With 2022 officially in its waning days, it is safe to say that Hollywood’s major studios have struggled to release very much in the way of substantive content. This year has largely been just another filled with prequels, sequels, reboots, and movies based on books and actual events. However, it looks like with the year finally winding down, maybe just maybe something positive might be finally here thanks to the premiere of Amblin Entertainment’s new drama, The Fablemans. Directed by none other than Steve Spielberg, the movie is a love letter to classic cinema and its role in a person’s own development. Whether it lives up to the hype is yet to be seen since it only premiered today. It is hardly the only movie of its sort. As a matter of fact, independent studio Moonwatcher Films’ brand new movie, 5-25-77 is its own unique story of the role of cinema in a young man’s personal growth. Released to DVD and Blu-ray Tuesday, the movie is a surprisingly engaging and entertaining presentation that will move audiences to plenty of laughs and tears. That is due in large part to its story, which will be discussed shortly. The bonus feature-length audio commentary that accompanies the movie adds to the movie’s appeal. It will be examined a little later. The work of the movie’s cast rounds out the most important of the movie’s positives and will also be examined later. Each item noted is important in its own way to the whole of the movie’s presentation. All things considered they make this movie a refreshing alternative to everything churned out by Hollywood’s major studios so far this year and one more of the year’s top new independent movies.
5-25-77, the newest independent movie from independent studio Moonwatcher Films, is a surprisingly enjoyable addition to this year’s field of new independent movies. What’s more it is also a welcome alternative to all of the content being churned out by Hollywood’s major movie studios, what with all of the prequels, sequels, reboots, and movies based on books and movies that they have continued to churn on this year. The movie’s appeal comes in large part through its story. The story here is simple: It is a coming-of-age story of sorts that follows the personal growth and development of writer/director/actor Patrick Read Johnson, during his teenage years. The story starts in 1968, when Patrick, as a young boy, is taken to the theater by his parents to see the timeless science fiction movie 2001: A Space Odyssey. It is clear in that opening scene that is where his love of cinema started. From there, he decides to start making his own movies with his own models and friends as the casts. As the story progresses over the course of the movie’s two hour, 13 minute run time, viewers see Patrick grow from a clumsy, goofy young man with stars in his eyes to a more thoughtful, mature young adult. What is really interesting in the overall story is that there is actually so much more depth than audiences realize at first. This is revealed late in the story as one of Patrick’s friends psychoanalyzes him as they and Bill wait outside the hospital for another of the friends, Robin. Patrick’s friend gets him to finally reveal the real reason for his drive to make movies. That revelation will be left for audiences to discover for themselves, but suffice it to say that the revelation in question will lead many viewers to want to go back and watch the movie again. When they do, they will catch something very important that they likely overlooked to begin with early on in the story. The subtlety of that element’s incorporation into the story gives the story so much more depth in the bigger picture.
Another aspect of Patrick’s growth comes through the story of Patrick’s relationship with Linda. The puppy love that he exhibits with Linda is a situation to which so many audiences can relate even today. That is because everyone has felt that infatuation (which is what he was really feeling) at one point or more in their young lives. Patrick’s eventual revelation of the situation involving Linda and Tony is just as pivotal to the story of his development. That is because it is really the final breaking point of sorts for him. The revelation that he makes is the catalyst to him finally making the most important decision of his life at that point. The way in which Johnson weaved this story in with the story of the impact of his childhood on his young adult life makes the overall story so rich and engaging. At times, audiences will be drawn to so much laughter. At others, they will be led to some tears as they watch Johnson’s growth. As a result of the engagement and entertainment that the story generates, audiences will agree that it forms a strong foundation for the movie’s presentation.
The story gains even more traction as audiences go back and watch the movie with its bonus feature-length commentary. The commentary is provided by Johnson and fellow well-known cinema figure, Seth Gaven, founder of the A.V. Squad and editor of the 1990 family friendly sci-fi flick, Spaced Invaders. The background that the duo provides is what adds to that depth. For instance, audiences learn through the commentary that unlike so many movies that are based on actual events, most of what is portrayed in this movie actually happened, including Robin putting her own fist in her mouth and getting it stuck. Yes, audiences will most definitely be left to learn more about that one on their own. On another level, Johnson reveals that the cost of one portion of the movie was roughly $100,000. In other words, the overall cost to make the movie was likely very low. This is important to note because even being a low budget movie, the overall presentation proves to be so engaging and entertaining. There are no special effects or any big budget items anywhere in the movie. As a matter of fact, Johnson and Gaven go into a discussion on that simplicity and tie that into a discussion on the overuse of special effects in the current era of movie making. As if all of this is not enough, Johnson, who appears in the movie as his father, also goes into a brief discussion about his relationship with his father, which again does play its own subtle but pivotal part in the bigger story. His discussion on this topic makes for even more appreciation for the overall story and is just one more of so many interesting anecdotes that Johnson and Gaven share throughout the movie’s commentary. When all of the noted discussions are considered along with the rest of the commentary included in the audio track, the whole makes the whole of the commentary truly a bonus in every sense of the word and even more reason to take in this movie.
The commentary that accompanies the movie is not the last of the items that make 5-25-77 worth watching. The work of the movie’s cast rounds out the most important of its elements. Backing up a little bit, the cast’s work is also discussed in the audio commentary. Johnson reveals in the commentary that the real life Bill and Robin both play small parts in the movie. Bill takes on the role of the theater manager while the real life Robin only gets a brief appearance at a nurse at the hospital. John Francis Daley (Spiderman: Homecoming, Bones, Vacation) takes on the role of Johnson, and does such an entertaining job in his performance. The goofy smile that he gives any time a girl even looks at him is so laugh-inspiring. His dedication to bringing his own movies to life and the awe that he exhibits as young Patrick is introduced to a young Steven Spielberg and just as young George Lucas (as he creates Star Wars) is certain to move audiences. That is because viewers can fully appreciate the stars that are in Patrick’s eyes and the impact that the experience had on him. It is a performance that is fully believable.
Just as impressive is Steve Coulter’s performance of Bill. Coulter (Coasting, Fate Twisted Simply, Please Wait To Be Seated) is a wonderful foil to Daley. He does so well trying to keep Patrick as grounded as possible throughout the story, even as Patrick just keeps letting everything get to him. For lack of better wording he is the straight man to Daley’s more energetic lead who is so deserving of his own praise because of just how he portrays Bill’s more level-headed and realistic approach to everything. His dedication to his friend even as Patrick changes so dramatically is admirable to say the least and it makes for its own share of applause.
One more noteworthy performance come from Collen Camp (Clue, Die Hard With a Vengeance, Sliver) who plays the part of Patrick’s mother. Those moments throughout the movie when she comes into Patrick’s room, calling his name out of frustration are so hilarious. Every viewer will relate to those moments, as everyone has had that happen on one end or the other. At the same time, that moment when she realizes that Patrick has given up his dream of becoming a movie maker just so that he could make Linda happy, the compassion that comes into her eyes is so moving even in its simplicity and subtlety. Her determination to help Patrick get to Hollywood, and the little song and dance moment that follows is such a wonderfully moving and lighthearted scene. It will inspire tears and laughter all at once, as will her reaction in the story’s finale when Patrick finally makes that final decision to take a big step. Again that moment will not be revealed here for the sake of those who have yet to see the movie. That aside, Camp’s performance is engaging and entertaining in its own right. She brings so much emotional depth to the movie in the moments when she is on screen in all of the best ways. When her performance is considered along with the other performances noted here and with the rest of the cast’s work, the whole makes clear, the overall importance of the cast’s work to the movie’s presentation. When the impact of the cast’s work is considered alongside the depth of the movie’s story and the depth that the audio commentary adds to the story, the whole makes 5-25-77 a movie based on actual events that is surprisingly worth watching.
5-25-77, the newest cinematic offering from independent movie studio Moonwatcher Films, is a surprisingly enjoyable presentation. That is due in part to the story at the center of the movie. The movie’s story is a coming of age story that while yes, it is based on actual events, proves to be anything but the overblown, overly embellished movies that are its counterparts from Hollywood’s major studio counterparts. The feature-length audio commentary that accompanies the movie in its new home release adds even more appreciation for the story. That is because it reveals at least in part just how much of the story actually did happen. It also presents a number of other intriguing anecdotes that will keep audiences engaged. The cast’s work throughout the movie makes for its own interest, too. That is because each cast member’s performance is that believable. Each item examined here is important in its own way to the whole of 5-25-77‘s presentation. All things considered they make this movie one more of the year’s top new independent movies.
5-25-77 is available now on DVD and Blu-ray through MVD Entertainment Group. More information on this and other titles from The Film Detective is available at: