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Jan/Feb/Mar 2002

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THIS ISSUE!:    Oscar Fever! The Lord of the Rings! Supercrap on the WB!
PLUS: Amelie destroys Western Civilization! And the Coming of the Coreys!
The Lord of the Rings *****

Now, before we get started, I'd like to make it perfectly clear that when I say I'd like to sodomize Elijah Wood, I say it out of anger rather than latent homosexual lust. I'm sure that goes without saying, as anyone, male or female, expressing sexual interest in that pasty, gap-toothed Pillsbury Doughboy would be ashamed to admit it even to themselves, let alone to the dozens upon dozens of readers PULP attracts. Nevertheless, I feel the need to clarify my position, which is that someone needs to teach that little brat a lesson in humility, and it might as well be me, though I'd no doubt have to close my eyes and envision something less deviant and unpleasant, like the dismembered torso of Anna Paquin laid out on black satin. I know this violent hostility may seem a little extreme, even for PULP, but that snotty bastard makes me see red. He thinks that just because he got to pork Christina Ricci in The Ice Storm that he can continue to mock movie screens with his abominable presence, prancing about like Sir Laurence Olivier when he's clearly nothing more than a solid obsidian core of evil wrapped inside a pastry. You can see it in his eyes, dancing madly from side to side, shifty as a Mexican, searching for the next victim to infect with all those wonderful thespian techniques he got from fast-forwarding through tapes of The Actor's Studio while eating ham sandwiches. I suppose it's a testament to the greatness of The Fellowship of the Ring that I was able to tolerate his presence for nearly the entire 6 hours of the film, although I did slip up briefly near the end and began shrieking profanities until one of the Famous Players ushers asked me to quiet down and put my pants back on. And great the film is, sure to please die-hard fans and slightly less die-hard fans alike, in that anyone who's willing to sit through 360 minutes of elves and fairies has problems a whole bigger than worrying about how much they like the movie. The cast, like the recent Ocean's 11, is the very definition of star-studded, featuring Ian McKellan, Viggo Mortenson, and Liv Tyler, who seems to be hard at work developing an Alicia Silverstone-like stroke-slur, clearly meant to evoke the tried and tested method of garnering an Oscar nomination by playing a retard. Other highlights in the cast include Christopher Lee, possible the greatest non-Bruce Campbell actor in the history of the world, as the evil Sauruman. Lee, a veteran of the British Hammer Horror cycle of the 50s and 60s, adds a much needed touch of malice to the film, which had previously been menaced only by an indistinct bad-guy wearing a mask not unlike the villain in any given Godzilla Vs... movie. Also present is Jonathan Rhys-Davis, who, as he did in Sliders and Raiders of the Lost Ark, continues to embody the very definition of the word 'bumbling'. Hugo Weaving from the Matrix, also makes an appearance playing a High Elf alongside Cate Blanchette. While the heroes of the film are the Hobbits, midget-like monsters meant to be cute but in reality distressing and off-putting, the moral high ground lies in the elves, mighty and powerful creatures not the least bit hampered by the fact that they look and sound like they'd rather be drinking red wine and watching figure skating than saving the world. Unfortunately, none of the cast distinguishes themselves much, as the film concerns itself more with not pissing off any militant Dungeon Masters in the audience than with creating an expressly filmic narrative. While there are parts in the book missing from the film, there is precious little in the film that isn't directly lifted from the novel. In my mind, right between the catalogues of interracial porno and the Vincent Price filmography, there must be some explicit reason to justify a cross-medium adaptation, other than saving university students with book reports and essays the trouble of reading course material. What the movie lacks is an authorial touch, something to distinguish it from the novel in something other than a visual sense. Director Peter Jackson, who somehow landed this gig after making gore epic Dead-Alive and the Ghostbusters-esque flop The Frighteners, merely pays homage to the novel here, as opposed to adding anything distinctly 'Jackson'. However, for an straight adaptation that refuses to separate itself from the book in anyway, the movie still does a damn fine job. Sure, The Fellowship of the Ring is just a monumentally expensive way to save yourself the trouble of reading the novel, but at least it's pretty, with amazing effects, lush cinematography, and a fine, nicely rounded tail-end.

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