review SPOILERS!!! Thanks to Amnesty International and a vigilant Rings movie fan, I got in to see the Two Towers last night. I was a somewhat reluctant admirer of the first movie, but the TT was great, hands down better than the first. Aragorn's story comes to the fore in this episode of the trilogy, as he hunts for Merry and Pippin, and then tries to convince Theoden to venture out into open battle. There are some significant changes, the biggest being that the battle of Helm's Deep was done against the advice of Aragorn and Gandalf. That to me was a little bit of a weakness -- what would they have had him done? In the movie, they are saved from absolute disaster by a regiment of Lothlorien archers sent by Galadriel arriving just ahead of columns of orcs.
The Ents were well conceived, I only wish we could have seen more of them, especially as they tore through Orthanc, a pretty amazing scene altogether.
But as one other review noted, it was really Gollum that made the movie. Not only is the CGI character really well done, but the voice, and the scripting of the character are brilliant. He captures the multiple personalities really well, emphasizing ups and downs in the fight between them, over whether Frodo was a friend or not. The weakest portion of that story, for me, was Faramir. Only after Frodo narrowly escapes capture by a wringwraith, and nearly kills Sam, does Faramir realize the danger of the ring, and send him on. It was wasn't quite explicit enough, and I liked the character in the book a little better, more akin to Gandalf or Aragorn, than his brother Boromir. If the ring was taking hold of him, he would have taken it for himself, not tried to send it on to his father.
review Balzac and the little seamstress by daisiji, a chinese author, a little fable of two boys caught up in the cultural revolution sent off into the mountains for reeducation. unlike many other novels of this era, it is not a long generational story of horror, although there are certainly elements of that, but focuses on a specific period of time, a small set of characters, discovering a wider world through translated western books, and the power of story telling.