As young man going to college in the early 1990’s, and as a working adult now going back to college for a career change, I never had a traditional spring break of heading for the beach to ride the waves, drink the booze and enjoy the girls. If only haven’t become a Christian during my second year of college. Anyway, since I work during the week off from school, my spring break for this year was watching the three hottest movies in the theater.
“300” retells the Battle of Thermopylae when the Spartan city-state sends 300 soldiers and their king to stand against the 300,000 strong Persian army while their queen rallies the other Grecian city-states to arms. The Spartans lost the battle after inflicting heavy casualties on the Persians. Based on the graphic novel by Frank Miller, who served as executive producer, the movie reproduces the graphic novel almost on a frame-by-frame basis for this stylized battle to the death. The overall story was interesting but historically inaccurate since the Spartans left their breastplates at home.
“The Reaping” has a former missionary (Hillary Swank) who leaves the church after her family got killed in Africa and goes around the world disproving miraculous events with scientific explanations. When the ten plagues of the Old Testament gets unleashed on a southern backwater town, the town folks blames a little girl living in the swamp. Unable to find a scientific basis for the mysterious events, she has to rely on her faith in God and the little girl as the final plague unleashes a battle between good and evil.
The third film was “Grindhouse,” homage to the 1970’s exploitation double feature with “Planet Terror” by Robert Rodriguez and “Death Proof” by Quentin Tarantino.
The movies within the movies had fake trailers. “Machete,” a Mexican revenge flick on the Texas border, reminding me of the original trailer for “Death Wish” with Charles Bronson. The other trailers included “Werewolf Women of the SS” and “Thanksgiving,” spoofing the horror movies that became prevalent in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s.
“Planet Terror” is the most funny, over-the-top zombie movie since “Shaun of the Dead” came out a few years ago. As is typical of zombie movies, you have a group of misfits forced together for whatever reason while a zombie invasion is underway, realizes what is going on, and escapes to a tropical paradise. Rose McGowan plays a woman who loses a leg during a zombie attack, gets a chair leg to walk around on until she dispatches a military guard (Tarantino) with it, and replaces the chair leg with an assault rifle to kill zombies.
“Death Proof” is the story of two groups of women being stalked by Stuntman Mike (Kurt Russell) in his “death proof” muscle car. He kills the first group of women with relative ease, leaving behind the bodies in “accidents” that the local authorities can’t prove otherwise because the women were under the influence of pot and booze. But the second group of women is a more difficult challenge, being professional stuntwomen willing to take him on and unafraid to inflict great bodily harm. How they took care of him in the end made the audience cheer when “The End” flashes on the screen.
As for the nudity and heavy sexual action, it’s not there as there are some “missing reels” and you’re have to wait until the unrated DVD comes out. Twenty seconds got cut from the movie to avoid a NC-17 rating, which is the kiss of death in mainstream theaters and even some art house theaters. Something that exploitation films in the past didn’t have to deal with as most went unrated.