Mid-Day Mini ~ The Paper

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The Facts:

Synopsis: Henry Hackett is the editor of a New York City tabloid. A workaholic who loves his job, the long hours and low pay are leading to discontent until a hot story soon confronts Henry with tough decisions over the course of one 24 hour period.

Stars: Michael Keaton, Robert Duvall, Glenn Close, Marisa Tomei, Randy Quaid, Jason Robards, Jason Alexander, Lynne Thigpen

Director: Ron Howard

Rated: R

Running Length: 112 minutes

TMMM Score: (7.5/10)

Review:  In between period pieces Far and Away and Apollo 13, director Ron Howard (Parenthood, Backdraft) delivered this fast-moving and involving comedy-drama that takes place over 24 hours and focuses in on the goings-on at a NYC daily newspaper.   Not a high-class publication like the New York Times but maybe just above the near tabloid nature of the New York Post, the newspaper at the center of The Paper is struggling and its editor (Keaton) is thinking about the future.  With a pregnant wife (Oscar-winner Tomei), a crazed reporter (Quaid who we all know now is crazed in real life), a jaded colleague (Close, Albert Nobbs), and a veteran boss (Duvall, Tender Mercies, Jack Reacher) to juggle on a daily basis he burns the midnight oil thanks to Coke (the drink, not the powder) and gumption.

When a murder takes place and two youths are jailed it seems like any other story…until Keaton’s character begins to do some actual reporting and begins to see that things aren’t as cut and dry as they appear to be.  With a deadline looming and Close’s character breathing down his neck, the film keeps Keaton plowing on without getting much of a breather.

This is a solid film with good, easy performances and a better than average script thanks to David Koepp (Jurassic Park) and his brother Stephen.  Howard does what he does best and lets the movie develop naturally, placing most of the responsibility on his trusted star Keaton who doesn’t disappoint.  Close, too, is very effective as a dragon lady that’s talked about a lot before we finally see her.  When she does appear, Howard presents her in such a way that the first frame tells us everything we heard about her is right on the money.  Duvall and Tomei also turn in fine performances, navigating some cliché material with ease.

Aside from our above the title leads, Howard once again shows strength in casting by filling the newsroom and outside colleagues with strong character actors.  The late great Thigpen has a small role as Keaton’s secretary but makes the most out of her scenes…this is what true renaissance man/woman acting is all about.

Though print news is clearly dying off, The Paper is no period piece when viewed from an online, tech-savvy perspective.  True, some elements are clearly dated but the pursuit of the truth in the face of the grinding engine of economics still has an impact on our society today.  If you’ve never seen this one or haven’t revisited it in a while, check it out again.  It’s no classic but it’s a nice representation of the talent of all involved.

Mid-Day Mini ~ Pretty Woman

The Facts:

Synopsis: A man in a legal but hurtful business needs an escort for some social events, and hires a beautiful prostitute he meets… only to fall in love.

Stars: Richard Gere, Julia Roberts, Jason Alexander, Laura San Giacomo, Ralph Bellamy

Director: Garry Marshall

Rated: R

Running Length: 119 minutes

TMMM Score: (8/10)

Review:  Though Julia Roberts had already turned out memorable performances in Mystic Pizza and earned an Oscar nomination for Steel Magnolias, it would be Pretty Woman that sealed the deal and made her a bonafide movie star.  Even more surprising was that this glossy fairy tale about a hooker with a heart of gold was one of the biggest hits of the year and earned Roberts an Oscar nomination as Best Actress.  That thousand-watt smile was put to good use opposite the squinty eyed Richard Gere and the two made a great pair. (This magic was not present in a later collaboration, Runaway Bride).   Watching the movie now, I’m still impressed with how well it sidesteps its adult themes for an admittedly cleaned-up version of Los Angeles and its seedier parts.  Originally intended as a much darker film, director Garry Marshall knew that there was a shiny Cinderella story hidden underneath the grime so he relies heavily on his stars.  Marshall has always been a rather pedestrian director and that’s true here…but his casting is impeccable from Roberts all the way down to the bum that closes the movie.