Tuesday, December 07, 2021

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Terrapin Returns for Another Concert Oct. 2

The Westport-Weston Chamber of Commerce and Westport Library announced today they are bringing back by popular demand Terrapin, A Grateful Dead Experience, on Friday, Oct. 2 at 7 p.m.on the Imperial Parking Lot.

The band sold out their first Drive In Tailgate show in 19 minutes. Since then emails and phone calls have not stopped seeking another show, the announcement said.

“What an incredible response to the band and our shows,” said Matthew Mandell, executive director and president of the Westport-Weston Chamber of Commerce.

Tickets for the show are $100 per car (five person max) and go on sale Monday Sept. 14 at 10 a.m..at http://www.westportwestonchamber.com/supper. The rain date is Oct.4.

Granger at the Movies: ‘Mulan,’ ‘The One and Only Ivan’

By Susan Granger
Special to WestportNow

To help build its budding streaming service during this pandemic, Disney decided to release the new, live-action version of its popular 1998 animated film “Mulan” on Disney+.

Susan Granger at the Movies

But unlike “Hamilton” and Beyonce’s “Black is King,” Disney is levying an additional ‘premium’ charge of $29.99 on top of the subscribers’ $6.99 monthly fee. This experiment capitalizes on growing demand for at-home movie-watching.

Based on the Chinese ballad of Hua Mulan, the plot follows an intrepid young woman (Yifei Liu) from a small village who poses as a man so she can take her father’s place, defending the Emperor (Jet Li) in the war against the Rouran, led by Bori Khan (Jason Scott Lee).

Agile and acrobatic, Hua Mulan’s audacious independence worries her parents (Rosalind Cho, Tzi Ma) who are shamed when Mulan steals her aging father’s sword and armor to take his place in the Imperial Army, gaining confidence in her fighting skills and earning the admiration of Chen Honghui (Yoson An).

Westport Library Book Sale Opens

Westport Library Labor Day book sale begins
The Westport Library Labor Day Book Sale opened to ticketed customers today. The sale will continue until 5 p.m. today, Saturday, Sept. 5 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Sunday, Sept. 6 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tickets are not required after today. Masks are required and social distancing is requested when possible. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Dave Matlow for WestportNow.com

Granger at the Movies: ‘The Burnt Orange Heresy,’ ‘The Vow,’ ‘The Vanished’

According to legend, years earlier, all of Debney’s art works burned in a mysterious fire, so owning one of his paintings would be a precious prize - as who does what to whom unfolds.

Based on Charles Willeford’s 1971 novel, it’s adapted by Scott B. Smith and directed by Giuseppe Capotondi, who changed the location from Florida’s Everglades to Lake Como, Italy, because it’s situated between mountains so the lack of sunshine gives a shady, melancholic, even dreamy look.

Villa Pizzo doubles as Cassidy’s home; this picturesque lakeside mansion was where John Legend and Chrissy Teigan were married in 2013. Debney’s art work was modeled from and inspired by Claudio Verna’s analytic paintings

It’s Mick Jagger’s first big screen appearance since “The Man from Elysian Fields” (2001) and - for those who are curious - neither Claes Bang nor Elizabeth Debicki used stunt doubles for the nude scenes.

On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “The Burnt Orange Heresy” is an intriguing 8, a compelling caper.

As timely as today’s headlines, the new HBO nine-part documentary series “The Vow” delves into the so-called self-improvement group NXIVM (pronounced “nex-ee-um”).

Convicted in June, 2019, on charges of identity theft, racketeering, child pornography and sex trafficking, Keith Raniere was the charismatic guru who masterminded the secret society. Referring to himself as “Vanguard,” he explains its New Age appeal to documentary filmmaker Mark Vicente.

Headquartered in Albany’s suburban Clifton Park in upstate New York, NXIVM was as a “multi-level marketing company…working toward a better world.”

To that end, co-founder Nancy Salzman taught Executive Success Programs (ESP), showing participants how to free themselves from insecurity and negativity in order to experience more joy in their lives.

As they paid to progress from one level to another, eager acolytes would be awarded stripes, leading to different color scarves. Some were urged to participate in late-night volleyball games.

Attractive female followers might be invited to join Dominus Obsequious Sonorium (DOS), a sorority founded by actress Allison Mack (“Smallville”).  In order to gain acceptance, applicants had to offer “collateral,” an incriminating video/nude photograph or embarrassing secret, which manipulative Raniere could subsequently use against them.

Taking on all the trappings of a sex cult, wannabe members were referred to as “slaves” and placed on starvation diets so their slim bodies would merit Raniere’s approval. The excruciating, two-hour initiation ceremony involved branding Raniere’s & Mack’s initials on their pelvis near their genitals.

NXIVM attracted many famous faces, including whistleblower Sarah Edmondson (“Big Wolf on Campus”), Nicki Clyne (“Battlestar Galactica”), Bonnie Piesse (“Star Wars”) Clare Bronfman (heiress to the Seagram liquor fortune who spent $150 million over 15 years), and Catherine Oxenberg (“Dynasty”) whose 26 year-old daughter India was enslaved,

As investigative journalist Barry Meier notes, “Even people who on the surface are bright and capable, talented…have this intense vulnerability. And that vulnerability is available for someone to exploit.”

Directed by Jehan Noujaim and Karim Amer, on the Granger Gauge, “The Vow” is a sinister, sadistic 7, compelling viewing at 10 p.m. on Sunday night on HBO.

Opening with an Emily Dickinson poem about loss and grief, writer/director/actor Peter Facinelli has created “The Vanished,” a dark psychological thriller, pivoting around a missing child.

Set in the woods, not far from Tuscaloosa, Alabama, the convoluted plot revolves around Wendy (Anne Heche) and Paul (Thomas Jane) Michaelson, who are first seen in their RV with their 10 year-old daughter, Taylor (twins Kk and Sadie Heim), and dog Lucky in the back seat.

As they indulge in happy road-trip sing-alongs, Paul maneuvers their mobile home onto the lakeside campground where they plan to spend Thanksgiving vacation.

Because they’ve arrived later than expected, neither the cranky, middle-aged proprietor, Tom (John D. Hickman), nor his creepy, meth-head groundskeeper, Justin (Alex Haydon), seem eager to welcome them.

Nevertheless, they settle in, parked next to a camper that’s occupied by flirtatious, bikini-clad Miranda (Aleksai Archer) and her husband, Eric (Kristopher Wente). Soon after, Taylor mysteriously disappears - without a trace.

Arriving on the scene, Sheriff Baker (Jason Patric) and his deputy Rakes (Peter Facinelli) share ominous news that an armed and dangerous convict has escaped from a nearby prison, although they doubt that he’d kidnap a child.

Despite being told not to join in law enforcement’s search, traumatized Wendy and Paul are determined to help find their daughter - which leads to one agonized complication after another, particularly when Miranda and Eric join them.

Eventually, there’s a harrowing revelation, reminiscent of an M. Night Shyamalan script. It’s complicated, particularly since alcoholic Sheriff Baker has marriage problems, stemming from his own lost child. There’s violence, language, brief sexuality and drug use, as separate stories unfold.

In interviews, Peter Facinelli revealed he was inspired by a real-life incident when he went to an RV park and realized there was a prison nearby. Given the inherent melodrama and Heche’s hysterics, it certainly seems far more suitable for the small-screen then the big-screen.

On the Granger Gauge, “The Vanished” is a sinister, suspenseful 6 – available at Redbox & VOD.


Susan Granger

(Editor’s Note: Westport resident Susan Granger grew up in Hollywood, studied journalism with Pierre Salinger at Mills College, and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with highest honors in journalism. In addition to writing for newspapers and magazines, she has been on radio/television as an anchorwoman and movie/drama critic for many years. See her reviews at www.susangranger.com.)

Supper & Soul Tickets on Sale Friday

Tickets go on sale at 10 a.m. Friday for the latest Supper & Soul concert, this one featuring Terrapin, A Grateful Dead Experience.

The concert, sponsored by the Westport-Weston Chamber of Commerce and Westport Library, will take place at the Imperial Avenue parking lot on Friday, Sept. 11 at 7 p.m.

Tickets are $100 per car (five person max) at http://www.westportwestonchamber.com/supper. Rain date is Sunday, Sept. 13.

The next Supper & Soul event will be held on Oct. 2 and 3 with performers to be announced.

Granger at the Movies: ‘Unhinged,’ ‘Waiting for the Barbarians,’ ‘The Pale Door’

Soon, Rachel becomes the focus for his gruesome fury: “I don’t think you know what a really bad day is, but you’re going to find out.”

When he steals her cell phone and scans her contact list, it turns out that he’s determined to hunt down, assault, and kill everyone she holds dear.

The action-packed screenplay was written by Carl Ellsworth (“Disturbia,” “Red Eye”) and formulaically directed by Derrick Borte (“American Dreamer”), who keeps snarling, glowering Crowe behind the wheel, pedal-to-the-metal most of the time.

While lumbering Crowe is certainly competent as “The Man,” it’s a crazed, sadistic role, a volatile part that might easily have gone to Nicolas Cage or Mel Gibson.

Originally scheduled for July, “Unhinged” is the first major release since the COVID pandemic closed theaters. Reminiscent of old Charles Bronson killer-thrillers, it’s already opened in Crowe’s native Australia, along with Canada, Germany, and England. According to global box-office reports, it’s earned $1.7 million but it needs to gross $30 million in the US to be considered profitable.

On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “Unhinged” is a feisty 5. Not worth risking a trip to the theater; wait for it on VOD.

Pulitzer Prize-winning South African author J.M. Coetzee has adapted his 1980 novel “Waiting for the Barbarians”—a cautionary tale about the sins of colonialism—into a mediocre VOD movie.

The Magistrate (Mark Rylance) is in charge of a remote border outpost. A career diplomat, his mission is to protect the interests of the Empire against the “barbarians” who wander the desert. After observing them for many years, he doesn’t view these peaceful nomadic people as any kind of threat.

Yet when there’s a minor theft, stiff-mannered Colonel Joll (Johnny Depp) is dispatched by the Bureau of State Security to investigate. Smugly sadistic, he believes in “patience and pressure ... pain is truth—and that will be end of it.”

Joll’s “interrogation” methodology involves such extensive and merciless torture that the Minister, a kind and gentle man, is not only horrified but also disappointed and disillusioned.

Reaching out in sympathy to a persecuted young woman (Gana Bayarsaikhan) who was crippled and blinded by Colonel Joll, the Magistrate offers her shelter and ritualistically bathes her wounds, establishing an emotional/sexual connection.

Eventually, the Magistrate offers to return her to her “tribe” somewhere in the windswept desert wasteland. When he comes back to the outpost, he’s met by Joll’s sneering second-in-command, Warrant Officer Mandel (Robert Pattinson), who accuses him of being a traitor and tortures him accordingly.

Making his English language debut, Colombian director Ciro Guerra (“Embrace the Serpent,” “Birds of Passage”) and cinematographer Chris Menges (“The Mission,” “The Killing Fields”) filmed in Morocco and Italy, lending an evocative cinematic authenticity to the bleakly generic drama.

FYI: After this, his first produced script, J.M. Coetzee also adapted his 2014 novel “In the Heart of the Country” but it has not yet been made.

In English and Mongolian (English subtitles) on the Granger Gauge, “Waiting for the Barbarians” is a sinister 6, a heavy-handed allegory that leaves no doubt about who the brutal barbarians really are.

After a botched train robbery, the horror/Western “The Pale Door” finds the legendary Dalton gang taking shelter in a mysterious ghost town where nothing is as it seems at first glance.

It’s prefaced by an ominous Edgar Allen Poe quote: “And travelers now within that valley, through the red-litten windows, see vast forms that move fantastically to a discordant melody; while, like a rapid ghastly river, though the pale door, a hideous throng rush out forever, and laugh—but smile no more.”

What the Daltons heist from the train is a locked trunk which, when they pry it open, contains a young woman named Pearl (Natasha Basset), her arms locked in shackles. She offers not only a hefty reward but also medical help for Duncan Dalton (Zachary Knighton), their wounded leader, if they’ll take her home to the tiny town of Potemkin.

While young Jake Dalton (Devin Druid) is obviously quite attracted to Pearl, mysterious Maria (Melora Walters) explains that, many years earlier, the women of Potemkin took her in on the day Pearl was born. That leads to a flashback that culminates with her being burned at the stake as a witch by legendary Cotton Mather (James Landry Hebert).

In the meantime, members of the Dalton gang (Noah Segan, Stan Shaw, Bill Sage, Pat Healy, Tina Parker) are being “entertained” at the local brothel by a bevy of eager-to-please prostitutes.

As it turns out, they’re a creepy coven of witches who covet Jake because his virginal blood contains the supernatural restorative powers they crave.

Inanely and ineptly scripted by Cameron Burns, Roman Dent and director Aaron B. Koontz, it’s a muddled mess, containing one line of dialogue that mirrors my reaction perfectly, when a gang member mutters: “I’ve had enough of this strange ####.”

On the Granger Gauge, “The Pale Door” is a flawed, flimsy 4. Available on Prime Video, Fandango, and Vudu—but don’t bother.


Susan Granger

(Editor’s Note: Westport resident Susan Granger grew up in Hollywood, studied journalism with Pierre Salinger at Mills College, and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with highest honors in journalism. In addition to writing for newspapers and magazines, she has been on radio/television as an anchorwoman and movie/drama critic for many years. See her reviews at www.susangranger.com.)

Granger at the Movies: Tectonic Twists in the Movie Industry

Now “Mulan,” Disney’s live-action version of the original animated film, following a young woman in China who poses as a man to take her father’s place in the war against the Huns, will make its debut on Friday, Sept. 4.

To watch “Mulan” you will not only need a subscription to Disney Plus, but you’ll also have to pay an additional $30 to rent it; for this video-on-demand, you can either use the payment card you have on file or choose the option to pay with a different card. As long as you maintain your Disney Plus subscription, you only have to pay $30 once to watch it as many times as you like.

Originally, “Mulan” was projected to bring in more than $1 billion at the box-office, so Disney executives are eager to see what kind of money it will generate — both in film rentals and subscriber growth.

While some drive-in theaters have popped up, drawing eager moviegoers by showing popular older releases or independent, pre-Coronavirus films, how long they will continue to draw crowds depends on when the weather cools off.

On Aug. 20, AMC will reopen more than 100 U.S. theaters. The world’s largest movie chain is celebrating its centennial at 1920 prices — 15 cents on opening day — implementing new health and safety measures that include wearing masks, lowering theater capacity and upgrading ventilation systems.

In the long run perhaps the most significant change in the entire industry occurred late in July, when AMC Theaters and Universal agreed to shorten the theatrical ‘window’ (the length of time that a movie has to play in a theater). Previously, it was 90 days. Obviously, studios will keep their biggest blockbusters in theaters as long as they’re attracting customers.

But now, Universal can transfer its less-lucrative films to rental platforms, like iTunes or Amazon, after 17 days. Other studios, like Warner Bros. are moving some of its titles to digital-only exclusives, while Paramount and Sony are selling off a portion of their movies directly to Netflix and Amazon.

It’s a business model that’s never really been tried before. When Hollywood’s motion picture industry began, studios like Warner Bros, Paramount, Universal, 20th Century-Fox and M.G.M. owned their own theaters; they had complete control over their distribution of their films.

Then in 1948, an antitrust law banned this practice in what was called the Paramount Consent Decree, forcing the studios to sell off their theater chains, ending what was known as vertical integration. That soon gave birth to the multiplex.

Just recently, a New York judge granted the U.S. Justice Department’s motion to terminate the Paramount Consent Decree, meaning that studios could, once again, own their own movie theaters. In her 17-page opinion, US District Court Judge Analisa Torres explained that the possibility of studios colluding to shut out independent features or other theater chains seems unlikely.

Besides, Disney already owns the El Capitan Theater in Hollywood, where it plays its own movies, and Netflix owns Hollywood’s Egyptian Theater, along with Manhattan’s Paris Theater.

As a result, it seems inevitable that several of the major theatrical multiplex chains will probably go into bankruptcy and/or get smaller. They’ve already furloughed staff, applied for federal assistance and raised money through debt offerings, but they still have to pay rent and honor lease obligations.

Last-but-not-least, what will happen to the Academy Awards?

In the past, high-prestige movies launched in the fall festivals, hoping to get a good audience reaction, buyers and media recognition. Those that played well hired publicists and began their marketing campaigns, aimed at critic recognition which would, ultimately, lead to Oscar nominations.

But that’s all changed. Most film festivals, like Telluride and Comic-Con, have been canceled; others will be digital only.

When Academy has pushed back the Oscar telecast by two months — from Feb. 28 to April 25, 2021 — the Hollywood Foreign Press Association grabbed the Feb. 28 date for their 78th Golden Globes ceremony, hosted by Tina Fey and Amy Poehler.

The date changes extended the eligibility period, giving many films more time to finish production and reach audiences without sacrificing their chances for Oscar contention. Precedents for changing Oscar broadcasts include a flood delay in Los Angeles in 1938, the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. in 1968, and the attempted assassination of President Ronald Reagan in 1981.

But the motion picture industry has never suffered anything like this 2020 pandemic. Even during the 1918 Spanish Flu, Hollywood production continued and most theaters remained open.

One can only wonder what will happen next …


Susan Granger

(Editor’s Note: Westport resident Susan Granger grew up in Hollywood, studied journalism with Pierre Salinger at Mills College, and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with highest honors in journalism. In addition to writing for newspapers and magazines, she has been on radio/television as an anchorwoman and movie/drama critic for many years. See her reviews at www.susangranger.com.)

Gallery: Mystic Bowie – Talking Dreads Tailgate Concert


Scenes from tonight’s Supper & Soul Drive In Tailgate concert at the Imperial Avenue parking lot by the Caribbean/reggae band Mystic Bowie – Talking Dreads. It was sponsored by the Westport-Weston Chamber of Commerce and Westport Library. There will be another concert Sunday, postponed from Friday because of the storm. Contributed photos

Supper & Soul Performance Rescheduled

By moving up the start time, concert attendees will be able to be home before nightfall, the announcement said,

Tickets for Friday night will be honored on Sunday. Gates to the Imperial parking lot will now open at 4 p.m. to begin the socially distant tailgate before the show.

Saturday tickets will only be accepted for Saturday’s show. There are no refunds being offered as the Sunday date was always a fallback due to weather.

For more information.  http://www.westportwestonchamber.com/supper.

Granger at the Movies: ‘Palm Springs,’ ‘Blood and Money,’ The Rental’

Plus there’s this menacing fellow, Roy (J.K. Simmons), who’s been relentlessly stalking Nyles, bearing a heavy moral grudge.

As Nyles and Sarah struggle to keep their sanity in this bizarre, morally complex, often tedious situation, there’s absurdist humor, peppered with deeply philosophical observations.

“We have no other choice but to learn how to suffer existence,” Nyles tells her, as she makes one-attempt-after-another to escape.

While this 90-minute romantic comedy might have quickly come-and-gone in movie theaters, having it continuously streaming when we’re trapped at home during this pandemic, waking up and going through the same routine, day-after-day, seems to strike a familiar emotional chord.

Screenwriter Andy Siara and director Max Barbakow make their cleverly inventive, adroitly paced narrative-feature debut, which should inevitably lead to bigger and better projects in the future.

Curiously, despite its location-specific title, it was actually filmed over a 21-day period in Palmdale and Santa Clarita, California.

On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “Palm Springs” is a skittish 7, if you enjoy existential sci-fi.

Streaming on Amazon Prime, “Blood and Money” is a low-budget ‘survival’ thriller, set in the wintry wilderness of Northern Maine, starring Tom Berenger as an aging, alcoholic hunter who bags more than just a deer.

Chain-smoking Vietnam War veteran Jim Reed (Berenger) lives in his “custom” RV, coughing up blood and washing down his meds with milk. He’s a loner with a murky past that involves estrangement from his son and the death of his daughter.

One day, while hunting a buck in the forest, Jim accidentally shoots a young woman who—he later discovers—is part of a gang that recently robbed a casino of $1.2 million.

When he realizes he dropped a cigarette butt in the snow and could be arrested for involuntary manslaughter, Jim returns to the scene of the crime, where he discovers a duffel bag filled with cash.

Impulsively, he grabs it and heads back to his RV, only to discover he’s being followed by the other four robbers who are determined to retrieve their stolen loot.

Struggling to make his way through the deep snow, Jim discovers a nearby cave, where he stashes the duffel bag. After that, it’s a cat-and-mouse game with the much-younger thieves in reckless pursuit.

Meanwhile at the local diner, Jim has befriended Debbie (Kristen Hager), a distraught waitress, who is trying to summon the courage to leave her abusive husband, George (Jimmy LeBlanc).

Originally titled “Allagash” and filmed around Oxford, Maine, it’s written and directed by John Barr, who also serves as cinematographer. Unfortunately, the characters, particularly the villains, need more fleshing out, and Barr never makes the most of his action set-ups.

Yet there is one particularly inventive scene in which Jim, having fallen in the creek, seeks refuge in the icy cave, defrosting his frozen fingers and soaked shirt over a fire made with stacks of filched currency. Burning money is, indeed, a memorable sight.

On the Granger Gauge, “Blood and Money” is a frigid 5, chronicling the familiar futility of B-movie crime.

Remember how you felt about going to a motel after seeing Alfred Hitchcock’s “Psycho?”  That’s the same vibe first-time director Dave Franco goes for with “The Rental,” an Amazon Prime horror/thriller, based in an Airbnb.

“The country is as divided as it’s ever been, and no one trusts each other,” observes Franco in the press notes. “Yet we trust staying in the home of a stranger simply because of a few positive reviews online.”

Charlie (Dan Stevens) and Mina (Sheila Vand) are business partners. To celebrate closing a major tech deal, Charlie plans a weekend getaway, renting a magnificent mansion perched on a rocky cliff with expansive oceanside views.

Charlie’s married to Michele (Allison Brie, Dave Franco’s wife), while Mina’s dating Charlie’s rebellious, ex-con brother, Josh (Jeremy Allen White).

Trouble’s brewing immediately, since Josh and Mina insist on bringing their dog, Reggie, even though the lease agreement specifically forbids dogs. Plus, Mina’s furious that Charlie was able to reserve this secluded Airbnb while she, having tried earlier, was rejected; she’s convinced it’s racial profiling because her Iranian surname is Mahoumadi.

Mina immediately confronts their sinister ‘host’ Taylor (Toby Huss) with accusations of discrimination. Trying to defuse the situation, Michele inquires whether it would be possible to get a telescope, and he agrees to bring one over.

Eager to liven up the party, Michele reveals she’s brought Ecstasy to share the following evening, but Charlie, Josh, and Mina decide to drink and drug right away. When Josh passes out, Charlie and Mina climb into the hot tub and, predictably, nature takes its course.

The next morning when Michele and Josh go on a hike, Charlie and Mina beg off. Then Mina discovers a camera hidden the showerhead—with incriminating footage of their indiscretion. And they’re not alone. Someone’s stalking them.

Scripted by Franco and co-writer Joe Swanberg, it’s character-based, delving into the insidious relationship dynamic between the two couples.

On the Granger Movie Gauge, “The Rental” is an exasperating 3, burdened by a disturbing, frustrating conclusion.


Susan Granger

(Editor’s Note: Westport resident Susan Granger grew up in Hollywood, studied journalism with Pierre Salinger at Mills College, and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with highest honors in journalism. In addition to writing for newspapers and magazines, she has been on radio/television as an anchorwoman and movie/drama critic for many years. See her reviews at www.susangranger.com.)