Wednesday, 1 July 2015

Local Cinema Round-Up for the 1st to 9th July 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 five new releases in the Lancaster cinemas this week. We have adult comedy with Magic Mike XXL (15) and Ted 2 (15). There is science fiction action with Terminator Genisys (12A) and a French crime thriller The Connection (15). Finally Knock, Knock (18) provides erotic suspense. In addition four movies have returned to the local screens after an absence. These are A Little ChaosDanny CollinsFairytale: Story of the Seven Dwarves and The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel.

Only one film has been dropped from the schedule that is Pitch Perfect 2.

The big draw at the moment is the excellent Minions though other family films worth considering are Two by TwoMoomin on the Riviera and Fairytale: Story of the Seven Dwarves. For adult comedy, in addition to the new releases, Spy is a strong contender, along with Entourage.

Drama is well represented at the moment with Jurassic WorldThe Longest RideSan AndreasThe Connection and Mr. Holmes.

Movies of note include the operas Carmen and Guillaume Tell, along with an early Orson Welles film Chimes at Midnight.


A Little Chaos
Director: Alan Rickman
Certificate: 12A
Cast Includes: Kate Winslet, Matthias Schoenaerts, Alan Rickman, Helen McCrory
The film is set in Paris in 1862. King Louis XIV (Rickman) wishes to build a marvelous garden at the Palace of Versailles and so hires the famous landscape artist Andre Le Notre (Schoenaerts) to undertake the work. Le Notre advertises for an assistant and hires Sabine de Barra (Winslet), a talented and attractive woman with modern ideas on gardening. Sabine has something of a past (told in flashback) and must overcome the obstacles of her class and sex to function within the court. The film is a period romance with the sexual chemistry building between Sabine and Andre, while being opposed by Andre's scheming wife Francoise (McCrory). The performances are excellent and the film a delight of stunning gardens and costumes. An entertaining if somewhat unchallenging film.

Jurassic World
Director: Colin Trevorrow
Certificate: 12A
Cast includes: Bryce Dallas Howard, Irrfan Khan, B.D. Wong, Chris Pratt
This is the fourth installment in the Jurassic Park series and the best of the sequels. Jurassic World is a theme park in Costa Rica that has been open for some two decades. However visitors are starting to get bored with the sight of tame dinosaurs. Hence, their lab has been using genetic techniques to create a real monster dinosaur, Indominus Rex, to rekindle interest. The park is managed by Claire Dearing (Howard) and Owen Grady (Pratt) is an animal behaviourist working with the Dinosaurs. On the day that Claire brings her two nephews to the park the Indominus Rex escapes. She must work with Owen to save her nephews and save the day. The movie has number of fine action pieces though the action gets in the way of character development. Also there is a romance element between Claire and Owen. The dialogue in not always believable, but there are jokes and the film pays homage to the original Jurassic Park. For an audience not yet jaded by dinosaur action, this is an entertaining action film.

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 though 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. The film, using skits and Musical numbers expands on 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.

Mr Holmes
Director: Bill Condon
Certificate: PC
Cast includes: Ian McKellen, Laura Linney, Milo Parker.
Director: Bill Condon
Certificate: PC
Cast includes: Ian McKellen, Laura Linney, Milo Parker.
A Sherlock Holmes film that is loosely based on Mitch Cullin's 2005 novel 'A slight trick of the Mind'. Holmes is aged 93 and has retired to the Devon coast where he lives with a housekeeper Mrs Munro (Linney) and her son Roger (Parker). His passion is now bee keeping. His memory is fading and Holmes suspects he is succumbing to dementia. He is unhappy with the way he has been portrayed in Watson's accounts of his famous adventures and wishes to address this by writing his own account of one of his cases. The film is much slower than the portrayal of Holmes in recent TV series and Holmes himself has a more fragile and human character. Much of the sequences in the film are flashbacks and McKellen makes a superb Sherlock Holmes. An excellent film.

San Andreas
Director: Brad Payton
Certificate: 12A
Cast Includes: Dwane Johnson, Carla Guging, Ioan Gruffudd, Alexandra Daddario, Hugo Johnstone-Burt, Art Parkinson
A magnitude nine earthquake hits California, demolishing Los Angeles and San Francisco. Chief Ray Gaines (Johnson), a pilot working for the LA Fire Department, rescues his estranged wife Emma (Gugino) from a crumbling building. The the two of them fly to San Francisco to save their daughter Blake (Daddario). Blake meanwhile been rescued by an engineer Ben (Johnstone-Burt) and his brother Ollie (Art Parkinson). This is a feel good disaster movie, following the lives of a half dozen people against the backdrop of a devastating series of earthquakes. There is impressive CGI footage of levelled cities and widespread destruction. Also we have fine acting from Daddario and Johnson, the latter playing his archetypal action character with a soupcon of humour. A proficient and watchable film.

Director: Paul Feig
Certificate: 15
Cast includes: Melissa McCarthy, Jason Statham, Jude Law, Rose Byrne
Susan Cooper (McCarthy) is a CIA agent who works at a desk. However her partner Bradley Fine (Law) is assassinated in the field whilst another agent Richard Ford (Statham) is compromised. Despite lack of practical experience, Cooper volunteers to go underground and infiltrate the network of the arms dealer Rayna Boyanov (Byrne) in order to avenge Fine's death. In truth the plot does not really matter in this film, simply enjoy it as a tremendous send up of spy movies. McCarthy brings all her comedic talents to bear in this spoof and Statham also sends up his usual macho roles. Great performances, great comedy.

Ted 2
Director: Seth MacFarlane
Certificate: 15
Cast Includes: Seth MacFarlane, Jessica Barth, Morgan Freeman, Mark Wahlberg
The movie is a sequel to the highly successful 2012 original. Ted is a teddybear with human actions and emotions who has married his (human) girlfriend Tami-Lynn (Barth). Yet the marriage is having problems so Ted and Tami-Lynn decide to have a child to save their relationship. They try to adopt, but this leads to their marriage being annulled and Ted ruled as property and not a person. To resolve this Ted must go to court to prove he is human. The film provides adult humour in abundance and makes a worthy sequel the original. See it if you are not easily offended.

Terminator Genisys
Director: Alan Taylor
Certificate: 12A
Cast Includes: Jason Clarke, Emilia Clarke, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jai Courtney
The movie is an attempt to recover from the less that impressive sequel 'Salvation' and it strives to capture the appeal of the original. Again machines rule the future and they are trying to kill Sarah Connor (Emilia Clarke) before she can give birth to John Connor (Jason Clarke). Again a future John Connor sends Kyle Reese (Courtney) back to 1984 to protect his mother. However Reese finds the time line has become altered. Now there is a Guardian cyborg (Schwarzenegger) who becomes Reese's ally. The plot provides a heroic effort to breath some life into the terminator franchise and to maintain what made the first movie such a classic. However the 12A certificate means the battle scenes are not as impressive and in parts the movie seems more of a parody of the original. A watchable film, but not a classic.

Tuesday, 30 June 2015

Dukes "Oliver Twist" - Sneak Peek at this year's Walkabout show!

Oliver (Jerome Thompson) on the run with Dodger (Josie Cerise) and Fagin (Russell Richardson) in The Dukes "Oliver Twist". Photo: Darren Andrews
There’s a Twist to the UK’s biggest outdoor walkabout theatre event held in Lancaster this summer.

The award-winning Dukes theatre will present a new adaptation of Charles Dickens’ popular story – Oliver Twist – from 3rd July until 15th August.

Dickens’ wonderful characters – Fagin, the Artful Dodger, Nancy, Bill Sykes and the hideous Mr Bumble – will lead the audience on a journey through the magical open-air setting of Williamson Park transformed into Dickensian England with a Northern twist.

Along the way, they will see orphan Oliver thrown out of the workhouse and dragged into the park to be sold to the highest bidder but hidden deep in the woods, Fagin and his gang of tricksters and scoundrels lie in wait, living a life of adventure.

Fagin (Russell Richardson) gives pickpocketing tips to Oliver (Jerome Thompson). Photo: Darren Andrews

This rare theatrical experience follows in The Dukes tradition of providing memorable and critically acclaimed productions for all the family which have attracted more than 500,000 people since 1987.

This year’s production of Oliver Twist has been adapted by established theatre, television and radio writer Debbie Oates who has written for Coronation Street since 2002 and whose other credits include The Mill and Primeval.

The production stars Jerome Thompson as Oliver, who has been involved in a number of short film productions including The Screaming Man, released last year and the upcoming British feature film DON'T. STOP. RUNNING.

"Vertically challenged" actor Josie Cerise plays the Artful Dodger while teacher turned actor Andrew Ashford plays Charley Bates.

The Dukes Artistic Director, Joe Sumsion said: “There’s some stories which simply offer a delicious prospect for an outdoor walkabout production and Oliver Twist is one of them.

"The thought of relocating Dickens’ story to a Northern park is intriguing. I can’t wait to see the Artful Dodger, Nancy and Fagin at large in the woods whilst high above them Oliver and Mr Brownlow look out from the Ashton Memorial over Morecambe Bay.

"I doubt there will ever have been a version of Oliver Twist quite like this one and there’s a palpable air of excitement and anticipation about this show.”

A scene from Oliver Twist with Jerome Thompson (Oliver) and Victoria Brazier (Mr Fang). Photo: Darren Andrews

Performed throughout in Williamson Park, audiences can also enjoy the stunning sunset views across Morecambe Bay during the show.

The cast of The Dukes first outdoor promenade production in 1987 included Andy Serkis, who began his professional career at the Lancaster theatre 30 years ago as a student at Lancaster University, played Gollum in The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings film trilogies and who will appear in Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens later this year.

The Dukes now has a national reputation for producing outstanding outdoor walkabout theatre which has its own particular challenges.

During this summer’s show, The Dukes will use 16,500m of speaker cable, 5,700m of mains cable, 4,500m of data cable, 15 audio amplifiers, 4,000m of cable in the trees, at least 90 floodlights and 25 other hanging lights in the trees.

One of the quirkiest technical features is the milkfloat which travels between scenes housing the lighting and sound control panels and staff. Since 1987, four milk floats have been used.

• To book tickets for Oliver Twist which is recommended for anyone aged 5 plus, ring The Dukes Box Office on 01524 598500 or visit

Monday, 29 June 2015

Preston New Road shale gas application refused

Anti-fracking campaigners converging on County Hall today
Photo by Miles Newman

People all over the UK - and most particularly Lancashire and the Fylde are celebrating today as members of Lancashire County Council's (LCC) Development Control Committee (DCC) have voted to refuse the application by oil and gas company Cuadrilla for exploratory shale gas fracking at Preston New Road, Little Plumpton.

LCC had received many thousands of objections to the applications, which had little support that had not been sponsored by the applicant itself. Councillors voted 9 - 3 to refuse, with 2 abstentions.

The application to drill, frack and test at Preston New Road, Little Plumpton was refused on the following grounds:

1) The development would cause an unacceptable adverse impact on the landscape, arising from the drilling equipment, noise mitigation equipment, storage plant, flare stacks and other associated development. The combined effect would result in an adverse urbanising effect on the open and rural character of the landscape and visual amenity of local residents contrary to policies DM2 Lancashire Waste and Minerals Plan and Policy EP11 Fylde Local Plan. 

2) The development would cause an unacceptable noise impact resulting in a detrimental impact on the amenity of local residents which could not be adequately controlled by condition contrary to policies DM2 Lancashire Waste and Minerals Plan and Policy EP27 Fylde Local Plan.

The committee also refused a separate application for the same site to enable Cuadrilla to monitor its operations because of impact on the landscape.

A second application from Cuadrilla for exploratory fracking at Roseacre Wood was refused last week, although a separate application for monitoring work at that site was allowed.
The full reports relating to the applications can be viewed on the Lancashire County Council website.

County Councillor Marcus Johnstone, cabinet member for environment, planning and cultural services, and member of the DCC, said:

"This is one of the biggest planning decisions ever put before Lancashire County Council. The development control committee has listened very carefully to many hours of evidence both for and against the proposal, and considered the report of the council's planning officers. 

"The decision to refuse this application has been reached by a vote of the committee, which is composed of elected councillors, and each member of the committee has ultimately cast their vote based on the evidence they have heard and whether they think the proposal is acceptable in planning terms, and to the people they represent."

Decision deferred - legal advice
The hearing was deferred over the weekend in order that Councillors could consider conflicting legal advice over the issue of whether, if they refused the application, expensive costs might be awarded against LCC in the event of a successful appeal by Cuadrilla.

LCC's own legal advice seemed to be of the opinion that they could not refuse Cuadrilla without bringing the sky down on all our heads. However, QC advice obtained by Friends of the Earth, and a further QC opinion obtained by the Preston New Road Action Group concurred that the council could not be penalised for doing its job properly in deciding an application on evidence and statute, and that in such cases ''there is no serious risk of costs even if the appeal is allowed'.

Congratulations in order
Lancashire's councillors who voted to protect the area against the detrimental incursions of Cuadrilla are to be congratulated as there can be no doubt that the pressure to accede to Cuadrilla has been immense, backed not only by the resources of Cuadrilla, but also by the leviathon Peel Group. Both of these have such influence in government that they have been able to place their colleagues and business partners in leadership positions in regulatory bodies such as the Environment Agency - bodies supposed to be independent and tasked with public protection.

Inspectorate and SoS primed to facilitate Cuadrilla appeal
A leaked memo from Chancellor George Osborne to ministers last Autumn made it clear that if  LCC proved ineducable to the advice that would be made available to it and refused the applications, Cuadrilla should appeal and the Planning Inspectorate and the Secretary of State should be prepared to respond promptly.

But it's one thing for government ministers to sell Lancashire out for their personal or family interests. It would have been quite another for our own elected councillors to do it.  Today Lancashire can celebrate a victory - for democracy, logic, science, the common good and the future.