Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (IMDB) (Netflix)
Another trilogy bites the dust. The gang is pretty much all back: Frodo, Aragorn, Gandalf, Smeagol--but no Saruman, who didn't make it out of the editing suite. Which is surprising, since this colossus weighs in at three hours and twenty minutes (some say 3:30) and tacks on what appeared to be five (I lost count) epilogues.
Unlike the last Matrix effort, this high-tech triptych walks across the line under its own power. Director Peter Jackson seems to have finally gotten the hang of movie-making (a remake of King Kong is next for him), but having quality source material may have helped (the Matrices' Wachowski Brothers clearly were overextended). This is a solid chocolate Santa, with well-developed (as opposed to over-developed) themes of sacrifice, courage, fellowship and purity of spirit, plus impeccable special effects. The can't-bear-to-say-goodbye endings generated some groans and perhaps a little mocking laughter, dulling the finish, which is unfortunate, but not particularly damaging.