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peter jackson

King Kong is an amazing achievement in filmmaking, and even with all the buzz surrounding the three hour length of the film, or the questionable casting of some parts, the film still manages to stun the audience in amazement.

Truly, after viewing the original only a week prior to seeing the remake I can say that the 2005 version of the film rivals that of its predecessor in many categories and is a far superior film as far as depth of story and visual effects. This isn’t to say that the original 1933 version is cinema trash, it still holds a special place in the eyes of many film students and film fans as an achievement in special effects and originality.

Director Peter Jackson has taken some creative liberties in the way his King Kong relates to the original (we won’t even mention the 1970’s version). The long lost “spider pit” scene has been restored to the script and turns out to be one of the creepiest and most hopeless scenes in the film as our heroes struggle to survive under the onslaught of dozens of large arachnids and other assorted creatures. The culminating and mouth-dropping scene of an Allisaurus and King Kong locked in battle from the original has been broadened to contain a much longer battle and feature three dinosaurs instead of just one.

The story itself has been infused with a lot more emotion and many more scenes in which you see the true feelings Kong has for Ann Darrow (Naomi Watts). Just as the original the girl in distress is scared of the 25-foot beast, but as she comes to understand him more, and he truly begins to fall for her, the story is almost heart-wrenching as you know the ending to the film long before it happens and the impact is still as prevalent as even. I won’t lie, I really wanted to cry at the end of the film as the script by Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens, and Jackson really does strike an emotional cord with the movie-goer.

The remakes story mirrors that of the original in most aspects. Filmmaker Carl Denham’s (Jack Black) latest film is going to be sold off as stock footage, so he rushes his production crew aboard a charted ship headed for Skull Island to use the ruins of a lost civilization as a backdrop. After his leading lady drops out, Denham spies Ann Darrow stealing an apple from a newsstand and saves her in a bind (a nice throwback to the original’s beginning predicament and meeting between Darrow and Denham). Denham enlists the young beauty to star in his film and they quickly rush off to catch the boat where Ann finally gets to meet playwright Jack Driscoll (Adrian Brody) whom she has longed to gain an audition with. From there we travel to Skull Island and the fun of traversing through a lost world begins.

The extra hour on the run time compared to the original’s 107 minutes goes towards character development and the fleshing out of some new additions to the cast. For the most part this extra hour is hardly noticed as the bits of humor and action Jackson is able to provide give the audience enough to remain interested until the meat of the film takes over after Kong is introduced about 60 minutes in.

The stunning Naomi Watts seems like the perfect choice to take over the role pioneered by Fay Wray and she pull off the role with flying colors as the conflicted beauty caught between the love of an ape and a man. Brody in the modified role of Jack Driscoll also does an adequate job of pulling off the “action man” who sets out to save Ann from the clutches of the beast. The only real role that seems miscast is that of Carl Denham. Jack Black pulls off the role, there’s no question about that, but the persona that we’ve come to expect from him just seems to throw the audience off. You’re waiting for his sly smirk to turn into a wailing laugh as he breaks out in a musical number about sausage. And while he won’t get as much recognition as he deserves, Andy Serkis once again pulls off an amazing motion capture performance as Kong.

There’s so much to say about King Kong that it’s almost impossible to get to it all in this short of a review. There’s just nothing that can detract from the cinematic masterpiece that is Peter Jackson’s remake of the 1933 classic. Just as he did with The Lord of the Rings, Jackson once again solidifies himself as one of the premiere filmmakers in Hollywood with a knack for both inspiring action and heart felt emotion. Only one viewing of King Kong would be a disservice to the picture as there’s so much to follow and so much to see in the film that it nearly demands repeat viewings only to show you how well it has been constructed. In a year when the box office has continued to tank week after week and sequels and shills seem to be the standard Hollywood fare it’s nice to see that there’s still some emotion in filmmaking.

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?…