Australian music stars including singer Missy Higgins and ska band The Cat Empire are lending their voices to a campaign to protect the Great Barrier Reef. The Fight For The Reef drive opposes governmental plans for industrial developments that could damage the famous coral system, including proposals to open the world's biggest coal port in Abbot Point, on the Queensland coast.
The joint campaign between WWF-Australia and the Australian Marine Conservation Society has now received a boost from a number of high-profile artists, who are writing and recording tracks for the Sound of the Reef album.
The 20-track record, which also features musician Mark De Clive-Lowe, Grammy-nominated band Hiatus Kaiyote and New Zealand collective Fat Freddy's Drop, aims to spread awareness of the issues and raise money to support the campaign.
WWF-Australia campaign director Richard Leck says, "The sales of this album will support legal action that will argue Federal Environment Minister Greg Hunt failed in his obligation to protect the environment, by approving the dredging and expansion of the Abbot Point coal terminal. We are at a crossroads for this natural icon. The decisions being made today will decide if we have a healthy Reef in the future, or face its ruin."
The best way to go into Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides is to think of it as the first film in a brand new franchise; a franchise in which mermaids love men zombies won’t eat you and a Fountain of Youth exists but all laws of logic reasoning and competent storytelling don’t. Although screenwriters Ted Elliot and Terry Rossio were smart enough to sever the narrative ties to the first two sequels in their franchise’s fourth outing the latest swashbuckling adventure in the series shares most of the same faults its predecessors faced.
Director Rob Marshall (Chicago) steps in for Gore Verbinski in On Stranger Tides but you’ll be hard-pressed to find his contributions to the already-flashy film that finds our hero Capt. Jack Sparrow (the inimitable Johnny Depp) on the hunt for the fore mentioned fountain. Of course he’s not the only one looking for eternal life: also in tow are nameless stereotypical Spaniards the English crown headed by a reformed Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush) and Blackbeard a ruthless pirate who looks and sounds a lot like Ian McShane. Their paths cross on numerous occasions as the story scrambles across the map culminating in a splashy battle in a magical meadow where Ponce de Leon’s greatest discovery lies.
Less a cohesive story and more a collection of individual set pieces linked together by nonsensical dialogue and supernatural occurrences the film isn’t all that hard to follow if you don’t strain yourself doing so. The sequence of events collide so conveniently for the characters you can’t help but call the screenplay anything but the result of complacency while the film itself sails so swiftly from point to point it’s actually a waste of time to dwell on plot holes and motives. Disrupting its momentum (which is one of the few things the film has going for it) is an unwatchable romance between Sam Claflin’s missionary Philip and Syrena (Astrid Bergès-Frisbey) one of a handful of murderous mermaids who do battle with Blackbeard’s crew. Their bland courtship will have you begging for Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightley to return to the high seas and that’s saying something.
The all-female fish people are one of a few additions to the Pirates world but their effect on the film is negligible outside of being the impetus for the coolest action sequence in the picture and perhaps the most unnerving of the series. The others include Penelope Cruz as Blackbeard’s busty daughter Angelica and Stephen Graham as shipmate Scrum. The former feels out of place among the cartoony happenings but provides much needed sass while the latter fills in for Kevin McNally’s Gibbs for much of the film and is a pleasure to watch for some hammy comedic moments.
As always however this is Depp’s show and he continues to put a smile on my face with his charisma and theatrical presence. Even though he’s operating on autopilot throughout you can’t help but marvel at his energy and enthusiastic output as he literally fuels the fun in the film. The same can be said of Rush who’s given a meatier and more significant arc this time around. He trades quips with Depp as if they were a golden-age comedy duo and they remain the most appealing attraction in the franchise. Though he brings an undeniable sense of danger to the picture I was sadly underwhelmed by McShane’s Blackbeard a character with such a domineering reputation and imposing look he should’ve been stealing scenes left and right. Instead I felt he phoned his performance in though that could’ve been the result of Marshall’s indirection.
No better than the genre-bending original but a slight improvement over Dead Man’s Chest and At Worlds End On Stranger Tides suffers centrally from lack of a commanding captain. Marshall’s role is relegated to merely on-set facilitator or perhaps liaison between legions of talented craftspeople that make the movie look so good. Whatever vision he had for this venture if he had a unique take at all is chewed up and spit out by the engines of the Jerry Bruckheimer blockbuster factory rendering the film as mechanical as the ride from which it is based.
WHAT IT’S ABOUT?
Constructed as an homage of sorts to the classic “opposites attract” screwball comedies of old The Ugly Truth stars Katherine Heigl (Knocked Up TV’s Grey's Anatomy) as Abby Richter an ambitious Type A news producer for the local morning talk show A.M. Sacramento. Abby’s uncompromising approach to news gathering is surpassed only by her uncompromising approach to dating; as a result she’s chronically single and her show’s ratings are in the toilet. So when her boss insists that she take on Mike Chadway the brash obnoxious host of a cable-access relationship-oriented talk show as a new correspondent Abby has little choice but to accept despite her misgivings about Mike’s unabashed chauvinism. Though ratings for A.M. Sacramento immediately spike with the addition of Mike Abby remains unconvinced as to the efficacy of his politically incorrect (read: misogynist) dating advice. Chastened by Abby’s continued skepticism Mike makes her a wager: If she applies his tools and doesn’t successfully turn around her moribund dating life he’ll quit the show. Abby agrees initiating a sexually charged battle of wits between the two strident adversaries.
WHO’S IN IT?
Facing off against Heigl is Gerard Butler the man who once roared “We are Sparta!” as the infinitely badass King Leonidas in the sword-and-sandals epic 300. Unfortunately Butler followed up the 2006 blockbuster with the weepy chick flick P.S. I Love You then the limp action fantasy Nim’s Island. And while he did manage to redeem himself as a cocky British gangster in Guy Ritchie’s comeback RocknRolla Butler takes a sad U-turn with The Ugly Truth falling to emasculating new lows in this insipid romantic comedy. Supporting castmembers include Cheryl Hines (Curb Your Enthusiasm) John Michael Higgins (Yes Man Best in Show) Bree Turner (Just My Luck) and Eric Winter (Harold & Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay).
Butler and Heigl are both tremendously charming camera-friendly actors (no one has perfected the art of “sexily flustered” better than Heigl) and they do exhibit a fun lively chemistry at times during The Ugly Truth. Unfortunately they’re given precious little to work with and are forced to subsist on the few morsels of quality material the script provides.
Director Robert Luketic (21 Monster-in-Law Legally Blonde) has always been a strict adherent to the modern style-over-substance school of filmmaking and The Ugly Truth is suitably glossy and slick. But damned if it isn’t the most uninspired unfunny unsexy sitcom rip-off to grace theaters in recent memory. If Luketic devoted half as much time to punching up the script as he did to lovingly photographing boy toy Eric Winter he might actually have a decent movie on his hands.
Oy that’s a tough one. The closing credits would be too obvious a choice so let’s instead go with whichever scene immediately preceded the closing credits.
Heigl gets to show off her orgasm-faking skills during a scene in which she inadvertently turns on a pair of vibrating underpants (don’t ask me to explain) at a dinner with corporate execs. Interestingly enough it’s her least sexy moment in the film.
Carl Allen (Jim Carrey) is a drag -- a recent divorcee in a dead-end job who basically has one word for everything: “No!” Then one day he is dragged to one of those super positive self-help seminars that forces him to say “Yes” to everything or face dire consequences. Thing is it works. Need Viagra? Yes. Bungee jumping? Yes. A quick hummer by his over-sexed septuagenarian neighbor (Fionnula Flanagan)? Uh … yes? Carl’s newfound agreeable self gains him more than he ever imagined. He even finds the love of his life a kooky musician/amateur photographer named Allison (Zooey Deschanel). Of course all this goodwill does have its consequences and Carl learns some valuable lessons. Sound familiar? Hey if Liar Liar worked once why not go back to the comedy well? Jim Carrey is just his best when he’s in a comedy -- even quirky comedies such as Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. He is so at home in the shoes of this kind of loveable loser who gets to live life in broad strokes. He knows how to play for big laughs without going overboard. So from now on Jim just say NO to thrillers like The Number 23. In the top notch supporting cast Sasha Alexander is a deadpan standout as the Persian wife he orders online and veteran Terence Stamp is a hoot as the self-help guru who gets Carrey into his predicament in the first place. Also very amusing are his best buddies played by Bradley Cooper and a hilarious Danny Masterson. As his bonkers New Zealand-esque boss Flight of the Concord’s Rhys Darby is a riot as Carl's boss. Deschanel is kind of the “straight man” here but she’s handles it well if not memorably. Peyton Reed is a fairly reliable comedy director with mostly hits (Bring It On The Break-Up). He knows Yes Man exists as a vehicle for the Jim Carrey brand of comedy and lets Carrey hog the spotlight. The movie lives or dies on what Carrey can deliver and on that scale Yes Man is a hit. There are some bits that fall flat and might have been cut but for all its broad humor Reed manages to keep it grounded and in simple scenes between Carrey and Deschanel the movie even borders on sweet. In a season of dark drama on screen -- and off -- the antidote could well be this dumb but fun time killer. So is a little comic relief worth the $10 in the economic downturn? We say YES!