Quick Picks brings you short reviews of movies available to rent, buy or stream now. This Quick Pick features Dream Horse (2020), Dead Shack (2018) and Nail Bomber: Manhunt (2021).
Dream Horse (2020)
Sixteen months ago, I sat in a screening room at Warner Brothers in London. The film was Dream Horse; the planned release date was April 2020. Of course, this was never to be, as COVID 19 trampled all over the release schedules studios had planned. But now Dream Horse is finally ready to run, and in my opinion, you won’t find a better feel-good movie as spring turns to summer and lockdown eases. Here, director Euros Lyn laces the humour of The Full Monty with the community spirit and passion of Brassed Off and Pride, in creating a delightful underdog story that shines with sincerity. The resulting film is a joyous crowd-pleaser that celebrates community, individuality and an unshakable belief in luck.
Based on the true story of Jan Vokes (Toni Collette), a bartender in a depressed Welsh town. Dream Horse recounts the stranger than fiction story of Dream Alliance, a racehorse trained by Jan, her husband Brian (Owen Teale), and their business partner Howard (Damian Lewis). But, this partnership is not rooted in wealth or privilege. Instead, Dream Alliance is raised on the local allotment, his upkeep part of a community ownership model. Here, the cost of his training is spread out among interested townsfolk. Many of them scrimping and scraping together the £10 a month needed in the hope of a big win at the races.
Of course, the film’s finale is clear from the outset in a movie that wears its heart on its sleeve. But, despite the predictable journey, Euro Lyn’s film remains engaging and heartwarming from start to finish. The dreams of a rundown community, moving from a slow trot to an energetic canter and award-winning gallop. But, what truly makes Dream Horse leap from the screen are the performances of an amazing ensemble cast. And as a result, what is largely a paint by numbers feel-good movie becomes something more. A story of hope, togetherness and belief. And that is a story never more needed than now.
DREAM HORSE GALLOPS INTO UK CINEMAS ON JUNE 4th
Dead Shack (2017)
Let’s face it there is no shortage of zombie movies in our world, most playing with imagery and themes created by Romero in his classic Night of the Living Dead. It’s fair to say, Dead Shack is also keen to embrace the classic zombie movie cliches of its predecessors. The familiar narrative of an isolated house surrounded by scary woods and a family under siege at the heart of its flesh munching action. So why, I hear you ask are we recommending it? The answer to this is simple; it’s bloody good fun, with dry Canadian wit rippling through every scene.
Based on a classic ‘cabin in the woods’ premise, Dead Shack never attempts to deviate from the tried and tested zombie format. Here we meet 14-year-old Jason (Matthew Nelson-Mahood) as he escapes from his home for a weekend in the woods with best friend Colin (Gabriel LaBelle); his older sister Summer (Lizzie Boys); their dad Roger (Donavon Stinson) and his girlfriend Lisa (Valerie Tian). The small run-down cabin providing a place to chill out, drink and play card games. However, not far up the road, a doting mother protects her unique family at all costs with family mealtimes a sinister game of cat and mouse.
With a nicely paced build-up of both horror and comedy, Dead Shack gloriously unpicks the family unit. Openly challenging the notion that adults know best, by placing its teen leads in charge of the action. Its screenplay humming with some brilliantly timed comedy, while also enabling its characters to grow. Meanwhile, blood and gore flow through practical effects work full of heart and soul. Creating a truly engaging and entertaining zombie horror that shines with humour.
Dead Shack is showing now on Shudder
Nail Bomber: Manhunt
On the 30th of April 1999, at around 5.30 pm, a man walked into the Admiral Duncan pub in Soho and ordered a glass of coke. In his possession was a bag, a bag that he proceeded to leave on the floor as he asked a customer for the location of a nearby cash machine. As the young man strolled out of the small pub, pushing past those enjoying the start of a bank holiday weekend, the bag sat unattended. At 6.30 pm, the bag exploded, killing three people and injuring dozens more—many of the injuries life-changing. This was the third nail bomb to strike at the heart of London’s minority communities and the most deadly.
To this day, The Admiral Duncan bombing remains the UK’s worst terrorist attack directed against the gay community. At the time, many blamed the Police for failing to prevent it, while others pointed to a police force who cared little for minority communities. But, what is the truth behind the nail bomber? And can the new Netflix documentary Nail Bomber: Manhunt provide fresh insight into the case?
First, let me make one thing clear, I have no intention of naming the man who committed these acts in this review. He deserves no attention, no comment and none of my words. Second, as with many crime documentaries, it’s the victims and communities targeted that should take centre stage. But, does Netflix achieve this? The answer to that question is yes and no.
Documentary filmmaker Daniel Vernon does an outstanding job of highlighting London’s diversity, vibrant energy, and multicultural joy. His interviews with those affected by the first bomb in Brixton Market, the second in Electric Avenue and the third and most deadly in Soho highlighting the power and strength inherent in London’s diverse communities. Equally, his exploration of the fascist extremism sitting under the political party known as the BNP is assured and fascinating. Here, an informer who infiltrated the BNP and the fascist movement behind it provides insight into the workings, political face and destruction it brought. Its legacy still sitting within many more recent political movements. However, these big political and social issues also feel constrained, with little space for debate and exploration in a confined runtime.
This lack of space is highlighted by the critical questions of intersectionality left hanging. After all, we know that fascists despise any group different from themselves—their political beliefs and hatred transcending labels of race, sexuality, disability and religion. As a result, the essential discussions on nationalism raised deserved more time and space. Therefore, in many ways, Vernon’s documentary feels incomplete, despite its urgent subject matter. His lens focused on history rather than how the events of 1999 continue to echo throughout our modern society.
However, despite these flaws, Nail Bomber: Manhunt does reexamine the police investigation into the terror attacks. While at the same time diving into the challenges of police undercover work in extremist groups. But, most importantly, the surviving victims of the 1999 bombings are finally given a long-overdue voice.
NAIL BOMBER: MANHUNT IS AVAILABLE NOW ON NETFLIX