The chick flick that's an insult to womankind

Film<br /><strong>THE UGLY TRUTH</strong><br />Cert: 15<br /><br />SHE did it in Knocked Up and in 27 Dresses. Once again, Katherine Heigl steps into the role of a woman starved of love for being too uptight, too successful and too much of a control freak. And, of course, for not being a sexy enough dresser. <br /><br />Her plight was portrayed offensively enough in the first two. But The Ugly Truth is repugnant. Usually, I&rsquo;m able to dismiss the deeper social meaning of Hollywood candyfloss in favour of brain-numbing enjoyment. But with this film, I found that impossible.<br /><br />What &ldquo;the ugly truth&rdquo; refers to is a macho chat show anchored by our antihero, Mike Chadway (Gerard Butler of Rock n&rsquo; Rolla and 300 fame).&nbsp; He claims in dirty language that men only care about a woman&rsquo;s appearance &ndash; the more suggestive of porn the better &ndash; and that any person who implies differently is lying. Outrageous! Oh!<br /><br />But, well, you guessed it. He&rsquo;s right. When he comes to do his show on the TV programme produced by Abby Richter (Katherine Heigl), he finds an adversary in Ms Richter &ndash; she is prim, proper and shouty, as you&rsquo;d expect of a successful, single woman in a Hollywood rom com. But she soon gives in to his charms when he helps her bag her &ldquo;perfect&rdquo; man &ndash; her handsome orthopaedic surgeon neighbour.&nbsp; Armed with Chadway&rsquo;s golden rules &ndash; never criticise a man, never talk about yourself, always laugh at his jokes, fake orgasm when necessary, and wear bras that make your &ldquo;boobies&rdquo; say &ldquo;lick me, I taste good&rdquo; &ndash; Richter lands the stud. But that&rsquo;s before she realises she and Chadway love each other really. <br /><br />This is a crass film, with humour that could be funny if it weren&rsquo;t furnishing and entrenching such backward, depressing cliches about men and women. The Ugly Truth, written and directed by women, is not a high point for our gender. <br /><br />Zoe Strimpel<br /><br /><strong>G.I. JOE: THE RISE OF COBRA</strong><br />Cert: 15<br /><br />This continues the partnership between Paramount Pictures and toy company Hasbro that started with Transformers, another film showing that when the ideas cupboard is bare, Hollywood can always look in the toy cupboard. The toy in question now is G.I. Joe &ndash; the plastic-panted chap known over here as Action Man.<br /><br />It&rsquo;s easy to imagine an army of brainless G.I. Joes made the film too, for all the appeal it has to the heart and mind. You could even believe the actors &ndash; like the toys &ndash; have little switches in the backs of their necks for moving their eyes &ndash; it&rsquo;s more credible than the idea they actually tried acting. <br /><br />G.I. Joe isn&rsquo;t actually a character here, but a collective (Global Integrated Joint Operating Entity, since you ask), of special-forces beefcakes led by Dennis Quaid, fighting an evil organisation called Cobra. As you&rsquo;d expect, there&rsquo;s an endless stream of spectacular effects, visceral action set-pieces, guns, gadgets, bizarre costumes and huge explosions. The whole thing trundles past like a tedious videogame, but less involving. It&rsquo;s exhausting. Three British actors take the money and run &ndash; Christopher Eccleston as the mad baddie, Jonathan Pryce as the US president, and Sienna Miller as a vampish villainess. The latter&rsquo;s tight leather outfits at least provide something other than CGI explosions to look at.<br /><br />Timothy Barber<br /><br />Theatre<br /><strong>HELEN</strong><br />Shakespeare&rsquo;s Globe<br /><br />A female chorus that&rsquo;s mostly male, a feisty flame-haired heroine and a snappy translation from the Greek bring Frank McGuinness&rsquo; idiomatic version of Euripides&rsquo; Helen crashing onto the Globe&rsquo;s stage. <br /><br />Despite being written in 412BC, McGuiness&rsquo; trans-genre adaptation hits home to the contemporary audience. Euripides&rsquo; premise sees Helen &ndash; she whose face launched a thousand ships and precipitated the Trojan war &ndash; safe in Egypt, having been wafted there in a cloud by the gods. In fact she has not betrayed her vengeful husband Menelaus, escaping Paris&rsquo; Trojan clutches after the deities created a ghostly lookalike for him to abduct instead. Plucky Helen &ndash; played by a sassy Penny Downie &ndash; has been waiting for Menelaus for 17 long and faithful years, while he&rsquo;s been ruining Troy out of love for her. <br /><br />In Deborah Bruce&rsquo;s punchy production, dry wit and a tongue-in-cheek tone are interrupted only momentarily by pathos. Language is truly modern &ndash; one Egyptian calls Menelaus a &ldquo;foreign bastard,&rdquo;&nbsp; &ndash; and the space is well-used, with a particularly beautiful depiction of an Egyptian graveyard.<br /><br />Paul McGann gives a forceful portrayal of a recovering Menelaus. But it is the strong chemistry of the entire ensemble, from percussion player to the swan-winged, dungarees-wearing, Deus Ex Machina siblings who resolve the plot, which makes this production such a joy to watch.<br /><br />Lora Coventry