Movies out today: Time to get your historical hand-to-hand combat on

Five new films open in South Africa today, and apart from a touch of romantic comedy fluff, this week's new releases seem to place the emphasis slap-bang on violent defiance of injustice.

300: Rise of an Empire:
Definitely the most high-profile release of the week is this ultra-stylised sequel to everyone's favourite R-rated-actioner-turned-meme 300. Rise of an Empire is screening in 2D, 3D and 3D IMAX, and focuses on events before, during and after the Battle of Thermopylae. More specifically it centres on the naval battle between the Athenians - led by warrior-statesman Themistocles (Sullivan Stapleton) - and the Persian fleet - headed by female general Artemisia (Eva Green). For the record, Lena Headey is back as Spartan queen Gorgo; as is Rodrigo Santoro as God king Xerxes. Zack Snyder writes and produces, meanwhile, but has handed over directing duties. Trailer Tuesday profile.

The original CGI-saturated 300 was much imitated, and as expected that means the sequel lacks a sense of freshness. It's still cool, the carnage is gratifying and Eva Green makes a ferocious villain who drives the narrative, but at the end of the day Rise of an Empire is just not particularly memorable - or so says Kervyn in his review over at TheMovies.co.za. Internationally, critics have stated much the same. If you liked the first film, you should enjoy this one. If you found its gratuitousness violence, slow-mo and machismo exhausting, the sequel won't win you over. 44% Fresh on review aggregator site Rotten Tomatoes.





The Grandmaster:
Screening on the art house circuit from today is this historical Hong Kong actioner. Tony Leung plays real-life kung fu grandmaster Ip Man, and the film centres on his rise to prominence in the 1930s through to 50s - a politically fraught, war-torn period when this man of peace had to continually fight to earn respect. Zhang Ziyi is a rival martial artist.

The Grandmaster has been a global hit, critically and commercially. It may lack focus, but this moody movie is definitely ambitious, stylistically gorgeous and features Oscar nominated cinematography. 75% Fresh.



Winnie Mandela:
Shot in 2011, but only coming to the big screen in South Africa now, is this biopic starring Jennifer Hudson as the controversial anti-Apartheid activist. Terrence Howard is Nelson Mandela. The film - which evidently plays up the romance between Winnie and Nelson - is directed by acclaimed South African filmmaker Darrell (Cry the Beloved Country, Yesterday) Roodt.

Following the release of Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom last December, and featuring a trailer with a strong "seen it all before" vibe, there doesn't seem to be a massive incentive to see Winnie Mandela. Especially once you read reviews and see the made-for-TV quality film dismissed as syrupy and superficial. 15% Fresh.



The To Do List:
Aubrey Plaza stars in this comedy about a socially awkward overachiever who decides she needs more sexual experience during the Summer holidays before she starts college. So she creates a sexual to-do list. The film also features Johnny Simmons, Bill HaderRachel Bilson, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Andy Samberg, Connie Britton and Clark Gregg.

The To Do List has split critics. Some have dismissed the incredibly raunchy film is unnecessarily vulgar and cynical. Others have noted its technical flaws but still commended it for giving a sexual coming-of-age tale a female perspective. 52% Fresh.

 
 

Vrou Soek Boer:
For anyone in the market for a local romantic comedy, there's this Afrikaans language fliek about a 30 year old woman (Lika Berning) who trades in her successful big city career for the small town life. She relocates to the countryside to run a bakery and finds herself torn between two eligible farmers (Nico Panagio and Bok van Blerk) - even as her concerned aunt subjects her to multiple dates via a Classifieds ad.


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