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Category:    Home > Reviews > Drama > Religion > Murder > Romania > Family > Melodrama > Greece > Trafficking > Thriller > Mystery > Literat > Miracle/Moon 66 Questions (2021/both Film Movement DVDs)/Paradise Highway (2022/Lionsgate Blu-ray)/Rain (1932/UA/MVD/VCI Blu-ray)/Rachel, Rachel (1968/Warner Archive Blu-ray)/Sniper: The White Raven (

Miracle/Moon 66 Questions (2021/both Film Movement DVDs)/Paradise Highway (2022/Lionsgate Blu-ray)/Rain (1932/UA/MVD/VCI Blu-ray)/Rachel, Rachel (1968/Warner Archive Blu-ray)/Sniper: The White Raven (2021/Well Go Blu-ray)

Picture: C+/C/B-/B/B/B- Sound: C+/C+/B/C+/C+/B- Extras: C+/C/B-/B-/C/C- Films: C/C+/B-/B-/B-/B-

PLEASE NOTE: The Rachel, Rachel Blu-ray is now only available from Warner Bros. through their Warner Archive series and can be ordered from the link below.

Soon it will be awards season, so you can start off with these often well-made dramas, old and new...

Bogdan George Apetri's Miracle (2021) is a film that tries to take risks, but does not eventually know what it wants to say or do as a young nun (Ioana Bugarin) leaves her convent and eventually disappears. A smart detective (Emanuel Parvu) is hired to find out what happened and we are shown that she was sexually assaulted, beaten and killed with some graphic detail.

So as it is not a mystery outright, is it a character study of religion, men, Romania, conformity? The screenplay seems to think it is doing some of that, but I found it surprisingly predictable and even a little heavy handed. Then there is the ending, which has several issues and problems of its own, but does not work and shows Aperi had not thought this out. Now you can see for yourself.

Extras include a Deleted Scene, Director's Feature-length Audio Commentary track and the short film A Very Small Trilogy Of Loneliness from Apetri.

Jacqueline Lentzou's Moon 66 Questions (2021) is a mixed film about a young 20-something gal (Sofia Kokkali) to help her ailing father (Lazaros Georgakopulos) who she hardly knows, then starts to learn a secret or two she has to deal with whether she likes it or not or it brings on other possibilities. Running 108 minutes, it does not overdue things and almost quits while it is ahead, but it also drags in spots and despite some fine acting, has a few predictable parts. The result is a film that is not as memorable as it might have been, though being from Greece is a plus as we see so few films imported from there.

Extras include Deleted Scenes and the short film The End Of Suffering (A Proposal) from Lentzou.

Anna Cutto's Paradise Highway (2022) is one of the big surprises of the year, coming from the Grindstone division of Lionsgate, one usually known for its gimmicky action and genre releases, nothing too challenging or often memorable comes form them. For a change, we have a drama and thriller about human trafficking that should be getting far more press than it is receiving. For starters, its lead is one of the greatest actresses alive and one who always seems to deliver: Juliet Binoche!

This time, she plays a gritty truck driver (playing down her beauty in a way that will shock some and fool others) named Sally who is trying to help her prison-bound brother (Frank Grillo) who is set to be discharged, but has to deal with some sickos behind bars to survive. To help, she is asked by him to make a delivery for them, but goes into shock when it turns out to be an underaged girl!

Reluctantly, she takes her, still in shock and unhappy her brother might be hurt or worse if she does not. Then things take a wild turn when the man who meets Sally to get the girl is killed!

When the body is found, the FBI get involved and they have a semi-retired adviser, well-played by no less than Morgan Freeman, who is in the film more than the credits suggest and he gives one of his best performances of late. Though the ending is mixed, the film never wallows in its subject matter, handles it smartly and intelligently, plus the writing and directing is better than many such films we've seen of late.

This film deserves as big a release as possible and only a few decades ago, this would have had a higher profile release. The COVID effect and the industry's obsession with only hugely-budgeted films have hurt this kind of mature storytelling. You can see why two great actors like Binoche and Freeman took this on and I hope their star power and the respect serious film fans have for them will deliver a surprise hit out of this. Oscar nominations for some of the great work here would not be out of the question either.

Digital Copy, an Original Theatrical Trailer, Deleted Scenes with optional Director's Commentary and a feature-length audio commentary by the Director are the extras.

Joan Crawford was a big star beginning in the silent era and helped put MGM on the map so well, they became the biggest studio in the Classical Hollywood era thanks to stars like her. She looked great, was a sex symbol in her time, the camera liked her and she knew how to act. However, so many stars as great as her did not survive the transition to sound and in many cases, it was from being mishandled. In Crawford's case, she spoke and spoke well, with a voice that matched her statue and sexuality. On loan to United Artists, she made Lewis Milestone's Rain in 1932 and the bold pre-Hollywood Code melodrama was a big hit, big deal and assured everyone that Crawford would continue to reign as one of the top actresses and biggest movie stars in the world for years to come in the sound era.

Crawford plays Sadie Thompson, a wild call girl who knows what she is doing, how to handle men, knows men and eventually gets into trouble. When it looks like she mighty be going to jail, she fells the country for the South Seas and hopes of a new life. Instead, she meets a missionary (Walter Huston) as sex, religion, the pleasure principle and the reality principle hit all head on.

Remade later as the 3D Miss Sadie Thompson (reviewed in its out of print edition elsewhere on this site) and ripped off a few times, this film is as close to the best-selling W. Somerset Maugham novel and despite its age, the acting has not aged as badly as many other films from its time up until the pre-WWII era and the results of the Code kicking in. Milestone is one fo the great journeyman filmmakers and his work holds up much better than many of his contemporaries, but it is Crawford who shows she can act and she is stunning from start to finish. You can make all the Mommie Dearest comments and references you want to make, but in real life, she was as groundbreaking and important as other actresses of her time (like Katharine Hepburn, Bette Davis and Mary Pickford, whose foundation has co-sponsored this stunning restoration) with the proof in the performance. She hits no false notes and when the big screen was REALLY the BIG Screen, she delivered like no other. Catch this great restoration ASAP!

Extras are many and include a feature-length Audio Commentary track by Mick LaSalle, writer for the San Francisco Chronicle and noted film historian. Commentary track by Richard Barrios Writer, Historian, and Commentator Liner notes reprinted from Views & Reviews Magazine by Jon Tuska, author and film historian. You also get an Alternate Opening Title and Credits Sequence from the 18-minute shorter, 1938 Atlantic Reissue Original Theatrical Trailer Poster & Photo Gallery, period appropriate Betty Boop Cartoon in excellent condition and a Newsreel.

Paul Newman's Rachel, Rachel (1968) is the great actor directing his amazing wife Joanne Woodward, as the title school teacher in a small town who has more problems and issues than anyone around her could begin to figure out and she can only begin to grasp. Not knowing she has serious mental illness issues, she instead falls in with a religious group that only makes things worse and people around her who have no clue on how to be emotionally available as they barely know who they are.

Not wanting to be alone and wishing she could find someone to love her, it is a dilemma most people face in their own ways, but she is too nice, keeps wanting to help children (in place of having them?) and we wonder what will happen to her.

Based on the book ''A Jest Of God'' by Margaret Laurence, the cast is solid, Woodward is amazing and the film feels authentic throughout, even when parts are sadly predictable, not because of bad writing, but because of how it honestly, sadly portrays human nature. It holds up very well after all these decades and its great to see it getting issued in a restored edition.

Silent Promo Footage and an Original Theatrical Trailer are the only extras.

Marian Bushan's Sniper: The White Raven (2021) is NOT another installment in the very tired, played out series of Sniper films that are very belated sequels to the moderate hit with Tom Berenger and Billy Zane. Instead, it is a Ukrainian film set in 2014 and is one of the last films that got finished before the ugly, insane Russian invasion of the great country. Based on a true story, this film knows and understands the threat Putin's Russia posed to the country and sadly, were more correct than they could have ever imagined.

A science teacher (Pavlo Aldoshyn) is happy to teach his rowdy students what he can, but is also happy with the woman in his life he lives with and loves so much. However, a Russian sniper is going around and having too much success taking out Ukrainian targets or other 'subversives' and this does not make him or anyone close to him feel very good.

When the couple is brutally attacked by Russian soldiers, he decides to give up education, become a sniper and go all out to get serious revenge on as many of them as he can, including that elusive main sniper.

Though there are conventions of the Western, revenge film, reactionary action films and a few points that could be read as pro-Ukraine propaganda, the film has a surprising amount of good acting, suspense, good editing and action that is lacking in most Hollywood films of its kind, plus, it is about a real life situation that suddenly became more real than any dramatic film. With the pride you get form the film, you can see why the Ukrainian people have been so successful at fighting and resisting Putin's killers, no matter how much blood, death and butchery they have brought to their neighbor, which continues as we post. Definitely give this one a look!

An Original Theatrical Trailer for this and a few other recent Well Go releases are the only extras.

Now for playback performance. The 1080p 2.35 X 1 digital High Definition image on Highway has some softness and lack of detail here and there which does hold fidelity back, but in this case, it is partly due to the style chosen for the film and it works well enough that it is not as much of an issue as it usually would be. The DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 5.1 lossless mix is well done, well recorded and easily the sonically best title of the six we have here.

The 1080p 1.33 X 1 black & white digital High Definition image transfer on Rain shockingly looks as good as any entry here, and though the original 35mm film materials can show the age of the materials used, I have never seen the film look this good in my life and I have seen several versions over the years. Very impressive. The optical monophonic film oddly has a lossy Dolby Digital 5.1 mix that tries to bring the sound to life, but a clear lossless mono track would have worked just fine.

The 1080p 1.85 X 1 digital High Definition image transfer Rachel looks very fine, clean and clear throughout, another superior transfer from Warner Archive. The film was actually originally issued in 35mm dye-transfer, three-strip Technicolor prints and color is really good here, but maybe it is a shade duller than such prints might be. Otherwise, most impressive. The DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 2.0 Mono lossless mix is as good as this film will ever sound and that is a good thing in this case.

The 1080p 2.35 X 1 digital High Definition image transfer on Raven is a solid HD shoot, but it too has some softness throughout, though that again is partly due to the style chosen and it is a war film. The Ukrainian DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 5.1 lossless mix is superior to the same mix with a so-so English dub, though both soundtracks are here in lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo instead of a lossless format choice, sounding worse than the DTS options.

The anamorphically enhanced 2.35 X 1 image on Miracle looks about as good as it could in the older DVD format, but the anamorphically enhanced 1.85 X 1 image on Moon is softer than I would have liked throughout and has some degraded images here and there that do not help it. As for sound, both offer lossy Dolby Digital 5.1 and lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo mixes, but the 5.1 is just that much better in both cases. The former is in Romanian, the latter in Greek.

To order the Rachel, Rachel Warner Archive Blu-ray, go to this link for it and many more great web-exclusive releases at:


- Nicholas Sheffo


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