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2004 Roundup
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"The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring"

Directed by Peter Jackson.
Written by Peter Jackson, Fran Walsh and Philippa Boyens.  Based on the novel by J.R.R. Tolkien.
Starring Elijah Wood, Viggo Mortenson and Ian McKellan.
Release Year:  2001 
Review Date:  12/20/01 

Folks--

By far the longest film with the longest title I have seen this year, this one was a big one on my movie calendar this year.  And amazingly, not only is this a good film, it is probably going to garner a lot of Oscar news in two months when the nominations are announced.

Director Peter Jackson (whose only worthwhile film credit is the Michael J. Fox horror/action film "The Frighteners") has a beautiful picture to be proud of.  I mean, special effects are one thing, but even those shots that DON'T require actors in front of blue screens are truly amazing in this film.  Shots of elves never looked so good, human faces matched against orcan flesh proves for many great transitions, and Jackson's continuous need to show height differences between dwarves or hobbits and rangers or wizards is pure genius in this film.  The horseback sequences are great, and the fight scenes do a good job of being tough and violent while sticking to PG-13 guidelines.

Just imagine the pressure that Jackson was under!  This project is more than just ambitious; following the lead of previous sequel-heavy franchises like "Back to the Future II" and "Back to the Future III", all of the three "Lord of the Rings" films were shot back-to-back.  ("The Matrix" sequels are doing that now as well.)  Besides saving some money by shooting all of the films while the cast could be kept together, there are obvious chronological reasons why shooting the films back-to-back--Ian McKellan (Gandalf) and some other cast members aren't getting any younger; keeping the mindset of the actors through three films would be easier if shot successively—makes sense.  Oh, and there are the billions of followers who have read the trilogy and wanted to see how faithfully the films would adhere to the text.  "Harry Potter" ain't nothing compared to this; at many American middle and high schools, "The Lord of the Rings" is still required reading!

Only the hardest of hard-core fans could complain here.  The performances from the B-movie stars involved here are A-list; you will recognize folks like McKellan, Elijah Wood, Viggo Mortenson (dozens of films, famously in "GI Jane"), Hugo Weaving ("The Matrix"), Sean Bean ("Ronin", "Patriot Games"), Liv Tyler and Sean Astin.  And, by not using big stars, the movie cut some big costs while at the same time providing faces and personalities that fit the roles and make us excited for the sequels.  And, the story seems to stay faithful to the book, inserting a joke here or there to keep things fresh, and it provides lots of foreshadowing for the films to come.  The film is long, but the book wasn't Dr. Seuss, so you can live with it because the pacing is excellent.  Jackson throws in enough action sequences to keep things interesting, but it doesn't depend on the action to keep it lively.

Honestly, I can't think of a bad thing to say here.  After much disappointment with overhyped films this year, "The Fellowship of the Ring" is a true revelation.  Check this one out!!

Rating:  Opening Weekend

 

Comments?  Drop me a line at justin@bellviewmovies.com.

 

Bellview Rating System:

"Opening Weekend":  This is the highest rating a movie can receive.  Reserved for movies that exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development, setting...or Salma Hayek.  Not necessarily in that order. 

"$X.XX Show":  This price changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently, it is the $9.50 Show.  While not technically perfect, this is a movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.  "Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca", but you'll have a great time watching.  The $9.50 Show won't win any Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see "Office Space"). 

"Matinee":  An average movie that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.  Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about yourself.  A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave the theater saying "That wasn't too bad...man, did you see that Lakers game last night?" 

"Rental":  This rating indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one."  Mostly forgettable, you couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the video store was out of copies of "Ronin."  If you can, see this movie for free.  This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a half stars." 

"Hard Vice":  This rating is the bottom of the barrel.  A movie that only six other human beings have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen.  A Shannon Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a movie.  Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or "Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!  (Warning:  strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard Vice"-rated movies.)

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The "fine print":
All material by Justin Elliot Bell for SMR/Bellview/bellviewmovies.com except where noted
© 1999-2009 Justin Elliot Bell This site was last updated 01/08/09