Role Models

Paul Rudd and Sean William Scott show great chemistry and timing in From left: Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Paul Rudd, Seann William Scott and Bobb’e J. Thompson star in
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DESPITE one texter disagreeing with me, Pineapple Express is the first funny film of the year… and here is the second.Role Models is surprisingly hilarious, taking a seemingly lame plot about troubled men being forced to look after troubled youths and turning it into a comedy gold mine.Full credit has to go to Paul Rudd, previously a likeable bit player in Judd Apatow comedies such as Forgetting Sarah Marshall, Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story and Knocked Up. As co-writer and leading man, Rudd shines, and in the oft-annoying Seann William Scott (who will forever be known as Stifler from American Pie), he has a thankfully not-annoying wingman.Rudd and Scott are Danny and Wheeler, who spend their days driving a monster truck to schools spruiking a high-caffeine energy drink that turns your urine green and telling kids to stay off drugs.Unfortunately, Danny is sick of his job and generally sick of his life, so when his lawyer girlfriend (Banks) dumps him, he goes on a rampage in the monster truck, unwittingly landing himself and Wheeler in court.Their punishment is 150 hours with the Sturdy Wings program, which means mentoring troubled youths. Danny lands role-playing nerd Augie (Mintz-Plasse, best known as Superbad’s McLovin), while Wheeler gets bad-ass potty-mouthed 10-year-old Ronnie (Thompson).It seems like the usual story of badly behaved men learning responsibility, like Adam Sandler’s Big Daddy or The Rock’s The Game Plan, except this is actually funny, fun, intelligent and entertaining.Rudd and Scott bounce of each other with great timing and chemistry, and the script (which Rudd co-wrote with director Wain) moves at a cracking pace with few mis-steps along the way.Youngster Thompson nearly steals the show with his cursing and repeated bitch-slapping of Scott, but it’s Mintz-Plasse’s involvement in a live-action sword-and-sorcery role-playing game that provides the meat of the film and its healthy message about doing what makes you happy.Once you throw in some hilarious one-liners, some clever references to rock band Kiss, and a strong supporting cast, you’ve got a good-time comedy that defies its middle-of-the-road plot to become something laugh-out-loud funny.

This article first appeared in Hangzhou Night Net.

HOUSE ARSON FEARS: Fire razes home, haystack burns

Police and firefighters survey the damage at a Koroit home which was destroyed by a suspicious fire in the early hours of yesterday morning. 090115DW31 Picture: DAMIAN WHITEFIRE caused more than $150,000 worth of damage yesterday when a Koroit home and a Naringal haystack went up in flames.A Jongebloed Court house was guttered by fire early yesterday morning with police treating the incident as suspicious.The Country Fire Authority (CFA) arrived at the brick veneer house at 4.40am to find the property well alight.There were no people in the house at the time of the fire.It took 30 minutes for brigades from Koroit, Warrnambool and Woodford to contain the fire and damage to the property was estimated at $150,000.CFA duty officer David Ferguson said investigations were continuing into the cause of the blaze.”The house was extensively damaged by the time the blaze was contained,” Mr Ferguson said.Warrnambool Criminal Investigation Unit and Victoria Police forensic investigators sifted through the ashes of the gutted building yesterday. CFA Koroit brigade captain David Lumsden said the fire was easily contained after the alarm was raised before dawn.”It took us about half an hour to get it under control but it was completely gutted by the time that happened,” Mr Lumsden said.Ron Brittain, a Jongebloed Court resident of 30 years, said the fire engulfed the house in minutes. “I don’t know what first woke me up but I saw the flames from the window facing the fire and it just kept going,” he said.”It was over pretty quickly and the CFA got it under control in less than half an hour but from what I could see, the place was gutted.”Meanwhile, about 120 hay bales, worth almost $8000, were destroyed at a Naringal property in a blaze thought to have been started by spontaneous combustion.It is the first haystack fire of the summer season and the CFA has warned farmers to monitor their bales for overheating.CFA crews from Allansford, Warrnambool, Naringal and Mepunga attended the fire which started about 2pm.CFA Hopkins Curdies Group officer Kelvin Boyle said the stacks would be left to burn down but crews would monitor the fire until it was deemed safe to ensure it did not spread to surrounding properties.Mr Boyle said spontaneous combustion occurred when dampness and compression of the stack created heat and eventually produced a fire.Meanwhile, a house in Grant Street, Portland sustained smoke damage after a fire started behind a rangehood in the kitchen about 6.20pm last night, Sergeant Wayne Marsh of Portland police said. Also, about 6.40pm yesterday in Koroit, a power pole ignited on Staughtons Lane. CFA Region Five operations officer Mick Harris said two trucks attended the fire which spread briefly to nearby grass.
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Wool workers lose their jobs: Factory closure a blow for 26 staff

TOUGH times in the wool industry have forced a Hamilton business to close its doors and 26 people to lose their jobs.Grampians Wool Industries will operate its Lodge Road factory for the final time next Friday after 47 years of business in the national wool capital.The wool scouring and carbonising plant was bought by wool exporter Fox and Lillie in 1996 and has hit troubled waters in recent years due to a global shortage of orders and a lack of wool supply.All employees would receive due entitlements, the plant’s owners said in a statement yesterday.Lowan MP Hugh Delahunty said the closure of one of Australia’s last wool scouring plants was a bad sign for the industry.”It’s another example of the State Government placing excessive financial constraints on business and seeing them forced to close their doors as a result,” he said.”Grampians Wool Industries was a local option for farmers in the region to sell their wool and keep the wool industry local.”If a woolen mill can’t operate in Hamilton, the nation’s wool capital, where can it operate?” Mr Delahunty wrote a letter to the Essential Services Commission chairman in February last year on behalf of Grampians Wool Industries imploring the commission to be more measured in its increased water charge.”Stamp duty, WorkCover premiums, water charges – they’re all skyrocketing on the State Government’s watch and it’s crushing business,” Mr Delahunty said.Southern Grampians Shire Mayor Marcus Rentsch said the closure was a blow to employees, the region’s wool industry and other Hamilton businesses.”It’s very disappointing to see any business close and our major concern is the welfare of the 26 employees and their families,” he said.”Many of the workers for Grampians Wool Industries are skilled in various trades – plumbers, boiler makers and so on – so I’m sure their services will be in demand.”Most wool these days is scoured and carbonised in China which can outpace us in labour costs.”The Hamilton plant closure comes after Western Australia’s last wool scouring plant shut its doors last week.Jandakot Wool Washing, south of Perth, closed after it struggled to compete with China’s wool scouring sector.
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This article first appeared in Hangzhou Night Net.

Historic tourist site reopening is a real step ahead

South-west Aboriginal elder Lenny Clarke checks out the newly reopened Gibson Steps yesterday. 090115GW10Picture: GLEN WATSONIT is easy to see why the Gibson Steps are so popular.As soon as Parks Victoria opened the Great Ocean Road attraction yesterday, a flood of tourists came to marvel at the ancient steps carved into a cliff face east of the Twelve Apostles.The landmark has been closed for almost a year while Parks Victoria completed works totalling $200,000 to stabilise erosion.Regional manager Rod Newnham said reopening the steps, which attract 300,000 visitors a year, was a top priority but admitted the works had been long and expensive.”But the only other option was (permanent) closure,” Mr Newnham said. “Stabilising the clifftop has been a complex and difficult geotechnical challenge.”About 20 people, including Corangamite Shire Mayor Ruth Gstrein and Cr Steve Cumming, gathered for the reopening. South-west aboriginal elder Len Clarke said Parks Victoria worked well to ensure indigenous cultural heritage values were protected.”It is a spiritual place for us but that’s not to say it’s not a spiritual place for the surfers or other users who come down here to meditate and relax,” he said.”We want to work with all parts of the community and beyond, including overseas visitors, because we take pride in sharing this place with that audience.” The stabilisation works involved building a retaining wall at the top of the cliff face. It is hoped revegetation works, to begin in coming months, will block visibility of the sandstone-coloured wall.Port Campbell Boardriders president Richard Stone praised those who had contributed to the reopening.”We would like to thank Lenny (Clarke) especially because he worked very hard on behalf of his community and ours,” Mr Stone said. “It is a great spot and we are very pleased public access has been restored.”Peter Younis, Port Campbell’s State Emergency Service unit president, agreed. “It is the most practical and convenient access point for all the beaches between Port Campbell and Princetown and very important in rescue operations,” Mr Younis said yesterday.
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JOBS GLOOM: Position vacant ads fall by 36 per cent

FINDING a job is becoming harder with vacant positions evaporating by more than a third across the south-west.There were 157 less job advertisements listed in The Standard last month compared with December 2007 and about 100 less than two years ago in 2006.December 2008 saw an average of 41 job advertisements listed in the My Career section of Saturday’s The Standard – 36 per cent less than the December 2007 average of 64.Experts predict the region’s unemployment levels will rise in the next year as the country heads towards a recession.Warrnambool was not alone with job advertisements in major metropolitan newspapers across the country and on the internet falling by 29.9 per cent in 12 months, according to the ANZ’s monthly survey.Deakin University finance lecturer Chris Ratcliffe said it did not surprise him that demand for new labour in the south-west had followed the dwindling national new jobs trend.”In the current economic environment, people are less inclined to spend and that hits small business very quickly,” he said.”Generally, the first indicator of slowing sales is that of natural redundancy; employers with shrinking profit margins will not replace people leaving their business.”The second step is employers cutting back on their existing workforce.”He predicted local unemployment levels would follow an upward national trend.Mr Ratcliffe said despite falling milk prices, the south-west was better positioned than most regions to ride out the current economic turbulence.”We are lucky in the Western District because of the rural sector, even with the (milk) price drop, it is quite buoyant,” he said.”We’re still getting very good tourist numbers coming to the region as well this summer.” “And it’s common knowledge now that more and more people are deciding to go on holiday at home,” Mr Ratcliffe said.ANZ economist Riki Polygenis said the number of internet and newspaper job advertisements nationwide had fallen sharply in December – the eighth consecutive month of decline. The annual growth rate for newspaper job advertising is 51.8 per cent, the weakest since December 1982.”This suggests we will see further significant deterioration in the labour market and this means a rise in unemployment,” Ms Polygenis said.ANZ head of economics Warren Hogan said the survey provided further evidence that demand for new labour across Australia was now at recession levels. “ANZ is forecasting the unemployment rate to rise to six per cent in 2009, up from the current rate of 4.4 per cent,” he said. “Newspaper job advertising has slumped since the intensification of the financial crisis in mid-September last year, having declined by more than 30 per cent over the course of the final three months of 2008.”Mr Hogan said despite a rise in unemployment, Australia remained in a relatively strong financial position compared to the periods of previous recessions.
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This article first appeared in Hangzhou Night Net.