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Review: The Forgiven

July 1, 2022

By John Corrado

★★½ (out of 4)

The latest film from director John Michael McDonagh (older brother of Martin McDonagh), The Forgiven is a talky moral drama that offers a bleak as hell look at rich, bourgeois society folks colliding with the locals in North Africa.

Adapting the 2012 novel of the same name by Lawrence Osborne for the screen, McDonagh’s film follows David Henninger (Ralph Fiennes), an English professional who is vacationing in the High Atlas Mountains of Morocco with his American wife Jo (Jessica Chastain).

They are staying at the home of a gay couple (Matt Smith and Caleb Landry Jones), who purchased a lavish property in the country, and have invited their wealthy friends for a weekend getaway. But on their way to the dinner party, David is driving drunk and accidentally hits and kills a Moroccan boy who is selling fossils by the side of the road.

Despite David’s initial attempts to cover it up, the hosts inform the police of the body, forcing David to face the boy’s family, while Jo gets pushed closer to a fellow American, Tom Day (Christopher Abbott), who is also vacationing at the property. McDonagh’s script smartly keeps us questioning whether or not David is actively racist, or merely a callous and arrogant person whose own privilege has allowed him to see himself as above the law, having never really had to face real repercussions for his actions.

Fiennes does a good job of portraying this arc over the course of The Forgiven, subtly underplaying the moments when remorse quietly registers on his character’s face, and his performance is easily the best thing about the film. There is also some strong chemistry between Chastain and Abbott, who delivers a prominent supporting role. It can be trying to be in the company of these vain, narcissistic characters for two hours, but their shallowness is also the point.

The film is held back somewhat by its overall execution, with the storytelling feeling a little too dry in places. McDonagh struggles to build much genuine tension at times, which can make the pacing feel somewhat slack, especially through the more predictable story turns. But, even if we can predict some of the outcomes, the dialogue exchanges that bring the characters to these conclusions are appropriately thorny and often interesting. The film is at times heavy-handed in its messaging, but still has some stirring moments as characters recognize the shared humanity between them.

If The Forgiven at times struggles to fully live up to its own potential, the idea of a mature drama for adults that largely eschews action for dialogue exchanges that allow the characters to grapple with the morality of their choices is somewhat refreshing, and the performances and writing are decent enough to make it worth a look.

The Forgiven is now playing in limited release at the Scotiabank Theatre in Toronto, as well as Vancouver and Ottawa, and will be expanding to more cities in the coming weeks. It’s being distributed in Canada by VVS Films.

Blu-ray Review: The First Wives Club (1996)

June 28, 2022

By John Corrado

Paramount Home Entertainment is releasing The First Wives Club for the first time on Blu-ray this week, a 1996 comedy that has gained a following over the years.

The film follows Annie (Diane Keaton), Elise (Goldie Hawn) and Brenda (Bette Midler), three former college friends who decide to get back at their sleazy ex-husbands (Stephen Collins, Victor Garber and Dan Hedaya) for dumping them for younger women.

Annie, Elise and Brenda are brought back together by the suicide of their estranged friend Cynthia Swann (Stockard Channing). When they realize that they all have cheating men in common, the trio forms the “First Wives Club” as a way to get even their exes.

Directed by Hugh Wilson, The First Wives Club is a women standing up for themselves romp that plays in a similar vein as 9 to 5. While it lacks some of the genuine bite of that earlier film, the screenplay by Robert Harling (Steel Magnolias, Soapdish), adapted from Olivia Goldsmith’s novel of the same name, features heavily quotable dialogue (including Midler’s “I beat Meryl!”) and sets up a number of amusing scenarios for its three appealing leads to navigate.

This is a prime example of a film that didn’t really do that well with critics at the time of its release, but found an audience at the box office who turned it into a pop culture staple. The film’s elements of camp and diva star power have also given it an understandable queer following over the years (Annie’s young adult daughter, played by Jennifer Dundas, matter-of-factly tells her mother that she is a lesbian, and the women take an amusing trip to the lesbian bar to get help with their revenge scheme).

Not everything about the movie works equally well (Cynthia’s suicide is basically treated as a plot point, and the mostly lighthearted film can’t quite grapple with its heavier themes), but The First Wives Club still serves as a fairly enjoyable female empowerment comedy, that delivers entertaining performances and slapstick humour. The Blu-ray offers fans of the film a decent chance for an upgrade.

Bonus Features (Blu-ray):

The Blu-ray comes with a new featurette about the legacy of the film. A code for a digital copy is also included in the package.

Filmmaker Focus with Screenwriter Robert Harling (10 minutes, 57 seconds): Harling reflects on adapting the book for the screen, working with the lead actresses, iconic moments from the film, and its enduring legacy.

Theatrical Trailer (2 minutes, 28 seconds):

The First Wives Club is a Paramount Home Entertainment release. It’s 102 minutes and rated PG.

Street Date: June 28th, 2022

Blu-ray Review: Boomerang (1992)

June 28, 2022

By John Corrado

In honour of the film’s 30th anniversary this year, Paramount Home Entertainment is releasing the hit 1992 Eddie Murphy romantic comedy Boomerang for the first time on Blu-ray this week.

Murphy stars in the film as Marcus Graham, a successful advertising executive and notorious womanizer in New York City with obscenely high standards for women, who falls for his new boss Jacqueline Broyer (Robin Givens), while also catching the attention of her colleague, Angela Lewis (Halle Berry).

Directed by Reginald Hudlin, from a screenplay by Saturday Night Live writers Barry W. Blaustein and David Sheffield (who also wrote Coming to America for Murphy four years earlier), Boomerang presented a more subdued role for the comic actor following successful action comedies like the 48 Hrs. and Beverly Hills Cop movies. This film very much fits the mould of a romantic comedy, and it allows Murphy to show a slightly different side of himself as a player being softened by love.

Murphy is backed up by an all-star ensemble cast that includes Martin Lawrence and David Alan Grier as Marcus’ buddies who struggle to get with the ladies; Chris Rock as the young mailroom clerk rooting for his romantic endeavours; as well as Eartha Kitt as Lady Eloise, the seductive owner of the cosmetics company that buys out his firm, and Grace Jones as the French model hired to represent the company’s new perfume line.

While Boomerang received somewhat mixed reviews from critics at the time of its release in the summer of 1992, the film (and its chart-topping soundtrack) did better with audiences, finding success at the box office and gaining a following over the years. It’s an example of a film that both feels like a product of its time (including some dated humour and gender politics), but also slightly ahead of the curve for the early ’90s with a large cast of racialized characters who are all successful in business.

The story is expectedly predictable, but Boomerang still serves as a mostly enjoyable rom-com that is fronted by a fine Eddie Murphy performance and a number of amusing supporting roles. While the Blu-ray doesn’t offer any new extras, fans of the film should be happy with the upgrade.

Bonus Features (Blu-ray):

The Blu-ray includes legacy bonus content, including a commentary track and a handful of deleted scenes. A code for a digital copy is also included in the package.

Commentary by Director Reginald Hudlin

Extended and Deleted Scenes With Optional Director’s Commentary (Play All – 4 minutes, 51 seconds)

Thanksgiving at Marcus’ Place (1 minute, 14 seconds)

Strangé’s Arrival at the Dinner (19 seconds)

Bony T Asks Marcus About Sex with Jackie (26 seconds)

First Dinner Between Jackie & Marcus (52 seconds)

Dinner Between Gerard and Angela (1 minute, 59 seconds)

Boomerang is a Paramount Home Entertainment release. It’s 116 minutes and rated 14A.

Street Date: June 28th, 2022

Review: Elvis

June 25, 2022

By John Corrado

★★★½ (out of 4)

Baz Luhrmann, the Australian filmmaker who turned the words of William Shakespeare into the most ’90s movies imaginable in his 1996 film Romeo & Juliet and last delivered a glitzy 3D take on The Great Gatsby in 2013, is a director who is known as much for his long gaps between movies as he is for the style that he brings to every new project.

And his latest film, Elvis, carries on in this tradition. Luhrmann’s captivating stylistic impulses make him a natural fit for a figure as outsized and mythologized as Elvis Presley, and he delivers with a splashy, opulent film. This is music biopic as cinematic spectacle, from the kaleidoscopic editing choices to Austin Butler’s incredible performance in the titular role, taking us on a rollercoaster ride.

Butler, in a star-making performance, is key to the film’s success, as he seamlessly portrays Presley at different points in his career, from his early rise to fame to his years in Vegas performing night after night, increasingly reliant on substances. The film uses the parasitic relationship between Presley and his corrupt manager Colonel Tom Parker (Tom Hanks), a carnival barker who initially signed him as part of his country act and financially took advantage of him for his own gain, as the main narrative thread.

Hanks’ Parker serves as our narrator; the film opens with him looking back on his life in 1997, as his health is failing and he wanders a around casino with his IV drip playing the slot machines, already discredited by the media. From here, the story jumps around to show Presley’s childhood in Tupelo, Mississippi, and his start as a performer influenced by jazz and gospel, borrowing from contemporary Black musicians like Big Momma Thornton (Shonka Dukureh), B.B. King (Kelvin Harrison Jr.) and Little Richard (Alton Mason), who couldn’t get regular airplay on the radio.

Parker puts him on the same ticket as country star Hank Snow (David Wenham), but audiences are really coming to see Elvis wiggle his hips in his pink jumpsuit. Luhrmann dramatizes the scandals that Presley caused with his gyrating hips, showing the amusing reactions of girls (and some boys) who gaze upon his crotch in a horny, hypnotized daze. This starts to cause quite a stir with racist lawmakers, who are worried about him corrupting the youth with his Black-influenced dance moves, leading to one of the film’s most rousing sequences as a rejuvenated Elvis taunts his censors with a performance of “Trouble” in front of a rapturous crowd.

The film plays out as a mix of dramatic biopic and jukebox musical, with a key sequence involving the filming of the 1968 NBC Christmas special perfectly blending the two. This stunning midsection serves as one of the film’s defining sequences, showing the cracks in the relationship between Presley and his manager, as well as Presley’s defiance in the face of civil unrest, culminating with Butler’s powerful rendition of “If I Can Dream.”

Luhrmann is also a filmmaker with a keen eye for connecting the past to the present through his musical choices. Like in his previous films with anachronistic uses of songs (such as “When Doves Cry” in Romeo & Juliet and Gatsby’s Jay Z-produced soundtrack), Luhrmann does something similar here with an early moment that sees a young Elvis strutting down Beale Street in Memphis to a “Hound Dog” remix featuring Doja Cat, serving as a musical bridge between past and present.

With Luhrmann at the helm, at times Elvis feels like it was put together by a mad genius, jumping between points in time and employing any number of stylistic choices, ranging from comic book panels to split screens. The film is always visually stimulating to watch, from Mandy Walker’s cinematography, to the period costumes and production design. The flashy editing by Matt Villa and Jonathan Redmond ties it all together. It’s a whole lot of movie, designed to overwhelm the senses. But the cumulative effect of it becomes something quite moving.

A montage showing Presley’s acting career is cleverly done in the style of one of his party movies, while also highlighting how his failure to become a serious actor remained one of his biggest regrets. Elvis was supposed to star in the 1976 remake of A Star is Born alongside Barbara Streisand, but never got the chance, with the role ultimately going to Kris Kristofferson. In many ways, Elvis is his version of A Star is Born; it’s a big, sprawling music film that charts the rise and fall of an artist worried about his legacy, ultimately ending in tragedy.

Butler delivers an impressive transformation into the role of Elvis, with his ability to copy the voice and gyrating hips making him a captivating screen presence. But his performance is more than just uncanny imitation; the film’s second half allows the more dramatic scenes to come into sharper focus, including a couple of heartbreaking moments with co-star Olivia DeJonge, who takes on the role of Presley’s wife, Priscilla. For his part, Hanks goes big with the role of the Colonel, and, while the prosthetics and voice take some getting used to over the opening scenes, it becomes a more interesting performance as the film goes along.

This is Elvis as metaphor for America in the 20th century (a theme that was explored in Eugene Jarecki’s excellent 2018 documentary The King); it’s the epic tale of a rising star befallen by someone else’s greed, and Luhrmann approaches the story as if it was Citizen Kane. The film is long at 159 minutes (cut down from a reported four-hour cut), but the running time simply flies by. If you are an Elvis fan (and I am), Elvis delivers basically everything you want, and it’s hard not to get choked up over the final scenes. The result is an entertaining and emotional film that serves as a great tribute to The King.

Elvis is now playing exclusively in theatres.

Review: Good Luck to You, Leo Grande

June 22, 2022

By John Corrado

★★★ (out of 4)

Nancy Stokes (Emma Thompson) is a retired religious ethics teacher in her fifties who hires a male escort named Leo Grande (Daryl McCormack) for a series of sexual encounters in a hotel room, in the Sundance drama Good Luck to You, Leo Grande.

Nancy’s husband, the only man she ever slept with in her life, passed away two years ago. She has never had an orgasm, and craves a satisfying sexual experience. Enter Leo (a pseudonym), a fit, young sex worker who can fulfill her desires. Nancy has a list of things that she wants to try (giving and receiving oral sex, etc.), but also feels shame around her body and guilt for paying someone to have sex, let alone someone much younger than her.

Directed by Australian filmmaker Sophie Hyde, working from a very articulate screenplay by English actress and writer Katy Brand, Good Luck to You, Leo Grande mostly unfolds as a chamber piece between Nancy and Leo. The vast majority of the film takes place in their hotel room over a series of meetings, finding drama in the constant push-and-pull between the very buttoned up Nancy and the more liberated Leo, as they share frank and honest conversations about desire and shame.

Partway through the film, Leo gets Nancy to dance as a way to calm her nerves before working up to the courage to perform oral sex on him (her idea). And their interactions together are like a dance, with the heart of the film being the ways that she keeps pulling back and he keeps finding ways to put her at ease, while prioritizing her own pleasure and comfort. In some of its best moments, the film serves as a really good conversation piece about the morality and legality of sex work (Leo makes it clear that he isn’t soliciting sex, but rather selling his company, and if the interaction goes there it goes there).

Hyde and Brand have crafted a sex-positive film that is attuned to the nuances of why someone might be uncomfortable with intimacy, but also why a person might choose sex work as a sort of vocation to help others find fulfillment within themselves. That said, the film doesn’t quite stick the landing, with a conflict introduced in the last act that feels like it gets resolved a bit too quickly in the somewhat rushed final scenes. But the film is at its best when it is simply a two-hander between Nancy and Leo that recalls a really good stage play, with the performances of the two leads bringing the material to life.

Thompson delivers some of her finest work, portraying both her character’s nervousness and how she gains confidence around her body and sexuality over the course of the film (including moments of full frontal nudity). McCormack matches her, breathing life into a character who, due to the nature of his work, remains somewhat elusive for much of the film. It’s their strong performances that make Good Luck to You, Leo Grande an engaging, thought-provoking character drama that is worth watching.

Good Luck to You, Leo Grande is now available to stream on Amazon Prime Video in Canada.

VOD Review: Mau

June 21, 2022

By John Corrado

★★★ (out of 4)

Directors Jono Bergmann and Benji Bergmann deliver a glossy portrait of Canadian designer Bruce Mau in their aptly titled Mau, a stylish, slickly assembled documentary that is befitting of the man himself.

The film takes us through the highlights of Mau’s career, including first getting noticed with the 1995 design book “S,M,L,XL” that he co-wrote with Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas, his 2004 exhibit Massive Change (and its planned followup Massive Action), and his controversial plan to redesign the Islamic religious site Mecca to make it more sustainable over the next thousand years.

The film is structured around an interview with Mau done in front of a blank background, with him often pacing around the white space playing with a slinky. This gives it the feel of a university lecture at times, matched by an occasionally distracting musical score, but what Mau has to say is almost always interesting.

Mau’s worldview has been accused of being utopian and too idealistic, but he counters this with what he calls “fact-based optimism,” a genuine belief in human potential and the ability to create a better future through design and technological advancements. “People often accuse me of being an optimist,” he says at one point, “and I am, I’m radically optimistic.” Mau’s ultimate belief is that the way we design our lives has an impact on the world, offering great potential for a “redesign,” an idea that the film does a pretty good job of summing up.

In more personal moments, Mau reflects on growing up in Sudbury, Ontario with an alcoholic father who moved there to get work in the nickel mines. Mau talks about being inspired to design cities by watching Montreal’s Expo 67 on a small black-and-white TV that provided his “only window into the world,” and how his design choices are like a mirror image of his barren, rural upbringing. We also hear from his wife and collaborator Bisi Williams, who reaffirms his worldview.

The film is short at just 78 minutes, and there are certain aspects that feel glossed over, but this also feels like an intentional aspect of the film’s design aesthetic, which packs a lot into a dense but easily digestible package. Bergmann and Bergmann have crafted a sleek and mostly entertaining overview of Mau’s career highlights, while also providing a decent introduction to his guiding principles and philosophies as a designer and person.

Mau is now available on a variety of Digital and VOD platforms. It’s being distributed in Canada by levelFILM.

Review: Brian and Charles

June 17, 2022

By John Corrado

★★★ (out of 4)

Brian and Charles is the story of Brian (David Earl), a lonely, eccentric Welsh inventor who makes himself a sentient robot friend named Charles Petrescu (Chris Hayward), whose “tummy is a washing machine.”

Directed by Jim Archer, and co-written by Earl and Hayward, who are collectively adapting their 2017 short film of the same name to feature length, Brian and Charles is a whimsical and lighthearted film that takes its offbeat premise and crafts it into something gently funny and surprisingly sweet.

Living alone on a rural farm property in Wales, Brian is the unassuming inventor of useless but imaginative contraptions like a pinecone bag (a bag with pinecones glued on), an egg belt (a belt with cups for holding eggs), and shoe trawlers (fishing nets that drag behind your feet, purpose unknown).

When his latest project, a flying cuckoo clock, crashes and burns, he starts rummaging through a pile of rubbish and unearths an old mannequin head. This becomes the inspiration for Brian’s most ambitious invention yet; a humanoid robot companion to keep him company and help out around the farm. But it’s not long before the inquisitive, childlike Charles comes to life for real, reads through the dictionary, and starts to develop a mind of his own, along with his own wants and desires. How does this lumbering robot made of scrap come to life, you ask? At this point, we must suspend disbelief and just accept it to give ourselves over to the low-key charms of the film.

And the charms of Brian and Charles are aplenty. Presented in a mockumentary style, purported to be filmed by an unseen and unnamed cameraman who is documenting Brian’s life for some reason, the film has a quirky yet grounded feel to it that is enjoyable to watch. It’s carried by amusing performances from Earl and Hayward, who brings Charles to life through a mix of deadpan vocal work, puppeteering, and practical effects, with human legs coming out the bottom of his robot chest and head.

No, there isn’t a ton in terms of plot. There’s a quiet woman in town named Hazel (Louise Brealey) who presents a possible love interest for Brian, and a mean farmer named Eddie (Jamie Michie) who lives across the way, causing some tension and conflict. But Brian and Charles simply works as a slightly scrappy and often endearing little buddy comedy about the bond that forms between a man and his homemade robot.

Brian and Charles opens today in limited release at Cineplex Cinemas Varsity in Toronto.

Review: Cha Cha Real Smooth

June 16, 2022

By John Corrado

★★★½ (out of 4)

A confident sophomore feature from writer-director-star Cooper Raiff (who also serves as one of the producers and editors), Cha Cha Real Smooth is a delightful and touching heart-on-sleeve dramedy that delivers a pretty big emotional wallop while remaining sensitive to its characters.

Raiff stars in the film (which won the Audience Award at Sundance) as Andrew, a 22-year-old who is fresh out of college and stuck working at Meat Sticks in the mall food court, and forced to move back in with his mother (Leslie Mann), stepdad Greg (Brad Garrett) and younger brother David (Evan Assante) in New Jersey as he searches for better employment.

It’s through David that Andrew gets dragged to a family friend’s Bat Mitzvah, where he meets Domino (Dakota Johnson), the young mother of an autistic teenaged daughter, Lola (Vanessa Burghardt), who is sitting quietly at a corner table with her headphones and puzzle cube. Andrew bets Domino that he can get Lola on the dance floor, and his success not only gets him noticed by her mother, but also also nets him a job as a “party starter” for Bar and Bat Mitzvahs.

Andrew gets to know Domino and Lola through mutually attending the weekly parties as the official DJ and dance leader, and Domino comes to trust him when he helps her through a tough situation. Seeing how good he is with Lola, she starts hiring him to come over and watch her, which allows Andrew and Domino to spend more time together as well. The heart of the film is the bond that forms between Andrew and Lola, and, in turn, Andrew and Domino.

Andrew becomes smitten with Domino, but she is engaged to be married to a lawyer (Raúl Castillo) who mostly works out of town, causing an emotional dilemma for both of them. Raiff’s screenplay allows the story to unfold organically, with the relationships between their characters evolving in a way that feels very natural, shedding the expected romantic comedy tropes to offer a much deeper and more poignant exploration of their will-they-or-won’t-they relationship.

There are a few areas where the film gets slightly held back. Andrew has a girlfriend, Maya (Amara Pedroso), who heads to Barcelona at the start of the film, and is barely fleshed out as a character. The animosity between Andrew and his stepdad also feels somewhat under-explored. But, for the most part, Cha Cha Real Smooth works as a compelling, character-driven film that feels very naturalistic and believable. At moments when the story seems to be dancing close to cliché, Raiff wisely pulls back to offer something much more grounded and real.

In the leading role, Raiff charmingly portrays an affable slacker still in the process of figuring out his life, portraying the nuance of his character’s complicated feelings towards Domino. Johnson (who produced the film and also helped craft her character) delivers a moving performance as a young mother who admits to being depressed but finds fulfillment in parenting her daughter, and is left experiencing her own complex feelings around Andrew. Through Lola, the film offers a positive and authentic depiction of autism, with Raiff admirably casting an actually autistic actress, newcomer Burghardt, in the role.

At 25-years-old, this is only Raiff’s second feature, following his 2020 debut Shithouse, and Cha Cha Real Smooth (named for the 2000 DJ Casper song “Cha-Cha Slide,” a staple of Bar and Bat Mitzvahs that gets memorably played here) continues to show great promise for him as a filmmaker and actor. We genuinely enjoy spending time with these characters, and it’s hard not to get teary-eyed during the film’s incredibly tender and bittersweet conclusion.

Cha Cha Real Smooth will be available to stream exclusively on Apple TV+ as of June 17th.

Toronto Jewish Film Festival Review: The Rhapsody

June 15, 2022

By John Corrado

★★★ (out of 4)

The 2022 Toronto Jewish Film Festival runs from June 9th to 26th, more information on tickets and showtimes can be found right here.

Filmmaker David Hoffert’s years-in-the-making documentary The Rhapsody recounts the life story of Leo Spellman (born Leon Szpilman), a Polish-Canadian Holocaust survivor and composer who finally gained recognition in his late-nineties with the recording of Rhapsody: 1939-1945, a soaring piece of music that he wrote in a German displaced persons camp in 1947.

Spellman brought the sheet music with him as he emigrated to Canada in the subsequent years and set up a new life in Toronto, including raising a family and becoming a band leader, all while trying to put his past behind him. The music remained hidden in a suitcase in his garage for five decades until the late 1990s when Spellman was approached by the Holocaust Museum in Washington, who came into contact with him through his first cousin Władysław Szpilman (whose own life story became the inspiration for the Oscar-winning 2002 movie The Pianist).

The museum was seeking music for a conference of survivors and their families, and the composition was performed publicly for the first time in Washington in 2000. The film mainly follows Leo and his family as they work with Canadian musician Paul Hoffert (the filmmaker’s father) to record a CD of Rhapsody: 1939-1945, building up to a live performance as part of Toronto’s Ashkenaz Festival at Harbourfront Centre in 2012, that Leo attended before his death a few months later.

The film also encompasses his family’s posthumous discovery of the diary that he kept, offering a historically significant document of his harrowing near-death experiences during the war and how he managed to survive, including a tense story about hiding behind the wall in an apartment with Nazi soldiers in the other room. These diary entries become integral to fleshing out Leo’s story in the film, and are brought to life through a mix of shadowy reenactments and animated sequences that are narrated by Stephen Fry, reading aloud from the pages.

A documentary project that has kept expanding in length over many years (starting with the Vision TV special Leo Spellman’s Rhapsody: In Concert featuring footage from the Toronto performance), and has finally been completed now, Hoffert’s film feels a bit scrappy in its construction at times. Some of the recreations occasionally veer into overwrought territory, and can be a distraction from a story that is already compelling enough on its own.

But at its heart is an emotional story about survival, and the remarkable piece of music that Spellman left behind to help tell his story. Some of the film’s most poignant moments come at the end when his family returns to visit Ostrowiec, the Polish town where Spellman evaded capture by the Nazis, bringing the generational impact of the Holocaust full circle.

Screenings:

Wednesday, June 15th – 7:30 PM at Hot Docs Ted Rogers Cinema

The film is also available to stream virtually from June 16th to June 26th across Ontario.

4K Ultra HD Review: Raiders of the Lost Ark (SteelBook Edition)

June 14, 2022

By John Corrado

There are few films as synonymous with the adventure movie genre as Raiders of the Lost Ark, Steven Spielberg’s 1981 film that first introduced audiences to Harrison Ford’s archeologist Indiana Jones and spawned three sequels (with a fourth on the way next year).

Following the release of the complete collection in 4K Ultra HD for the film’s 40th anniversary last year, Paramount is now putting out a standalone 4K edition of Raiders of the Lost Ark for the first time, in a limited edition SteelBook package. And it’s a very nice edition, that notably features different artwork from the one that was included in the exclusive SteelBook collection released last year.

This edition goes back to basics with a version of Richard Amsel’s original theatrical poster art on the front cover, for a nice classic look. There is an illustration of the Ark of the Covenant against a globe gradient on the back of the case, and on the inside is a film still of Indy in the cave holding the Ark. A foldout mini version of Amsel’s alternate poster design is also tucked into the case.

And the film itself is a stone cold classic. Watching Raiders of the Lost Ark again over forty years after its initial theatrical release, it’s still easy to get caught up in the film’s iconic sequences, which are brilliantly staged by Spielberg. We can see the influences of John Ford and Cecil B. Demille in his direction (in its own way, this is Spielberg’s answer to DeMille’s The Ten Commandments), and the film is one of several that proves why he is still lauded as an undisputed master of blockbuster entertainment. From the iconic John Williams score, to Douglas Slocombe’s striking cinematography, Raiders is simply one of the best of the best in terms of adventure movies and summer blockbusters.

This is the same 4K remaster (with Dolby Vision and HDR-10) that was included in the collection, and it presents an often stunning image, that impresses both in terms of clarity and depth. The disc has little in terms of bonus content, so this is otherwise a very bare bones release, meaning that the main appeal is the packaging and the chance to get the film itself in 4K if you didn’t already shell out for the complete set. But the attractive SteelBook packaging should be enough of a draw for collectors or serious fans, with matching standalone editions of the next three films set to be released in the coming months.

Bonus Features (4K Ultra HD):

The only bonus features on the disc are a trio of trailers. There is no Blu-ray in the package, though a code for a digital copy is included, along with the aforementioned mini poster.

Teaser Trailer (1 minute, 3 seconds)

Theatrical Trailer (2 minutes, 33 seconds)

Re-Issue Trailer (1 minute, 45 seconds)

Raiders of the Lost Ark is a Paramount Home Entertainment release. It’s 115 minutes and rated 14A.

Street Date: June 14th, 2022

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