Movie: The Pirates! Band of Misfits

Movie: The Pirates! Band of Misfits

The Pirates! Band Of MisfitsRating:  GDistributor: SonyRelease Date: April 5I don’t expect much of the international film industry. There are approximately 250 films that make it to Australia’s shores each year and I’m on the lookout for just four – one for each of the school holiday breaks. As a father of three sons I’ve had to sit […]

By Mark HadleyTuesday 3 Apr 2012MoviesReading Time: 6 minutes

Hugh Grant makes his animated debut in 'The Pirates! Band of Misfits'. The Pirates! Band Of Misfits

Rating:  G
Distributor: Sony
Release Date: April 5

I don’t expect much of the international film industry. There are approximately 250 films that make it to Australia’s shores each year and I’m on the lookout for just four – one for each of the school holiday breaks. As a father of three sons I’ve had to sit through children’s films where the popcorn was the only thing keeping them in their seats. But thankfully those clever animators at Aardman have helped me meet my quota just in time for Easter. No one will be jumping ship when it comes time to see The Pirates: Band Of Misfits.

Hugh Grant takes on his first animated role as the aptly named Pirate Captain, the commander of the leakiest sieve ever to set sail on the seven seas. His crew is a collection of pirating outcasts – buccaneers with more wooden legs than a furniture shop, women wearing fake beards, even a fish dressed up in a hat. It is no surprise that their annual plunder amounts to less than the spare change most people would find in the back of the car. But every year our eternally optimistic hero nurses the ambition of being awarded the ‘Pirate Captain of the Year’ – a trophy that goes to the brigand with the most booty. Usually he wouldn’t stand a chance against shoe-ins like Black Bellamy or Cutlass Liz, but a chance encounter with Charles Darwin reveals that his crew’s beloved parrot is actually the last known living dodo. Will Pirate Captain sell the heart of his shipmates to the Royal Zoo for a boatload of treasure and the chance to be popular?

Like the Aardman classics that came before – Chicken Run, Wallace & Grommit: Curse of the Were-Rabbit; Arthur Christmas – this film is full to bursting with moments that will amuse parents and their progeny alike. A personal favourite is David Tennant’s Charles Darwin who’s just classified another hitherto unknown species of barnacle, but would give it all for a kind word from the woman of his dreams, Queen Victoria. “I just want one tiny bit of success,” he mutters, knowing how much closer it might take him to the throne. “Is that a crime? But you try telling that to the universe…”

And the road to success leads the viewer to the spiritual content of the film. Director Peter Lord, the co-founder of Aardman who helmed Chicken Run says Pirate Captain is a strangely familiar character who is looking for love and respect in all the wrong places. “None of that matters to his crew – they’re like his family, very loyal and loving and trusting – if a little foolish,” Lord says. “But when he goes off chasing this flashy prize, he risks losing what is most dear to him.”

The need to be accepted and appreciated is so basic a requirement for human beings that I’m honestly surprised it hasn’t worked its way into a United Nations charter. However long before stop-animation was dreamt of Jesus was warning his audience that what we’d best beware what we sacrificed to gain that sense of security. “What does it profit a man if he gains the whole world,” he told his disciples, “but loses his soul?” In fact even family and friends won’t be enough to save us if they come before the One who provides us our ultimate sense of belonging. Elsewhere Jesus pronounced his own remedy for insecurity: “Seek first the Kingdom of God, and His righteousness,” he said, identifying the primary treasure, “and all these things will be added unto you.”

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Mark Hadley looks at the new season of 'Gardening Australia'. Gardening Australia

Rating:  G
Distributor: ABC
Release Date: Saturday, 6:30 PM

Gardening is a funny topic for Australians – depending on your age it can mean wildly different things. I remember when I was young it actually represented a punishment. Giving mum a hard time could earn you half an hour pulling up weeds in the veggie patch. But these days the idea of escaping to the backyard for a bit of grubbing about in the garden is actually a pleasure. And it seems that programs like Gardening Australia are determined to grow that good feeling across the generations.

Gardening Australia is an icon in Australian television having commanded loyal audiences for 22 years. Most of that time hosts like Peter Cundall guided its content towards the more … er … mature viewer. However the 23rd season is aiming to bring in a much younger harvest with the appointment of Costa Georgiadis as the new host, fresh fromSBS’s Costa’s Garden Odyssey. Costa arrives with his own ‘early days’ gardening story. He unearthed his own love of green things in his grandfather’s market garden and in time it grew into a degree in landscape gardening. “I was compelled to spend my life with my hands in the soil that became sacred to me,” he explains in episode one. “I believe in gardening the soil and the soul.”

Under Georgiadis Gardening Australia will turn over a new leaf, paying more attention to sustainable growth and the world ecology we’re all a part of. His four-minute introduction to the new series refers to the entire planet as a garden that has as much potential to shape us even as we shape it:
“Gardens are sanctuaries that provide sustenance, beauty and tranquility … gardens harmonize and heal us … in gardens it’s not only plants that grow, it’s people.”

He’s not alone. Jane, woman who’s spent 50 years transforming her sandy-soiled lot into an oasis shares how her labours have benefited her as much as they’ve benefited the backyard – “It can be your gymnasium and your psychiatrist all rolled into one.”

Over coming weeks Costa will encourage viewers to take part in ‘The Verge’, an experiment in transforming communities by transforming the little nature strips that border most lots. The idea is to arrest the decline in community by creating organic bonds between our blocks. In doing so he draws attention to a very Christian belief, that we were designed to live in relationship with the land, not simply on top of it.

Costa’s almost religious fervour seems more likely to settle on a new crop of green gods – ‘Biodiversity’, ‘Eco-Awareness’ and ‘Sustainability’ to name a few – which are not bad things in themselves, just poor substitutes for worship. We can rest and retreat in a garden but it will continue to remain silent where the meaning of life is concerned. Yet Costa’s basic premise is right: labouring in the garden can transform our perspective towards on each other and the world around us. Humanity’s first job was to till the garden that God planted, a task that led to both a consideration of all the good things He’d made and our place amongst them. The backbreaking nature of the work and the weeds that infest our efforts can even point to what’s gone wrong with the world. In short, getting grubby with the kids provides plenty of opportunity for spiritual as well as organic growth.