Thursday, 31 December 2015

After the Floods: Greens Question Lancaster Flood Gate Closure Delays

Lancaster's Quay during the floods caused by Storm Desmond

Green Councillor for Castle Ward Nick Wilkinson has written to Sir Phillip Dilley at the Environment Agency asking for an explanation as to why the flood gates along St. George's Quay, Lancaster, were not closed on the Saturday evening of the floods.

After seeing that the swollen river was up against the walk way along the Quay on Saturday 5th December, Nick called the Environment Agency Incident Line at 16.55 to alert them to the fact that the gates needed closing urgently.

The Environment Agency said that they were inundated with calls and, when pressed, they were unable to give an estimated time to get the Quay flood gates closed.

Nick then escalated the issue to the emergency services and stood at the flood gates waiting for response team to arrive. The Fire Service and local Police attended (with bolt cutters), and the police asked Nick to call the Environment Agency back to confirm the process to close the gates. After around one hour, and the emergency services intervention, two Environment Agency officers attended to close them.

"The police and fire service were excellent," says Nick, "but I was surprised that the gates were not closed as a matter of course when the met office weather warnings were issued.

"It took myself, and the emergency services (whose resources were already stretched that evening)  over an hour to get the Environment Agency to close the gates. This could have been avoided had the gates been closed earlier.

"There should also be a way that emergency services can speak directly with the Environment Agency officers rather than having to go through a call centre."

Wednesday, 30 December 2015

Local Cinema Round-Up for the 30th December 2015 to 7th January 2016

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.

We have just two new releases over the New Year period. There is transexual drama in The Danish Girl (15) and comedy drama with Joy (12A).

Movies that have vanished from the local cinemas include Bridge of Spies and Christmas with the Coopers. In addition the following are approaching the end of their screening: The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2; Sisters; Spectre and The Lady in the Van. By way of compensation the movie Miss you Already is making a return for one day only.

Films coming soon to our screens include boxing drama with Creed on 15th January and Tarantino's western, The Hateful Eight starting the 8th January.

The big draw at the moment is still Star Wars: The Force Awakens though other great drama comes with In the Heart of the Sea. Children's films include Pan; Hotel Transylvania 2 and the excellent Snoopy & Charlie Brown: The Peanuts Movie. In addition there is family entertainment with Daddy's Home.

Period drama comes with Suffragette and The Danish Girl. However there is little high culture on offer during the week.

If planning a visit to the Vue, note that the lift was reported out of action on the 30th December.


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.

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.

Director: David O Russell
Certificate: 12A
Cast includes: Jennifer Lawrence, Robert De Niro, Diana Ladd
A semi-fictional biographical comedy drama about a mop, or how Joy Mangaro (Lawrence) became a millionaire. Joy is a divorced mother with two children, living with her extended dysfunctional family who all depend upon her. In the early 1990s she invents and markets the Miracle Mop. This becomes a great success, selling on a TV shopping channel. Her grandmother Mimi (Ladd) is always supportive of her, and it is she who supplies the narration during the film. The movie has a strong cast and Lawrence provides an exceptionally strong performance. There are some laugh out loud moments during the movie though at times it seemed a little flat. A good, but not a great film.

Miss You Already
Director: Catherine Hardwicke
Certificate: 12A
Cast includes: Drew Barrymore, Toni Collette
Milly (Collette) and Jess (Barrymore) are lifelong friends though their lives are very different. Milly works as a PR executive. She is married to a rock star and has a perfect family. Jess however has a more mundane job and is desperate to have a baby. Milly's life however is thrown in turmoil when she is diagnosed with breast cancer. The film follows her fight with cancer and the stresses it puts on her relationship with Jess who finally conceives a baby. This is a passable movie which provides something of an emotional rollercoaster ride.

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.

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.

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 Danish Girl
Director: Tom Hooper
Certificate: 15
Cast includes: Eddie Redmayne, Alicia Vikander, Ben Whishaw
The film is based on a novel by David Ebershoff and inspired by the lives of Dutch artists Lili Elbe/Einar Wegener (Redmayne) and Gerda Wegener (Vikander). Set in the mid 1920's Gerda is a portrait painter, but a sitter is late for an appointment. Hence Gerda gets her husband Einar to stand in for the missing female sitter. This has consequences. Einar has been harbouring a disire to become a female and the finished portrait attracts favourable attention from art dealers. Einar decides to permanently convert to his alter ego Lili Elbe and becomes one of the first people to received a surgical sex realignment procedure to change from a man to a woman. The movie follows both the artists as they come to terms with the change from Einar to Lili. A serious movie, well acted and well received that highlights the issues of gender reassignment.

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, 29 December 2015

Police Warning over Loyn Bridge road closure notice "tampering"

Lancaster Police have received several reports of people "tampering" with the road closures at the Loyn Bridge between Hornby and Gressingham.

Drivers are being reminded the closures are there for safety reasons, and moving the signs is putting the safety of local residents at risk.

Engineers are assessing the damage again today, after the north facing buttress collapsed.

If anyone is seen moving the signs, it should be reported.