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The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring
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Cast:Elijah Wood, Sean Astin, Ian McKellen, Viggo Mortensen, John Rhys-Davies, Christopher Lee, Cate Blanchett, Liv Tyler, Ian Holm

J.R.R. Tolkien's fabled Ring trilogy, originally published in the 1950s, set a new standard for fantasy fiction -- and its Oscar-winning live-action adaptation does the same for movies of the sword-and-sorcery genre. Perhaps the most eagerly awaited fantasy film of all time and nearly five years in the making, The Fellowship of the Ring captures the spirit of Tolkien's Middle-earth saga far more faithfully than its millions of fans dared hope. (Ralph Bakshi offered an animated adaptation in 1978, but to a much less rousing response.) The story begins as elderly hobbit Bilbo Baggins (Ian Holm) relinquishes possession of his most valuable keepsake, a golden ring possessing magical powers, to his youthful heir, Frodo (Elijah Wood). Charged with casting the ring into the fires from which it was forged, the young hobbit begins an arduous trek across Middle-earth, accompanied by a sturdy band that includes his best friend, Sam Gamgee (Sean Astin), the mercurial wizard Gandalf (Ian McKellen), the haunted warrior Aragorn (Viggo Mortensen), and the blustery dwarf Gimli (John Rhys-Davies), among others. Opposed by treacherous sorcerer Saruman (Christopher Lee) and the demonic emissaries of the Dark Lord, Sauron, this continuously embattled Fellowship makes its way slowly toward the cruel land of Mordor. Studded with remarkable action sequences enhanced by state-of-the-art computer effects, Fellowship is a veritable feast for eye and ear. Director Peter Jackson shot the film in his native New Zealand, where he found stunning, picturesque locations in which to set his scenes. These marvelous natural settings combine with the beautifully crafted sets, costumes, makeup, and props to convincingly bring Tolkien's mythical world to life. The actors, one and all, play their roles as if they were born to them; even such briefly seen stars as Cate Blanchett (elf queen Galadriel) and Liv Tyler (elf maiden Arwen) perform with panache. Fellowship departs from the sacred texts in a number of ways, but Jackson's movie replicates the trilogy's first book faithfully. A rousing adventure-fantasy that will delight Tolkien devotees and newbies alike, this is truly an unforgettable film -- one that will yield new pleasures with each viewing, and which therefore belongs in every video collection. Ed Hulse

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