'Rings,' 'JSA' and 'Moulin Rouge' among year's best|
December 27, 2001
By Franklin Harris
This year certainly won't go down as one of the world's best, but it wasn't without its simple pleasures.
The best genre movie of the year was also the last.
Director Peter Jackson's "Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring," was everything even obsessive Tolkien fans could have hoped.
They're all here: Hobbits, Orcs, Dwarves, Elves and, of course, the Ring of Power, forged long ago by the Dark Lord, Sauron, in the fires of Mount Doom.
An unlikely Fellowship, with an even more unlikely hero at its center, must journey to Mount Doom and destroy the Ring in the fires that birthed it. If the Ring falls into Sauron's hands, it will mean the end of everything.
With the untamed but pastoral landscape of New Zealand as his Middle Earth, Jackson has created the fantasy movie that will serve as the standard for all others.
"The Fellowship of the Ring" is beautifully shot and perfectly cast. Sir Ian McKellen is the perfect Gandalf. Ian Holm is the only Bilbo Baggins. And, to my happy surprise, Elijah Wood and Sean Astin quickly convinced me that they are Frodo and Samwise.
And, of course, one cannot forget Christopher Lee's turn as the treacherous Saruman, which is as good a way for the horror-film icon to end a career as any.
Jackson combines modern CGI effects and old-fashioned, in-camera trickery to create a world that is realistic when it needs to be (the lived-in land of Hobbiton) and fantastic when nothing else will do (Gandalf's confrontation with the monstrous Balrog).
Forget Harry Potter, this is the movie of the year.
The rest of the story, "The Two Towers" and "The Return of the King," will follow in 2002 and 2003.
Marvel Comics may have dominated the headlines because of its never-ending publicity crusade, but its distinguished competition, DC Comics, was quietly publishing the best superhero book around.
"JSA" was the year's standout because of writer Geoff Johns, who has done just fine, thank you, in the absence of high-profile former collaborator David Goyer.
If you're not in the know, "JSA" is short for Justice Society of America, the world's first superhero team.
The JSA has been around since the '40s, and the latest incarnation features a few long-in-the-tooth founding members plus the sons, daughters and heirs of some of their passed-on or retired comrades.
This book is must reading for anyone interested in old-fashioned superheroics.
With more DVDs coming packed with bonus features, it's getting difficult to pick one DVD as the year's best.
"Star Wars: Episode I — The Phantom Menace," is loaded with so many goodies it's almost worth buying even though the movie itself is mediocre. Almost.
So, my pick for best DVD goes to "Moulin Rouge."
Nothing about this movie should work, but director Baz Luhrman takes a Paris period piece, throws in contemporary music and gets a jaw-dropping, otherworldly, fairy-tale musical. Having Nicole Kidman and Ewan McGregor as the leads doesn't hurt, either.
The two-disc DVD set comes THX certified for sound and video quality, and the bonuses include trailers, extended dance sequences, a director's commentary and music videos.