane, but passengers and crew have begun dying.

The two good scenes are when the pilot succumbs and the plane descends in a spiral, which features an interior shot that goes 360 degrees, and the ultimate landing of the plane by a passenger, a former pilot whose actions caused the death of the co-pilot’s wife. A startling third scene is filmed within a car as it is hit by a bus.

In addition to the panic on the plane, there is panic on the ground and, since the pathogen is believed to have been mutated, officials in both the United States and Japan refuse to let the plane land.

Written and directed by Han Jae-rim, the film stars Song Kang-ho (“Parasite,” “Snowpiercer”) and Lee Bung-hun (“Squid Game”). Extras include a making-of (5:59) and looks at the characters (3:22), the 360 shot (3:04) and appearing at Cannes (3:44). Grade: film 2.25 stars; extras 1 star

Heartland of Darkness aka Blood Church (1989, Visual Vengeance, Blu-ray, NR, 101 min.). This is another film that took decades before its release, this time due to distribution false starts. Frankly, if it never had been released, you would not be missing much.

Paul Henson (Dino Tripodis), after 15 years at The Chicago Tribune, buys The Copperton (Ohio) Chronicle, so his way-too-old-looking (and sexy) teenage daughter Christina can be safe. The only trouble is most of the townspeople are in a satanic cult run by Rev. Donovan (Nick Baldasare, one of the few with any real acting chops). One of the Reverend’s helpers is witch Julia (scream queen Linnea Quigley), who doubles as a history teacher. There are some gruesome-looking corpses, nudity, and bad continuity in a driving scene.

Extras include two audio commentaries: one by writer-director Eric Swelsted, actor Baldasare, cinematographer Scott Sears and composer Jay Woelfel; the other by Tony Strauss of Weng’s Chop magazine; an interesting making-of documentary (38 min.; it was basically a grad student film); two interviews with Quigley (5:52 new; 19:43 vintage local TV); an image galley; and a Quigley mini-poster. Grade: film 2 stars; extras 3.5 stars

A Knife in the Head (Germany, 1978, Cohen Film Collection, Blu-ray, NR, 113 min.). This is all about the performance of Bruno Ganz, as Hoffman, an innocent bystander who survives a gunshot to the head by the police during a raid against some revolutionaries his wife Ann (Angela Winkler) is involved with. Ann actually is hooking up with Volker (Heinz Hoenig). Initially, Hoffman has no memory of what happened – the police claim he stabbed the officer who shot him – and he has to learn to talk, eat and walk again. The viewer is taken through Hoffman’s recovery process and Ganz is masterful.

Extras include interviews with director Reinhard Hauff (25:39) and executive producer (Eberhard Junkersdorf (13:35). Grade: film 3 stars; extras 2 stars

Entre Nous (France, 1983, Cohen Film Collection, Blu-ray, PG, 111 min.). Isabell Huppert plays Lena, a Jewish refugee who marries food server Michel (Guy Marchand) in 1942 as a means of leaving the Vichy-run internment camp before being shipped off to Nazi Germany. They escape by foot across the Alps into Italy. The film then jumps forward 10 years, when the couple has two daughters. At school one day, Lena meets Madeleine (Miou-Miou), who is married to Costa (Jean-Pierre Bacri) and has a son. The two women form a bond that ultimately leads to the dissolution of their marriages, as both seek to escape their mundane domestic life.

The Oscar-nominated film is written and directed by Diane Kurys (a 38-minute interview is the only extra), who based the film on her parents during the post-war period when they were still happy for a time. Huppert plays her mother. The film is visually appealing and there are some fun scenes with the children. Grade: film 3.5 stars; extra 2 stars

Tom Von Malder of Owls Head has reviewed music since 1972, just after graduation from Northwest-ern University’s Medill School of Journalism. He has reviewed videos/DVDs since 1988.

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