The Fellowship of the Ring (2001) from Lawdog and Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

Lawdog's comments in white:

It is not often that I see a movie that makes me want to tell other people "you have to see this movie." As a matter of fact, I am hard pressed to remember when that has EVER happened. But "Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring" is just so damn good that I canít help but write about it. With apologies to Harry Knowles, I think a little background is necessaryÖ

I never read the trilogy as a kid or as a teen. I am not sure why really. It just never fell into my lap and none of my friends were Tolkien freaks when I was younger. A good friend of mine from college is an expert on the books, though, and he had been after me to read them for quite some time. With the first movie being released this Christmas, I decided that it was time to read the books. So, this summer, I sat down with them and read the entire trilogy. I was very impressed with their scope and how Tolkien managed to create an entirely self-contained universe with a believable history. Before you think I thought the book was perfect, however, allow me to say that I found myself skipping a lot of the "poems" and that there were definitely parts of the book I found to be slow and unnecessarily long. To be honest, I thought the movie would probably suffer the same shortcomings when I heard it ran over three hours. I know that some of the great movies of all time are longer than this one, but I am from the MTV and Internet generation and we canít sit still for ten minutes without having our minds wander.

With that prologue in mind, allow me to say that I donít know if this movie deserves to be number one all time on IMDB, but, at the very least, it is a movie that deserves all the hype and praise it has received. The best comment I have read about it so far was on "Ainít It Cool News" when someone noted that this movie would be akin to starting the original Star Wars trilogy with "The Empire Strikes Back." High praise indeed.

It has the best pacing I have ever seen in any movie, much less a three hour epic. The battle scenes are frenetic and thrilling. The scenes in the Shire are languid and carefree and the scenes with Galadriel in the woods are ethereal and beautiful. Another point of praise comes from the fact that Peter Jackson was able to keep me in suspense when I already knew what was going to happen. Quite honestly, I never once thought that anything on the screen was less than real. I found myself constantly thinking "Holy shit! I hope they get out of this one!" even though I knew from the book that they usually did. 

NUDITY REPORT

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 The performances in this movie are all excellent. All of them. Even Liv Tyler. Even the CGI Balrog. It would have been so easy for Jackson to go balls out and never worry about the acting, concentrating on the action instead. I believe that because he did not, this movie crosses the line into all around greatness. The actors are so good that I want to read the books again JUST SO that I can imagine them in the books. How about that? When is the last time you saw a movie and said "Man, I wish I had seen this movie before I read the books so I could have pictured Ďso and soí as a particular character"? It has never happened to me, but that is exactly what I want to do now.

If this movie does not sweep the awards for art, production, cinematography, and special effects, then there is no justice in the world. The attention to detail is just amazing. Everything looks genuine in the movie. From costume pieces to weaponry to setpieces, they all just look, for lack of a better word, perfect. I would find myself stopping to look at things onscreen and thinking "Damn, that must have cost a fortune to build." Then I would realize it was likely computer generated. I am not sure who did the special effects, but they are some of the best I have ever seen in that they donít detract from the movie, they just make it seem more real.

Do yourself a favor. Go see this movie in the best theater you can find. It truly deserves to be seen with the best picture and sound available. This is not a fanboy movie. Take a date or your spouse to see it. It has cross appeal out the wazoo. I went with my wife and a friend from Law School, neither of whom had ever read the books. They both thought it was excellent and my friend wants to read the trilogy now. For anyone who has been to graduate school, you know that reading fiction or anything outside of the halls of academe is a rare thing. Because he wants to invest the time to read the entire trilogy now speaks more to this movieís power than any review ever could.

Based on Scoopís rating system, this movie is an A+. It doesnít matter if you donít like fantasy. It doesnít matter if youíve never read the books. It doesnít matter if you think the greatest movie of all time is "Citizen Kane" or "Happy Gilmore." You will like this movie. You may not love it as much as I did, but you will definitely find something in it to like. This is what the movies can do at their best and you will be cheating yourself if you donít see it. The lawyer in me forces me to say at this point that while that sounds like a guarantee, donít email me requesting a refund of your ticket if you hate it. I would welcome discussion of it though. Send me an email at lawdogusc@hotmail.com to share your thoughts

Scoop's thoughts:

As I've pointed out many times, all fantasy movies have exactly the same plot.

The bad guy has to assemble the three parts of the Holy Cow, so he can possess the Full Rizutto. When the Evil Lord has the Full Rizutto, he controls all time and space, and can do the things that Evil Lords like to do when they have unlimited power: subjugating peaceful people, turning the skies black except for the fiery blasts from ancient furnaces, banning all sports except synchronized swimming, making the radio stations play "All Yoko, all the Time", and replacing all free internet porn with pay sites.

The good guy usually possesses something that can prevent the Evil Lord from achieving his ambitions, like a magical sword, or a hacked password to the pay sites, or even one part of the Holy Cow. Apparently the Evil Lord is powerless if he has only two thirds of the Holy Cow. A Partial Rizutto is worthless. It works like a math teacher who doesn't give partial credit if you get the wrong answer with the correct process. Either Evil Lord Serutan ("nature's spelled backwards") gets the whole Evil Enchilada, or he loses his power, and then must either crumble into eternal dust, or has to spend the rest of his existence selling evil weaponry on the Home Shopping Channel. "Here's a lovely cat o' nine tails, only used once, to torture a gorgeous elf, and it's actually autographed by Sauron himself, as well as by former batting champion Pete Rose."

Of course, it's not Peter Jackson's fault that his movie has the same plot as all those other movies. After all, Jackson's literary source material (Tolkien's trilogy) is probably the very reason why fantasy stories are all identical - all of them written in the past 40 years copied The Lord of the Rings books, either intentionally or unintentionally.

In this case, the Evil Lord's final triumph only requires one more crummy, stinkin' little ring, which looks like a pull-tab from an old can of Fresca. Apparently the hellish fires of Mount Doom, where it was forged, provided the energy for a nearby Coca-Cola bottling plant. Oh, it looks innocuous enough, but it is obviously a symbol of something far darker than the human mind can conceive. This kind of evil goes beyond the mere potential carcinogenic impact of Fresca's ingredients. The ring is the very embodiment of the word sinister, because it symbolizes absolute malignity despite its ordinary appearance, sort of like Drew Barrymore's wedding band from her marriage to Tom Green. Come to think of it, the ring is Drew Barrymore's wedding band. She and Tom honeymooned in The Shire. Well, to be more accurate, Drew honeyed, Tom mooned.

Tolkien was so wise.

But what is the deal on calling it Mount Doom? Apparently the evil plan for mastering all time and space doesn't involve cornering the Real Estate market. I mean, what's the moneymaking potential for a development called "Leisure Village at Mount Doom", or "Links of Mount Doom". OK, I know that those Hawaiian volcanoes have names like Tongue of Satan's Fire in their native language, but they sound so nice in English that people build Club Meds there. "The Links at Wanahanahali" sounds like a great resort, even if Wanahanahali really means "The accursed place where evil dwells and all visitors get leprosy". So my suggestion to the Evil Lord is that he clean up his image. Don't try to defeat Frodo with those dark rider guys. Instead, take away their evil steeds and their black capes, give them Hawaiian print shirts and a Dale Carnegie course, change the name of Mount Doom to Pleasant Mountain, and open up an affordable 8-meal-per-day, hobbit-friendly resort there, giving deep discounts to those in possession of Drew Barrymore's Wedding Band.

What's a hobbit, you ask? In the case of this particular variant on the fantasy story, the hero is not a muscular Scandinavian guy with a horned hat, but rather a "hobbit" named Frodo. Hobbits are simple little creatures who look like humans, except shorter, with unusual moppet-like haircuts. Think Christian Slater in "The Name of the Rose". Hobbits live in a tranquil place called The Shire, where they practice their ancient customs and rituals which seem quaint to the modern man. It is a place not unlike Romania. Since a single hobbit is not going to have much chance alone on foot against the Dark Lord and his Infinite Minions upon their Evil Lippenzaners, Frodo needs to recruit a mercenary army of wizardly magic, and human muscle.

The designated wizard on his team is Gandalf the Grey, but he's not the kind of wizard you imagine, and insists to Frodo, "I am no conjurer of cheap tricks. I can do far more than hack porn sites. For example, pick a card, any card."

Some of Frodo's mercenaries speak Elvish, a language in which they actually spell "nature's" forwards instead of backwards, which really pisses off Serutan. The Elvish folk live in harmony with nature in pastoral Graceland, and their ancient tongue includes such phrases as "thank you, thank you very much", and "Sonny, Red, have you heard from the Colonel?". It seems to me that the members of the Elven community seem to spend an awful lot of time hanging out in the public baths and listening to Liza Minelli albums, but they can fire their arrows accurately when necessary, and they always assure that other members of the Fellowship are fashionably attired, so I guess they serve their purpose in the quest.

The queen of the elves, Cate Blanchett, sort of swishes through the glades, glowing constantly. She tells Frodo, "even the smallest person can change the course of the future. Just look at what Napoleon did, and look at the babes that Tom Cruise gets."

Frodo says that he really wishes that he had never come into possession of Drew Barrymore's wedding band, and further wishes that Drew and Tom Green would just work things out.

DVD info from Amazon

we recommend that you pass on this and wait for the special edition coming out later this year, which will include an expanded version of the film, additional music, and four discs of special material

Gandalf replies sagely, "So do all who live to see such times. But we can't choose our time. We can only decide what to do with the time given us." 

Whereupon, Frodo answers, "Good point. Do you have that password for Serutan's porno sites?"

The Critics Vote

  • General consensus: three and a half stars. Ebert 3/4, Berardinelli 4/4 

The People Vote ...

  • With their votes ... IMDB summary: IMDb voters score it 8.9 , #4 of all time.
  • With their dollars ... $300 million gross in the USA, about $100 million in the UK, also successful elsewhere.
IMDb guideline: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence, about like three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, about like two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, about like two stars from the critics. Films under five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film, equivalent to about one and a half stars from the critics or less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well.

Based on this description, this film is an A+ (Lawdog).

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