Wednesday, 23 December 2015

Local Cinema Round-Up for the 23rd to 31st 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.

There are two new releases in this pre-Christmas period, the comedy Daddy's Home (12A) and the action/drama In the Heart of the Sea (12A).

We have lost the movies Black Mass; Krampus & Victor Frankenstein and it looks like the spy films Bridge of Spies and Spectre are nearing the end of their season. However the films Pan and Suffragette have made a return.

Star wars: The Force Awakens is still the main feature film of this period, with The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2 providing a good alternative. Other strong drama on offer includes Bridge of Spies; Suffragette and The Lady in the Van.

Adult comedy during this period is supplied by Christmas with the Coopers and Sisters.

As expected over Christmas there is a good selection of family films on offer, including Frozen; Hotel Transylvania 2; Pan: Snoopy & Charlie Brown: The Peanuts Movie and The Good Dinosaur. Also on offer is the black and white Christmas classic It's a Wonderful Life.

Wishing you a Merry Christmas, One and All.

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.

Daddy's Home
Director: Sean Anders
Certificate: 12A
Cast Includes: Will Ferrell, Mark Wahlberg, Linda Cardellini
A comedy. Conservative radio executive Brad (Ferrell) marries Sarah (Cardellini) and tries to be a good step dad to her two children. However his wife's charismatic and musclebound former husband Dusty (Wahlberg) comes for an extended visit. Brad finds he must now compete with their real father for the affection of his step children. There is a real on-screen chemistry between Ferrell and Wahlberg as they vie with each other and this provides plenty of opportunity for gags and comedy set pieces. However some of the gags are rather predictable leaving a film that is genuinely funny but seldom hilarious.

Frozen
Director: Chris Buck
Certificate PG
Cast Includes Kristen Bell, Idina Menzel, Josh Gad,Alan Tudyk, Jonathan Groff
This Disney musical animation is loosely based on the fairy tale 'The Snow Queen' who has condemned a kingdom to eternal winter. It is up to Anna (sister to the snow queen) and a loner Kristoff to undertake an epic journey to find the Snow Queen and convince her to lift the icy spell. This is a magical movie destined to become a classic. It will appeal to families and children of all ages and makes an ideal movie for Christmas.

In the Heart of the Sea
Director: Ron Howard
Certificate: 12A
Cast Includes: Ben Whishaw, Brendon Gleeson, Benjamin Walker, Cillian Murphy
A film based on a non-fiction book by Nathaniel Philbrick. It is set in the winter of 1820 when the whaling ship the Essex sets sail. Finding the local whaling ground is depleted, the ship ventures into the Pacific Ocean. Here prey is bountiful, but a massive sperm whale seeks vengeance against the hunters. It attacks the ship and the crew take refuge on a tiny island where they face the prospect of starvation. Hence they have little option but to take to the seas again to face the hardships and privations of an extended voyage to return home. This is a gripping film with convincing special effects and plenty of action, though somewhat lacking in suspense. An entertaining sea-fairing yarn.

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.

Sisters
Director: Jason Moore
Certificate: 15
Cast includes: Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, James Brolin, Dianne Wiest
Maura (Poehler) and Kate (Kay) are very different sisters. Maura is the sensible one, now divorced, whereas Kate is excitable and prone to tantrums. They are summoned back to their parents house to clear out their childhood bedroom in one weekend as their parents Bucky (Brolin) and Deana (Wiest) are about to sell the home. The sisters decide to mark the occasion by hosting a party for their high school friends, but find things get rapidly out of hand. There is some crude language and sexual content in this movie and some some of the gags feel a little laboured. However the whole is a cracking comedy giving an emotional roller coaster ride.

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.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens
Director: J J Abrams
Certificate: 12A
Cast includes: Harrison Ford, Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Carrie Fisher, Adam Driver.
The movie is set some thirty years after 'The Return of the Jedi'. The power vacuum left after the Empire was vanquished has been filled by the 'First Order' who start to control the galaxy with their stormtroopers. The movie tells of the adventures of Han Solo (Ford), Chewbacca and Princess (now General) Leia (Fisher) as they join new characters including Rey (Ridley), a scavenger, Finn (Boyega) a First Order Conscript and a spherical droid BB-8 as they battle the First Order led by the ominous Kylo Ren (Driver). This movie follows the style of the first star wars trilogy and, for this reviewer, was much better than the prequels. Old characters make a welcome appearance to supplement the newer heroes and villains. An excellent movie in all respects and the best Star Wars yet.

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.

Tuesday, 22 December 2015

Trio wanted after Lancaster robbery on Wyresdale Road

Stolen: a red cornet during a mugging on Wyresdale Road
Police are appealing for information after a teenager was robbed by three men in Lancaster.

Around 12.40am on Friday 18th December, a 17-year-old male was walking on Wyresdale Road when he was approached by three men. One of them demanded the teenager hand over his bag while a second man tried to grab the teenager from behind.

He managed to run away but fell over, however after being pushed into a bush by two of the men he pushed tow of his attackers off and managed to get away.

It is believed a bag belonging to the victim was taken during the incident, with a red cornet, pictured, stolen.

The first male is described as aged 20, of slim build, with a slim face, large nose, wearing a grey Adidas tracksuit with blue stripes.

The second male is believed to be white, 5ft 10in tall, of slim build wearing a blue raincoat and the third man is described as white, with thick black eyebrows and stubble.

Detective Constable Sam Johnson, of Lancaster and Morecambe CID, said: “This was a distressing and frightening incident for the person involved.

“We would appeal to anyone with information about the men described or recognises the instrument pictured to contact officers immediately.”

• Anyone who can help police is asked to contact 101 quoting crime reference WB1510433

Monday, 21 December 2015

Lancaster "blighted" by inaction on Canal Corridor site, says Lancaster Vision

Disused Mitchell's Brewery building
Image courtesy British Land
With no news on its development in sight, many fear Lancaster's centre is blighted by the vacant Canal Corridor North site. Now, Lancaster Vision is arguing for a high-quality mixed development on the site: retail, housing and cultural buildings.

Lancaster Vision is the section of Lancaster Civic Society that focuses on the long-term future of Lancaster District and its economy and wrote some months ago to the chairman of the Canal Corridor property owners British Land to ask for an update on their plans for the Canal Corridor North.

British Land launched a consultation on the site in 2013, but has not updated the associated web site - www.canalcorridor.info - since then.

The last news item connected with the company's plans for Lancaster was published on the British Land web site in June 2013, announcing the appointment of a team of professional consultants to work on the regeneration of the 10 acre Canal Corridor North site in Lancaster city centre. The development team included new architects, planners and building specialists.

"Having already appointed urban regeneration specialist, Centros, to manage the development through the planning and construction processes, British Land has now appointed a new architectural team consisting of Chapman Taylor and Richard Griffiths Architects," the press statement read.

"GL Hearn, Gleeds and Jones Lang LaSalle have also been appointed as planning consultant, quantity surveyor, and letting agent respectively – with Mayer Brown continuing as transport consultant and Waterman Group as structural engineer and environmental consultant."

Since then, all has gone quiet and on receiving no reply to their letter, Lancaster wrote to British Land last week, this time to Richard Wise, Head of Retail Development, to seek a response.

"Lancaster has seen very little retail investment in the last two decades," he said in 2013, "and this strategic site, bordered by a canal and with two active theatres, offers the opportunity to create a strong, experiential shopping, leisure and cultural destination."

"The letters set out the view that Lancaster District has a number of special features that make it a very attractive place to live, work and visit," say Lancaster Vision.

"This is not just our view  -  it emerged strongly from a seminar organised by Lancaster Vision in February 2014 under the title The Big Opportunity  - Unlocking Lancaster’s Potential, and attended by representatives of local business, developers, transport undertakings, education, of Lancashire County and Lancaster City Councils, and indeed of British Land."

Martin Widden, a spokesperson for Lancaster Vision, points out that major changes have occurred in Lancaster District recently, including the opening of Lancaster Castle to the general public and construction of the Heysham-M6 Link Road, due to open in summer 2016.

These developments will help to bring more business into the District, he argues; but Lancaster Vision is convinced that the local economy has the ability to perform much better.  Much more could be made of its diversity of assets, including its history and heritage, its natural environment with river, canal and proximity to some of the most beautiful land and seascapes in the country, its educational institutions and its varied retail specialists.

“Lancaster and District has great potential, much of which is only partly realised," he says. "The Canal Corridor North site is the major regeneration opportunity in central Lancaster, and we would like to see it developed.

"It could add a significant new level to the variety of retail and leisure on offer in the District, encouraging increased economic activity, and building further on the strong economic case for retail developments in the City.  It will also provide an opportunity for more housing to be developed in the centre.  This would bring very important benefits to the District.”

If the major movers and shakers in the District’s economic development continue to drag their feet on this, Lancaster is at risk of missing its big opportunity.

• Lancaster Civic Society is online at www.lancastercivicsociety.org

Lancaster University Ebola expert helps the World Health Organisation


Dr Derek Gatherer, an expert in Ebola from Lancaster University has hailed “a major step forward” in the diagnosis of the disease after working with the World Health Organisation.

The WHO Expert Committee on Biological Standardisation organised an international study to produce a standard test for Ebola virus infection.

Dr Gatherer from the Faculty of Health and Medicine at Lancaster was a member of the study along with Dr Bob Lauder, Dr Lisa Bishop, and former Lancaster researcher Katharina Hartman.

Dr Gatherer said: “ At the completion of this study we now have a standard diagnostic test which can be distributed to labs around the world so in the event of another suspected outbreak we can very rapidly tell whether the suspected cases are true positives or not.

“This is a major step forward in Ebola virus diagnostics and what we hope is that in the future we won’t have any more large Ebola virus outbreaks like the one we had in West Africa over the last couple of years.”

The Ebola reference reagents produced by the National Institute for Biological Standards and Control and endorsed by the WHO can now be used in laboratory tests by the scientific community around the world.

The UK’s Chief Medical Officer, Professor Dame Sally Davies, said: “Having standard tests for Ebola and other infectious diseases is essential. It helps us gain a greater understanding of the diseases so we can more effectively protect the public’s health.”

NIBSC was asked by WHO to produce two types of Ebola reference reagents. The first is run alongside patient samples to detect Ebola infection. The second measures Ebola antibody levels following infection, or following immunisation with candidate vaccines.

The Ebola antibody standard will be used around the world in the testing of Ebola vaccines in development, and is expected to help accelerate the availability of new vaccines.

Cumbria University staff donate to Lancashire flood fund

Staff at the University of Cumbria have donated £1488.54 to the Lancashire Community Foundation flood recovery appeal to support individuals and families and vital community organisations and resident groups affected by Storm Desmond.

The funds were collected at staff Christmas lunches which took place on Tuesday 15, Wednesday 16 and Thursday 17 December. Staff donated £744.27 in cash which the university then match funded to make up to a total of £1488.54.

Lynn Bewley, Communications and Events Manager, said: “Staff and students have pulled out all the stops to support communities affected by the floods in a variety ways and we’re delighted that we can make this further contribution to such a vitally important fund.”

Earlier this week, the university’s schools and college liaison team lifted spirits by visiting 102 schools across North Lancashire and Cumbria to share information about how the university can support schools in getting pupils interested in higher education.

Woman attacked in Lancaster assault


Detectives are appealing for information after a woman was assaulted in Lancaster.

Around 8.00pm on Friday 18th December, a 42-year-old woman was walking on Regent Street when a man approached her, grabbed her and attempted to drag her into an alleyway towards Portland Street and Lindow Square.

The woman was pushed to the floor and kicked by the man before he ran back down the passageway.

The male is described as being of large built, around 5ft 9in tall, dressed in black with a clumsy run.

Detectives are appealing to anyone who was in the area at the time of the incident to contact police.

Detective Constable Trevor Walker of Lancaster CID said: “Incidents such as this are extremely rare but this was clearly very distressing for the female involved.

“I’m appealing for anybody who saw anyone in the area, hanging around or running away, or heard this lady shouting for help, to contact us immediately.”

• Anyone with information can contact police on 101 quoting crime reference WB1510475