Quick Picks reviews are short, sharp and informative while guaranteeing you a diverse mix of viewing recommendations from new releases to classics and hidden gems. This weeks edition features Lost at Christmas, HAM: A Musical Memoir, My Dead Ones and Concrete Plans.
Lost at Christmas (2020)
Lost At Christmas will be in UK cinemas from 4th December and on Digital Download from 7th December.
Based on his 2015 short film, Perfect Strangers, director Ryan Hendrick takes us on a festive journey into the Scottish Highlands with his new rom-com. His delightful but slightly flawed, will they, won’t they romance full of Scottish charm, with performances that carry the warmth of a rich malt whisky. Meanwhile, the director’s love of Doctor Who also shines through. With Sylvester McCoy, Frazer Hines and Caitlin Blackwood (the young Amelia Pond) all making an appearance. The snowbound ClacHaig Inn at times resembling a low-key, Doctor Who convention.
The resulting film is a mixed bag, ranging from sickly sweet Yuletide romance to a more interesting exploration of loneliness. The opening 40 minutes are far too slow in establishing its core characters. While in contrast, the final half whizzes by, the narrative finally finding a festive warmth. And while it may not offer anything unique and may trip up several times, it does carry a delicate charm at Christmas. So pull up a chair, pour yourself a whisky and drape a blanket over your legs. Because while it may be cold outside, there’s warmth in the ClacHaig Inn. As a snow-bound group of travellers find unexpected comfort in each others company.
Director: Ryan Hendrick
HAM: A Musical Memoir (2020)
HAM: A MUSICAL MEMOIR, is showing in virtual theatres December 3rd and on digital platforms from January 7th
Based on his 2014 autobiography HAM: Slices of a Life, broadway star Sam Harris brings his collection of personal essays to the stage in a delightful, funny and touching one-person show. His journey from Bible Belt Oklahoma to the broadway stage, full of colour, heartfelt emotion and glitter. While at the same time exploring the journey to self-acceptance as a gay man within the madcap world of entertainment. Of course, it’s entirely possible that for British audiences, Sam Harris may be mostly unknown. However, that does not distract from the sheer talent on display in his one-person show. His life story, full of electric energy that brings a smile to your face. But, when this is combined with moments of deep emotion, song, dance, and vivid characters, his honey-glazed show shines with sincerity.
However, even more importantly, Ham: A Musical Memoir reminds us of the glorious worlds of live theatre stolen from us by COVID 19; the power of live performance in storytelling, shining brightly on-screen. In a series of interconnecting essays that embody the very best of live theatre. With Sam Harris glowing throughout, as he takes us on a deeply personal, funny, engaging and beautiful journey.
Director: Andrew Putschoegl
My Dead Ones (2020)
My Dead Ones is available to rent or buy now on all major platforms
With a captivating central performance from Nicolas Prattes as the damaged and psychologically disturbed young David, My Dead Ones provides us with a rich exploration of fractured realities through a lens of voyeurism. With director Diego Freitas weaving his tale of horror from the perspective of a damaged yet equally vulnerable young man. Here, David’s entire worldview is unreliable, chaotic and fragmented. In a dreamlike psychological thriller that takes its time in delving into the deepest caverns of David’s mind. His whole life, wrapped in a fantastical world of horror that both unnerves and exploits the viewer. However, this very complexity also provides us with My Dead Ones biggest flaw; It’s convoluted twists and turns, losing the audience long before its meditative end.
Meanwhile, fascinating themes of belonging, bullying and escapism are lost as the narrative descends into introspection. The Hitchcock inspired complexity of David’s character and his fluctuating sexuality left hanging. While at the same time, the link between Davids macabre filmmaking and his view of it as experimental art never finds a dedicated voice. The result is a beautiful arthouse thriller that never quite finds its footing as a fascinating slice of psychological horror.
Director: Diego Freitas
Concrete Plans (2020)
Concrete Plans is available to rent or buy now on all major platforms
Concrete Plans never finds a firm foundation despite a solid cast, its weak plot built on muddy ground. As a group of cash-in-hand Welsh builders unexpectedly become cold-blooded killers. Their descent into madness and murder a result of financial disputes with the ex-military landowner who treats them with disdain, forcing them to live in a dilapidated caravan onsite while he and his beautiful wife sit in luxury. But, all is not as it first appears, and as financial disagreements mount, the builders soon learn that the luxury around them may well be a mirage.
Concrete Plans excels in exploring a building trade where cheap foreign labourers are often treated with contempt. However, while playing with the social issues surrounding racism and illegal employment, Concrete Plans never finds a unique voice. Serbian builder Viktor (Goran Bogdan) ultimately sacrificed in a story that could have coupled horror with much broader social themes. Meanwhile, other characters feel underdeveloped; their motivations and backstories rushed. The result of which leaves the audience with little attachment or sympathy as the body count mounts. However, that does not mean that there are not glimmers of what could have been in the story that ensues. And given more time and character development, Concrete Plans could have cemented its place as a substantial social horror.
Director: Will Jewell
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