Friday, May 20, 2022

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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.)

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.)

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