Wednesday, 25 November 2015

Local Cinema Round-Up for the 25th November to 3rd December 2015

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.

 This period sees four new releases in the local cinemas. There is mystery and suspense with the spy drama Bridge of Spies (12A); Christmas comedy with Christmas with the Coopers (12A); family animation in The Good Dinosaur (PG) and classic horror in Victor Frankenstein (12A).

Movies that have vanished from our screens include Burnt and the science fiction drama The Martian. However the family film Maya the Bee has makes a return for the weekend.

The big films at the moment are James Bond in Spectre and the conclusion of the Hunger Games in The Hunger Games: Mockingjay part 2. In addition there is crime drama with Black Mass; horror in Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension and a more gentle drama with The Lady in the Van. Perhaps less intense but equally enjoyable are the period romance Brooklyn and teen romance/drama in Paper Towns.

Family entertainment is available with Hotel Transylvania 2; Inside Out; Minions; Pan and the new animation adventure The Good Dinosaur. However the only Christmas themed movie at the moment is the comedy Christmas with the Coopers.

Culture is represented with ENO: The Mikado.

Reviews

Bridge of Spies
Director: Steven Spielberg
Certificate: 12A
Cast includes: Tom Hanks, Amy Ryan, Mark Rylance, Austin Stowell
A cold war drama, based on a genuine incident. Rudolf Abel (Rylance) is a spy working for the Soviet Union who has been captured in the USA. He is to be put on trial and James Donovan (Hanks), an insurance lawyer, is given the job of acting as his defence. Meanwhile, a secret American Spy plane is shot down in Soviet airspace and the pilot, Francis Gary Powers (Stowell) is captured by the Russians and convicted of espionage. Neither America nor Russia want their respective officers interrogated by the other side and hence Donovan is tasked with organising a prisoner exchange. This is a fine spy drama, more dialogue and politics than action but it succeeds in building the tension. Both Hanks and Rylance give excellent performances and Spielberg masterfully created the ambience of the cold war period.

Brooklyn
Director: John Crowley
Certificate: 12A
Cast includes: Saoirse Ronan, Fiona Glascott, Emory Cohen.
The movie is a period drama, based on the novel by Colm Toibin. Eilis Lacey (Ronan) grew up in Ireland, but her sister (Glascott) arranged for her to move to Brooklyn for a chance to find a better future. Initially homesick, Eilis finds lodgings, a job and subsequently romance in the form of Tony (Cohen) who she meets at a dance. However back home her sister Rose dies and her mother gets her to return to Ireland. Here Eilis must decide whether to continue with her life at home or to return to New York. The film has been well received and is marked by very strong acting. An excellent movie that will tug at the heartstrings.

Far From the Madding Crowd
Director: Thomas Vinterberg
Certificate: 12A
Cast Includes: Juno Temple, Carey Mulligan, Tom Sturridge, Matthias Schoenaerts, Michael Sheen
The latest film adaptation of Thomas Hardy's classic novel of the same name. Bathsheba Everdene (Mulligan) is a willful young woman who has come into property by inheritance. Her looks and manner result in three potential suitors looking to marry her, a sheep farmer Gabriel Oaks (Schoenaerts), a middle aged neighbour William Boldwood (Sheen) and a handsome Sargent Frank Troy (Sturridge). However Bathsheba comes to regret her choice of husband. This is a fine adaption of what is a difficult novel to bring to the screen. The scenery is glorious and acting excellent. A solid period drama romance.

Minions
Director: Pierre Coffin, Kyle Balda
Certificate: U
Cast Includes: Sandra Bullock, Michael Keaton, Steve Coogan, Jennifer Saunders.
The film is both a spin off and a prequel to the Despicable Me franchise. The Minions have always existed on earth and the movie begins by tracing their evolution. They have the purpose of serving the most despicable of masters thought not very successfully. The race finally retired to the Antarctic where they fare badly. Hence Minions Kevin, Stuart and Bob decide to seek a new master for their race to work for. In a villain convention in Orlando they decide to serve the supervillain Scarlet Overkill (Bullock) who is planning to overthrow the Queen of England and the film, using skits and Musical numbers follows this plot. The Minions were the best part of the Despicable Me franchise and so it is fitting that they have their own film. The movie is very entertaining, inoffensive and funny and will delight all ages. However this reviewer would have liked more minions and fewer supervillains.

Pan
Director: Joe Wright
Certificate: PG
Cast Includes: Hugh Jackman, Levi Miller, Amanda Seyfried, Kathy Burke, Garrett Hedlund
A prequel to the story of Peter Pan. Peter (Miller) is abandoned by his mother and brought up in an orphanage run by Mother Barnabus (Burke). He is captured by pirates and taken to the magical world of Neverland where he is forced into slave labour by Bluebeard (Jackman). Peter and his friend James Hook (Hedlund) manage to escape to the forest where Peter befriends the fairy Tinker Bell. The fairies fight and defeat the pirates and Hook becomes captain of the Jolly Roger ship. A rather bland and somewhat contrived movie.

Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension
Director: Gregory Plotkin
Certificate: 15
Cast includes: Chris Murray, Brit Shaw, Ivy George, Dan Gill
This is the sixth instalment in the Paranormal Activity series and it opens with a scene from Paranormal Activity 3. Ryan Fleege (Murray) moves into a new home in California along with his wife Emily (Shaw), daughter Leila (George) and his brother Mike (Gill). The two brothers discover a box of old VHS tapes filmed by a previous inhabitant of the property, starring two girls Katie and Kristi. These girls start to communicate with the current family by means of the TV set and various supernatural phenomena manifest within the house. Ryan brings in a priest to perform an exorcism, but things don't go to plan, leading to an unsettling conclusion.

Spectre
Director: Sam Mendes
Certificate: 12A
Cast includes: Daniel Craig, Ralph Fiennes, Christopher Waltz, Andrew Scott
The latest James Bond Movie. M engages in a political battle to keep the secret service, in the light of a plan by Max Denbigh (Scott) to replace the 00 program with computer surveillance. Bond meanwhile is trying to locate Franz Oberhauser (Waltz), the suspected head of the evil organisation 'Spectre'. The movie starts in Mexico during the Day of the dead celebrations and thence the action continues in London, Rome and Morocco. There are numerous over the top action sequences, car chases, a good assortment of scary villains and exotic love interest. However amid this harshness, the movie contains a good level of humour. Tension builds from the very start, though some of this starts to dissipate as the film progresses. This is James Bond from the classic mould and Daniel Craig delivers a great performance.

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2
Director: Francis Lawrence
Certificate: 12A
Cast includes: Jennifer Lawrence, Woody Harrelson, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, Elizabeth Banks, Donald Sutherland
The concluding part of The Hunger Games series, based on the novels by Suzanne Colins. The movie continues from the previous film. Katniss (Lawrence) is recovering from battle, but she rejoins her comrades to bring the revolution to the Capital and President Snow (Sunderland). The Capital however is now peppered with booby traps awaiting for them. The film seems to move at a slightly slower pace than the previous instalments as there is a political element to the plot. Acting is very convincing, the special effects are spectacular and the plot has a good number of twists and turns. An excellent and emotional movie that provides a satisfying and worthy conclusion to the Hunger Games franchise.

The Lady in the Van
Director: Nicholas Hytner
Certificate: 12A
Cast includes: Maggie Smith, Alex Jennings
A true story, adopted from 1999 West End Play of the same name and filmed on location in North London. In 1974, Miss Shephard (Smith) is a woman looking for somewhere to park after being moved on the council. Playwright Alan Bennett agrees to her parking her van (which is also her accommodation) in his drive for a couple of days. However Miss Shephard then lived in the drive for the next fifteen years and the film shows the relationship between Bennett and his nuisance neighbour. This is a warm, charming and thoroughly fun movie.

Sunday, 22 November 2015

Lancashire County Council's Latest Cuts Proposals Appal Local Residents



Lancaster and Morecambe residents have been left reeling after Lancashire County Council announced it latest cuts proposals last week.

They include proposals to slash funding for cultural sites across the county by 90 per cent and other cuts that will impact public transport users, libraries and see the loss of another 367 jobs.

The proposals, which could also see the closure of 40 more libraries across the county, aim to save the county council £262m by April 2020 as the Tory government continues to cut public spending as part of its continuing doctrine to privatise state assets under the pretence of national debt reduction - something it has pretty much failed to do in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis.

The County Council is seeking to save £65m across its services over the next two years. Proposals affecting Lancaster and Morecambe residents that go before the county council Cabinet on 26th November include:

- Removing funding for subsidised bus services
- Reducing the county council's library network from 74 libraries to 34, to save £7 million
- Ending the funding of five museums - including the Judges' Lodgings, home to the Toy Museum
- Removing the subsidy for discretionary denominational transport
- 367 more job cuts. Since January 2014, 1100 people have left the authority, taking voluntary redundancy.

Judges’ Lodgings is Lancaster’s oldest town house, originally home to notorious witch hunter Thomas Covell, who imprisoned the Pendle Witches in 1612. It has a renowned collection of Gillow furniture, made by Robert Gillow who predated Thomas Chippendale by two decades.

Over 2000 people have signed an online petition opposing its closure.

"As well as being of great historical importance to Lancaster and a wonderful venue for the public to visit, this building also serves as a fantastic location for school visits," say the petitioners, "where the children are able to learn about history like never before in a hands on, fully immersive environment with specially trained actors.

"The Judges' Lodgings period rooms, furnishings and architecture offers a wonderful educational experience that can't be recreated in the classroom.

"... So many people are going to lose their jobs throughout the museum service because of the council's cuts, but even more than that, children are going to lose a wonderful venue to visit with their schools and Lancaster will lose a very rare and beautiful piece of its history, the loss of which will continue to impact Lancaster for decades to come."

Elsewhere in the county, also under threat is Knott End Ferry, the historic Queen Street Mill in Burnley used in The King’s Speech and the Museum of Lancashire in Preston, a museum that reopened in 2011 after a £2m refurbishment.

In all, cultural funding will be reduced from £1.2m this year to £98,000 from April next year. The sites under threat attracted more than 95,000 visitors combined last year.

The council will hold a public consultation into the proposed closures, which will consider alternative service delivery models, including their operation by local communities and interest groups.

A staff consultation will take place before the end of this year, and statutory redundancy consultation with trade unions will start in January.

Council leader Jennifer Mein said it was "the most challenging time" for local government.

"We face a combination of relentless central government cuts and rising demand for our services, particularly those serving vulnerable people."

Few bankers were prosecuted for their actions that brought about the Financial Crisis in 2008 that has been used as the reason to rein in public debt, estimated to go over £1.5 trillion by the end of the 2015 - 2016 fiscal year.

City of London investors were bailed out by the public purse at the time (in marked contrast to workers affected by the crisis in the steel industry in recent months), costs being borne by taxpayers rather than institutions that still try to evade paying tax and seek to profit from the sale of publicly owned assets the Government is forcing council to sell off.

“The picture is pretty bleak, there are a huge range of services that we have to stop or cut back," a spokesperson for the County told the Independent newspaper. "We don’t want to do it, but it shows the seriousness of the financial situation.”

He added they were open to suggestions of how to keep the sites running.

Alistair Brown, policy officer at the Museums Association, called the scale of the Lancashire cuts “shocking”, describing them as “the worst we’ve seen yet”.

Council leader Jennifer Mein said: “The reality of our financial situation is such that we will have to use the bulk of our reserves just to balance the budget over the next two years. And by 2017-18, we will only just have enough money to pay for our statutory services.”

Neither local MP Cat Smith or David Mortis has published a statement on the cuts proposals on their official web sites, although Cat's opposition to government policy is well known and Mr Morris continues to oppose bus service reductions.

- You can view the budget proposals in full here in the County Council web site: http://council.lancashire.gov.uk/mgAi.aspx?ID=36009#mgDocuments

- A petition to save the Judges Lodgings from closure is here: https://www.change.org/p/lancashire-county-council-save-the-judges-lodgings-museum-in-lancaster

Morecambe Christmas Festival will raise funds for several causes



Proceeds from an upcoming three-day long Christmas Festival will be shared between Morecambe Parish Church, the War Memorial Hall Trust and Cancer Care, the latter busy fund raising in earnest at present with its Santa Dash later today (details on their web site).

Take in a fantastic display of Christmas trees st the Church, provided by businesses, organisations, charities and individuals in the area.

In the Morecambe War Memorial Hall, do some Christmas shopping for unique gifts and cards, made by local crafters and traders.

• Opening Times: Thursday 3rd December 3.00 until 8.00pm; Friday 4th December 3 .00 - 8.00pm; Saturday 5th December 10.30am - 5.30pm

Refreshments are available in church and the hall. Admission is £1 to access all areas for adults, accompanied children free