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Xpress, the Coolest Section of the St. Petersburg Times, is the home for features, news and views of interest to young readers. Most of the work in Xpress, which appears on Mondays in Floridian, is produced by the Times' X-Team. The team of journalists ages 9-17 from around the Tampa Bay area is selected every year at the end of the school year to serve during the following school term. The current team of 12 was chosen out of 150 applicants. Watch for X-Team application forms in Xpress during the month of May.


Read the reviews by Xpress Film Critic Billy Norris


St. Petersburg Times Online

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Movie review

'Two Towers' is too long, but terrific

Billy photo
Read Billy's movie reviews on his special archive page.
By BILLY NORRIS

© St. Petersburg Times
published December 23, 2002


Movie: The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers

  • Rating: PG-13

Summary: This is the followup to last year's hit The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring. In this second part of J.R.R. Tolkien's trilogy, the Fellowship has been torn apart. But each member of the Fellowship is ultimately working toward overpowering the corrupt wizard Saruman (Christopher Lee), defeating the Dark Lord Sauron and preventing the destruction of Middle-earth. Frodo Baggins (Elijah Wood), a hobbit who was chosen by the Fellowship to be the bearer of the One Ring, embarks on a journey to the land of Mordor to destroy the treacherous ring before the sheer power of it destroys him. Along with him is his faithful hobbit servant, Samwise Gamgee (Sean Astin). They encounter a split-personality creature named Gollum, a.k.a. Smeagol, who was the previous bearer of the ring, and take him hostage after catching him trying to steal the ring back. Meanwhile, the other members of the Fellowship, Legolas the elf (Orlando Bloom), Aragorn the human (Viggo Mortensen), and Gimli the dwarf (John Rhys-Davies), are aiding the people of Rohan in their preparations for a forthcoming war with the inhabitants of the two towers. Also, two other hobbits from the Fellowship, Pippin (Billy Boyd) and Merry (Dominic Monaghan) have been captured by the Orc army and are fighting for survival. The culmination of all of these missions is a gruesome battle of epic proportions.

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Hobbit Frodo Baggins (Elijah Wood), journeys to Mordor to destroy the One Ring before its power destroys him in The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers. [Photo: New Line]

My view: This is a very long movie (2 hours, 59 minutes). It's definitely a good idea to be wide-awake when you go see it. There's a big lull in the action right smack in the middle, and it opens your eyes to the fact that you still have an hour and a half of movie left to watch. Nevertheless, I enjoyed this one much more than the first. Though it was still complicated, the plot was much easier to follow. It still had that dark, scary ambience, but it also had its fair share of funny moments. The word "special" doesn't come close to doing the effects used here justice. The movie is positively swarming with them from start to finish, and they're stunning. The interaction between Gollum (who is computer-generated) and the live actors is nothing short of remarkable. I'd watch this film over the first one any day, but according to my friend Danielle Townsel, 15, this film wasn't as good as the first one because, she said, "They added in too much extra stuff, and it was too different from the J.R.R. Tolkien novel." She agreed that it was way too long as well.

Favorite part: Gollum bore a strong physical resemblance to Dobby the house elf from Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. This character went a step beyond the brilliant ones we've seen in the past, like Dobby and Star Wars' Yoda, though. The actor who provided Gollum's voice, Andy Serkis, actually acted out the part with all the appropriate movements and expressions on the set. Those motions were then plugged into a computer using new technology called "motion capture" and used to develop the extremely convincing character that Gollum turned out to be. He was the source of much of this film's humor.

Recommendations: The fight scenes are extremely graphic and violent, so the PG-13 rating is unquestionably right on. There's no doubt that Rings fans will love it. But, because there are so many characters and quite a few subplots, I highly recommend that you either read the books or see the first installment of the series before viewing this one.

Grade: A

-- Billy Norris, 15, is in the ninth grade at Seminole High School and is a former member of the Times X-Team.

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