Wintry Mix

The holiday film forecast

Wintry Mix

Fantasy/Sci-Fi

THE LORD OF THE RINGS: FELLOWSHIP OF THE RING

"Frodo Lives!" This vintage bit of Sixties graffiti could serve as the tagline, ã la "Garbo laughs!" for Peter Jackson's ambitious cinematic adaptation of The Lord of the Rings. The New Zealand filmmaker has been laboring like Hercules for the past six years to turn J.R.R. Tolkien's popular fantasy saga into a trilogy of major motion pictures with walking, talking, flesh-and-blood hobbits. Given Jackson's eclectic résumé -- the raunchy Muppets satire Meet the Feebles, the gory zombie comedy Dead Alive, the true-life teen murder drama Heavenly Creatures, the darkly comic ghost thriller The Frighteners -- there's little that marks Jackson as a director who could take Tolkien's famously unfilmable epic and deliver a mean, (David) Lean screen adventure (say, Lawrence of Middle Earth), or even just make a better movie of it than animator Ralph Bakshi did. But Jackson's commitment to the project was persuasive: three years of pre-production, a year of filming, more years of post-production. And by employing collaborators such as Tolkien interpreter supreme Alan Lee as production artist, casting actors such Ian McKellen, Viggo Mortensen, Ian Holm, Cate Blanchett, and Elijah Wood (as the noble hobbit Frodo), and espousing common sense in his approach (filming the trilogy not as a fantasy but as history, a "true story"), Jackson has kept the flame of hope burning in the hearts of the Tolkien faithful. Thrilling trailers and excited reports from early screenings -- such as a 25-minute slice of footage sneaked at Cannes this year -- are feeding the fire, suggesting that, come Dec. 19 (the release date for the The Fellowship of the Ring, the first film in the trilogy), Middle Earth's furry-footed savior will live indeed. And that will make Peter Jackson the One to Rule Them All. (Dec. 19)


ALSO PLAYING

Kate and Leopold ... How to recover from the clinical depression ofGirl, Interrupted? Why not make a Cool Whip-whimsical romantic comedy starring winsome Meg Ryan and Wolverine-hottie Hugh Jackman! Writer/director James Mangold did just that, with this loopy time-warp romance between a 19th-century duke and a modern-day Manhattan power exec. (Dec. 21)

Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius ... Expect eye-popping visuals from the always reliable Nickelodeon in this long-delayed animated tale of the genius machinations of one Jimmy Neutron.(Dec. 21)

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