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IMAX PROGRAMME (article first published : 2008-02-2)

Durban’s giant-screen Imax Theatre at Gateway has arranged a feast of fun fare over the next six months – and plans are for the line-up to include five top features.

Imagine experiencing, on Gateway’s giant Imax screen and with superlative sound, Christian Bale as the caped crusader and Heath Ledger as The Joker in director Christopher Nolan’s next Batman spectacular, Dark Knight. There is a strong probably this film will be seen in the large-screen cinema, according to Melanie Singh, spokesman for Durban’s Imax Theatre. She added this week that the film was one of five top features scheduled for Imax this year, although the final line-up would only be confirmed later.

The Dark Knight, set for an American release on July 18, also features Aaron Eckhart, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Gary Oldman, Michael Caine and Morgan Freeman. The movie takes Batman across the world in a quest to fight a criminal mastermind known as The Joker, who unleashes a fresh reign of chaos across Gotham City. To stop this devious new menace - Batman's most personal and vicious enemy yet - he will have to use every high-tech weapon in his arsenal and confront everything he believes.

Other films earmarked for Gateway’s Imax this year include Roland Emmerich’s new prehistoric adventure, 10 000 BC; and the computer-animated Kung Fu Panda, featuring the voice talents of Jack Black, Jackie Chan, Angelina Jolie, Lucy Lui and Dustin Hoffman.

The ambitious 10 000 BC, set for a late-March release locally, has been described as a sweeping odyssey into a mythical age of prophesies and gods, a time when spirits rule the land and mighty mammoths shake the earth. It stars Steven Strait, Camilla Belle and Cliff Curtis. Kung Fu Panda centres on a tubby panda bear at a noodle restaurant that discovers he has been labelled as “The Chosen One” and must be whipped into shape and action to save the lives of many.

Also tagged for an Imax screening this year is The Spiderwick Chronicles, a high-gloss film directed by Mark Waters. It stars young Freddie Highmore, star of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Finding Neverland and August Rush. Also featuring Nick Nolte, Joan Plowright, David Straithairn, Seth Rogen, Martin Short and Weeds star Mary-Louise Parker, the fantasy film is set for a February 15 release in the United States. Based on the best-selling series of books, The Spiderwick Chronicles tells of an adventure for the child in all of us. Peculiar things start to happen the moment the Grace family (Jared, his twin brother Simon, sister Mallory and their mom) leave New York and move into a secluded old house owned by their great, great uncle Arthur Spiderwick. Unable to explain the strange disappearances and accidents that seem to be happening on a daily basis, the family blames Jared. But when he, Simon and Mallory investigate what's really going on, they uncover the fantastic truth of the Spiderwick estate and of the creatures that inhabit it.

Avatar, a film still in production by director James Cameron, and starring Sigourney Weaver and Zoe Saldana, is also on the Imax “hope list”. It centres on a band of humans pitted in battle against a distant planet’s indigenous population.

Meanwhile, already confirmed as the next big draw at the cinema is Ocean Frenzy: Africa’s Wild Coast tagged for a February release. This fascinating film profiles the massive migration of sardines off the KwaZulu-Natal coast - an annual event that creates a feeding frenzy among sharks, dolphins, whales, and other big game fish. The film is said to capture spectacular breaching whales, feeding sharks, diving gannets and massive bait balls inside and up close on the giant screen. Demonstrating how business, government and local people have joined forces to protect this invaluable ecological resource, it promises to transport audiences into an epic underwater struggle for survival and reveal the economic and cultural impact the migration has on the coastal communities.

Also headed for Imax, in March, is an old favourite - The Grand Canyon: The Hidden Secrets, described as a spectacular and timeless adventure that takes audiences on an in-depth exploration of one of the world's most extraordinary sites. Winner of the 2000 Imax Hall of Fame Award and seen by more than 220 million people, this film, directed by Keith Merrill, offers a unique chance to forge the canyon's depths. Viewers get to experience what they could never see on their own –including a thrilling flight over the canyon's span to a wild whitewater-rafting ride. One also gains a unique understanding of the canyon's awesome history, discovering everything from the original Native American inhabitants to the great explorers.

A new documentary, Mummies: Secrets of the Pharaohs, narrated by Christopher Lee, has been scheduled for April. This Imax film visits the royal tombs of Egypt and explores the history of ancient Egyptian society, as told through the mummies of the past. It follows explorers and scientists as they piece together the archaeological and genetic clues of Egyptian mummies, and provides students with a window into the fascinating and mysterious world of the pharaohs. “In addition to increasing our understanding of the culture, religion, medicine, and daily life thousands of years ago, scientists today are reconstructing mummy DNA and deciphering ancient texts to gain insight into modern human genetics and advance medical treatments,” says a spokesman. “To unwrap the secrets of the pharaohs is to perhaps glimpse the future of our own civilisation. Mummies: Secrets of the Pharaohs was filmed by the award-winning team of director Keith Melton (Mystic India, Cirque du Soleil) and director of photography Reed Smoot (Mysteries of Egypt, Mystic India), with original screenplay by Arabella Cecil (Kilimanjaro: to the Roof of Africa).

The last of the documentaries confirmed for Imax for the first half of the year is Legends of the Sky, set for a June opening at Gateway. It dramatises the design challenges, financial risks and many lessons learned from a century of aviation trial and error - bringing us to the dawn of a new era of revolutionary aircraft, the 787 Dreamliner and the A380. The film focuses on the 787 to facilitate audience understanding of the dynamic design differences between the two latest aircraft technologies. The film shows how planes of the 20th century helped influence the radical new design of 21st century aircraft. “We see how high-tech manufacturers around the world use modern technology to co-ordinate the design and construction of new aircraft. And we fly in the cockpit with chief test pilot, Mike Carriker, as he takes the new 787 Dreamliner on its first test flight.”

Imax at Gateway has various screenings daily. The number there is 031 566 4414/5. – Billy Suter




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