Who's In It: Denzel Washington, Mila Kunis, Gary Oldman, Jennifer Beals
The Basics: This movie opens with a shot of one of those freaky hairless cats that everyone hates eating a dead human foot. Then Denzel Washington goes all Ted Nugent on the feline with his crossbow (cue those ROWWRRR! killed-cat sounds) and cooks it for dinner before feeding poetic bits of the predator to a mouse. So are you in? Sure you are. After that bit of fake seriousness, Denzel trudges through a post-apocalyptic wasteland armed with a "Book" and a blade that could take down Paul Bunyan in one swipe. He meets good-girl hookers and blind ladies and Mad Max-ian hordes with bad teeth and a snooty bad guy who wants to control what's left of humanity (with that special book-three guesses which one it is). It's kind of The Road for people who'd rather watch Wile E. Coyote chase the Roadrunner or a marathon of Billy Jack movies.
What's The Deal: While watching this movie, I thought about how re-titling it Crazyknife! would have more effectively communicated its true nature. Because with a name like The Book of Eli, you might get the mistaken impression that something meaningful is going to take place instead of the hopped-up wacky package of WTFness it actually delivers. And once you figure out the secret identity of The Book (which should come to you not long after the rollicking disco gun-battle, the first and hopefully not last of its kind up 2010's cinema sleeve) and Mr. Washington's incredibly special relationship to it, you'll be pleased to find yourself in the best comedy of the year to date. I know it's only January.
Co-Starring Multiple Isolated Moments Of Pure Awesome, Including: Character-defining slow-motion struts; hilarious bits about Victrolas and cannibals juxtaposed in the same scene; Jennifer Beals: soulful, suffering and sightless; men in big coats and women in halter tops (breasts are never cold); Gary Oldman cackling about book burning and prayer; Mila Kunis as Milla Jovovich in Resident Evil; bulletproof Denzel; Battered iPods of Courage; the promise of even more apocalypse in the sequel.
What It's Really About: Hygiene, Milk Duds and signature weaponry as religious fetish.
The Film Critic's Dilemma: I run into this problem every time I see an example of idiotic filmmaking that I beg my friends to watch. With words that's an easy enough thing to explain; it's a movie so insane it has to be seen. But then there's my job, where I have to give a star rating to it. Is it a one-star movie because it's bad? Or is it three stars of brain-roasting entertainment? I never have figured out a good answer. I call it the Uwe Boll Conundrum. I'll go with the latter choice on this one, though. I may change my mind the next time something like it rolls around. That's why you should always read the actual review and not just look at the grade.