Thursday, July 07, 2022

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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.)

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.)

Marpe: 97% Without Power in Westport, May Be Days Until Full Power Restored

Eversource crews are assessing and evaluating the safest way to manage the many downed wires and then work cooperatively to restore power safely to neighborhoods throughout town. All of Westport has been impacted by this event, with varying degrees of damage and need for immediate attention and prioritization. Unfortunately, this means that it may be days until full power is restored.

For your safety and the safety of work crews who are trying to clear the roads and restore power:

  • Do not go sightseeing! Roads must be kept clear for emergency vehicles.
  • Do not drive over or go near downed wires.
  • Do not drive or walk around yellow barrier tape or barricades.
  • Stay well clear of downed power lines: 25’ at least!
  • Be vigilant about downed trees and tree limbs hung up overhead

If you must drive, use caution, expect delays and detours, and be considerate of other drivers and emergency crews. DO NOT drive around tape or barricades—they have been erected for your safety. Without working traffic signals, intersections must be approached as if a STOP sign was there. Make a full stop at all intersections and treat this as a four way STOP.

Please be aware of possible carbon monoxide poisoning from portable generators.

  • All generators (portable and installed) should be used in well ventilated locations outside and at least 10-15 feet away from all doors, windows, and vent openings.
  • Never use a generator in an attached garage, even with the door open.

Town facilities, including the beaches, Longshore Club Park, Recreation programs, the Westport Library, the Westport Center for Senior Activities and Wakeman fields remain closed today. All Senior Center virtual programs are cancelled for the remainder of the week. The Board of Finance meeting scheduled for tonight is cancelled.

The Department of Human Services (DHS) reminds residents to please check on your friends and neighbors. This weather emergency, combined with COVID-19 concerns, is stressful and may have a profound effect on our most vulnerable citizens.  We are a resilient, caring community that looks out for one another. If you know of a neighbor who is elderly or particularly vulnerable, please reach out to him or her and offer assistance from a safe distance. DHS staff is available Mon-Fri from 8:30 am-4:30 pm at 203-341-1050 to provide information and resources, although it’s most important to rely on your natural supports at this time. Please practice patience and consideration as we are all doing the best we can under the circumstances.

After 4:30pm, residents can call the CT information hotline by dialing 211 or go to http://www.211ct.org for mobile crisis support.

Only call 911 for true medical emergencies.

Mental Health Crisis Text Line – Text “SHARE” to 741741
SAMHSA’s National Helpline – 1-800-662-HELP (4357)
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline:  800-273-TALK (8255)

Due to COVID-19, Westport’s cooling centers, charging stations, and shelters are currently not available, so it is essential to make specific plans to address your needs.

We will continue to provide updates to residents as soon as they are available. Please recognize that there are many who are working as quickly as possible to effectively and efficiently clear the roadways and restore power. Most of us are without power, so we are in this together. You are not alone.

And please remember, we are still fighting the COVID-19 virus so practice social distancing and use face coverings if you choose to leave your home. Please help protect our community as we work together to get through the pandemic and this latest weather crisis. Remember, you are safe at home; not stuck at home. We appreciate your anticipated patience and cooperation.

Eversource crews are assessing and evaluating the safest way to manage the many downed wires and then work cooperatively to restore power safely to neighborhoods throughout town. All of Westport has been impacted by this event, with varying degrees of damage and need for immediate attention and prioritization. Unfortunately, this means that it may be days until full power is restored.

For your safety and the safety of work crews who are trying to clear the roads and restore power:

  • Do not go sightseeing! Roads must be kept clear for emergency vehicles.
  • Do not drive over or go near downed wires.
  • Do not drive or walk around yellow barrier tape or barricades.
  • Stay well clear of downed power lines: 25’ at least!
  • Be vigilant about downed trees and tree limbs hung up overhead

If you must drive, use caution, expect delays and detours, and be considerate of other drivers and emergency crews. DO NOT drive around tape or barricades—they have been erected for your safety. Without working traffic signals, intersections must be approached as if a STOP sign was there. Make a full stop at all intersections and treat this as a four way STOP.

Please be aware of possible carbon monoxide poisoning from portable generators.

  • All generators (portable and installed) should be used in well ventilated locations outside and at least 10-15 feet away from all doors, windows, and vent openings.
  • Never use a generator in an attached garage, even with the door open.

Town facilities, including the beaches, Longshore Club Park, Recreation programs, the Westport Library, the Westport Center for Senior Activities and Wakeman fields remain closed today. All Senior Center virtual programs are cancelled for the remainder of the week. The Board of Finance meeting scheduled for tonight is cancelled.

The Department of Human Services (DHS) reminds residents to please check on your friends and neighbors. This weather emergency, combined with COVID-19 concerns, is stressful and may have a profound effect on our most vulnerable citizens.  We are a resilient, caring community that looks out for one another. If you know of a neighbor who is elderly or particularly vulnerable, please reach out to him or her and offer assistance from a safe distance. DHS staff is available Mon-Fri from 8:30 am-4:30 pm at 203-341-1050 to provide information and resources, although it’s most important to rely on your natural supports at this time. Please practice patience and consideration as we are all doing the best we can under the circumstances.

After 4:30pm, residents can call the CT information hotline by dialing 211 or go to http://www.211ct.org for mobile crisis support.

Only call 911 for true medical emergencies.

Mental Health Crisis Text Line – Text “SHARE” to 741741
SAMHSA’s National Helpline – 1-800-662-HELP (4357)
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline:  800-273-TALK (8255)

Due to COVID-19, Westport’s cooling centers, charging stations, and shelters are currently not available, so it is essential to make specific plans to address your needs.

We will continue to provide updates to residents as soon as they are available. Please recognize that there are many who are working as quickly as possible to effectively and efficiently clear the roadways and restore power. Most of us are without power, so we are in this together. You are not alone.

And please remember, we are still fighting the COVID-19 virus so practice social distancing and use face coverings if you choose to leave your home. Please help protect our community as we work together to get through the pandemic and this latest weather crisis. Remember, you are safe at home; not stuck at home. We appreciate your anticipated patience and cooperation.

Wednesday, Aug. 5, 2020


Westport Town Offices, Schools, & Senior Center are closed.
10 a.m. – via Zoom – Westport Senior Center SWCAA Caregiver Support Group
Noon – 4 p.m. – MoCA Westport – “Helmut Lang: 41.1595° N, 73.3882° W” CLOSED
2 p.m. – 646-876-9923 ID:  848 2237 1212 – Westport Transit District
2 p.m. – 6 p.m. – Westport Library – Open for limited services CLOSED
7:30 p.m. – Electronically – Board of Finance: live streamed on http://www.westportct.gov, Optimum ch. 79, Frontier ch. 6020. CANCELED

Westport Senior Center YouTube Channel
Westport Library Event Calendar
Westport Library YouTube Page
Earthplace YouTube Channel
Virtual Westport Museum for History & Culture
See more events: Celebrate Westport Calendar

Marpe: ‘Westport May Be Hardest Hit in State’

As of right now, 94% of Westport’s Eversource customers are without power. Now that the winds have died down, Eversource crews will begin to start restoring power, but it may be days until your power is restored.

Similarly, many businesses are without power and may be closed as well. Please stay home and keep the road clear for our emergency responder and the power restoration crews.

In addition, hundreds of tree limbs remain hung up in wires and trees and present a risk to anyone who is walking or driving underneath them.

When you encounter yellow emergency barrier tape, please don’t drive or walk through. They are set up to protect you. In closing, most of us are without power, so we are in this together. You are not alone. Our emergency personnel are out in town and responding to emergencies. If you have an emergency, do not hesitate to call 911. 

Look for our next update mid-day tomorrow. 

And please remember, we are still fighting the COVID-19 virus so practice, social distancing and using face coverings more than ever. Please help protect our community as we work together to get through the pandemic and this latest weather crisis. Remember, you are safe at home; not stuck at home.

As of right now, 94% of Westport’s Eversource customers are without power. Now that the winds have died down, Eversource crews will begin to start restoring power, but it may be days until your power is restored.

Similarly, many businesses are without power and may be closed as well. Please stay home and keep the road clear for our emergency responder and the power restoration crews.

In addition, hundreds of tree limbs remain hung up in wires and trees and present a risk to anyone who is walking or driving underneath them.

When you encounter yellow emergency barrier tape, please don’t drive or walk through. They are set up to protect you. In closing, most of us are without power, so we are in this together. You are not alone. Our emergency personnel are out in town and responding to emergencies. If you have an emergency, do not hesitate to call 911. 

Look for our next update mid-day tomorrow. 

And please remember, we are still fighting the COVID-19 virus so practice, social distancing and using face coverings more than ever. Please help protect our community as we work together to get through the pandemic and this latest weather crisis. Remember, you are safe at home; not stuck at home.

Tropical Storm Smashes Into Westport

Trees and wires down calls kept first responders going from one incident to another nonstop, often their direct route to a call blocked by other downed trees and power lines.

Traffic lights went dark throughout town and to add to the troubles the fire department radio system experienced periodic outages.

A police car was involved in a crash en route to a call, but there were no injuries.

The extent of the power outages came close to the outages experienced during Superstorm Sandy in 2012. Eversource said at mid-afternoon that 93% of its Westport customers were without power.

The fast moving storm swayed trees throughout town with winds more of a problem than rain. By 4 p.m., the winds had died down and cleanup was underway.

The town closed beaches at 1 p.m. and evening meetings via livestreaming were canceled or postponed.

Trees and wires down calls kept first responders going from one incident to another nonstop, often their direct route to a call blocked by other downed trees and power lines.

Traffic lights went dark throughout town and to add to the troubles the fire department radio system experienced periodic outages.

A police car was involved in a crash en route to a call, but there were no injuries.

The extent of the power outages came close to the outages experienced during Superstorm Sandy in 2012. Eversource said at mid-afternoon that 93% of its Westport customers were without power.

The fast moving storm swayed trees throughout town with winds more of a problem than rain. By 4 p.m., the winds had died down and cleanup was underway.

The town closed beaches at 1 p.m. and evening meetings via livestreaming were canceled or postponed.