Wednesday, 5 August 2015

Local Cinema Round-Up for 6th to 13th August 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 four new film releases available to see this week. There is superhero action with Fantastic Four (12A); comedy animation with Pixels (12A); mystery with The Gift (15) and finally Love and Mercy (12A), a documentary about Brian Wilson of the Beach Boy.

The following films are no longer being screened: Magic Mike XXLMr. HolmesSelf/Less and Terminator Genisys. Also it seems likely that we will soon loose Jurassic World and Ted 2. However we have the return to our screens of the family favourite Cinderella and the excellent thriller Spooks: The Greater Good.

A film to look forward to is The Man from U.N.C.L.E. due to be released on the 14th August.

Characters from superhero comics are well represented this week with Ant-Man and Fantastic Four. Also there is a good selection of family movies on offer with CinderellaHomeInside OutMinions and Thomas & Friends: Sodor's Legend of the Lost Treasure.

For adult action Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation is perhaps the best film this year, though Spooks: The Greater Good is also a strong contender. For adult drama Southpaw is a gripping underdog comes good movie.

An interesting offering this week is Glyndebourne: The Rape of Lucretia, a rather dark historic tale. Also rather out of the ordinary is the screening of two Buster Keaton classics The Scarecrow and One Week. There are organised by Lancaster Arts City and are being screened, for free, at the Lancaster Castle.


Director: Peyton Reed
Certificate: 12A
Cast Includes: Paul Rudd, Evangeline Lilly, Hayley Atwell, Michael Douglas, Corey Stoll
Ant-Man is the latest super-hero in the Marvel pantheon to make it to the screen. Scott Lang (Rudd) used be a systems engineer but is now a petty criminal, trying to go straight. He acquires a suit developed by Dr. Hank Pym (Douglas) and Dr Pym becomes something of his mentor. The suit allows Lang to become ant man as he shrink in size, increase his strength and has the power of communicating with insects. Together Pym and ant-man must overcome the ambitions of Darren Cross (Stoll) who has a militarised version of the suit. Ant man was only a minor Marvel super-hero but nonetheless this is an entertaining movie. The characters are given chance to develop and the film provides both wit and plenty of gags. An entertaining movie.

Fantastic Four
Director: Josh Trank
Certificate: 12A
Cast includes: Miles Teller, Michael B Jordan, Kate Mara, Jamie Bell, Toby Kebbell
This is 20th Century Fox's second attempt at the Fantastic Four movie, a superhero film based on characters from Marvel comics. A sequel is scheduled for 2017. The film follows the lives of five people as they meet and become part of an experiment to teleport to an alternative dimension. However here they get exposed to a mysterious phenomenon that alters them bestowing strange powers. Four of them form a team, the Fantastic Four. The other member of the group, Victor Von Doom (Kebbell) becomes a super villain that the Fantastic Four must overcome. The movie rather takes its time to get to the action. Also it takes itself very seriously so there is little humour and dialogue can be rather stilted. Yet with excellent special effects this is a competent super hero film, though not destined to be a classic. 

Jurassic World
Director: Colin Trevorrow
Certificate: 12A
Cast includes: Bryce Dallas Howard, Irrfan Khan, B.D. Wong, Chris Pratt
This is the fourth instalment 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 dinosaurs, 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.

Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation
Director: Christopher McQuarrie
Certificate: 12A
Cast includes: Tom Cruise, Ving Rhames, Simon Pegg, Rebecca Ferguson
This is the fifth in the Mission Impossible series. The Impossible Mission Force (IMF) has been disbanded. Ethan Hunt (Cruse) must assemble a team and join forces with an ex British agent Iisa Faust (Ferguson) in order to fight 'The Syndicate', a group who are mounting terrorist attacks in order to bring about a new world order. This is arguably the best action film of the year with plenty of excitement, special effects and some violence. However the whole has a light hearted tone and contains a good deal of humour. A witty and very entertaining movie.

Director: Antoine Fuqua
Certificate: 15
Cast Includes: Jake Gyllenhaal, 50 Cents, Forest Whitaker, Rachel McAdams
Billy "The Great" Hope (Gyllenhaal) was the reigning middle weight champion but a tragic incident causes his life to fall apart. He loses his family, title, house and manager. In addition, his daughter is taken into care. To rebuild his life he restarts fighting, with Tick Willis (Whitaker) a retired fighter at a run down gym, acting as his coach. The movie is thus a classic underdog story. However strong acting (particularly Gyllenhaal) and convincing sets make for a gripping movie.

Spooks: The Greater Good
Director: Bharat Nalluri
Certificate: 15
Cast Includes: Jennifer Ehle, Laura Pulver, Kit Harington, Tuppence Middleton, Peter Firth, Elyes Gabel
A terrorist, Adam Qasim (Gabel), escapes from MI5 custody. Harry Pearce (Firth), head of counter terrorism, is blamed and Harry subsequently vanishes. Agent Will Halloway (Harington) is brought back into MI5 to investigate. He succeeds in finding Harry and the two of them work to uncover a traitor who deliberately freed the terrorist and who is plotting to destroy MI5. The film is set in London and marks the cinema debut of the TV series that was first broadcast in 2002. The movie captures the spirit of the series and references events in the final episode. The plot is unpredictable with plenty of twists and turns and the film has its fair share of action. This is a tense, fast paced offering that will delight anyone who enjoyed the TV show. However it may not quite have enough presence to win over an international audience.

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.

The Gallows
Director: Travis Cluff, Chris Lofing
Cast Includes: Ryan Shoos, Pfeifer Brown, Cassidy Gifford, Reese Mishler
Twenty years ago, students at Beatrice High School Nebraska performed a play called The Gallows set in the puritan era. However a malfunction with the stage gallows caused the death of an actor. Now the school wants to re-stage the play, but four students decide to stop it by destroying the set. Hence they break into the school at night. Here they become trapped and subject to a psychic attack. This is a low budget film of the of the so-called found footage genre, and the action is mainly seen through the eyes of a jock Ryan (Shoos). The movie has attracted poor reviews and a reasonable beginning descends into a rather lacklustre end.

Tuesday, 4 August 2015

Over £220 million of cuts ahead for Lancashire County Council

A report for Lancashire County Council's Cabinet has revealed that it will need to save an additional £223m by April 2020, to tackle a funding gap caused by reduced government funding and rising demand for services.

The savings come on top of £152m savings announced in the three year budget agreed in February this year. The additional savings mean that between 2011 and 2020 the council will have to have delivered savings of £685m.

County Councillor Jennifer Mein, Leader of Lancashire County Council, said: "These are the most challenging times for local government in living memory as we face the combination of severe central government cuts and rising demand for our services, particularly those serving vulnerable people.

"Although good progress has been made with our current three-year budget plan, there are still significant savings to be identified in that period and other areas where we know the scale of reductions required but have more to do to implement them.

"At the same time, the new Government will be making further substantial cuts to council budgets over the coming years. This continues at a time when, as the population ages, demand on many services will increase so that we'd be facing financial pressures even if the budget wasn't being reduced at all.

"The scale of the challenge means that we are having to make ever more difficult decisions. We will do all that we can, but there is no doubt that the services we provide to our communities will have to be reduced in this period and people will notice the difference. Our priority will remain to protect the most vulnerable people in communities across Lancashire.

"Regrettably I'm also no longer confident we can reduce our workforce as much as we need to on a purely voluntary basis."

The council's Cabinet is expected to consider and consult upon proposals to deliver the latest savings programme over the winter, with decisions made by February 2016. Changes to services and staffing levels will then be implemented as soon as possible.

The additional savings will have an impact on the county council's workforce. A reduction of 1,400 posts had been planned as part of a transformation process already underway. It is now expected that a further reduction of 1,100 jobs will be necessary, making a total of 2,500 by April 2018 compared to March 2014.

It is hoped that the bulk of these reductions can be made on a voluntary basis. To that end, the council will continue to invite employees to apply for voluntary redundancy.

The County Council announced last year that its workforce would have to be reduced by around 2,500 jobs. As a greater proportion of savings than expected have been found in other areas of spending and running costs, that figure had reduced to 1400.

These additional budget pressures mean that the 2500 figure still applies, although over a longer period ie by April 2018 rather than April 2016. The council will aim to achieve as many of these as possible through voluntary redundancy and employee turnover.

• The Cabinet papers for the meeting on Wednesday, 11th August, 2015 can be found here:

Monday, 3 August 2015

Police appeal for missing Morecambe man, Kevin Coates

Police are appealing for help to trace a man who has gone missing from Morecambe.

Kevin Coates, 34, was last seen at around 9.30am leaving his home address on Plover Drive, Heysham, on Friday 31 July.

He could still be in the Lancaster and Morecambe area but is known to have links to Blackpool, Blackburn and also Darwen.

He is described as white, around 5ft 9 tall, of a medium build with short light brown hair. He was last seen wearing a grey hoody, a blue and white checked shirt, blue jeans and black trainers. He is also thought to have his bus pass which allows him to travel around Lancashire.

PC 6712 Laura Swindlehurst of Morecambe Police said: “It has been more than three days now since Kevin was last seen and we would urge anyone with information about his whereabouts to get in touch. Similarly if he directly sees this appeal, let us know that you are safe and well.”

Anyone with information can contact police on 101 quoting log 0794 of July 31st.