Men with carved pecs strut around in G-strings and the occasional over-the-shoulder throw, ready to mate or do battle.
In "300," out on DVD today, hordes of invading Persians threaten to take over Sparta, a warrior culture led by muscular King Leonidas, played semi-a cappella by "The Phantom of the Opera's" Gerard Butler; he doesn't sing but he is charismatic and lusty.
Adapted from the Frank Miller graphic comic about the stand at the Thermopylae pass in ancient Greece, the story follows Leonidas and his 300 Spartans as they fight thousands of Persians while the rest of the country prepares for war.
Violent to the max, the film is shot in stylized black-and-white, similar to Miller's "Sin City," with splashes of red and rust mixed in. The actors perform in front of a blue or green screen and backgrounds and special effects are added via computer. The result is a visually exciting film -- but one that's not for the squeamish.
Extras: Plenty of deleted scenes and featurettes. (The History Channel's "Last Stand of the 300," also out this week, offers a more substantial look at the incident.)
Bad boys, bad boys
Blimey, the team that revived the undead with its splendid zombie spoof "Shaun of the Dead" is back with another off-kilter satire. "Hot Fuzz" targets quaint small towns and provincial cops, generating laughs even though its story falls a few rungs shy of a stepladder.
Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, the oblivious leads in "Shaun," star. Pegg, who co-wrote both films with director Edgar Wright, plays a hotshot London cop who's packed off to a tiny village regularly voted the safest in the land.
Teaming with a lunkheaded patrolman played by Frost, he steps into a melange of likely murders that everyone else dismisses as accidents. (A woman whose neck is sliced by garden shears must have fallen on them, the town's detectives insist.) Most of the humor's played off the new cop's frustration -- with eccentric townies and the genial sidekick tossed in as foils.
Extras: Pegg, Frost and Wright show that boys will be boys in a featurette about their lengthy U.S. press tour; commentary; so-so gag reel; making-of short; funny bit with Pegg and Frost acting a "Hot Fuzz" scene as Sean Connery and Michael Caine.
A bright young man from the wrong side of the British class system goes to an upscale college, falls for the pretty blonde who's wrong for him, spurns the personable brunette who's right, and achieves his dream of being selected to the "College Bowl"-like team in "Starter for 10" (also the name of the quiz show).
During his coming-of-age voyage, he makes mistakes, gets hurt, hurts others and eventually figures out what life's all about. It's a pleasant by-the-numbers comedy-drama made palatable by engaging portrayals of the anti-hero by James McAvoy (the doctor in "The Last King of Scotland") and the women in his life played by Alice Eve and Rebecca Hall. A sharp piece of writing slips through from time to time.
Extras: An innocuous making-of short; a gimmick that identifies each song as it plays during the movie.
In the New World
A Viking boy, left behind during a raid, is raised by natives, then fights for them when the Vikings invade years later in "Pathfinder." Heads roll, limbs fly, torsos tumble, and the hero, played by Karl Urban as a grown-up, runs, slashes and severs ad infinitum.
A poor man's version of "Apocalypto," "Pathfinder" is available on a kinder, gentler single-disc theatrical version and a no-holds-barred two-disc unrated version.
Extras: Director's commentary and deleted scenes on both releases; also making-of shorts and a piece on Clancy Brown, who plays the villainous Viking leader, on the unrated version.
Also on DVD
Reach Barry Caine of the Oakland Tribune at firstname.lastname@example.org or 925-416-4839.