Battles of empire

2014-03-07 00:00

OPENING in cinemas this weekend is 300: Rise of an Empire, which picks up after the Persian army’s victory over Leonidas’s 300 Spartans.

The soldiers, under the command of Xerxes, march south towards the major Greek city states, including the democratic city of Athens, which bases its strength on its fleet, led by admiral Themistocles.

Themistocles is forced into an unwilling alliance with the traditional rival of Athens, oligarchic Sparta, whose might lies with its superior infantry troops. But Xerxes still reigns supreme in numbers over sea and land.

Down in Durban, cinema goers can watch Maggie Carey’s To Do List, starring Aubrey Plaza, Johnny Simmons, Bill Hader and Alia Shawkat.

In the film, valedictorian Brandy Klark decides that, in order to shed her uptight image before college, she needs to do all the “activities” she missed out on in high school.

Quickly realising that she is way out of her depth, Brandy solicits her two best friends, her older sister and her burnt-out boss for their help and advice. But even with the guidance of those closest to her, Brandy can’t foresee that emotions are not easily kept to the margins.

Lika Berning stars as Mareike, a successful city girl, in the new Afrikaans film Vrou Soek ’n Boer. After a confrontation with her boss, she decides to swop the city for the platteland and a bakery that she inherited from an aunt. But her new life proves to be more exciting than she dreamed, when she finds herself caught between the attentions of two men — Neil (Nico Panagio), a farmer in Wakkerstroom, and Stander (Bok van Blerk), a man who believes Mareike is the ideal woman for him.

At Cinema Nouveau Gateway in Umhlanga, opera fans can catch the latest release in the Metropolitan Opera series, Antonin Dvorák’s Rusalka, starring soprano Renée Fleming in one of her signature roles, the lovelorn mermaid Rusalka.

Yannick Nézet-Séguin conducts a cast that also includes Piotr Beczala as the handsome Prince Rusalka, who yearns to love; Dolora Zajick as the cackling swamp witch Ježibaba; Emily Magee as the foreign princess, Rusalka’s rival; and John Relyea as Rusalka’s father, the water sprite.

The opera tells the story of the water nymph Rusalka, who longs to become human so she can win the love of a prince.

Also at Cinema Nouveau is Darrell Roodt’s Winnie Mandela, starring Jennifer Hudson as Winnie Madikizela-Mandela and Terrence Howard as Nelson Mandela.

The film chronicles the life of Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, from her strict rural upbringing by a father disappointed she was not born a boy, to her giving up the chance to study in the United States in order to remain in South Africa where she felt more needed, through to her husband’s imprisonment. She then faces continuous harassment by the security police, banishment to a small Free State town, betrayal by friends and allies, and more than a year in solitary confinement.

Upon her release, she continues her husband’s activism against apartheid and, after his release from prison, suffers divorce due to her infidelity and political pressures.

The art-house cinema is also screening The Grandmaster, directed by Wong Kar Wai. Six years in the planning and three years in the making, this action feature is inspired by the life and times of the legendary Kung-fu master Ip Man.

The story spans the tumultuous Republican era that followed the fall of China’s last dynasty, a time of chaos, division and war that was also the golden age of Chinese martial arts.

Bollywood fans are spoilt for choice this week, with three new films opening in KZN.

Madhuri Dixit stars in the first of these, Gulaab Gang, which examines a fearless woman’s fight against social injustice. She creates a sanctuary for abused women and battles a crooked politician.

Nimirndhu Nil is a Tamil action-thriller, written and directed by Samuthirakani and featuring Jayam Ravi and Amala Paul in the lead roles; while Queen tells the story of Rani, who after her fiancé gets killed in a car accident, decides to go on her honeymoon alone.

• arts@witness.co.za

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