Film Facts:

The Book of Eli – Released in 2010, starring Denzel Washington and Gary Oldman, and directed by Albert and Allen Hughes.

The Apocalypse Scenario:

A global nuclear holocaust, presumably the result of a global thermo-nuclear war, although it isn’t explicitly specified. Civilization has essentially been wiped out and there is significant environmental damage, including irradiated water, lingering radioactive fallout, and vast desert wastelands.

The Year:

The film takes place 30 years after the nuclear holocaust, only a few survivors still remember “the before time”. The actual time of the holocaust isn’t specified, but judging from the items that are left, namely iPods, KFC wet-wipes, RPGs, and station wagons, the nuclear destruction happened right around this week. I think it’s safe to say that the film takes place within a couple years of 2040.

What They’ve Run Out Of:

Basically everything: shampoo, batteries, gasoline, and chapstick are all hot commodities. Safe drinking water is very important, as is safe food, and in its absence many people have taken to cannibalism. However, what the film centers on (if you haven’t guessed it already) is books, and one book in particular: the Bible. Many books were lost in the destruction and afterward any remaining Bibles were burned, apparently many people saw it as the cause of the nuclear war. Eli, the protagonist, is carrying what is, presumably, the last one left on earth.

What this Film Adds to the Post-Apocalyptic Genre:

While most of the content is well conceived and depicted, it’s also pretty standard: roaming biker gangs, cannibals, bows and machetes used along with guns, desert wastelands dotted with ruined overpasses. What sets this film apart and also makes it a whole lot more interesting, is a surprisingly strong Christian element. All of us here on Shut Up agreed that it was the most overtly Christian film since The Passion of the Christ, and that’s no overstatement. While the film avoids explicitly mentioning Jesus or God, Eli quotes Psalms and talks about faith. The film acknowledges that the authority of Scripture can be abused by dictators, but it also depicts the depravity of humanity and the necessity of God’s Word. There is also a surprise ending (so don’t let anyone spoil it for you) that only makes sense if you factor the providence of God into the events of the film.

Book of Eli

Luke’s Rating:

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A solid four zipped-lips; it’s not perfect, but it’s well made and surprisingly good. If you haven’t seen it yet, do it. If you have, see it again with someone who hasn’t, you’ll certainly talk about it afterwards. Don’t forget to check out the rest of our movies in the Post-Apocalyptic Roundup!

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Retcon stands for “retroactive continuity.” It’s a comic book industry term, but it’s used in all kinds of serial fiction these days. Something is retconned when an author goes back and alters the backstory or past events of an ongoing storyline to fit the needs of the current plotline. Perhaps the most famous retcon was carried out by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle: the character Sherlock Holmes was just too popular to actually die in that waterfall. Now, to be honest, what I’m doing is technically a revision and not a retcon, but come on, the word retcon is too cool not to use. So what am I retconning? My list of the top 25 films of the last decade, the first article that I posted on this blog. And why am I retconning it? Well, even though the decade was over when I wrote it, there were still lots of great films that I hadn’t seen yet, and not only that, but the order that I would now put the original 25 films in has changed over time as well. If you haven’t read my original list go check it out. That said, I’m not going to rewrite the entire list. I would probably rearrange a lot of the films on it, but I’m only altering the top seven spots, so at least read those entries.

So here goes, my brand new, retconned, top films of the last decade:

1. The Lord of the Rings Trilogy (2000, 2001, 2003)

Why is it still in spot number one? Because I’m treating the trilogy as a single entry. Like I originally said, the sequential release of the Lord of the Rings films was the greatest cinematic event of its decade. And treating the three films as a single entry allows me two extra spots to highlight other films; devoting three spots, each to a Lord of Rings film, doesn’t seem fair. And you just know all three would be on this list. I will say this though, if I were to split the trilogy into three separate entries, I don’t think they’d be in the order you’d expect. I actually liked The Return of the King the least and The Fellowship of the Ring the most. And if we’re talking about the extended editions, well then The Two Towers is my favorite.

2. The Dark Knight (2008)

Why did this film move from spot number seven to spot number two? Because most films, when you really start analyzing them or you begin comparing them to other films, you find flaws that you maybe hadn’t noticed before and subsequently you rate the film a little lower, and yet a few films, a rare few, when you do this, you instead realize just how good they really are. I saw The Dark Knight twice while it was in theaters and I was blown away by it. But when I was writing my original list, it was still getting plenty of hype and, even though I loved it, I didn’t want to accidentally jump on a bandwagon, so I put it at number seven. And yet, years later, after the hype has died down, I find myself comparing other films to it, almost as if it were a benchmark. I’ll think, “Wow, that movie was good. But was it as good as The Dark Knight?” No film is perfect, but I feel it’s unhelpful to never give any film a five star rating, something has to be at the top of the chart, something has to set the standard, and in my mind The Dark Knight is such a film.

3. Stranger Than Fiction (2006)

Why was this film added to this list at spot number three? Because I recently saw it and it’s now one of my favorite films. In fact, this film is the main reason I’m doing this retcon. After I’d seen it, the person who recommended it to me asked where it would fall on my old list of the best films of the last decade. That got me thinking about how else that list might have changed since I originally wrote it. By why is this film so high on the list, at spot number three? Because some films are inspiring, some films have something philosophically meaningful to say, some films are darkly hilarious, some films have amazing performances by every single cast member. But this film, it has all of those, and it combines them perfectly. I won’t say anything else, I wouldn’t want to spoil any of the surprises this film has to offer, so you’ll just have to check it out for yourself.

4. Little Miss Sunshine (2006)

Why did this film move from spot number two to spot number four? I don’t like this film any less, it’s still certainly one of my favorite films over all. It’s only moved down two spots to make room for a new favorite and for a film I’ve grown to appreciate even more. That said, it’s similar to Stranger Than Fiction, so why did I rate Stranger Than Fiction one spot higher? It’s not necessarily because I like Stranger Than Fiction more, it’s because Stranger Than Fiction is a more accessible film than Little Miss Sunshine. There are certain elements of Little Miss Sunshine that can be off putting to some people, in fact I know certain people who outright hate it, and Little Miss Sunshine’s message, which is actually quite meaningful, can get lost in that. The profundity and the humor of Stranger Than Fiction is an easier experience to share.

5. The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters (2007)

Why was this film added to the list at spot number five? I saw this film well before writing the original list and it was already a favorite of mine. I actually debated adding it but in the end decided not to because it’s actually a documentary. But like I said, this is a retcon, and so I’m changing the rules. It’s one of my favorite films and it’s certainly my favorite documentary, it wouldn’t be right to exclude it on some arbitrary pretext of “no documentaries allowed”. Besides, in an eerie and hilarious way, it actually follows the tropes of a typical movie, it’s got the classic underdog hero fighting against the powerful villain aided by his snivelling minions, there’s even the elderly, manipulated authority figure. And all of  this is in the context of playing the old Donkey Kong arcade game. It’s painfully hilarious, and yet, surprisingly, it actually has an inspiring message within it. The moral of the film is that the best revenge is going on and living a good life and simply being the better person.

6. Hot Fuzz (2007)

Why did this film move from spot number three to spot number six? I also don’t like this film any less, I still think it’s the funniest film of its decade. It’s certainly funnier than the three films before it, but those three films, in addition to being funny, have something meaningful to say, whereas Hot Fuzz is just pure hilarity. Not that there’s anything wrong with “pure hilarity”, that’s exactly why it’s the sixth best film of the decade.

7. Moon (2009)

Why was this film added to the list at spot number seven? In the original list I included a number of “sleeper hits” but Moon gets the award for being the most under appreciated, most un-hyped, and most unrecognized film of the decade. I rented Moon after the decade was over; I’d heard of it but it had a limited release in theaters. After watching it once, I watched it two more times. Baring Heath Ledger’s performance as the Joker, of course, there’s a strong argument for Sam Rockwell’s portrayal of the lonely astronaut in Moon as the best performance of the decade. Moon is a hard film to categorize. Above all else, it’s psychological. But is it a psychological drama? Yes…but not a normal one at all. Is it psychological horror? In a way, but not overtly. Is it a psychological thriller? No…and yes. Is it psychological sci-fi? I suppose so, but the emphasis is not on the sci-fi. Not everyone will like Moon, some may think it’s slow moving and too contemplative, but even so, it’s an outstanding film that didn’t get the chance to shine that it deserved. You probably haven’t even heard of it, so do yourself a favor and check it out.

“Wait a minute!” you might be saying, “what happened to Unbreakable, Signs, and V for Vendetta? Those used to be in spots four, five, and six.” Well you’re very observant, and those films are officially eight, nine, and ten now, and everything else, beginning with Gladiator (which was eight), moves down three spots. And the three on the end, Equilibrium, Sunshine, and X2…well, let’s just say it’s a top 28 Films of the Decade now…

“You seriously haven’t seen Memento yet? It’s been like 12 years, pal.”

And who knows, if I finally get around to seeing Memento, Inglourious Basterds, or No Country for Old Men, I might just have to retcon this list again…

Remember When…

November 14, 2011

Star Wars, while ever present in the back our generation’s collective social-cultural mind, seems to be showing up even more frequently of late. This is primarily because of the recent release of the entire “saga” on Blu-ray. Now whether you’re thrilled or disappointed once again that it doesn’t include an unadulterated original trilogy, at least we can all agree that…well, Star Wars is awesome. Think back to the first time you saw it, if you can remember; I was pretty young and I don’t, but my grandpa remembers seeing it in the theater. He says he remembers, after the film was over, just sitting there and thinking to himself, “That was the greatest thing I’ve ever seen.” I asked him what he thought when he saw that one scene, you know, the scene of Empire Strikes Back, the biggest reveal in all of cinema history (sorry Mr. Welles). My grandpa said he saw it coming.

Luke vs. Luke!

Remember the cave scene, yeah, big hint there. But for those of us who were a lot younger it took us totally by surprise. The most sinister villain we’d ever seen, the father of our greatest hero. So I leave you with this gem, a dad managed to capture, on camera, his kids’ reaction to that fateful scene:

by Luke Eddy

I thoroughly enjoyed this movie…but for all the wrong reasons. Going into the theater I knew that Clash of the Titans had only a 34% freshness rating on Rotten Tomatoes (and it’s dropped even lower since it’s release), so I’d already lost hope of the film living up to it’s prerelease hype. And yet I was still amazed at just how bland, unoriginal, uninspired, insipid, cheesy, confusing, contrived, and downright silly it all was. In his review of Clash of the Titans, Isaac has already pointed out its most glaring flaws: a plot that manages to be both confusing and boring at the same time, characters with unclear motives, and action scenes that just don’t deliver. I want to expound on that last point because if the film had delivered the action it had promised then a lot of other flaws could have been forgiven. However, if you’ve seen the trailer, you’ve already seen every single fight in the film, not every single blurry frame, obviously, but at least a couple shots from every fight show up in the trailer. The premises of the fights have potential: Giant scorpions! An evil dude twisted by the wrath of Zeus and the power of Hades! Medusa! The Kraken! Yet none of these fights are nearly as epic or exciting as they could have been. And when the film does try to amp up the action for one of the later fights, Perseus starts doing weird flips and spins in the middle of a sword fight. The nail in the coffin though was that Perseus doesn’t even fight the Kraken. I’m sorry! I’m sorry I spoiled it, but it’s true. Yes, Perseus flies around it on a Pegasus and zaps it with Medusa’s ugly face, but all that the Kraken does is gurgle and swat a few buildings. When I first saw the trailer I thought to myself, “This is silly and stupid and over-the-top and awesome all at the same time, I need to see this.” (I also thought, “Wow, that’s some shiny armor that Liam Neeson is wearing.” But that’s beside the point.) Yet Clash of the Titans wasn’t silly or stupid in the way that a good action flick is, such as the Lethal Weapon or The Mummy series, where the action is intentionally over-the-top and the whole film is tongue-in-cheek about it’s own ridiculousness. Clash of the Titans is neither of these: it’s just plain silly and just plain stupid, and even worse, it takes itself seriously the whole time.

As I said at the beginning of this review, I thoroughly enjoyed Clash of the Titans…but for all the wrong reasons. Despite everything I just said, no, because of everything I just said, you should get together a group of friends, go see it, 2-D, matinee price, and watch it MST3K style. I went to a 10 o’clock showing on opening night and almost everyone was talking and laughing. Clash of the Titans gets only two zipped lips from me, because really you should only shut up to listen to the hilariously awful dialogue.

Well, here it finally is: my ‘Top 25 Films of the Decade.’ Now, this list is inherently subjective. In the first place, I certainly haven’t seen every single film that’s come out in the last ten years, for the most part I’ve seen films that looked good to me, so my sampling pool for this list is already skewed. So really, this is my top 25 films, my favorites of the decade. Treat this list as my recommendations to you. Now obviously not all of these films are appropriate for everyone, but if a film on this list sounds interesting to you, then check it out. But before I start counting down films, I thought I’d briefly explain what I looked for in the films that I chose to include in this list. Here, summarized in four points, is what I looked for:

Stunning Visuals: I like films that surprise me with how good they look, whether that means the special and visual effects, like V for Vendetta, the cinematography, like in Mongol, or simply how the scenes are shot and edited, such as in Hot Fuzz.

Exceptional Acting: This should be a given, and I don’t mean above average acting, I mean exceptional acting.  I mean acting that really stands out, such as Heath Ledger in The Dark Knight, or that connects you emotionally to the character, like Bruce Willis in Unbreakable, or that leaves you in stitches, just like George Clooney in O Brother, Where Art Thou?, or in the case of an antagonist, such as Christopher Lee in The Lord of the Rings, acting that gives you a villain that you love to hate.

Something Meaningful to Say: Not all films need to have a complicated message, sometimes the simplest messages are the best. But a film with an interesting premise, like Sunshine, or an inspiring story, like The Lord of the Rings, have a lot more going for them. Now, not all of the films on my list are particularly strong in this area, at both ends of the spectrum  in fact (X2 and Hot Fuzz namely), but they make up for it by being remarkable in one or more of the other areas.

Entertaining: A film has to be entertaining. Duh. But really, that’s the point of a movie. If I didn’t enjoy watching it, it’s not on this list. And conversely, if a film was lacking in a couple of the other areas, but was nonetheless extremely enjoyable, it can still find itself in my top 25. I wouldn’t call Death at a Funeral ‘visually stunning’ nor does it have anything particularly meaningful to say, but it was so much fun to watch that I couldn’t help but include it.

So, all that said, I hope you enjoy my ‘Top 25 Films of the Decade.’

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Welcome to Our Blog

January 6, 2010

Shepherd Book does not approve.Welcome, friends, family, and random strangers who stumble upon this blog while listlessly wandering through the wastes and jungles of the internet. If you don’t already know, this is a film blog, a ‘flog’ if you will. The purpose of this flog is to provide you, the reader, with insightful movie reviews as well as news and links and other movie related media. This is something that I’ve wanted to create for a long time and after proposing the idea to a few of my former college roommates as a joint effort, it began to take shape. The hardest part was coming up with a name really, at one point it was almost called “Nate Dumped Pop and Popcorn on Me at the Opening Night of Star Trek and I’m Still Not Over It”, but after much debate and a lot of crappy suggestions, we decided on “Shut Up and Watch the Movie.” It had a nice ring to it and just enough irony to warrant a smirk. Paired with a quote from Shepherd Book, of Firefly fame, it was perfect. So here it is, my film blog is a reality, you’re looking at it. I’d suggest checking out each of our author’s Top 25 Films of the Decade lists. If you’d like updates on when we post articles then check out our Facebook page and become a fan. Thanks for checking out our blog, I hope you have fun and enjoy our reviews!