Wednesday, 18 February 2015

Local Cinema Round-Up for 18th to 26th February 2015 by peter@virtual-lancaster.net

For up to date local cinema links and day-by-day  listings of what's showing on local screens every week visit the Virtual-Lancaster Cinema Page. Read on for the weekly round-up, and reviews.

There is something of a sparsity of new releases during this period. Comedy is represented by The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (PG). Drama with Backstreet Boys (15), a documentary about the musical group and Wild (15) a portrayal of a woman's quest to walk the Pacific Crest Trail.

We have lost the horror film The Woman in Black: Angel of Death and the science fiction Ex Machina. Also it looks likely that the films Taken 3 and Paddington are coming to the end of their screening. By way of compensation, there is the return of Tinker Bell and the legend of the NeverBeast.

There is an abundance of family entertainment at the moment with Shaun the Sheep; Big Hero 6; Fairytale: Story of the Seven Dwarves; Penguins of Madagascar, Peppa Pig: The Golden Boots and The Princess and the Frog.

For adult entertainment, Fifty Shades of Grey is the main draw. However there is also 'tongue in cheek' action with Kingsman: The Secret Service and the excellent dramas Selma; American Sniper; The Imitation Game and The Theory of Everything.

A major news item on the cinema front is the appearance of Lancaster's University 'Campus in the City 2' initiative. As part of this and in conjunction with the Dukes, a number of films are being shown in the former Trespass building on Cheapside in Lancaster city centre. Details are included in the Movie Listings section. One film of note is the excellent science fiction THX 1138 exploring love in a 25th Century Totalitarian State.

Finally on Sunday 22nd the Dukes are hosting another of their ever popular Film Quiz evenings.

Reviews

American Sniper
Director: Clint Eastwood
Certificate: 15
Cast Includes: Bradley Cooper, Sienna Miller, Ben Reed, Luke Grimes.
This is the story of Chris Kyle (Cooper), the most lethal sniper in American History with 160 confirmed kills. Following the attacks of 9/11 Kyle enlisted, and became a Navy SEAL marksman serving four tours of duty in Iraq. The film is based on his autobiography. As a sniper, Kyle was separate from the other troops and was forced to make life and death decisions depending of his perception of whether the person in his rifle cross-hairs was a terrorist or simply an innocent bystander. The film does not address the politics of the Iraq conflict, but is told from Kyles point of view. Thus his is the only character who has any depth (his history and the increasingly strained relationship with his wife is told in flashbacks). This is a tense movie, well acted and thought provoking, if a little one dimensional. Still it merits a trip to the cinema.

Birdman
Director: Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu
Certificate: 15
Cast includes: Lindsay Duncan, Edward Norton, Michael Keaton, Andrea Riseborough, Zach Galifiankis, Emma Stone.
Subtitled 'The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance' this is the story of washed up actor Riggan Thomas (Keaton), once famous for playing a movie superhero Birdman. However once he left the franchise, his career never recovered. Thus he is making a last ditch attempt to revive his fortunes by directing and acting in a play at the St James theatre on Broadway. The play is not going well and Riggan is plagued by his inner voice (manifest as the character Birdman), by quarrels with his actors and arguments with his family. The film appears to be shot as a single, cut free. sequence and it contains surreal, 'over the top' interludes. This is a dark comedy, a flight of fancy, about a self absorbed man. The acting is superb (especially Keaton) and the whole is a quirky must see movie that could be the film of 2015. If you can only see one movie, this is the one.

Fifty Shades of Grey
Director: Sam Taylor-Johnson
Certificate: 18
Cast includes: Jamie Dornan, Dakota Johnson
This is a much hyped film with a record for ticket pre-sales. It is based on the best selling 2011 novel by E. L. James. Anastasia Steel (Johnson) is a student who interviews the publicity shy billionaire Christian Grey (Dornan) as a college assignment. There is an immediate sexual chemistry between the two and they embark on an affair. However Grey has a desire to control everything in his life and his relationships have a strong sado-masochistic element. Hence he requires Anastasia to sign a contract if she wants the relationship to continue that will allow Grey to subjugate her. The film is an accurate portrayal of the book, though it omits the more sordid sex scenes. Essentially the film is soft porn for a female audience.

Into the Woods
Director: Rob Marshall
Certificate: PG
Cast Includes: Meryl Streep, Emily Blunt, Johnny Depp, James Corden, Anna Kendrick
This is a Walt Disney adaptation of Sondheim's 1987 hit musical of the same name. The film posits that the fairy tales of Little Red Riding Hood, Cinderella, Jack and the Beanstalk and Rapunzel are all happening simultaneously. Meanwhile a Baker and his wife wish to begin a family, but they cannot due to a witches curse. To lift the curse they must collect items from each of the fairy tales. This is a star studded musical with excellent performances, especially from Meryl Streep who plays the wicked witch. The original stage musical had a number of adult themes which are softened for the Disney version, but the end result is a great and entertaining family movie.

Kingsman: The Secret Service
Director: Matthew Vaughn
Certificate: 15
Cast Includes: Michael Caine, Samuel L. Jackson, Colin Firth, Sophie Cookson, Taron Egerton.
A spoof spy adventure based on the comic book series by Dave Gibbons and Mark Miller. Kingsman is an international covert spying agency and they recruit members from street wise misfits. A chavvy gang member Egysy (Egerton) is recruited by the ultra suave agent Harry Hart (Firth). To be accepted Egysy must become both refined and also pass a grueling 'boot camp' where he will learn how to be an agent. In the meantime the eccentric billionaire Valentine (Jackson) is planning to distribution free SIM cards, an act that will trigger the eradication of most of mankind. This is a very 'tongue in cheek' movie, in equal measures a violent action adventure and a comedy. There are outrageous gadgets and wonderful set pieces, with the movie being part James Bond and part every other spy movie you have ever seen. Irreverent and unmissable.

Mr Turner
Director: Mike Leigh
Certificate: 15
Cast includes: Timothy Spall, Marion Bailey
A biographical dramatization of the life of English painter J. M. W Turner. The film starts when Turner is aged 51 and working in his London studio. It follows Turner through depression following his father's death up until the painters own death in 1851 when he was living in Chelsea with his mistress Sophie Booth (Barley). Spall gives a great performance as Turner, bringing out his humanity and eccentricity. A very enjoyable movie.

Selma
Director: Ava DuVernay
Certificate: 12A
Cast Includes: David Oyelowo, Carmen Ejogo, Tom Wilkinson
A slice of American History. The film follows Martin Luther King (Oyelowo) and the events that led up to the 1965 civil rights march from Selma to Montgomery which preceded President Johnson's (Wilkinson) signing the voting Act of 1965 giving equal voting rights to Afro-American citizens. Not only does this film show the build up to the march, it also portrays something of the humour and character of Martin Luther King and the strain that his work imposed on his marriage to Coretta (Ejogo) and on his friends. It covers much of the political backdrop to the civil rights movement and contains images of violence and racial slurs that were endured by the marchers in their quest for equal voting rights.

The Imitation Game
Director: Morten Tyldum
Certificate: 12A
Cast Includes: Benedict Cumberbatch, Rory Kinnear, Keira Knightley
A portrayal of the life of computer genius Alan Turing (Cumberbatch) who masterminded the cracking of the German Enigma code in the second world war and continued to develop computer theory at Manchester University. The film opens in 1951 with a robbery taking place in Turing's house. Thence the film explores Turing's life by flashbacks to his schooling and his life in Bletchley Park. The acting in the film is excellent with Cumberbatch giving a particularly good performance. However the film rather backs away from Turing's homosexuality and his subsequent suicide after his persecution by the British Government.

The Theory of Everything
Director: James Marsh
Certificate: 12A
Cast Includes: Eddie Redmayne, Felicity Jones, Charlie Cox
A biopic of the early years of the world renown physicist Stephen Hawkins, based on the memoir 'Traveling to Infinity: My life with Stephen Hawkins' by Jane Hawkins. At Cambridge, Stephen Hawkins was an active young man who fell in love with literature student Jane Wilde. However, aged 21, Hawkins had an accidental fall which led to his being diagnosed with motor neuron disease and given just two years to live. The film shows the marriage of Stephen and Jane and how she supported him and their children during the years of their marriage (they divorced in 1995). This is a beautiful film likely to leave the audience in tears. The acting is excellent especially Redmayne's portrayal of Hawkins and the movie shows the lighter side of Hawkin's character, his humour and his passion.

Wild
Director: Jean-Marc Vallee
Certificate: 15
Cast includes: Reese Witherspoon, Thomas Sadoski
A biographical drama based on Sheryl Strayed's memoirs of her trek across America. Sheryl (Witherspoon) is a woman with an unfortunate past. Her mother died of cancer. Her marriage failed and she fell into reckless and self destructive behaviour. In an attempt to make sense of her life, Strayed decided to hike the Pacific Crest Trail on her own. The trail is in excess of 1000 miles, extending from Mexico, through California to the Canadian border. The film follows Strayed's journey, with frequent flashbacks to fill in the details of her earlier life. This is a fine drama supported by the music and poetry that kept her going. It is difficult not to feel that you are accompanying her on the way. 

No comments: