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Absolutely amazing! Utterly phenomenal! What more can I say about THE LORD OF THE RINGS: THE FELLOWSHIP OF THE RING ($30) that hasn't already been said? This is truly one of the most spectacular motion pictures that I have ever seen. And, had I the opportunity, I would have voted it the Academy Award for Best Picture. I have to tell you that I enjoyed every frame of this nearly three-hour epic, and when the movie came to its conclusion, I can honestly say I wanted more. Fortunately for those that feel the same way, New Line will be issuing an extended edition of THE LORD OF THE RINGS: THE FELLOWSHIP OF THE RING in November 2002, which will incorporate an addition thirty minutes of footage into the film; adding even more depth and scope to this epic saga.

THE LORD OF THE RINGS: THE FELLOWSHIP OF THE RING is the first book in the trilogy by J.R.R. Tolkien, which tells of an all-powerful ring created by the Dark Lord Sauron to rule all of Middle Earth. Nearest to the moment of his victory, Sauron was defeated in an epic battle. As for Sauron's ring, it should have been destroyed, but instead, it disappeared for thousands of years. Eventually, the ring was found by a Hobbit named Bilbo Baggins (Ian Holm), who thoroughly unaware of what he had in his possession for much of his long life. The ring, along with all of Bilbo's other possessions, eventually pass to the elderly Hobbit's nephew Frodo Baggins (Elijah Wood), when Bilbo decides to leave his home in the Shire for the last time.

Frodo quickly becomes aware of the deadly nature of his inheritance, when he finds himself perused by the minions the Dark Lord Sauron, who has risen again and wants to reclaim his ring of power. Under the advice of the Wizard Gandalf the Grey (Ian McKellen), Frodo leaves the shire and begins a perilous journey, the likes of which no other Hobbit has ever undertaken; to return the ring of power to the fires of Mount Doom- the place that it was forged and the only place it can be destroyed. From amongst the races of Hobbits, Elves, Dwarves and Humans, Frodo acquires a number of allies, all of whom swear to protect him and help him in the quest to destroy Lord Sauron's all powerful ring.

It was the vision of co-writer/co-producer/director Peter Jackson that brought THE LORD OF THE RINGS: THE FELLOWSHIP OF THE RING to the screen- a task that many said could never be done. Well, Jackson did it- and did it so astoundingly well, that if the second and third films live up to the first, the director should receive some sort of special achievement Oscar for bringing this un-filmable saga to the screen. Of course, there is no way in the world that THE LORD OF THE RINGS: THE FELLOWSHIP OF THE RING could have been produced without digital special effects and CGI, and fortunately, the effects are so seamless and unobtrusive that they never break the spell that the film weaves for its entire running time.

Additionally, THE LORD OF THE RINGS: THE FELLOWSHIP OF THE RING benefits from a truly superb cast of actors. Elijah Wood bears the weight of a task, equal to that of his character, in having to carry much of this epic movie upon his shoulders. Fortunately, Wood acquits himself exceedingly well by giving a very natural and unencumbered performance. Ian McKellen infuses the grandeur of his larger-than-life character with both humor and humanity. Christopher Lee, who portrays Saruman the White, makes more than an indelible impression with his featured role in this epic. Lee has always been a potent screen force, but has rarely been given the recognition that he deserved, that is, until a new generation of directors resurrected his film career by casting him in prominent roles that showcase his talents. The superb cast of THE LORD OF THE RINGS: THE FELLOWSHIP OF THE RING also features Viggo Mortensen, Sean Astin, Liv Tyler, Sean Bean, Cate Blanchett, Hugo Weaving, Orlando Bloom, John Rhys-Davies, Billy Boyd and Dominic Monaghan.

New Line Home Entertainment has made THE LORD OF THE RINGS: THE FELLOWSHIP OF THE RING available on DVD in 2.35:1 wide screen presentation that features the anamorphic enhancement for 16:9 displays. A separate full screen version is also available for those individuals that don't care to see films as they should be seen. In typical fashion, New Line Home Entertainment has produced a glorious looking and sounding DVD. This is definitely a demonstration quality disc; made even more impressive by the fact that the entire one hundred seventy eight minute movie fits onto a single sided DVD with no appreciable flaws.

The absolute worst thing I can say about the presentation is that a few shots look a tad soft, and there are a few instances of barely noticeable digital compression artifacts. Other than those minor quibbles, the image is utterly impressive, appearing both crisp and finely detailed. Colors are glorious, with lush, fully saturated hues and no signs of chroma noise or smearing. Blacks appear pure and velvety, while the whites are clean and completely stable. Contrast is wonderfully smooth, except where it is intended to appear otherwise, plus the picture boasts marvelous shadow detail. For a Super-35 production the image is relatively free from a noticeable grain structure. In addition, the film element used for the transfer is completely free of blemishes.

THE LORD OF THE RINGS: THE FELLOWSHIP OF THE RING is presented with a Dolby Digital 5.1 EX soundtrack that is an absolute sonic marvel. I guess one could say that the sound is even better than the video, but I think that they complement and enhance each other to such a degree that neither is truly better. Still, this demonstration quality sound mix offers everything one could hope for, and it will put any home theater system through its paces. The sound designers have taken a supremely aggressive approach to the mix for THE LORD OF THE RINGS: THE FELLOWSHIP OF THE RING. This is the kind of a mix that leaves one reeling, and then wanting more, just like a kid who can't get enough of his favorite Rollercoaster ride. Sounds emanate from everywhere, whizzing and panning effortlessly through an incredibly cohesive sonic environment.

Not only is the mix superbly directional, it is amazingly atmospheric- creating the perfect sonic environment for every moment of the film. Dialogue reproduction is impeccable; every utterance is completely understandable and the actors' voices resonate beautifully. As for the bass channel- one should get all the breakables out of harms way, as the thunderous low frequencies are certain to do some damage to things not carefully stowed. Finally, Howard Shore's vigorous score is reproduced with excellent fidelity and a great sense of musical depth, showing that Dolby Digital is capable of holding its own, even with a lesser bit rate than other digital sound formats. An English Dolby Surround soundtrack has also been encoded onto the DVD, as have English subtitles.

Full motion video, animation and sound serve to enhance the DVDís elegantly designed interactive menus. Through the menus, one has access to the standard scene selection and set up features, as well as the supplemental materials offered on this two-disc set. Actually, all of the supplemental material is contained on the second disc of this set, and I should note that none of the material presented here will be duplicated on the four-disc, extended edition of THE LORD OF THE RINGS: THE FELLOWSHIP OF THE RING that is coming in November 2002.

Three reasonably in depth programs constitute the main body of disc two's supplements. Welcome To Middle-Earth runs about seventeen minutes, offers a preview of the film, as well as some slight insight into the publishing of the J.R.R. Tolkien books. Quest For The Ring is a twenty-two minute program that initially on the Fox television network and offers another preview of the some behind-the-scenes footage. Originally airing on the Sci-Fi Channel is the forty-two minute program Passage To Middle-Earth, which covers much of the same material as the other programs, with a few additions.

Next one will find fifteen short programs that were originally created for the film's website and viewable as Internet content. The vignettes are interesting, but incredibly brief, since most individuals would have been accessing them via dialup modems. Also included on the DVD are three theatrical trailers, six TV spots, an Enya music video for the song May It Be, a preview of the extended edition DVD, a behind-the-scenes preview of upcoming second film THE TWO TOWERS and a video game preview. Disc two is also DVD-ROM enabled offering web links and access to on-line content.

THE LORD OF THE RINGS: THE FELLOWSHIP OF THE RING is truly an incredible motion picture experience. In some way, shape or form THE LORD OF THE RINGS: THE FELLOWSHIP OF THE RING is a must own DVD. New Line has produced a superb DVD edition of the film's theatrical cut, plus they have a four-disc, extended edition of the film coming in November. Those who truly love the film are going to want to own both editions, while those that want to purchase the title only once may want to wait for the release of the four disc set. However, those making the purchase now will find a $5.00 off rebate coupon for the extended edition, which makes owning both a little easier to take. 


The Lord of the Rings - The Fellowship of the Ring (Widescreen Edition) (2001)


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The Lord of the Rings - The Two Towers
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DVD reviews are Copyright © 2002 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.



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