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PCR # 194  (Vol. 4, No. 50)  This edition is for the week of December 8--14, 2003.

This Week's PCR
Movie Review
"Lord of the Rings:
Return of the King"

Movie review by:
Michael A. Smith

Three and a half stars

Movies are rated 0 to 4 stars

theater seats

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New Line Cinema     
Starring: Elijah Wood, Sean Astin, Ian McKellan, Viggo Mortensen, Orlando Bloom and Andy Serkis
Directed by: Peter Jackson
Rated: PG 13
Running Time: 3 hours 20 mins

It's very rare for the third film in a series to as good as the original. "Godfather" and "Godfather II?" Classics. "Godfather III?" Yikes. As an actress, Sophia Coppola turned out to be one heck of a director. "Star Wars?" Though "Empire Strikes Back" was great, the eye on toy sales Ewoks pretty much brought "Return of the Jedi" down a notch. "Raiders of the Lost Ark?" While the third film, "Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade" was almost perfect, the only good thing I can say about film #2, "Temple of Doom," is that it helped bring about the PG13 rating. So does the third film in the "Lord of the Rings" trilogy exceed all expectations? In the words of popular country group Montgomery-Gentry...........HELL YEAH!

The film begins with a quick introduction to the dastardly Gollum. It shows him when he first killed to get the ring and how he quickly deteriorated into his current condition. It also gives audiences a chance to see actor Andy Serkis in the flesh. Serkis, who deserved an Oscar nomination for his voice work in "The Two Towers" excels again here. Hopefully appearing onscreen will enhance his Oscar chances this time around.

As the film unwinds, all of the now familiar characters are present. While Frodo and Sam (Wood and Astin) continue their quest to destroy the ring, the rest of the fellowship prepares for what will be the final battle for Middle Earth. And though the various monsters, Orcs and giant spiders (Yuck!) are breathtaking to watch, it is the acting that helps carry this film to the top of the hill. McKellan was Oscar nominated for the first film, and deservedly so. Here the spotlight is on Astin. The son of John Astin and Patty Duke, Astin has had a pretty good career. But here he delivers the performance of his life. He is the conscience of the audience, and we find ourselves agreeing with him at every turn. As for the action, the battle scenes here make the ones in the previous films seem tame in comparison.

Credit must go to director Jackson, who undertook the massive job of making three movies at the same time. That they have been masterpieces, both separately and as part of the story, is a tribute to his talent. His next project is his version of "King Kong," but he has said that he would be interested in filming J.R.R. Tolkein's other great book, "The Hobbit," if the rights could be secured. Even if he never makes another film, Jackson has already ensured himself being remembered as one of the best filmmakers of his generation.

Giant spiders aside (Yuck, again!), "Return of the King" is a fitting ending to what has been a well-crafted story. On a scale of zero to four stars, I give "Lord of the Rings: Return of the King"  Three and a half stars

This week's movie review of "Lord of the Rings: Return of the King" is ©2003 by Michael A. Smith.  All graphics this page are creations of Nolan B. Canova, ©2003, all rights reserved. All contents of "Nolan's Pop Culture Review" are ©2003 by Nolan B. Canova.