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All hail the King

Finally, the time has come. The Return of the King, the stunning conclusion to director Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings adaptation opened on Wednesday to sold-out theatres everywhere. This film is truly epic – epic battles, epic characters, epic camerawork, epic length (200 minutes.) So who is this Peter Jackson and why haven’t you heard of him before? Because he’s a maverick, do-it-yourself filmmaker from New Zealand who made b-grade horror flicks, a puppet movie for adults and a true-story account of teenage matricide. All before Hollywood caught on.

Jackson’s first film, Bad Taste , is about brain-eating aliens ravaging the New Zealand countryside looking to kill everyone and sell the meat to an intergalactic fast food chain. Clearly intelligent life does exist in space. The movie was made over four years with minimal budget, yet the special effects are astounding and the humour superb.

Next was Dead Alive , where evil Sumerian Rat Monkeys transfer a disease which turns humans into flesh-eating, brain dead zombies. Dead Alive is actually a love story with protagonist Lionel choosing between Paquita, the cute girl he loves, or his recently bitten zombie mother. Often heralded as "the bloodiest, goriest movie of all time" Dead Alive is highlighted by a red-maple syrup (aka blood) drenched scene involving several zombies, Lionel, and a lawn mower. A potent mix of dark humour and cheap gore makes this one of the greatest, most lawn mower-ific stories ever to grace the silver screen.

Jackson’s best movie (pre- Rings) is definitely Heavenly Creatures. Starring a young Kate Winslet, Heavenly Creatures recounts the true story of two teenage girls who live a melodramatic co-dependency based on a mystical fantasy world of their own creation. Their intense relationship worries one girl’s mother so much she has them separated. So they kill her. This is a true story, it all took place in Christchurch, NZ in the happy, innocent 1950s.

Made in 1994, Heavenly Creatures is a stirring account of two emotional but quite normal teens who bring out the best and worst in each other. Jackson’s depictions of the fantasyland is a beautiful clay-mation wonderland containing an almost Lord of the Rings mood. All in all, Heavenly Creatures is one of the best films of the ’90s.Go get it and be nicer to your children.

This is by no means a complete account of Jackson’s work, only the highlights. It will be interesting to see what’s next from the man who can actually make us feel the pain of ringbearer Frodo as easily as he makes us laugh at a guy keeping his brains in his fractured skull by cinching a belt over it. Mr. Jackson has proven himself to be one of the most versatile, skilled and innovative filmmakers of our age. All hail the King.

If good movies aren’t your thing, check out Mona Lisa Smile which opens this week. Set in the ’50’s Smile is a feel-good drama that hits you over the head with valuable life lessons we know all about by now. Still, a strong female cast might make up for the script, which is mostly heart-warming swill.

At Village 8 Dec. 19-25: Mona Lisa Smile, Lord of the Rings: Return of the King, Stuck on You, Something’s Gotta Give, Bad Santa, Elf, Love Actually, The Last Samurai, Honey.

At Rainbow Theatre Dec. 19-22: Gothika, Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Dec. 23-Jan. 4: Spike and Mike’s Sick and Twisted Festival of Animation.

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