Wednesday, 8 February 2017

Local Cinema Round-Up for the 8th to 16th February 2017

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 local cinemas during this period. There is family entertainment with the animated comedy The Lego Batman Movie (U) and science fiction adventure in The Space Between Us (PG). We have action and adventure with the 'hitman' John Wick: Chapter Two (15); a legal drama in Denial (12A) and erotic romance with Fifty Shades Darker (18).

Films that have vanished from the screens include A Monster Calls; Arrival; Collateral Beauty and Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. In addition the movies Ballerina and xXx: The Return of Xander Cage. are approaching the end of their screening. We do however see the return of Doctor Strange; I, Daniel Blake and Moana.

Drama on offer at the moment comprises wartime exploits in Hacksaw Ridge, psychological tension in Denial & Split and reunions in Lion & T2 Trainspotting.

For action and adventure there is John Wick: Chapter Two and xXx: Return of Xander Cage.

Fantasy on offer includes superhero adventure in Doctor Strange; horror in Resident Evil: The Final Chapter & Rings and a boy born on mars in The Space Between Us.

Romance with a twist comes with the excellent musical La La land and the erotic Fifty Shades Darker.

Family entertainment is provided by Ballerina; Moana; Sing; The Lego Batman Movie and Trolls.

High culture this period comes with The National Theatre Live: St Joan and The Royal Ballet: Woolf Works.

Finally the Dukes are presenting another Film Quiz on 13th February.


Doctor Strange
Director: Scott Derrickson
Certificate: 12A
Cast includes: Benedict Cumberbatch, Tilda Swinton, Mads Kikkelsen
Stephen Strange (Cumberbatch) was a surgeon whose career was ruined by a car accident which crushed his hands. He learned of an Ancient One (Swinton) with healing powers and so travels to Nepal to seek out the mystic. Here Strange learns of the different dimensions, magic and becomes a warrior on the astral plane. Meanwhile a former disciple of the Ancient One Kaecilius (Mikkelsen) has turned to the dark side and is intent on invoking the malevolent Dormammu from his alien abode. Strange much choose between a life of fortune or to defend the earth from magical attack. Doctor Strange has made a very successful transition from comic to the screen and the movie provides a good plot with excellent acting and dialogue. Special effects are very convincing and the film is one of the better Marvel super-hero movies.

Fifty Shades Darker
Director: James Foley
Certificate: 18
Cast includes: Dakota Johnson, Jamie Dornan
A sequel to the 2015 film 'Fifty Shades of Grey'. Anastasia (Johnson) had broken off her relationship with Christian Grey (Dornan) intending to pursue a career in a Seattle publishing house. However Christian entices her back albeit on her terms of a 'vanilla' relationship. However his desire for ownership rather than a relationship and rather shady figures from his past threaten to destroy their future. A sex and kink movie that rather lacks the novelty value of the original. Mildly entertaining.

La La Land
Director: Damien Chazelle
Certificate: 12A
Cast Includes: Emma Stone, Ryan Gosling
Mia (Stone) works as a barista during the day but aspires to be an actress. She is involved in a road rage incident with Sebastian (Gosling) a jazz pianist. The two subsequently meet again and start to fall for each other as they try to satisfy their ambitions, she attending auditions and he playing in dingy bars as he plans to open his own jazz club. However the daily drudge of trying to live their dreams starts to take its toll. This movie, set in modern day Los Angeles, is brilliantly written and very well acted. Excellent musical entertainment.

Director: Ron Clements and John Musker
Certificate: PG
Cast includes: Auli'i Cravalho, Dwayne Johnson
A Walt Disney animated fantasy adventure. Moana (Cravalho) is the teenage daughter of the chief of a Polynesian island. However the fish and island produce become less abundant and hence Moana undertakes a nautical quest to find the magical amulet Te Fiti's heart and the demigod Maui (Johnson). The quest involves monsters and battles This is a magical film, with music, comedy and a good dose of adventure. It is extremely well produced and has received excellent reviews from both critics and audience. A must see movie for all ages.

Resident Evil: The Final Chapter
Director: Paul W S Anderson
Certificate; 15
Cast Includes: Milla Jovovich
The movie is a sequel to the 2012 Resident Evil: Retribution and forms the sixth and final film in the series. Alice (Jovovich) has lost her psychic powers and now is assisted by the Red Queen who has switched sides. She returns to the demolished Raccoon City where, with a band of survivors, she has one last battle with the Umbrella Corporation and myriads of mutants and zombies. This reviewer has greatly enjoyed the Resident Evil Movie series and can recommend the Final Chapter as offering more of the same special effects and fight sequences. However the film is not the best of the bunch and the franchise is now starting to feel a little tired. See it if you are a Resident Evil fan.

Director: F Javier Gutierrez
Certificate: 15
Cast includes: Matilda Lutz, Alex Roe Johnny Galecki, Vincent D'Onofrio
Julia (Lutz) becomes worried when her boyfriend Holt (Roe) starts to explore the sub-cuture around a videotape which causes the death of anyone who watches it. She watches it herself and discovers that her version of the tape has additional footage which hints at the fate of the antagonist Sadako Yamamura. Julie and Holt undertake a quest to find Sadako's remains in the hope of lifting the curse. This is the latest chapter in the Ring franchise and is a sequel to 'The Ring' (2002) and 'The Ring Two' (2005). The movie tries to move the franchise onto new ground but it has received poor reviews. It is of interest to ardent Ring fans only.

T2 Trainspotting
Director: Danny Boyle
Certificate: 18
Cast includes: Ewen McGreger, Ewen Bremner, Robert Carlyle, Jonny Lee Miller, Anjela Nedyalkova
Mark Renton (McGregor) returns to Edinburgh after twenty years in Amsterdam and finds his old associates are still much as he left them only older. Spud Murphy (Bremner) continues to struggle with heroin addiction. Simon 'Sick Boy' (Lee Miller) nurses old grievances and has swapped a heroin addiction for cocaine. He plans to turn a run down pub onto a bordello. Francis Begbie (Carlyle) is serving a prison sentence, but he escapes. He still harbours a grievance against Renton. The movie is part black comedy, part thriller and total melancholic drama that draws on Welsh's 1993 novel and the 2002 sequel Porno. This is an inventive and vibrant film that captures the spirit of the original. Excellent viewing.

Monday, 6 February 2017

Modest Council Tax rise ahead despite continuing funding cuts

Lancaster City Council will increase its portion of Council Tax by around 10p a week to help to protect services in the short term, as cuts in central government funding continue to bite.

From April 2017 households in a Band D property will pay an additional £5 a year to the city council.  As 80% of the district's homes are in the lowest bands (A to C) the actual increase will be even lower than 10p a week for the majority of households.

The decision was made at a meeting of Full Council last Wednesday evening.

Councillor Anne Whitehead told the meeting that while the council tax increase will help the council balance its budget for the next financial year, the long term financial outlook for the council is austere.

By 2020/21 an additional £2.3million will need to be saved each year to balance the books following further Government cuts.

From April a series of major reviews will look at how the council can work more efficiently and prioritise which services it wants to provide.

One piece of good news, however, is the potential creation of a £500,000 reserve to help boost the local economy and take advantage of opportunities presented by the opening of the Bay Gateway.

This money, if confirmed at the annual budget council on 1st March, will be used to help boost economic growth, promote inward investment and encourage more businesses to relocate to the district.

Coun Anne Whitehead said: “The council’s financial position continues to be extremely challenging.

“While we would rather not have to raise council tax, it will help to avoid the need for even more severe budget cuts than those we are being forced to make and to meet the challenges of the future.

“Some very difficult decisions will need to be made in the next few years and some services will need to be prioritised over others if we are to balance the books.

“At the same time I’m glad we’ve managed to find some money for helping the local economy. The Bay Gateway presents us with a massive opportunity to promote inward investment to the district and the creation of a dedicated reserve, if confirmed as part of our budget, will allow us to dedicate resources to boosting the local economy.”

While as the billing authority Lancaster City Council collects Council Tax, it only receives around 13% of the total bill to spend on its services.

Excluding parishes, of the remaining bill, the majority goes to Lancashire County Council (73%), with precepts from Lancashire Police Authority (10%) and Lancashire Combined Fire Authority (4%) making up the rest.