I've thought about doing this for awhile, and now I am. Oftentimes I see movies -- new or old -- and don't feel up to a full review, but still believe they're worth mentioning and commenting on in kind of a bare-bones way. Each time I build up a few of these, I'll post another edition of CineNotes.
The Kids Are All Right
Pro: Interesting film about a unique topic. The storytelling was tightly woven and kept me engaged the whole time.
Con: This is probably just my male bias, but I don't especially like how the dad character (Mark Ruffalo) takes a despicable turn toward the end. He was a complicated character that seems to become less complicated so that the conflict could resolve, which I think was a cheap trick.
Summary: Come on. You already know what it's about.
Pro: It's great. Just see it. I saw it twice in a weekend, and I don't do that often. I'd definitely recommend seeing it a second time so you can understand some of the finer points that may have breezed past in the first viewing.
Con: SPOILER ALERT! This damn well better not have been all a dream. That is the tiredest shtick in the history of storytelling. Therefore, I refuse to believe that interpretation of an otherwise great film.
Summary: Angelina Jolie is Agent Salt, a merciless CIA agent who always finds a clever way to get out of a jam. But is she a Russian double-agent?
Pro: Truly brutal and creative violence. You root for Salt to kick ass even though you're not sure what side she's on.
Con: Not a particularly intelligent or realistic story. But then again, it's not trying to be. And it also just seems odd that we are still making movies about Communist spies.
Pro: Truly disturbing movie from director Lars von Trier that suits the Halloween season, assuming you don't have a weak stomach and enjoy art films that have a few slow moments. The imagery is simultaneously beautiful and despicable. I like its play on the meaning of fear, the dueling concepts of rationality and the supernatural.
Con: Was I supposed to laugh when the fox bellowed "CHAOS REIGNS!" or what? Because I did.
Boxcar Bertha (1972)
Summary: Scorsese's first Hollywood film, produced by Roger Corman, Boxcar Bertha is set in the South during the Great Depression, when union men were subject to brutal beatings by police for being "Reds." A group of four innocent misfits breaks out of jail, and they become train and bank robbers. Father and son John and David Carradine both star.
Pro: There are some fun moments, but overall . . . meh. It's not terrible, and it's worth seeing if your goal is to say you've seen every Scorsese picture.
Con: It's pretty easy to tell that it was made in the 70s. Everyone looks and talks a little too groovy for it to be the Depression. It is essentially a B-movie though, so whatever. It's certainly not in the top 50 percentile of Scorsese films.
Summary: This documentary, written and directed by Kobi Shely, tells the history of Apple and Macintosh from its origins in the 80s to the unveiling of the iPhone in 2007. Fanboys and fangirls abound.
Pro: You get to see the absurdity of Apple addicts exalting Steve Jobs as savior although the primary difference between Apple and PC is the smug marketing, which from the start has said that you are special and different -- and part of a "community" -- if you shell out hundreds more for a Mac.
Con: These people make me want to vomit. I was hoping for an indictment, but this film was more of a celebration.
Cape Fear (1991)
Summary: Martin Scorsese's remake of a 1962 film tells the story of a convicted murderer and rapist (Robert De Niro) released from jail after over a decade who has come back to haunt his lackluster defense lawyer (Nick Nolte).
Con: The ending is a bit more insane than the movie warrants.
New York Stories (1989)
Summary: Three short films are tied together in New York Stories: one by Martin Scorsese (Nick Nolte is a brilliant painter whose gruff behavior slowly but surely turns off his much younger lover, student, and personal assistant), one by Woody Allen (a man's mother disappears while inside a magic show box and becomes a giant ethereal head in the sky), and one by Francis Ford Coppola (a privileged girl from Manhattan seeks love, friendship, and the reuniting of her parents).
Pro: Allen's film is hilarious, and Scorsese's is stylish and intriguing as usual.
Con: Sorry Francis, but this wasn't one of your better efforts. It was like watching one of the teen girl shows on Disney Channel or Nickeolodeon, except more precious, more ornate, and less funny.