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DVD Talk review of 'The Lord of the Rings - The Two Towers (Extended Edition)'

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DVD Talk review of 'The Lord of the Rings - The Two Towers (Extended Edition)'

Old 11-10-03, 07:09 PM
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DVD Talk review of 'The Lord of the Rings - The Two Towers (Extended Edition)'

I read Holly E. Ordway's DVD review of The Lord of the Rings - The Two Towers (Extended Edition) at http://www.dvdtalk.com/reviews/read.php?ID=8255 and...

Have not seen this extended edition yet, but only 2 1/2 stars for replay value?
Old 11-10-03, 08:10 PM
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I'm eagerly awaiting this EE. From the tone and body of the review, it seems like the reviewer didn't particularly care for this movie, and cared even less for the extended material. The reviewer seemed a bit let down.

I can see why it got such a low replay value, since the movie is at almost 4 hours though. Its difficult for many people to watch movies that break the 3 hour mark , let alone get close to 4 hours.

I, however, will probably feel like the LOTR movies should go for 5 hours ...

apiece.
Old 11-10-03, 10:30 PM
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well if its anything like the fellowship EE then ill watch the film, then look at all the features. then watch it again for every commentary track.

I'll have to set aside at least a week
Old 11-11-03, 12:53 PM
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Holly read your review with interest. Must say that while interesting it's clear that your inability to separate the book from a film adaptation has impaired your ability to review the film itself.

Most of your review focuses on what is in the book and not actually transpired in the movie. This mind set does not allow you to view the movie itself unencumbered as you are constantly running through a mental checklist.

The biggest point of contention I have is with the statements that the storylines of Aragorn et al and Merry and Pippin are merely hooks to set action pieces. If you cannot see that the characters in these story threads are undergoing changes in terms of maturing and accepting one's role then I can only conclude it's because you were too busy updating that checklist again.

In the future it will be interesting to see if you will dock ROTK points because it contains elements of TTT. What if those events being moved to ROTK enhance the final movie? By your criteria that can't happen because PJ moved events from one movie to another that don't map the same as it happened in the book.

Again an interesting read. It would be appreciated if you focussed more on the movie and less on the book.

Thank you for your time.
Old 11-11-03, 02:54 PM
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Nice review.

I am a bit dissapointed that the PQ seems to just be VG, instead of excellent. I'm sure we'll see it revisited in the future many times. Hopefully it will be on a commercial HD format by then.

Last edited by Eric F; 11-11-03 at 02:57 PM.
Old 11-11-03, 03:35 PM
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Kudos on having the fortitude o be honest about what you thought about the movie. I'm so, so tired of online DVD reviews being fellating pieces written by fanboys who couldn't fathom being critical.
Old 11-11-03, 03:40 PM
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Extended Disappointment

I knew there'd be someone who preferred the "Fellowship" EE to "2 Towers." Holly and I got off on the wrong foot right away, when Holly advocates an "R" rating. I'm not sure digital carnage qualifies yet. And as far as beheadings goes, there was a notable one in "FotR." But what this review seems to be criticizing Jackson in the EE for is for doing a better job of editing the theatrical "2T" than "FotR." It's usually considered a good thing when extra added material is a little irrelevant or repetitious--that's why it wasn't in the theatrical release. And the reason it's dangerous to review a middle volume like this is that you can't tell what material is going to pay off in the last part. Jackson has acknowledged that he ends "2T" before the book ends. He in fact ends it where the disastrous cartoon version ended, and where a movie should end. Clearly Shelob is coming, Gollum mentions her, and there's a preview scene in the RE which makes it clear the wrong Hobbit has looked in the Palantir and Sauron is deceived. I myself could have done without the Theodred stuff but it's brief and provides a frame to illustrate Theoden's "out-of-it"ness and Grima's drooling after Eowyn. Gimli's humor is a matter of taste, of course--I loved it, especially the gap in the line of warriors at Helm's Deep that talked.
Holly didn't mention (no one has) the 2 problems I had with "2T": Aragorn's fall at the warg battle and return, and the dam at Isengard. Aside from providing my two favorite moments in the movie (Gimli choking up when he tells Eowyn "He fell ...." and Eowyn's mixture of joy and sadness when Aragorn returns alive, only to receive Arwen's brooch from Legolas), it was irrelevant to the story, and wasted time (tho it did give Arwen an extra scene). I've looked back and nowhere in the Isengard scenes did we see a dam (presumably over the Isen itself) until it came time to destroy the place. Like the giant eagle that appears from nowhere to rescue Gandalf from Orthanc in the first one. We all know it was Gwaihir the Windlord because we read "The Hobbit" but it's his first and (so far) only appearance in the movies. Talk about God from the Machinery!
Old 11-11-03, 05:26 PM
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I read this review and kept saying to myself "Are you serious?" She made it seem like if you have never read the books you would have no idea what is going on. Well Holly I have never read any of the books and seemed to have no problem following along with this very complex movie you speak of. I agree with the above poster who said to keep it seperate from the book you are reviewing a movie based on a book not how the two compare. I am not saying I want a candy coated review but stop with the analysis of the book.

the first half of The Two Towers follows exclusively the remainder of the Fellowship (Aragorn, Legolas, and Gimli in Rohan, Merry and Pippin in Fangorn), while the second half focuses entirely on Frodo, Sam, and Gollum in their travels toward Mordor. In the film adaptation, Jackson decides to follow a more conventional narrative structure, alternating between the stories of Aragorn and company, Merry and Pippin, and Frodo and Sam. This actually changes the focus of the story considerably: in the book, it's clear that Frodo and Sam's journey is the more important element, with as much narrative time spent on their story as on all the other characters' adventures combined; in the film, however, this emphasis disappears.

I think if Peter Jackson had done the film this way it would have made for a very boring movie and would have frustrated the veiwers (who may have or have not read the book) with it's slow pace and wondering when it would get back to Frodo and the gang.

It doesn't have the charm of discovery that's such a large part of the appeal of The Fellowship of the Ring, as it introduces little new of significance; nor does it wrap up any of the storylines.

I am curious what we are to discover in this 2nd movie? The charactors (for the most part) have been introduced and we understand where they are going and what their quest is so there is nothing to wrap up. It is a trilogy if things were wrapped up I think I would be a little diappointed and second guess whether I would see the third installment.

However, neither this scene nor the scene of the Ents attacking Isengard have anything like the emotional punch of the first film. I think it's because we have little or no emotional connection with what's happening. In the first film, when the Fellowship is attacked by the Ringwraiths, we are fully involved, fully committed to these characters and concerned about what happens to them.

Once again are you serious? This was a phenomenal battle nothing like the Ring Wraiths, which was very compelling, but nothing like this battle I was hanging on the edge of my seat and asking for more. This battle will go down in cinema history as one of the greats. How were we any less involved? Just cause we didn't know every man woman and child who was at Helm's Deep. This movie is focusing on the main charactors not everyone they come across.

Of course everyone is entitled to their opinion I just think the movie should be review on it's own merits.

Last edited by teddydogg; 11-11-03 at 05:51 PM.
Old 11-11-03, 07:56 PM
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Originally posted by lpetschauer
Kudos on having the fortitude o be honest about what you thought about the movie. I'm so, so tired of online DVD reviews being fellating pieces written by fanboys who couldn't fathom being critical.
so does that mean, that everyone that gives it a 4 of 5 star rating non stop, means that they are a fan boy and couldn't be honest if their life depended on it?
Old 11-11-03, 10:47 PM
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"And so it begins..."
Old 11-12-03, 01:18 AM
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The movie is not the book. . .

I have to agree with Lou, TeddyDogg and Slothrop. I think the reviewer focused too much on comparing the book with the movie. Naturally there is a tendancy to do this with film adaptations, but this should not be the only basis by which the film is judged.

If Jackson had filmed the Two Towers as Holly had suggested - by following the structure of the book - I honestly believe this movie would have been A TRAIN WRECK. Let's think about this for a moment: The first half would have focused on the Aragorn/Gandalf sequence leading up to the Battle of Helm's Deep. It would have been awkward to have had such a climactic battle in the middle of the movie, with everyone wondering the whole time what what going on with Frodo and Sam. Upon switching to the Frodo/Sam arc, people would become bored with an hour of dialogue and not much action. While the structure of the book works well for avid readers, I believe intermixing the plots is a must for a good film - it keeps your audience interested and allows you to build up to an effective climax.

While the reviewer questions shifting the beginning and ending of the Two Towers to the other films, I think this is really irrelavent. If doing this improves the pacing of the films, what does it matter? What's important to Tolkien fans is that these parts are included and are accurate. Here's an interesting fact the reviewer may not have considered: FotR contained 398 pages of story, tTT contained 323 pages but RotK only contains 277 pages of story - over 103 pages of RotK are Appendices A - F. Peter Jackson may have moved content to fill out the 3rd movie. In fact, I have a strong suspicion that we'll be seeing the Saruman/Palantir sequence in RotK. In addition, there are rumors that the Scouring of the Shire may not be in RotK film - it might end shortly after the *SPOILER* fall of Sauron, leaving out roughly 75 pages of story. If true, this effectively leaves just over 200 pages of story for the 3rd movie - half the size of the Fellowship of the Ring.

I have a similar problem with other reviewers complaining that the Arwen/Aragorn sequences weren't in the book. In fact, Appendix A details the history of Arwen and Aragorn, starting with a bit of history around Arathorn, Aragorn's father, and concludes with the *SPOILER* death of Aragorn and the incrediblly sad ending for Arwen. The fact that Jackson wanted to include this gives more depth to the story, especially considering that Aragorn does *SPOILER* marry Arwen in the end.

I disagree that the humor is juvenile and out of place with "the seriousness of the Lord of the Rings". It's a well-known fact that Tolkien wrote this as a CHILDREN'S book, a follow-up to the Hobbit. And one of the things I believe that Tolkien wanted you to take from reading this book is that no matter how bad things around you get, there is always hope and always room for happiness and humor.

Anyway, that's my two cents. I'm really looking forward to the Extended Edition and the Return of the King in December. Let's all hope Jackson keeps his promise and goes back and films the Hobbit - he suggested he would do this if these films were successful. . .and I believe they have been. . .
Old 11-12-03, 02:37 AM
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MAJOR SPOILER IN THIS POST: (never mind, I don't want to post the spoiler until I can figure out how to do the black text within a black box thingie that everyone does so well. It has to do with Saruman and the Palantir in Return of the King (as reported by Aint it Cool)).



Anyhoo, until then, regarding the review, I too had to repeat 'what were you thinking'. I have read the book probably a dozen times in my life, and I don't have the slightest problem with the cross-cutting between story lines in the Jackson movies. I've actually always had a problem with the Two Towers book, as I didn't like having to suddenly wait an entire 1/2 of a book between story threads to find out what happens to the characters after the end of Fellowship.

Tolkien himself often cross-cuts narrative threads, cutting between different groups throughout the 1st half of Two Towers, and the first half of Return of the King. I don't think the use of this in the films diminishes Frodo & Sam's importance whatsoever (and if you actually time out the movie, Pippin & Merry have a minor role still - in the regular cut since i haven't seen the extended yet). Furthermore, Tolkien constantly reminds the reader of what is happening in his other narrative threads when he is focusing on one group (i.e. as Frodo and Sam are walking through mordor, Tolkien reminds us at various points what had transpired at that same time in Gondor, or in Rohan, etc). Cinematically, there would be no other way to do this other than the approach Jackson did, unless you want to employ obnoxious flashbacks (or dream sequences or 'visions' - like Frodo seeing Gandalf with the Balrog),

This is the second online review I've read with these structural arguments against Jackson's approach (the other one was at dvdtown, which i'd never heard of), and I am frankly quite surprised. TTT has consistantly been rated the favorite of the two released films by reviewers (on rotten tomatoes) and by viewers on IMDB, so I think the average viewer, who hasn't read the book, actually favors TTT's pacing and ramped-up action, on a larger scale.

Can anyone name for me a single movie that has taken the structural approach that Holly argues in favor of in the review? Is there a movie where two connected & parallel narrative threads are completely seperated, one in the first hour of the film, and another in the 2nd hour of the film?

Last edited by Pasolini; 11-12-03 at 02:58 AM.
Old 11-12-03, 06:01 AM
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While I don't agree with Holly about her reaction to TTT (and I've never read the books), I admire her for backing up her statements with well-thought out arguments. Most reviewers will tell you they don't like a film, but will only give you vague reasons as to WHY. Holly basically took us through the film step by step and told us what, in her opinion, didn't work.

So while I can disagree with the conclusion she reaches, this still is a GREAT review of the movie! In fact, it's better than some "fanboy" review, which would just gush with raves and not point out the film's weak points.
Old 11-12-03, 08:44 AM
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The first time I saw TTT, I must admit I was a little disappointed: it omitted almost half of the book, a lot was added that wasn't in the book and the pace seemed uneven: too slow for the first hour and too jumpy and hyperkenetic toward the end.

On repeated viewings, however, I think the movie is if anything even better than FOTR. Jackson had a ton of ground to cover, three intertwining stories to mesh and tons of new characters to introduce. Not only that, this film had to have its own arc, separate from the overall story.

In that context, the changes (and they are extensive) are understandable and even required, IMO. By maintaining focus on the driving themes of the book: brotherhood and loyalty, courage in the face of overwhelming odds, the falability of humans (that lends them their humanity) and the importance of valuing life and fighting for it, Jackson realized what needed to stay and what he had to change to make the thing fly in the cinema. It's a greased tightrope walk to be able to do this, especially as Jackson is aiming to please both grizzled Tolkein obsessives and soccer moms, and Jackson handles it very well.

The movie accelerates as it goes, building a relentless momentum that culminates in the assaults on Helms Deep and Isengard. These set pieces are masterpieces of set up and delivery, IMO. In retrospect, it's clear why the pacing of the movie varies so widely, Jackson is setting us up for the big ending. He realized that this is the middle film and has to have some sort of resolution. By making the last 45 minutes that culmination of all of the plot lines, Jackson was able to give a sense of closure to what is only the middle chapter.

Can't wait for the EE and to see Rotk!

Last edited by Hiro11; 11-12-03 at 08:53 AM.
Old 11-12-03, 06:45 PM
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ROTK

I have to admit I'm most curious about what Jackson does with ROTK. Not the 2 great battles but how and where will he end it?? The Book goes on for an entire 'nother section after Sauron is last seen humping a steamer trunk of odd socks over the hills of Fordor (sorry, but that book is ever on my mind). As anyone knows, and Roger Corman explicitly stated: "When the monster is killed, the movie is OVER!" Obviously there has to be more, since the King hasn't officially returned yet. So HOW will Jackson deal with the post-Sauron part of the movie? I do believe the Scouring will have to go. Like Tom Bombadil, it would be an easy edit. It would get the Ring Bearers off to the Grey Havens much sooner (like a year) and also allow the Saruman/Wormtongue interaction (NON-SPOILER) to happen much sooner, like on the road from Minas Tirith to the Grey Havens. But what about the Ring Bearers? Galadriel told Aragorn in FotR (EE) that they would never see each other again. Yet she's definitely a Ring Bearer, and in the book King Elessar and Arwen Undomiel go with her as well as Frito and Goodgulf (there I go again) to take the last ship Westward. What DOES PJ have in mind?
One kudo to T2T, I never once thought of "Bored of the Rings" during its entire length. Never of V-8s or Goddam or Schlob or farting merinos. Since BotR is the only book that has survived since my college days (I have a First Edition thankyouverymuch), that's quite an accomplishment.
Old 11-12-03, 08:39 PM
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*MAJOR ROTK SPOILER*


Spoiler:


All of Christopher Lee's scenes have been confirmed by Peter Jackson as cut from the theatrical release of ROTK. Thus, there won't be any Saruman or Grima in the movie at all (at least not until the EE is released).

Old 11-13-03, 07:57 AM
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ROTK ending

Re: Ephemeral Life's blacked out but readable post:
I can't believe PJ would be so stupid, that he would fumble the ball so wretchedly after making it over the goal line. Saruman the major villain of the first two just disappears from the third sans resolution? Ludicrous!
Old 11-13-03, 09:50 AM
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FYI, spoiler tags are our friends. Placing a spoiler within a thread without a decent amount of warning is not so cool. Someone...say, for example, me...could be skimming a thread devoted to the second film and have a major event in the third film ruined by inadvertantly reading three words. As luck would have it, that's exactly what happened. Give the tags a whirl.
Old 11-13-03, 04:15 PM
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Now that DVDFile's review is up (along with Digital Bits), I noticed something else about DVDTalk's review (by the way, is Holly's review supposed to be 'the official one and only DVDTALK review'? Or will there be several by other reviewers? )

Holly's rating of the video was very critical:


"… The image quality is excellent, but it doesn't reach the almost-perfect mark that I gave to the first film...Where The Two Towers strays from the path of excellence is in its level of clarity. Some edge enhancement is visible at various points throughout the film, though not all of the time, and on the whole the image is just not quite as sharp as it could be (or as The Fellowship of the Ring was). The level of detail is not as high as it should be, giving the image a slightly soft appearance, with "busy" long-distance shots in particular showing the lack of clarity."

Contrast this with DVDFile's review:

"I thought the previous two-disc theatrical cut of The Two Towers was just about reference-quality. This is even better…Overall detail is excellent - even long-shots are sumptuous with fine textures apparent. …Best of all is how even more film-like this transfer looks – it never suffers from any digital-ness, save for the hard contrast, nor any discernible haloing around sharp objects or compression artifacting. Reference quality. "

These reviews are almost exactly opposite! One says long shots are lacking in clarity, the other says 'even long shots are sumptuous with fine textures apparant'. What gives?

I haven't seen the extended edition to review it's quality, but if it is better than the TTT regular disc, it must be pretty amazing.

Here's Digital Bits' take on the video:

"this version of the film is every bit as good as the Fellowship 4-disc DVD. ..The anamorphic widescreen video, now that it's spread over two discs, has been compressed with a much higher bitrate. Rarely will it dip below 7 Mbps, and the result is improved clarity, greater detail, and more depth to the image...You'll notice the improvements in the image quality right from the film's opening - just watch as Gandalf and the Balrog plunge into the depths. The film looks absolutely fantastic."


Sometimes I am glad I cannot view the bitrate on my equipment -- perhaps once a reviewer sees that little 'bitrate' number, their impression of the visual quality of the film is coloured by that number. If they see a lower than expected bitrate, they suddenly see an image that 'could be just a little bit better if the bitrate was higher'. So even though the image is exemplary, they still see those remaining digits of bitrate that 'could have been'.

ALso from Holly's review:

"This impression of overall softness is borne out by the bit rate of The Two Towers. Sampling the first DVD reveals an average bit rate of around 8.1 Mb/s, while the average falls to around 7.4 Mb/s on the second DVD. This is slightly lower than the bit rates for The Fellowship of the Ring, which consistently hovered around 8.5 Mb/s. The Two Towers also shows slightly more compression than The Fellowship of the Ring, with its quantization figure averaging around 6.6, while the first film's quantization was around 5.5...I'm surprised, though, that the bit rate was kept at a fairly moderate level and not allowed to go higher for a better image. "

Last edited by Pasolini; 11-13-03 at 04:23 PM.
Old 11-13-03, 04:36 PM
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Originally posted by Pasolini
(by the way, is Holly's review supposed to be 'the official one and only DVDTALK review'? Or will there be several by other reviewers? )
There's never really a single 'official' DVD Talk review; reviewers are allowed to review whatever they'd like, and multiple reviews of a title are allowed and encouraged. Aaron Beierle has a review of the extended edition that should be up on this site sometime soon.

It's worth noting, though, that an opinion that isn't widely held isn't necessarily incorrect. I haven't seen the extended edition yet and accordingly can't comment on that specifically, but there have been a number of instances where I've watched a DVD and come away with a greatly different opinion than the ones widely expressed by many other prominent DVD review sites.
Old 11-13-03, 09:19 PM
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Jumping in here to say that "critiquing" the image quality in detail isn't the same thing as being very "critical" of it! As a reviewer, just because I think something is well done doesn't mean I won't describe the areas that could have been better done - which is the case here.

I'll emphasize that I started off the video section of the review with the comment "The image quality is excellent, but it doesn't reach the almost-perfect mark that I gave to the first film"; it gets 4 stars out of 5. That's a high mark, and not one that I give lightly.

Pasolini is right about the potential for seeing bit-rate numbers to color an opinion - that's why I don't look at them right away! I sat down and wrote my evaluation of the video based on my subjective viewing experience, and then popped in the discs to check out how the objective data looked. As it turned out, it supported my "eyball" impression that TTT, while good, isn't as spectacular as FOTR in the video department.
Old 11-13-03, 10:37 PM
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while good, isn't as spectacular as FOTR in the video department.
Ordway, did you notice that the finer details in the FOTR:EE were filtered away leaving the picture soft? That was a big issue for me with the FOTR:EE set. I seem to be the only one in this forum who notices this. When I look at the matrix reloaded disc, I am blown away by the fine details I see in the picture. In Morpheus's close-ups I can count every single pore in his face. The FOTR:EE video is nowhere near as detailed as that.
Old 11-14-03, 12:56 AM
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Originally posted by Hobgoblin
Ordway, did you notice that the finer details in the FOTR:EE were filtered away leaving the picture soft? That was a big issue for me with the FOTR:EE set. I seem to be the only one in this forum who notices this. When I look at the matrix reloaded disc, I am blown away by the fine details I see in the picture. In Morpheus's close-ups I can count every single pore in his face. The FOTR:EE video is nowhere near as detailed as that.
Although your equipment is doubtlessly an order of magnitude better than mine, I think what you may be complaining about is in fact the fundamental cinematography style of the LOTR films. The way they are lit, processed and digitally altered creates a FAR different visual and textural quality than the Matrix films. If so, it's not the transfer that's at fault, but your tastes.
Old 11-14-03, 03:35 AM
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Ordway -

thanks for the explanation.

I should've interjected somewhere in there that I do not have an opinion myself (yet) because I haven't seen the extended cut (but obviously I have my own preconceived bias as you can probably tell!). I mainly found the contrast of opinions worthy of comparison. I also realized I forgot to check to see what your numerical rating for the video was, so sorry I didn't take that into account.

I too remember a wide array of opinions of the video quality on a lot of releases. The most distinct in my memory is on the Criterion release Eisenstein: The Sound Years. Some reviewers even went so far as to claim Criterion put the wrong transfer onto the dvd (based on the restoration comparison special feature on the disc), the pre-restored version.

I don't know if the differences come from the wide variety of equipment, or just different eyes. I know I never even considered writing dvd reviews until I got a great system (though now that i have a 65 inch mitsubishi, I haven't found anywhere to write!)
Old 11-14-03, 07:05 PM
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Originally posted by Rypro 525
so does that mean, that everyone that gives it a 4 of 5 star rating non stop, means that they are a fan boy and couldn't be honest if their life depended on it?
No. Why do you think that?

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