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The ring masters; Damon Smith looks at the latest releases on DVD and video.

Byline: Damon Smith

New To Rent

THE LORD OF THE RINGS: THE TWO TOWERS (Cert 12, 179 mins).

Drama/Action. Elijah Wood, Ian McKellen, Viggo Mortensen, Sean Astin, Billy Boyd, Liv Tyler, Dominic Monaghan, Christopher Lee, Miranda Otto, Brad Dourif, Orlando Bloom, Bernard Hill, John Rhys-Davies and the voice of Andy Serkis.

Make a date in your diaries now: December 17, 2003.

That's the day Frodo's quest to save Middle-earth will finally be resolved when The Lord Of The Rings: The Return Of TheKing is finally released in cinemas around the world.

The wait for the third instalment of Peter Jackson's monumental trilogy is almost unbearable.

Thankfully, you can now revisit the second part of JRR Tolkien's fantasy epic, in which new allegiances are forged and the battle between good and evil gains new momentum.

Devout fans of the series may want to save their pennies until November 18, and the release of the extended edition of The Two Towers, complete with never-before-seen extra footage.

The Lord Of The Rings: The Two Towers is a cinematic rush of blood to the head that exhilarates, astounds, enchants and leaves you hungry for more.

Following the death of Boromir (Sean Bean) and the apparent demise of Gandalf (McKellen) in the pit at Khazad-dum, The Fellowship divides into three groups.

Hobbit friends Frodo (Wood) and Sam (Astin) head for the Black Gates of Mordor.

En route, they befriend Gollum (voiced by Serkis), a mysterious creature deeply scarred by his previous encounter with The Ring.

Aragorn (Mortensen), elf archer Legolas (Bloom) and plucky dwarf Gimli (RhysDavies) make haste for the besieged Rohan kingdom, where they pledge their support to the beleaguered King Theoden (Hill) and his beautiful niece Eowyn (Otto).

They head for Helm's Deep for a titanic showdown with the evil wizard Saruman (Lee) and his army.

Meanwhile, hobbits Merry (Monaghan) and Pippin (Boyd) escape from their UrukHai captors and head into the mysterious Fangorn Forest, where an age-old ally offers a glimmer of hope in tipping the balance back

in favour of the forces of light.

The ensemble cast continues to excel, evoking a menagerie of wondrous beings caught up in a titanic battle between good and evil.

Wood gradually reveals the desperation seething within Frodo as The Ring begins to take hold of him, and Astin is intensely moving as the best friend who would sacrifice everything -including his own life -to ensure Frodo reaches Mount Doom and achieves his goal.

Once again, McKellen is majestic as the wizard guiding The Fellowship on its perilous path, and Mortensen accepts the hero's mantle with gusto.

The special effects wizards conjure jawdropping action set-pieces such as the climactic battle at Helm's Deep, which features more than 10,000 warriors fighting to the bitter end in a vast mountainside fortress.

The Two Towers continues Tolkien's tril-ogy in grandiose style, casting a spell that is impossible to resist.

Also available to buy at pounds 16.99.MOONLIGHT MILE (Cert 15, 112 mins).

Drama. Jake Gyllenhaal, Dustin Hoffman, Susan Sarandon, Ellen Pompeo, Aleksia Landeau, Holly Hunter, Allan Corduner.

Joe Nast (Gyllenhaal) is standing at a crossroads in his life, following the senseless murder of his beautiful fiancee Cheryl (Landeau) in a shooting at a diner.

He feels compelled to offer support and love to Cheryl's devoted parents, Ben (Hoffman) and JoJo (Sarandon), but also knows that he must try to get on with his own life.

Joe goes to stay with his parents-in-law for the funeral service and agrees to stay on until he has worked out what he wants to do.

Matters are complicated when Joe develops an attraction to bar owner Bertie Knox (Pompeo), who also runs the local post office.

Torn between the memory of Cheryl and his own heart, Joe must decide where his future lies and whether he is brave enough to face the consequences.

Moonlight Mile is a sensitively handled portrait of grief, focusing on three people struggling to come to terms with their loss and the fragility of life.

Writer-director Brad Silberling, who traversed similarly tearful territory in City Of Angels with Meg Ryan and Nicolas Cage, draws out powerhouse performances from the leads with emotionally charged speeches and confrontations.

Gyllenhaal confirms his status as one of the finest young actors in Hollywood, delivering a measured and emotionally rich performance.

Hoffman and Sarandon bristle with anger and disbelief at the injustice of their daughter's death.

Pompeo's love interest is far too weak to act as a catalyst for Joe's monumental final decision, which undermines the fireworks of the final 20 minutes.

CAPTION(S):

Right, Aragorn prepares for the breathtaking battle in Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers; botom, Sam and Frodo hide from an unknown foe during their treacherous trip through Mordor to Mount Doom
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Aug 25, 2003
Words:797
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