MOVIE SHELF – PELICAN BRIEF

The Pelican Brief is a 1993 American legal thriller film based on the 1992 novel by John Grisham. Directed by Alan J. Pakula, the film stars Julia Roberts in the role of young law student Darby Shaw and Denzel Washington as Washington Herald reporter Gray Grantham.

After an assassin named Khamel kills two Supreme Court justices, Jensen and Rosenberg, Tulane University law student Darby Shaw writes a legal brief detailing her theory on why they were killed. She gives the brief to her law professor/lover Thomas Callahan, who in turn gives a copy to his good friend Gavin Verheek, special counsel to the Director of the FBI. Soon after, a car bomb kills Callahan, but Darby manages to avoid the same fate, because Callahan refuses to give Darby the keys. Realizing that her brief was accurate, she goes into hiding and reaches out to Verheek for assistance.

An informant calling himself Garcia contacts Washington Herald reporter Gray Grantham with information about the assassinations, but suddenly disappears. Darby contacts Grantham, who verifies her information as accurate. Darby’s computer, disks, and files disappear from her home. She is attacked at a hotel where she’s hiding, but manages to escape the attack unharmed, but scared. She contacts and agrees to meet Verheek, but Khamel kills Verheek and impersonates him at the meet. Before Khamel can kill Darby, an unknown person shoots and kills him.

The film, which features music composed by James Horner, was the last film that featured Pakula as both writer and director before his death.

Movie Review – The Queen’s Gambit

Openings matter a great deal in chess, and “The Queen’s Gambit,” a new Netflix mini-series about a wunderkind of the game, uses its first few minutes for the purposes of misdirection. A young woman wakes up in a disordered Paris hotel room and washes down some pills with minibar booze while racing to dress for a Very Important Game of Chess. The period is the late 1960s and the vibe is Holly Golightly groovy wild child.

Based on the novel by Walter Tevis, the a seven-part series is co-created and directed by Scott Frank, the man behind Godless — one of 2017’s best shows. The opening episode, has an enchanting, storybook feel. Beth stumbles on the game when she’s sent on an errand to the basement lair of the orphanage’s forbidding custodian, Mr. Shaibel (a canny, finely etched performance by Bill Camp). The game immediately makes sense to her — when nothing else in her life does — and at night she runs through the moves he teaches her on an imaginary board she sees among the shadows of the prisonlike dormitory where she sleeps.

The series tells the story of Beth Harmon, from the age of eight to 22, as she evolves from an abandoned misfit into one of the greatest champions the world of chess has ever seen.

We see her arrive at an austere orphanage in the 1950s, a remnant and reminder of her mother’s suicide attempt. She braves the regimental rigidity of her new home by seeking solace in the basement, where a lonely janitor named Mr Shaibel spends his spare time by playing chess with himself. He reluctantly takes the curious Beth under his wing, and teaches her the basics of the game. Within days, she’s drubbing him in less than a dozen moves. He leans back in awe, barely able to comprehend Beth’s genius. The innocent girl asks if she’s any good. “To tell you the truth of it, child, you’re astounding,” he says.

The Queen’s Gambit isn’t as much a show about chess as it is a show about kindness. Mr Shaibel (Bill Camp) would be the first person in Beth’s life to offer her a shoulder to lean on, as she struggles with the onset of mental illness and a debilitating dependency on drugs.

Over the next few years, as Beth goes from winning local tournaments to being hailed as America’s foremost challenger against the Soviets — a proxy war that unfolded in real life as well, when Bobby Fischer and Boris Spassky faced off at the height of the Cold War — many others align themselves with her. Some are in it for the attention that Beth brings, but over the course of her young life, she forges a series of genuine relationships — from Alma Wheatley (Marielle Heller), the woman who adopts her as a teenager and encourages her passion for chess, to the many men who are drawn to her alluring nature.

We learn about Sicilian defences and doubled pawns; about adjournments and endgames. But at no point is the show inaccessible. This is a remarkable achievement. It moves elegantly and enthrallingly, without ever alienating its audience.

It manoeuvres around the traps that have consumed innumerable movies in the past — movies that spend way too long at the table, and waste a disproportionate amount of time trying to teach the viewer pointless details about the game. Although I am willing to wager that it will meet the standards of any chess expert who wishes to scrutinise its accuracy.

Some of the show’s best face-offs are literally that — two characters, sitting across each other, engaged in a mental duel. In a few of the most high-stakes matches, the chessboard isn’t even seen. That’s an astonishingly bold directorial decision to have made. If Beth corners her opponent, as she often tends to, we don’t see it represented by the falling of a rook, but we see it in star Anya Taylor-Joy’s eyes. And what enchanting eyes they are — capable of communicating more eloquently than a thespian with 12 Tonys.

The Queen’s Gambit soars with the sort of confidence on screen that Beth displays on the board. It relies on its audience to connect the dots themselves; nudging them in the right directions, but resisting the urge to feed crucial information through clunky dialogue and plot contrivances. This makes the payoffs all the more satisfying, because you feel a sense of accomplishment for having arrived at the correct conclusions.

And as Beth Harmon takes her seat across her challengers — entitled and arrogant men of all ages — she glances up from the board, and with the briefest of looks, pierces their souls with her eyes. She sees fear. And what they see rattles them: a young girl, more skilled than they could ever imagine to be. In those moments, before either player is on the clock, Beth knows that she has won. And not just at chess.

The series is currently showing on Netflix.

Movie Time – Babe Pig In the City

Babe: Pig in the City is a 1998 Australian-American comedy-drama film and the sequel to the 1995 film Babe. It is co-written, produced and directed by George Miller, who co-wrote and produced the original film. The film was nominated for Best Original Song at the 1998 Academy Awards.

Months after the events of the first film, Babe and his master, Arthur Hoggett, are given a welcome home parade after Babe’s success as a “sheepdog”. One day, Babe inadvertently causes an accident and Arthur is severely injured. His wife, Esme, is unsuccessful tending the farm alone.

Soon, two men from the bank arrive to inform Esme that she and Arthur have not paid their rent on time, and they will soon be evicted. Esme locates a letter saying that if she enters Babe in a sheepdog herding contest, held at a fair far away, she will receive a large amount of money. She decides to enter Babe and they leave the farm together.

At the airport in the city of Metropolis, a sniffer dog falsely signals that Babe and Esme are carrying illegal substances. Airport security officers interrogate them, causing them to miss their connecting flight. An airport cleaner informs them about a hotel that is suitable for accommodating animals, so Esme and Babe go there.

While Esme runs an errand, Babe chases a black and white capuchin monkey after he steals Esme’s suitcase. Fleeing into a hotel room, Babe follows the capuchin monkey and meets three clothed chimpanzees named Bob, Zootie and Easy, as well as Thelonius, an orangutan butler for the landlady’s elderly uncle, Fugly Floom, a clown who kidnaps Babe to use in his act. Babe initially refuses, but accepts when the chimps mention a reward he will receive after doing the act.

When Esme returns, Fugly tricks her into thinking that Babe ran off into the city. Esme leaves to look for Babe, but is arrested after inadvertently causing mayhem with some hooligan bikers and police officers. Fugly performs his clown act at a hospital, but the act is thrown into chaos when Babe accidentally trips him and causes him to throw a flaming torch into the stage curtains, setting them on fire and forcing everyone out.

The next morning, Fugly goes to the hospital in a food coma escorted by the landlady. Babe is in his room, hungry and waiting for Esme to return. That night, the chimps try to steal food from a store and use Babe to distract two guard dogs, who chase Babe around the city. Babe falls into a river and swims away, but returns and saves one of the dogs from drowning. The bullterrier Tug becomes friends with Babe, and Babe invites him and the other homeless animals into the hotel. They share food and then sing, alerting the duck Ferdinand who was searching for Babe. Zootie gives birth to twins, and the animals celebrate.

Animal control officers are called to capture all the animals and seize them, except for Babe, the capuchin monkey, duck Ferdinand and jackrussellterrier Flealick. Remembering what Maa told him before her death, Babe decides to rescue them. The next day, Esme is released after explaining her predicament. That night, Babe, the capuchin monkey, Flealick, and Ferdinand sneak into animal control and open their friends’ cages. Esme returns to the hotel and reunites with the landlady, who is mourning her uncle’s death, and tells Esme that her neighbor, Hortense, was the one who got the animals taken away. Esme and the landlady confront Hortense to find out where the animals have been sent, then set off to find them.

Esme and the landlady track the animals to a charity dinner in the hospital’s ballroom, and manage to get them back. Afterwards, the landlady sells the hotel and gives the money to Esme so she can save the farm. The landlady and the animals come to stay at the farm, where Arthur has recovered from his injury. Arthur proudly watches Babe, and says, “That’ll do, pig. That’ll do.”

Must Watch Movies – Baby’s Day Out

Baby’s Day Out is a 1994 American comedy film directed by Patrick Read Johnson and written by John Hughes, who also produced the film. Starring Joe Mantegna, Lara Flynn Boyle, Joe Pantoliano, and Brian Haley, the plot centers on a wealthy baby’s abduction by three criminals, his subsequent escape and adventure through Chicago while being pursued by the criminals.

The film was released on July 1, 1994 by 20th Century Fox in the United States to both critical and commercial failure, grossing only $16.7 million against a $48 million budget. Despite this, it has since become a cult film, in South Asian markets.

Bennington Austin “Bink” Cotwell IV, the infant son of socialites Laraine and Bennington Austin “Bing” Cotwell III, lives in a huge mansion in a suburb of Chicago and is just about to appear in the social pages of the newspaper. Three klutzy criminals, Edgar “Eddie” Mauser, Norbert “Norby” LeBlaw, and Victor “Veeko” Riley, disguise themselves as baby photographers from the newspaper and kidnap him, demanding a $5 million ransom. After the kidnapping, however, the criminals have difficulty controlling Bink at their flat; Norby attempts to put him to sleep by reading his favourite storybook, “Baby’s Day Out” (or “Boo-boo”, as he calls it), only to fall asleep himself from boredom, leaving him unattended. Looking through the book, he notices a bird on the page and then by the window; he follows it out and successfully gets away from his kidnappers; the ensuing chase culminates in Eddie falling off the building and into a garbage bin. Norby and Veeko rescue him and they begin pursuing Bink across the city.

The FBI arrives at the mansion, headed by Dale Grissom, where they try to piece together clues along with Bink’s parents and his nanny, Gilbertine. Meanwhile, Bink, now outside on the ground and crawling about, finds another part of his book – the blue bus, which he then boards. The criminals realize he is escaping and start chasing the bus in their van, but their efforts are in vain. Meanwhile, on the bus, Bink crawls into the bag of an obese lady, who gets off at her stop shortly afterwards. By the time the criminals catch the bus, they realize Bink is not on board and follow the lady, to which an altercation ensues after she catches them. In the distraction, Bink crawls up to a revolving door at the entrance to a department store and is forced inwards by its momentum. He is stopped by a employee who works for the store’s day care center, believing he is another baby who escaped from there. He then escapes from the store and eventually crawls into traffic after a ride on a taxi. The criminals attempt to follow him, but keep getting injured in the process as he makes his way to the city zoo. They are shocked to find him in the ape house with a western lowland gorilla, which shows a maternal side and does not injure him. The criminals try to retrieve him, but the gorilla notices and pounds Veeko’s hand, throws Norby into the air using a mop as a catapult, and hurls Eddie against the bars of the opposite cage after roaring loudly at him.

The criminals corner and catch Bink in the zoo’s park, but are confronted by two friendly police officers who have noticed that their van’s engine is still running. During the conversation, Eddie hides Bink under his coat in his lap, but Bink reaches his cigarette lighter, setting his crotch on fire and sneaking off as soon as the officers are gone; Veeko extinguishes the fire by stomping repeatedly on Eddie’s groin. They then follow Bink to a construction site, where they’re still unable to catch him due to Veeko getting thrown off the building and into the back of a garbage truck, Norby falling into a vat of wet cement, and Eddie getting stranded on a crane after being drenched in glue; the sun then sets as Bink and the construction crew leave the site. After managing to escape, the criminals give up on catching Bink and return home.

Bink’s parents are notified of various sightings of him in the city and Gilbertine deduces that he has been following “Baby’s Day Out”, and will most likely head for the Old Soldiers’ Home next. They find him there, but on the way home, he begins to call out “Boo-Boo” toward the criminals’ flat; the FBI arrive and arrest them, who return Bink’s book. Back at home, he is put to bed by his parents, who discuss having his picture taken by a normal photographer in the morning while unbeknownst to them, he wakes up and gets ready to read another book titled “Baby’s Trip to China”.