Last Train Home – 4

The only interest for me was the cross-cultural view of the life of the Chinese factory worker, and its evidence of why they are making our blue jeans for us. The family story went nowhere in particular, and the contrast between city and country life was unconvincing: if life in the country was so much better, why did everyone leave? There was plenty here for a college student to write a paper about, but not much for the casual moviegoer to enjoy.

Tamara Drewe – 7

A casually clever countryside caper, the kind the British do so well, mostly about love – or is it sex? There are no car crashes – albeit a stampede of cows – and no patent absurdities – albeit a number of stretches. There are, however, a number of fun characters, all gracefully identified in cameo credits, and various morals to choose from. It’s not Gosford Park or even Cold Comfort Farm, but it passed the time pleasantly, and without the pretensions of, say, City of Final Destination.

Inside Job – 5

Unfortunatley overhyped, this expose of the 2008 financial crisis told us nothing we hadn’t already learned from Michael Lewis’s more insightful The Big Short. It wasted its skewers on academics, who were hardly major culprits, and the talking heads who provided the story line were mainly people we’d never heard of, whose legitimacy was never documented. All the major players “declined to be interviewed,” which eliminated any balance to the story and allowed filmmaker Charles Ferguson to cast aspersions, even where they were not warranted. The photography of Iceland and the Manhattan skyline was stunning, and Matt Damon’s narration was impeccable, but Inconvenient Truth or even Food, Inc. this was not.

You Will Meet A Tall Dark Stranger – 6.8

This had more the feeling of a short story – by O.Henry, say – than the movie equivalent of a novel. Not because it was short, which it was, but because it offered a slice of life, a la Woody Allen, without reaching any conclusions. Yes, it was a comment on the human condition, full of sound and fury but signifying nothing, as the narrator intoned. Also a comment on the difficulty of relationships, the instinct to rationalize, and overall self-centeredness. Helena was the worst at not noticing others around her, but not by much. By the film’s end, every character had made a major attempt at improving their lives, all without success; and for some it amounted to courting disaster.

Nowhere Boy – 5

On my personal scorecard of movies with the most gratuitous scenes of characters smoking, there is a new leader: Nowhere Boy. Scarcely a scene goes by without someone, old or young, fingering a cigarette. This factoid is of added interest, if not relevance, because director Sam Taylor-Wood happens to be the artist who created the video long shown in the Chambers Hotel lounge of the mixed-race group sitting in a bar with no perceptible movement – except for the ash at the end of a cigarette. Blink at the wrong time and your five minutes of waiting to see it fall are wasted.
There’s not that much to miss in this movie about John Lennon’s ‘youth,’ either. I use quotes, because Aaron Johnson, in a wonderfully natural performance, appears much closer to 24 than 17. Kristin Scott-Thomas, by contrast, uses one acting tic after another. There is no one, except perhaps the young Paul McCartney, we really care about, and the tortured relationships among John, his mother and aunt do little to explain the artist or the person that John became, which is the only conceivable reason for this movie’s existence.
By coincidence, a day later I was reading Keith Richards’s description of how the Rolling Stones were formed, which made the glib hookups of John, Paul and George in this film seem even shallower.