Wednesday, September 30, 2020

Rosy the Reviewer Recommends: Some Oldies But Goodies You Might Not Know About

[I review "Sorry We Missed You," "Ali and Nino," "London Town," "How to Build a Girl," and "7500."]




Since many of us still can't go anywhere or have nowhere to go, if you are stuck at home, here are some movies you might not know about that are worth seeing.



Sorry We Missed You (2019)



A family struggles to makes ends meet as a U.K. delivery driver gets caught up in the exploitation of the gig economy.


Since the 2008 crash, Ricky (Kris Hitchen) and Abbie (Debbie Honeywood) have been fighting a losing battle. They lost their home and are drowning in debt and struggling to get by as they raise their two teens, Seb (Rhys Stone) and Liza (Katie Proctor).  When Ricky is offered a chance to start his own franchise as a delivery driver (think a contract driver making deliveries for Amazon), he jumps at the chance, but to afford his own delivery van, he talks Abbie into selling the family car which she needs to travel to her job as a home health care worker for older adults.But she is a supportive wife and takes the bus. Both parents work long, difficult hours, most days a week, and the family is suffering. Son Seb doesn't help with his skipping school and getting into trouble and young Liza is feeling the stress of the family strife, wetting the bed and having panic attacs. And when Ricky is assaulted while making one of his deliveries, the stress all proves to be too much. 

I love my British “working class” dramas and no one does them better than director Ken LoachLoach is probably not that well known in the U.S. but his film “Kes” was voted the seventh greatest film of the 20th century by the British Film Institute and is in the book “1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die (I loved that one too)!" His socialist ideals are reflected in his films as he deals with social issues like homelessness, poverty and the everyday worker. Here he takes on the gig economy.

So what's the "gig economy?"

Basically, companies hire people for short-term jobs or "gigs."  This is cheaper for the company because they don't pay benefits and it can be a boon for the worker to work at home or have flexible work hours. But it is all rife with exploitation - there are no aforementioned benefits, companies often pay less than a full-time employee would get and the worker has no rights and no job security.

That is what Ricky faces as he tries to make a go of his delivery franchise under the supervision of the ruthless Maloney (Ross Brewster), who isn't doing our Ricky any favors.


With a screenplay by Paul Laverty, the film is slow moving but mesmerizing, because Loach depicts real life like no other director, provides no easy answers and reminds us that no matter where we live, we are all struggling for the good life. This film will give you a whole new perspective on that white van that pulls up to your house to deliver your Amazon package or that note that is left on your door when someone tries to deliver a package - "Sorry we missed you." A whole lot of people are getting missed these days.


And you will be sorry if you miss this brilliant film.


Rosy the Reviewer says…this compelling, award-winning film is highly recommended but warning: those Northern England accents can be challenging to the American ear and there are no subtitles but you can do it! Paying attention and concentrating is good for the brain!

(Available On Demand and from Amazon Prime as well as on DVD from Netflix)



Ali and Nino (2016)




A classic love story about a Muslim Azerbaijani boy and Christian Georgian girl in Azerbaijan from 1918-1920.

Bet you never wondered what was happening in Azerbaijan (do you even know where it is?) and Georgia (no, not that state in the U.S., the country in Asia) during W.W. I, right? Well, this film highlights that little known part of history while at the same time telling the love story of Ali (Adam Bakri) and Nino (Maria Valverde).

As teens, Ali and Nino fall in love. Based on the supposed true story of Ali Khan Shirvanshir, Ali is a rich Muslim boy living in Baku in Azerbaijan. Nino is a Georgian Orthodox Christian whose wealthy Kipiani family also lives in Baku. Despite their differences, Ali and Nino are going to wed but then World War I breaks out in Europe and there is that little matter of a kidnapping.

Malik (Riccardo Scamarcio), who is supposedly Ali's friend, has also fallen in love with Nino and kidnaps her, planning to force her to marry him, but Ali confronts and kills Malik, forcing Ali to flee the country.

Now Nino is damaged goods and her family wants to send her off to Moscow but she is determined to find Ali, which she does. Nino and Ali are reunited in the mountains, are married and live what looks to be a happy life in the country, despite their aristocratic upbringings.  But the Bolsheviks, who have amassed 30,000 troops on the Azerbaijan border have other ideas and, so does Ali, who decides he needs to fight to keep Azerbaijan free. If you watch enough historical romances, you know that romances like this are never allowed a happy ending. This film is no exception but though it's a heart-wrenching ending, it is also a stunning one. 


Written by Christopher Hampton (based on the book by Kurban Said) and directed by Asif Kapadia, this is a dramatic love story that is beautiful to look at with a mesmerizing score that will transport you to another world.


Rosy the Reviewer says...it's a sort of Azerbaijani Dr. Zhivago that will remind you that things could be worse.
(In Azerbaijani, Russian and English with English subtitles. Available on DVD and to rent on Amazon Prime and Vudu)


London Town (2016)



A 14-year-old boy's life is changed forever when he discovers the music of The Clash.

With a screenplay by Matt Brown and directed by Derrick Borte, this is another one of those coming of age films the Brits do so well, where a young man’s life is transformed by music (Blinded by the Light;” “Yesterday). 

This time it’s The Clash that saves 14-year-old Shay (Daniel Huttlestone) from the sadness of his broken home (his mother, Sandrine (Natascha McElhone), left them to live a bohemian life in London) and the responsibility to take care of his younger sister, Alice (Anya McKenna-Bruce), and help his Dad (Dougray Scott) in his piano shop.  But when his Dad has an accident and can no longer work, Shay has even more to deal with when he tries to keep things together. 

It doesn't help that the late 1970's were turbulent bad times in the U.K. with the rise of the National Front and the tough economy for the working class under the Thatcher government, so no wonder the music was angry and skinheads and punks surfaced. People also said “piss off” a lot back then, too.

But then Shay meets Vivian (Nell Williams) on the train.  She is a punk girl and introduces Shay to the punk sceneVivian explains the politics of punk: that The Clash are punks and punks support racial cooperation and working-class empowerment and the skinheads are gits, that's Brit speak for the kinds of folks who advocate white supremacy and support the National Front. After meeting Vivian, Shay embraces punk - jeans, leather jacket and died black hair fashioned into a pompadour. But despite the joy of his punk life, Shay soon discovers that he isn't going to be able to keep things going on the homefront.  But then he meets his Clash idol, Joe Strummer(Jonathan Rhys Meyers), and things start looking up.

But despite the nod to history, this film is nostagia and all a bit of a fantasy. I mean, can this 14-year-old kid really get away with keeping the family going by dressing up as a woman (so he will look older) and driving his Dad’s cab? And when Shay meets Joe Strummer in the flesh, is Joe really likely to help this kid open up a new business? But that’s okay. Suspend your disbelief. We need nostalgia and fantasy today, and this all works because of the engaging young actors and the adorable Jonathon Rhys Meyers?

Rosy the Reviewer says…Clash fans will enjoy this, but so will those who enjoy well-made movies that celebrate the power of music to heal and those who can remember what it was like to be young. Let’s just say I do and I do and I chuckled at the end with tears in my eyes. It’s one of those kinds of movies.


How to Build a Girl (2019)



Who knew that young, shy Johanna Morrigan (Beanie Feldstein), growing up on a council estate in Wolverhampton, England would become an influential music critic?  Well, you heard it here first, folks!


It's the 1990's and 16-year-old Johanna Morrigan lives with her aspiring rock star father Pat played by Paddy Considine ("aspiring rock star" is a euphemism for unemployed), her depressed and overwhelmed mother Angie (Sarah Solemani), and brothers Krissi (Laurie Kynaston), Lupin (Stellan Powell) and two infant twins. But she yearns to escape and become a writer and she gets hope when she wins a poetry contest.  So when the family faces a financial crisis, Johanna vows to earn money to help her family.  Her brother, Krissi, tells her about a London music paper - D&ME - that is looking for a rock critic and she is able to convince them to give her a chance, even though it's a boy's club and she is taken on as a kind of joke.

But it's no joke to Johanna who takes this all very seriously, especially what a rock critic should look like.  Johanna decides she needs to build herself up as a proper rock critic with an edgier style, red hair, and a top hat and sets out to immerse herself in the rock and roll scene.  When she is sent to Dublin to interview musician, John Kite (Alfie Allen), he is instantly taken with her bubbly personality and the two have a bit of a fling.  

But then she is fired for writing a glowing review of Kite (deemed a schoolgirl crush by the male magazine editors), so she decides the road to success lies with edgier, cruel even, reviews.  She is rehired and, under the guise of "Dolly Wilde," writes scathing reviews and becomes a popular critic, so popular, in fact, that she receives the "Arsehole of the Year Award (in England, I guess that's a compliment)."  She also becomes sexually promiscuous and drinks a bit.  Alright, she drinks a lot, which doesn't help when she runs into John again and drunkenly confesses her feelings and tries to kiss him. But he rejects her because he doesn't approve of her mean reviews.  Things go from bad to worse for our girl until she realizes she needs to build herself back up yet again, this time for the better.


If you liked Beanie Feldstein in "Booksmart," - I did - you will like her even more in this film based on a (sort of) true story.  Though Beanie is not British (in fact, she is Jonah Hill's sister), she does a good job of making us believe she is. But you don't have to know who Beanie is or be young to enjoy this film about a young girl coming of age and finding herself. I may be old but I can still remember what that was like (and you "Game of Thrones" fans will enjoy seeing Alfie Allen doing something besides getting abused as Theon Greyjoy)!

Adapted for the screen by Caitlin Moran, from her own novel, and directed by Coky Giedroyc, this film is a refreshing story that is funny, heartwarming and, yes, sweet.


Rosy the Reviewer says...just the antidote you might need for a particularly bad day. I know it was for me. Loved it!

(Available on DVD from Netflix and to rent on Amazon Prime)



7500 (2019)




Hijackers try to take over a plane while a soft-spoken co-pilot tries to save the passengers and himself.


Who knew Joseph Gordon-Levitt would be a believable action star? I still remember him as the wise-cracking kid from “3rd Rock from the Sun.” But this is no ordinary Bruce Willis type action film. This is a film about a real life man thrust into a very real life, believable and scary situation.


Here Gordon-Levitt plays Tobias Ellis, an American co-pilot on a German commercial flight on its way to Paris from Berlin. The film starts out showing the routine and tedium of loading a regular commercial flight, its very normalcy ominous because of what is to later transpire. We see the passengers sitting in the waiting area, and then, we can see from the camera on the flight deck, the attendants in the kitchen, greeting the passengers as they board and the pilot and co-pilot performing all the checks and cross-checks as they get ready for take-off. It’s all very ordinary and routine.

And then, as one of the flight attendants enters the flight deck to bring the pilot some water, a hijacker makes his way in and attacks the pilot and Tobias and kills the flight attendant. Tobias manages to knock out the hijacker with a fire extinguisher and get the flight deck door closed, but he and the pilot are both injured, stabbed by shards of broken glass fashioned by the hijackers.

As Tobias radios the control tower (“7500” is the air traffic control code for a hijacking), the hijackers are pounding on the flight door and we can hear screams and noises as the hijackers wreak havoc in the cabin, something made more frightening because we can’t see into the cabin, only what is happening right outside the flight deck door, so our imaginations run wild. Tobias ties up the hijacker in the cabin and tries to tend to the captain as well as fly the airplane back to Hanover, the nearest airport, in a very tense real time 20 minutes, with the hijackers standing in view of the flight deck, threatening to kill passengers if Tobias doesn’t open the door. It was the longest 20 minutes of my life! I found myself yelling at the TV – “Don’t open the door!” And yet we see the hijackers killing the passengers. What should Tobias do? White knuckle time on the plane (and in my living room)!


This is a tour de force for Gordon-Levitt. Most of the film takes place in a claustrophobic confined space as Tobias wrestles with life and death situations while dealing with the hijacker left in the cockpit and trying to get the plane to Hanover. Gordon-Levitt is believable as an unlikely hero, thrust into a situation he did not see coming.


I have always been fascinated by thrillers that take place on airplanes. Maybe it’s because I have never quite understood how planes fly and have a love-hate relationship with flying on planes. And the whole hijacker film trope has been in the American consciousness ever since the 60’s when it seemed like there was a hijacking every week (there actually was), and then that very, very terrible day, 9/11. I still haven’t gotten over the film “United 93,” a wonderful story of heroism but a brutally sad depiction of the 9/11 plane that is believed to have been headed to crash into the White House or the Capitol and the passengers that rose up against the hijackers, foiling their plan but, unable to save themselves, crashing into a Pennsylvania field.


Rosy the Reviewer says…written by Patrick Vollrath and Senad Halilbasic and directed by Vollrath, this is another inspiring portrait of heroism which is what we need right now. It’s also a tense and wonderful film that is not to be missed.
(Streaming now on Amazon Prime)




Thanks for reading!

See you again soon!



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Next time you are wondering whether or not to watch a particular film, check out my reviews on IMDB (The International Movie Database).


Go to IMDB.com, find the movie you are interested in.  Scroll down below the synopsis and the listings for the director, writer and main stars to where it says "Reviews" and click on "Critics" - If I have reviewed that film, you will find Rosy the Reviewer alphabetically on the list.

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