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academy award winner

After hundreds of millions of dollars, years devoted to special effects, and one of the biggest fan bases looking on, The Lord of the Rings trilogy ends with The Return of the King, what some, like myself, consider to be one of the pinnacle moments in cinema. In fact, if The Return of the King doesn’t receive Best Picture of the Year honors at the Oscar’s next year, we will know that the voting is fixed in some way, because nothing released this year even comes close to King, and the only downside to the film is knowing that we won’t be getting another installment next Christmas.

The Return of the King picks up roughly right after the events of The Two Towers, just as The Two Towers picked up right after Fellowship of the Ring. Like the previous two installments we get no opening credits, only the film’s title splashed on the screen, which lead to much applause in the audience. I’m going to take a minute and say that I have never seen a movie with such an obnoxiously stupid audience as I did with The Return of the King. I almost wanted to murder the patrons sitting next to me, and would have done so if I found some sort of weapon other than my Harkin’s Souvenir Cup. Not since Hulk have I seen so many stupid people clapping at inappropriate time, yelling things at the screen, etc. It almost destroyed the whole experience for me.

Regardless of my tangent, The Return of the King is truly a cinematic masterpiece because of the content of the film. Never before will you see such a movie that includes bits and pieces from every genre, molded into one cohesive package that keeps on giving and giving. There is action, fantasy, love, war, insanity, death, life, and so much more. Peter Jackson and his entire staff should be patting themselves on the back for years to come when looking at what they have accomplished here. The Return of the King is comparable to nothing else on the silver screen.

Adding to the element of the film is the amazing special effects by WETA Digital. If you thought the battle sequences in The Two Towers, mainly the battle of Helm’s Deep, were amazing, you haven’t see anything yet. The Return of the King features, quite possibly, one of the best battle sequences ever printed to film. At times it is almost impossible to tell if you are looking at an actual set, matte painting, or computer generated scenery. When your mind starts making you wonder if what you are seeing is actually real, that is the point you commend your special effects house. Sure, not everything is perfect, there are a few moments where you can clearly tell the CGI work is, just that, CGI. But then you see the scenes with Gollum and forget about all your doubts.

One of the greatest, and saddest, aspects of the films is that this is the final part of Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings book. We finally get closure on a number of characters, with even more to come in the inevitable Extended Edition DVD. For the better part of three years we have been following the adventures of hobbits, elves, dwarfs, etc. With such a long commitment and such anticipation its nice to know all of the time invested in watching this project paid off, which is more than what we can say about The Matrix trilogy. In fact The Lord of the Rings trilogy seems to be the complete opposite of The Matrix, whereas each movie seems to get even better as they are released.

In order to keep this review as spoiler free as possible for those who haven’t read the books, or haven’t had a chance to see the film must yet, I left out any relevant information relating to the actual plot of the film, but let me just say this, you will not be disappointed. If you thought The Two Towers was awesome, The Return of the King is sure to knock your socks off. The Lord of the Rings trilogy has concluded, but it will live on for generations with children being introduced to the book via the movie, and vise versa, as Tolkien’s legendary series withstands the test of time.

There is really no way to describe just how amazing the Lord of the Rings series has turned out in the past two years. Here comes a trilogy of movies, budgeted at $270 million dollars with a rather unknown director and the critical eye of millions upon millions of Tolken fans waiting for them to screw up another book. Much can be said for New Line Cinema for giving Peter Jackson the freedom and creative outlet to create these movies with the passion of a true Tolken fan, and while we had to sit and wallow through animated crap for a number of years, we finally get to see the world of Middle Earth with our own eyes, and it leaves them watering with delight.

The Lord of the Rings: Two Towers is the second in the three part trilogy that includes The Fellowship of the Ring and Return of the King. These three parts combined create the book, The Lord of the Rings, and contrary to popular belief, there is only one book, with three separate parts.

The Two Towers really is just the next part of the series as it opens with no recap, no retelling of the events that unfolded in the first movie, aside from Frodo’s (Elijah Wood) dream sequence of Gandalf’s (Ian McKellen) death, you have no way in knowing what happened in the first movie if you missed it.

The movie plays out similar to the critically acclaimed TV show “24” as multiple storylines are unfolding before your eyes, but it is never confusing or overwhelming. Picking up where The Fellowship of the Ring left off, we find Sam (Sean Astin) and Frodo setting out for Mount Doom in Mordor to destroy the Ring of Power which has been entrusted to Frodo. Similarly, we find Aragorn (Viggo Mortenson), Legolas (Orlando Bloom), and Gimli (John-Rhys-Davies) tracking down the band of Orcs who kidnapped Merry (Dominic Monaghan) and Pippin (Billy Boyd) in the first movie. The Orcs move into the Plains of Rohan where they are slaughtered and the Hobbits are feared dead, but actually have fled into the forest and met up with Tree-Beard.

Aragorn, Legolas, Gimli, and the newly reincarnated Gandalf the White make their way to see King Théoden (Bernard Hill) who has been corrupted by Saruman the White (Christopher Lee) via Grima Wormtongue (Brad Dourif). After freeing Théoden from the control of Saruman they make haste to Helm’s Deep, an impenetrable fortress, where the people of Rohan will be able to seek refuge from the impending attack by Saruman and his Orcish Horde. At Helm’s Deep one of the greatest battles of all time takes place, you will never see anything like it on the big screen, it kept me in awe for the entire sequence which is a good chuck of the movie.

The way that this movie succeeds is not totally based on the fan-boys and die hard fans that don’t shower or eat. People love to see a good movie that features a variety of characters and situations to keep things fresh. On the surface Two Towers is filled with physical conflicts and battles, but below the surface, and beautifully portrayed by the actors, is the internal conflict that each of them faces. Aragorn is plagued by his forbidden love of Arwen, and Elf, whom will live forever. Frodo Baggins, wonderfully portrayed by Elijah Wood, has the ring bearing down on him each and every step of the way to Mordor as it destroys his hope. Each character is notably handed conflict in either a physical or mental form that they must contend with, and with so much going on it never is confusing, and it is always interesting.

The highlight of the movie, besides the amazing battle of Helm’s Deep, was the character of Gollum and the amazing special effects that brought the character to life. Gollum, in my opinion, is one of the best characters portrayed in the movie because of the problems that he must progress through. Suffering from a split personality that gives him contradicting opinions on any situation, this CG character is what makes movies better in the long run, but makes actors fear the future when they will no longer be needed. Gollum was motion captured then later animated (look for an extensive feature on the forthcoming DVD release). The beauty of the animation is it is nearly seamless to the rest of the movie. There are only a few instances where you can tell that CG is being used, but through a bigger part of the movie, you forget that a computer is outputting the image on the screen, he looks, and movies so lifelike that it tricks your mind.

This movie has it all. The comic relief from Gimli to the nobility of Tree-Beard, you would be hard pressed to find a movie that gives you so much and ask so little (that being sitting on your numb butt for over three hours). The Two Towers is an amazing cinematic achievement that is everything we hoped for, and more. The Fellowship of the Ring was awesome, The Two Towers is spectacular, and I think we can assume that Return of the King will complete the trilogy to end all trilogies. Star What?…

They always say “Great Movies come along in a great long while,” and while I do believe this to be true, we have been treated to some truly great movies this year, but for some reason, 8 Mile stands out as one of the greatest I have witnessed this year, and I hope that the Academy doesn’t ignore this film simply because it has a prominent music industry artists as the lead character.

8 Mile is a great film, as I stated above, although I must admit, I think I had too high of expectations for this one and set myself up to be disappointed. Looking at the production team (director Curtis Hanson and producer Brian Grazer) you would expect great things from them individually, but you would expect the second coming of Christ if they ever worked together on a movie such as this one. I think I saw Jesus at the 7-Eleven last night…

For the credit of Eminem critics and fans, he does a superb job portraying a fictional version of himself in the poverty stricken part of Detroit. The title comes from a real road in the city that divides the poor intercity with the middle-class suburbs of Motown. Brittany Murphy possibly gives the weakest performance of the headliners because of the audiences feeling that she has really no need to be there. She serves as more of a plot tangent than any part of the storyline, which runs into some problems down the road, but still manages to come out okay.

The movie focuses on the life of Jimmy Smith, Jr. (aka B. Rabbit) a twentysomething who has just been kicked out of his apartment by his could-be-pregnant girlfriend and is forced to move back into his childhood trailer park home with his mother, her new boyfriend, and his sister whom he dearly cares for. The stories two main conflicts are that of Jimmy’s ongoing friction with his mother and the main story, Jimmy’s ability to freestyle rap in “battles” that could make him a famous name on the streets.

Those expecting to walk in and see a Rags to Riches story are going to be disappointed because the film only focuses on about a week’s worth of storyline from Jimmy’s life, which is where the plot runs into a couple of problems. Several story tangents are never resolved. Jimmy’s girlfriend (whom we meet twice in the movie) is last seen just sitting in her apartment crying, we never seen any resolution to this part of the plot, which could leave you with a somewhat empty feeling when looking for a nice little story, wrapped up in the final scene. Several critics have called the plot nothing more than a take off of any other coming of age movies such as Rudy, but 8 Mile is different in the way that it is violently real with the setting, plot, characters, and overall aurora that presents itself.

The best thing about this movie is time is not an issue. While watching you lose all sense of time, before you know it the film is over and you are wanting more than Jimmy walking into the distance, you want to see how everything turns out for him, and you want to see what happens to the characters. This is the ultimate criteria for a good movie, a film that brings you into its world and doesn’t let you go till the credits roll and you are singing along to the song in the background.

While its hard to say if Eminem is really a great actor, he may have just fit into the role so well because of his background, but no matter what anyone says, 8 Mile was a very, very enjoyable film and a definite must see no matter what your personal opinion of Slim Shady is.