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Lord of the Rings: the Two Towers

Where Fellowship of the Ring laid the foundation of Tolkien's tale, The Two Towers splits up the characters and sweeps them into separate, epic adventures. Frodo (Elijah Wood) and Sam Gamgee (Sean Astin) are slowly making their way to far-off Mordor to destroy the Ring of Power. Meanwhile, Aragorn (the yummy-butch Viggo Mortensen), Legolas (the yummy-androgynous Orlando Bloom), and Gimli (the not-especially-yummy but wonderful John Rhys-Davies) are trying to track down wayward Hobbits Merry (Dominic Monaghan) and Pippin (Billy Boyd), who are in the custody of some nasty Orcs. The light and dark sides of the Force, of you will, are represented by Gandalf (Ian McKellan), risen Phoenix-like with greater powers, and Saruman (Christopher Lee), a sort of anti-Gandalf, who's pledged allegiance to the dark lord Sauron. The story of The Two Towers is dreadfully complicated, but Jackson manages to make it all make perfect sense — as part of Sauron's quest for dominion, Saruman is building a staggering army of mass-produced Uruk-hai — scary, ugly, über-Orcs who carry huge honkin' slabs of steel in their slimy paws. Saruman sends them first to Rohan, whose king, Théoden (Bernard Hill), has been rendered senile by wizardy Saruman groupie Wormtongue (Brad Dourif). With the help of the new-and-improved Gandalf, however, Aragorn and company — along with the king's sword-wielding niece (Miranda Otto) — are able to revive the king, round up the townsfolk and get them to the fortress at Helm's Deep to, hopefully, withstand the onslaught of Saruman's goblin army. Meanwhile, Frodo and Sam are following the lead of their "guide," that freaky, Ring-crazy Gollum (Andy Serkis), Merry and Pippin have quite an exciting time wiggling away from the Orcs, and they escape into the deep, dark forest where they meet the Ents, a race of ancient, sentient trees and , finally, all roads finally lead to the battle at Helm's Deep. It's 40 minutes of spine-tingling, swashbuckling excitement, with an army "ten thousand strong" laying siege to the most amazing miniature castle and CGI warriors that have ever graced the screen. New Line's DVD release is very, very good. Certainly not the same as seeing it on the big screen, of course — this is a huge movie and deserving of a huge screen — but even in anamorphic widescreen (2.35:1) on your home television, it's beautiful. The Dolby Digital EX 5.1 audio is impressive, again giving a workout to the lower registers with all those clashing swords and grunting Uruk-hai and Howard Shore's majestic, rich score (also on board are English and Spanish subtitles and English closed-captioning.) Extras include the 14-minute "On the Set — Lord of the Rings: the Two Towers", the 43-minute, WB-produced special "Return to Middle Earth," eight featurettes originally presented on lordoftherings.net, each running between two and five minutes long, a "Gollum's Song" music video, Sean Astin's five-minute film "The Long and Short of It," and an eight-minute "Making of The Long and Short of It" featurette, a 10-minute "Behind the Scenes Preview of The Return of the King," original theatrical trailers and 16 different TV spots, plus a preview of Electronic Arts' Return of the King video game.
—Dawn Taylor

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