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Blu-ray Reviews

The Lord of the Rings: The Motion Picture Trilogy Blu-ray



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#1 of 25 Cameron Yee

Cameron Yee

    Executive Producer

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  • Real Name:Cameron Yee
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Posted June 25 2011 - 11:48 AM

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The Lord of the Rings Motion Picture Trilogy
Release Date: June 28, 2011
Studio: Warner Home Video
Packaging/Materials: Three, five-disc Blu-ray cases contained in a heavy cardboard housing with magnetic closure.
MSRP: $119.98

When the Lord of the Rings films came out on Blu-ray last year, reactions were decidedly mixed. Fans ultimately wanted the Extended Editions, which have proved to be the definitive versions for both the mammoth narrative as well the special features detailing every aspect of the production. For Tolkien fans and Blu-ray collectors alike, high definition extended versions would have made for the most ultimate of Lord of the Rings collections, but instead they were forced to wait and even settle for limited video quality. Several months later, Warner Home Video’s announcement of the Blu-ray for the Extended Edition Trilogy seemed to be the fulfillment of fans' and collectors' longtime wishes, but shortly before release date came controversy. Rumors of video quality on “The Fellowship of the Ring” being worse than on the theatrical version led to numerous questions, the ultimate of which was, "Should I buy these movies?"

With the dust of the controversy mostly settled (the issues primarily being an overstatement of the situation) the answer has proved to be, "Yes!” but then for some, “...maybe not right now." Though the collection includes all the extras from the DVD Extended Editions, around five hours of additional documentaries from subsequent releases, and stellar presentations for all three films, pricing continues to influence purchasing decisions in these times, especially for those who already own the films on DVD. However, the release date price has also dropped by about $15 since I started working on this review, making it harder to justify waiting for a hypothetical holiday price reduction. And for what seems like a very fair price, hours and hours of Lord of the Rings HD goodness can be enjoyed right now. Ultimately, it seems like a small price to pay for something that has proved to be so - dare I say - precious.

Overall Score (not averaged): 5/5

  • The Features: See individual titles
  • Video Quality: See individual titles
  • Audio Quality: See individual titles
  • Special Features: 5/5


  • The Fellowship of the Ring
    Year: 2001
    Rating: PG-13
    Running Time: 3:48:17
    Video: 1080p high definition 2.40:1 (AVC)
    Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio: English 6.1 / Dolby Digital: Portuguese 5.1
    Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish, Portuguese

    The Feature: 5/5

    Hobbit Bilbo Baggins (Ian Holm) is turning 111 and it's time he was moving on, from the pastoral life of the Shire to the retiring peace of Rivendell’s Elvish society. He leaves the bulk of his estate to his nephew Frodo (Elijah Wood), including a magic ring he acquired many decades ago. The wizard Gandalf (Ian McKellen), long suspicious of the nature of the trinket, sees Bilbo's departure as both an opportunity to protect his friend, as well as discern the ring's origins. To his utter dismay, it proves to be as he feared - the ring is in fact the One Ring, forged by the Dark Lord Sauron as an instrument to rule over all of Middle-earth, but lost for millenia until now. Sauron - long defeated but not dead - also knows of the ring's return and will do everything in his power to reclaim it. He dispatches nine Ringwraiths to hunt down Frodo and his Hobbit companions - Sam (Sean Astin), Merry (Dominic Monaghan) and Pippin (Billy Boyd) - though they will ultimately be joined by the mysterious ranger Aragorn (Viggo Mortensen) and his Elvish ally Arwen (Liv Tyler), who come to them at their most desperate time of need. Though they will finally find refuge from the Dark Lord's minions, it is but a temporary one, as Sauron's power - and the treacherous influence of his weapon - steadily grows. It's clear the ring must be destroyed, but who possesses the strength and will to do it, when all who have come before have been seduced by its power?

    The extended version of "The Fellowship of the Ring" adds approximately 50 minutes to the already significant run time of the theatrical version. However the additions are well-integrated, enhancing the narrative for both the film itself and in respect to the subsequent films. Though not without moments catering to fans of the source material (e.g. Bilbo's longer introduction of Hobbits and Galadriel's gifting scenes) the expansion of Aragorn's back story gives the character both the time he deserves and the humanization necessary to make him more than just a formidable warrior, but a warrior-king burdened by the tragedy of his lineage. This plays out especially well in Boromir's final words to him, imparting him with a confidence we will see grow as the films progress. Though the theatrical version was strong, the extended version makes the story stronger, and proves that increased length need not be synonymous with over-indulgence.


    Video Quality: 4.5/5
    For anyone who hasn't been following the controversy, Blu-ray video samples and screenshots from "Fellowship" made their way onto the Internet about two weeks ago, raising the hackles of anyone who saw them. The primary issue was a uniform green / cyan cast to the image so severe that reports that the director and cinematographer re-color graded the film didn't make sense, as the supposed final product looked more like someone had thrown the lever in the wrong direction and dumped Middle-earth into the Matrix.

    An error on this scale would be unacceptable for any movie, let alone for the seminal film in the Lord of the Rings Trilogy. However anyone who has been involved in this hobby for any length of time should be aware of the inherent unreliability of screenshots, whether from trusted or anonymous sources. Experience has shown that a single frame from a film does not definitively represent the quality of a video (i.e. moving image) transfer, and neither does a re-encoded and compressed video sample being streamed over the Internet, captured from the actual Blu-ray disc though it may be. What it has always come down to is how the image looks in person, in motion, viewed under the most controlled and optimal conditions possible, and with a properly calibrated display.

    But still a subjective element remains - the eyes of the beholder. On this forum we are fortunate to have a number of industry insiders, not least of which is film restorationist Robert Harris, who is able to provide years of knowledge and experience that we reviewers - for all our enthusiasm and passion for this hobby - can't deliver. For the most definitive of evaluations - and the discussion around it - I recommend Robert's  "A Few Words About" thread, though with it reaching almost 500 posts, be sure to allot plenty of time for the reading.

    For this review, I can only offer my views on the matter as an enthusiast, and in them I will try to address some of the questions raised in Robert's thread.

    First, the film has been re-graded on approval of the filmmakers, as confirmed by Bill Hunt through his industry sources. The change is fairly obvious - especially for anyone who has watched the movie multiple times - but it's not necessarily offensive. Though it represents a revision that some might not agree with in principle (a thorny topic unto itself), there are few indications that the changes were unintentional or that someone was "asleep at the wheel."

    The video samples and screenshots on the Internet do show an obvious green / cyan tint, but it's ultimately not representative of the overall appearance on the actual release. The color changes are not a uniform, corner-to-corner veneer of tint, though they do tend to manifest most obviously in shadow areas of the various nighttime scenes, which tend to look cooler and more stylized compared to the theatrical version. In daylight and outdoor scenes, the cooler tone is less obvious, but still detectable; however, it doesn't adversely affect the rendering of flesh tones nor the purity of whites.

    The aerial shot of the snow-covered mountain pass used in one video sample does indeed appear strongly and uniformly tinted, but - not surprisingly - it's an anomaly. Unfortunately, this non-representative sample (which lasts all of eight seconds in a film that contains over 13,000 of them) has gotten repeated play and been interpreted as an indication of how the film looks in its entirety. In fact the whites in the scene right after that aerial - the one in which Boromir picks up the Ring from the snow -  goes back to what most would consider "pure." A tinted quality returns immediately after in the attempt to pass Caradharas, but that scene in the theatrical version also has an overall blue shade, though of a slightly more subdued nature. It is also lit quite differently compared to the previous outdoor daylight shot, as it takes place in the middle of a light-obscuring blizzard (and apparently on a sound stage). Since the scenes occur fairly close to each other, it might be tempting to draw connections between them, but comparing them is ultimately - and effectively - a matter of night and day.

    The scenes in the Mines of Moria have a notable absence of the new, cooler shadow tones. As described in the Disc Four featurette on digital grading, those scenes were originally desaturated to impart the coldness and lack of life in the environment. That aesthetic remains, and in fact those who object to the new grading may find the Moria sequences the least offensive, looking minimally stylized but still retaining the starkness and hardness of the tomb-like, geologically excavated setting. This noticeable difference in look compared to the rest of the film also indicates the changes were not some across-the-board shift, as the pre-release captures intimated.

    As far as the transfer's other features, viewers should have no problems with its depth of blacks, nor its contrast. Though the color has been changed, there's no questioning the depth and beauty of the color itself, looking richly saturated and outright gorgeous in the Shire scenes. Detail - which was one of the more obvious problems on the theatrical version - is also quite good, holding up well in both wide shots and close ups, though there are some moments that show a bit less clarity or refinement compared to the picture's best. The transfer is also free of artifacts from excessive digital sharpening or noise reduction measures, making for an image that should please the majority of buyers, though the new color grading - and its implementation - will undoubtedly remain a hotly debated topic for the foreseeable future.

    Audio Quality: 5/5
    The surround channels in the 6.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track provide balanced and detailed support for the score and an immersive blend of directional and atmospheric effects. Floor-shaking LFE is used constantly in the mix - whether to enhance on-screen action or provide atmospherics - and is consistently clean and robust. Dialogue is likewise detailed, intelligible, and expertly balanced with the rest of the array. Standout sequences include the journey through the Mines of Moria and the Elvish lament in the woods of Lothlorien.

    Special Features
    The extras include all the items from the 2002 Extended Edition DVD and the feature-length documentary from the 2006 Limited Edition DVD. While the feature and its commentaries are spread over two Blu-ray discs, Discs Three, Four and Five are re-pressings of the DVDs from those past editions.

    As it was back in 2002, the breadth, depth and production quality of the special features is amazing, covering every detail of the production from script to visual effects, in exhaustive detail. The addition of the 90-minute behind-the-scenes is just icing on the cake, albeit one that takes hours and hours to consume. Though viewed as a whole the extras look like they are meant for hardcore Lord of the Rings fanatics, its impeccable organizational structure and accessibility also means the casual fan can easily sample a few choice bits and not feel overwhelmed doing so. And with such consistently interesting content, it's likely someone who just starts with a couple items will easily find themselves watching everything before they know it. From content to execution, the extras represent an undeniable best-in-class.

    [Various]

    Digital Copy download is made via a website. The offer expires June 26, 2012.

    Printed Booklet provides an index and map to the content on Discs One through Four.

    [Disc One - BD]

    Commentaries

  • The Director and Writers: Peter Jackson, Fran Walsh and Philippa Boyens
  • The Design Team: Grant Major, Ngila Dickson, Richard Taylor, Alan Lee, John Howe, Dan Hennah, Chris Hennah, Tania Rodger
  • The Production / Post-Production Team: Barrie M. Osborne, Mark Ordesky Andrew Lesnie, John Gilbert, Rick Porras, Howard Shore, Jim Rygiel, Ethan Van der Ryn, Mike Hopkins, Randy Cook, Christian Rivers, Brian Van't Hul, Alex Funke
  • The Cast: Elijah Wood, Ian McKellan, Liv Tyler, Sean Astin, John Rhys-Davies, Billy Boyd, Dominic Monaghan, Orlando Bloom, Christopher Lee, Sean Bean
  • The Lord of the Rings: War in the North Trailer - The Untold Story (1:38, HD) is a promotion for the console video game.

    2002 MTV Movie Awards (3:29, SD) stars that year's hosts, Jack Black and Sarah Michelle Gellar, having an unfortunate experience with the One Ring. Previously included on the DVD as an Easter Egg.

    BD-Live

    [Disc Two - BD]

    Commentaries (continued)

  • The Director and Writers: Peter Jackson, Fran Walsh and Philippa Boyens
  • The Design Team: Grant Major, Ngila Dickson, Richard Taylor, Alan Lee, John Howe, Dan Hennah, Chris Hennah, Tania Rodger
  • The Production / Post-Production Team: Barrie M. Osborne, Mark Ordesky Andrew Lesnie, John Gilbert, Rick Porras, Howard Shore, Jim Rygiel, Ethan Van der Ryn, Mike Hopkins, Randy Cook, Christian Rivers, Brian Van't Hul, Alex Funke
  • The Cast: Elijah Wood, Ian McKellan, Liv Tyler, Sean Astin, John Rhys-Davies, Billy Boyd, Dominic Monaghan, Orlando Bloom, Christopher Lee, Sean Bean
  • [Disc Three - DVD]

    The Appendices Part I: From Book to Vision

    Introduction (1:18), by Director Peter Jackson, provides an overview of what users will find on the disc and how to navigate through it.

    J.R.R. Tolkien: The Creator of Middle-earth (22:29) provides a biography of the author and a background on his celebrated life's work.

    From Book to Script (20:04) describes the process of adapting such a challenging book to film, including the risk New Line Cinema took in backing such an arduous production.

    Visualizing the Story

  • Storyboards and Pre-Viz: Making Words into Images (13:32) describes the purpose of storyboarding and the digital pre-visualization processes and how Jackson used them.
  • Early Storyboards shows a few of the animatics constructed out of panel sketches, rough animation, and temporary dialogue and audio.
      • The Prologue (7:39)
      • Orc Pursuit into Lothlorien (1:33)
      • Sarn Gebir Rapids Chase (1:43)
  • Pre-Viz Animatics shows the rough 3D animation produced from the pre-visualization process.
      • Gandalf Rides to Orthanc (1:08)
      • The Stairs of Khazad-dum (2:20)
  • Animatics to Film Comparisons provides a side-by-side view of animatics to the final scenes. The multi-angle feature also allows the user to view each element separately.
      • Storyboard to Film Comparison: Nazgul Attack at Bree (1:48)
      • Pre-Viz to Film Comparison: The Bridge of Khazad-dum (2:36)
  • Bag End Set Test (6:34) shows the video footage shot as Jackson worked out camera positions and angles on the yet-to-be-completed set.
  • Designing and Building Middle-earth

  • Designing Middle-earth (41:14) describes how Alan Lee and John Howe, artists who had previously drawn and painted pieces for the novels and hired by Jackson as conceptual artists, inspired and guided the film's production and costume design.
  • Weta Workshop (43:04) explores the New Zealand special effects and prop company responsible for the film's make up, weapons, armor and various physical items.
  • Costume Design (11:34) takes a look at the early concepts and creation of the characters’ wardrobe.
  • Design Galleries includes a plethora of sketches, concept art, and photographs for the film's characters and settings.
      • The Peoples of Middle-earth
        • The Enemy: Sauron, the Ringwraiths, Orcs, Moria Orcs, the Watcher, the Cave Troll, the Balrog
        • The Last Alliance: Elendil, Gil-Galad, Isildur, Numenorians, Gil-Galad's Army
        • Isengard: Saruman the White, the Fighting Uruk-Hai
        • Bilbo Baggins
        • The Fellowship: Gandalf the Grey, Frodo, Sam, Merry, Pippin, Aragorn, Legolas, Gimli, Boromir
        • Rivendell: Elrond, Arwen
        • Lothlorien: Galadriel, Celeborn
      • The Realms of Middle-earth
        • The Second Age (Prologue)
        • The Shire
        • Bag End
        • Bree
        • Isengard
        • Weathertop
        • Trollshaw
        • Rivendell
        • Moria
        • Lothlorien
        • The Silverlode and the Anduin
        • Amon hen

    Middle-earth Atlas: Tracing the Journeys of the Fellowship is an interactive map with about 12 minutes of film clips taking place at various locations, from Bag End to Amon hen.

    New Zealand as Middle-earth (9:53) shows the various locations used to create the following settings:

  • Hobbiton
  • Weathertop
  • Ford of Bruinen
  • Rivendell
  • Lothlorien
  • River Anduin
  • Amon hen
  • [Disc Four - DVD]

    The Appendices Part II: From Vision to Reality

    Introduction (:28), by Elijah Wood, provides an overview of what users will find on the disc and how to navigate through it.

    Filming "The Fellowship of the Ring"

  • The Fellowship of the Cast (34:39) interviews the major cast members about their first meeting and their experiences working together.
  • A Day in the Life of a Hobbit (13:07) describes the daily make up, costuming, and preparation routine for the actors playing the core halflings.
  • Cameras in Middle-earth (49:41) details the work of the five camera units necessary to capture the entirety of the film.
  • Production Photos contains over 50 images from filming.
  • Visual Effects

  • Scale (15:35) describes the visual tricks and techniques employed to make Hobbits look their proper size.
  • Miniatures
      • Big-atures (16:17) takes a look at the creation and filming of large-scale models.
      • Galleries shows numerous stills of the Orthanc, Rivendell, Moria, Lothlorien, Hobbiton Factories, and Argonauth models.
  • Weta Digital (25:51) describes the visual effects work done by the New Zealand facility.
  • Post-Production: Putting It All Together

  • Editorial: Assembling an Epic (12:46) describes the basic editing process and the challenges of assembling the massive film.
  • Editorial Demonstration: The Council of Elrond (1:28) provides a visual demonstration of the editing process utilizing six different video tracks drawing on 36 different takes.
  • Digital Grading (12:09) describes the process used to enhance and amplify the film's cinematography.

    Sound and Music

  • The Soundscapes of Middle-earth (12:36) explores the film's sound design for various creatures and sequences, as well as the additional dialogue replacement process.
  • Music for Middle-earth (12:29) describes the film score's composition and themes, as well as the various choral pieces and songs.
  • The Road Goes Ever On (7:22) takes a look at the film's New Zealand premiere in Wellington.

    [Disc Five - DVD]

    The Fellowship of the Ring Behind the Scenes (1:24:54) is a freer-form assemblage of behind-the-scenes footage chronicling the production in its various phases. Some of the material will be familiar from the other pieces, but now it's viewable in a less heavily edited form. But more than just a repetition of information, its more casual structure provides a better sense of the production experience, as opposed to just relaying the nitty gritty of the technical processes, proving to be a fine complement to an already detailed set of extras.

    Title Recap
    The Feature: 5/5
    Video Quality: 4.5/5
    Audio Quality: 5/5



    The Two Towers
    Year: 2002
    Rating: PG-13
    Running Time: 3:54:17
    Video: 1080p high definition 2.40:1 (AVC)
    Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio: English 6.1 / Dolby Digital: Portuguese 5.1
    Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish, Portuguese

    The Feature: 4.5/5

    The Fellowship of the Ring is broken and scattered. Gandalf (Ian McKellen) and Boromir (Sean Bean) have fallen in battle; Merry (Dominic Monaghan) and Pippin (Billy Boyd) have been captured by Saruman’s (Christopher Lee) orcs; Aragorn (Viggo Mortensen), Legolas (Orlando Bloom) and Gimli (John Ryhs-Davies) are pursuing them in a progressively vain attempt at rescue; and Frodo (Elijah Wood) and Sam (Sean Astin) are continuing the mission to destroy the One Ring, a task they will probably not survive, let alone complete. In each journey there gather potential allies - among them King Theoden (Bernard Hill), Eomer (Karl Urban) and Eowyn (Miranda Otto) of Rohan and the Ents, ancient creatures of the mysterious Fangorn Forest - who must decide what to do against the immediate threat of Saruman’s deadly ambitions. Meanwhile Frodo and Sam forge a tacit alliance with the creature Gollum, the corrupted and pathetic former keeper of the ring, who has promised to guide them to Sauron’s kingdom of Mordor, the only place where the weapon can be destroyed. But the way is treacherous and Gollum, twisted by his lust for the ring, may prove to be a most unreliable guide and ally.

    The Extended Edition of “The Two Towers” also includes about 50 minutes of additional material, but tends to be detail mostly fans of the book will appreciate. Few additions substantially enhance the narrative, though as a fan it’s nice to see the political dynamics within Rohan that got Eomer banished from the kingdom. Likewise Merry and Pippin’s expanded experience in Fangorn, which has its entertaining moments, but isn’t truly necessary. Where the extended version is clearly superior, however, is with the treatment of Faramir (David Wenham). The character was significantly altered from the book for dramatic reasons, but even without knowledge of the source material it’s hard to see the character - as he exists in the theatrical cut - as more than an unnecessary stand-in for Boromir. Though the writers intended to place Faramir on a moral journey, the original edit didn’t provide the necessary foundation to sell his choices and actions, so the character wound up getting short shrifted on all counts. Fortunately the extended version remedies all that by including a rather telling flashback sequence that shows Faramir’s difficult relationship with his father, Denethor (John Noble). Though one may not agree with the choice to alter the character (and there’s a lingering question of why Denethor is so disapproving), at least there is now a satisfying level of clarity around his motivations.

    It’s stated repeatedly in the special features how difficult the second book was to adapt. In some respects it shows, as the parallel journeys and the cross cutting between them can get a little tedious. But considering this was the nature of the story itself, it’s impressive how well the journeys interweave. Understanding the film is in many ways a bridging vehicle between the first and third films also helps in one’s appreciation of it.


    Video Quality: 5/5
    The film is accurately framed at 2.40:1 and encoded in 1080p with the AVC codec. Put aside concerns about alterations to the color - there are none. In fact, color is notably diminished through much of the film as the story turns progressively bleak. Even in Fangorn Forest, where the characters are surrounded by old growth, there’s a notable darkness, though there’s a satisfying level of depth in the greens and earth tones. Instead, depth of blacks and range of contrast stand out in the presentation, as they did in “Fellowship’s” Mines of Moria scenes, holding up consistently well from beginning to end. Fine detail also sees an improvement, resolving minute threads in Frodo’s Elvish cloak and maintaining clarity in the film’s more panoramic vistas. Though the film’s settings never elicit such descriptors as “gorgeous” or “beautiful,” there’s no denying the picture’s excellent depth and dimensionality, even in the most ravaged of environments.

    Audio Quality: 5/5
    As with the first film, the presentation of the 6.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track is outstanding. Surround channels provide balanced and detailed support for the score and an immersive blend of directional and atmospheric effects. Floor-shaking LFE is used constantly in the mix - whether to enhance on-screen action or provide atmospherics - and is consistently clean and robust. Dialogue is likewise detailed, intelligible, and expertly balanced with the rest of the array. Standout sequences include the introduction of the Nazgul over the Dead Marshes and the Battle of Helm’s Deep.

    Special Features
    The extras include all the items from the 2003 Extended Edition DVD and the feature-length documentary from the 2006 Limited Edition DVD. While the feature and its commentaries are spread over two Blu-ray discs, Discs Eight, Nine and Ten are re-pressings of the DVDs from those past editions.

    The special features package for "The Two Towers" basically follows the same thematic and organizational structure as for "Fellowship" and is no less detailed, exhaustive, and impeccably produced.

    [Various]

    Digital Copy download is made via a website. The offer expires June 26, 2012.

    Printed Booklet provides an index and map to the content on Discs Six through Nine.

    [Disc Six - BD]

    Commentaries

  • The Director and Writers: Peter Jackson, Fran Walsh and Philippa Boyens
  • The Design Team: Grant Major, Ngila Dickson, Richard Taylor, Alan Lee, John Howe, Dan Hennah, Chris Hennah, Tania Rodger
  • The Production / Post-Production Team: Barrie M. Osborne, Mark Ordesky Andrew Lesnie, John Gilbert, Rick Porras, Howard Shore, Jim Rygiel, Ethan Van der Ryn, Mike Hopkins, Randy Cook, Christian Rivers, Brian Van't Hul, Alex Funke
  • The Cast: Elijah Wood, Ian McKellan, Liv Tyler, Sean Astin, John Rhys-Davies, Billy Boyd, Dominic Monaghan, Orlando Bloom, Christopher Lee, Sean Bean, Bernard Hill, Miranda Otto, David Wenham, Brad Dourif, Karl Urban, John Noble, Craig Parker, Andy Serkis
  • The Lord of the Rings: War in the North Trailer - The Untold Story (1:38, HD) is a promotion for the console video game.

    2003 MTV Movie Awards (3:29, SD) features Andy Serkis, and an unexpected guest, accepting the award for Best Virtual Performance. Previously included on the DVD as an Easter Egg.

    BD-Live

    [Disc Seven - BD]

    Commentaries (continued)

  • The Director and Writers: Peter Jackson, Fran Walsh and Philippa Boyens
  • The Design Team: Grant Major, Ngila Dickson, Richard Taylor, Alan Lee, John Howe, Dan Hennah, Chris Hennah, Tania Rodger
  • The Production / Post-Production Team: Barrie M. Osborne, Mark Ordesky Andrew Lesnie, John Gilbert, Rick Porras, Howard Shore, Jim Rygiel, Ethan Van der Ryn, Mike Hopkins, Randy Cook, Christian Rivers, Brian Van't Hul, Alex Funke
  • The Cast: Elijah Wood, Ian McKellan, Liv Tyler, Sean Astin, John Rhys-Davies, Billy Boyd, Dominic Monaghan, Orlando Bloom, Christopher Lee, Sean Bean, Bernard Hill, Miranda Otto, David Wenham, Brad Dourif, Karl Urban, John Noble, Craig Parker, Andy Serkis
  • [Disc Eight - DVD]

    The Appendices Part III: The Journey Continues...

    Introduction (1:49), by Director Peter Jackson, provides an overview of what users will find on the disc and how to navigate through it.

    J.R.R. Tolkien: Origins of Middle-earth (29:29) goes into more detail about Tolkien's inspiration for the novel, publication challenges, and themes.

    From Book to Script: Finding the Story (20:56) describes the challenges of adapting the middle book and critical changes made to the narrative and characters.

    Designing and Building Middle-earth

  • Designing Middle-earth (45:42) continues to explore the trilogy's production and costume design, looking specifically at material created for the second film.
  • Weta Workshop (43:48) looks at the creation of swords and weapons, orc costumes, make up effects, and creature effects.
  • Design Galleries includes a plethora of sketches, concept art, and photographs for the film's characters and settings.
      • The Peoples of Middle-earth
        • The Enemy: Uruk-hai, Easterlings, Wargs and Riders, Grishnakh, Haradrim, Wild Men, Fell Beasts, Mumakil
        • Gandalf the White
        • Rohan: King Theoden, Eomer, Eowyn, Theodred, King's Royal Guard, Riders of Rohan, Grima (Wormtongue)
        • Third Age Elven Warriors
        • Treebeard
        • Ents
        • Faramir
        • Ithilien Rangers
      • The Realms of Middle-earth
        • Emyn Muil
        • Dead Marshes
        • Rohan: Edoras, Meduseld: The Golden Hall, Theodred's Bedroom, Stables, Plains of Rohan, Helm's Deep
        • Fangorn Forest
        • Ithilien
        • Henneth Annun
        • Osgiliath
        • Isengard

    Gollum 

  • The Taming of Smeagol (39:34) details the creation of Gollum in the digital environment, Andy Serkis's foundational performance, and the use of motion capture tools to refine the character movement.
  • Andy Serkis Animation Reference (1:45) offers a side-by-side view of Serkis's actual performance and the final product.
  • Gollum's "Stand In" (3:18) is an amusing anecdote about one of the producers having to fill in one day for Serkis.
  • Design Gallery includes over 90 stills of Gollum character models and concept art.
  • Middle-earth Atlas: Tracing the Journeys of the Fellowship is an interactive map with various film clips tracking the journeys of Frodo and Sam; Merry and Pippin; Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli; and Gandalf.

    New Zealand as Middle-earth (13:46) shows the various locations used to create the following settings:

  • Emyn Muil
  • The Dead Marshes
  • Rohan
  • Edoras
  • Ithilien
  • Fangorn Forest
  • Helm's Deep
  • [Disc Nine - DVD]

    The Appendices Part IV: The Battle for Middle-earth Begins

    Introduction (1:05), by Elijah Wood, provides an overview of what users will find on the disc and how to navigate through it.

    Filming "The Two Towers"

  • Warriors of the Third Age (20:57) explores the stunt and sword fight choreography and the battle-related filming of the Helm's Deep sequence.
  • Cameras in Middle-earth (1:08:09) continues the description of the 14-month filming, specifically looking at the character groups’ independent journeys to Rohan, Fangorn Forest, and other settings.
  • Production Photos contains over 50 images from filming.
  • Visual Effects

  • Miniatures
      • Big-atures (21:49) continues the exploration of the large scale models.
      • The Flooding of Isengard Animatic (1:29) offers a side-by-side look at the pre-visualized sequence with the final product, as well as an isolated view of the former.
      • Galleries: Barad-dur, Fangorn Forest, Helm's Deep, Ruined Isengard, Osgiliath, The Black Gate, Zirakzigil
  • Weta Digital (27:31) continues the exploration of the visual effects work done for the film's major battle and effects sequences, using the groundbreaking MASSIVE software.
  • Abandoned Concepts includes over 30 images of concept art for the Slime Balrog and Endless Stair.
  • Editorial: Refining the Story (21:56) describes the editing process and the shaping of the most challenging narrative of the trilogy due to multiple character story lines.

    Music and Sound

  • Music for Middle-earth (25:19) continues the description of Howard Shore's film score, its composition, and its themes for the second film.
  • The Soundscapes of Middle-earth (21:25) continues the exploration of the sound design, looking at the creation of battle noises, forest sounds, Treebeard's voice and movement, and other environments and creatures.
  • Sound Demonstration: Helm's Deep presents a battle scene with eight selectable audio tracks, each a different set of elements in the sound design, as well as the final mix.
  • The Battle for Helm's Deep is Over (9:27) features the cast and crew reflecting on their experiences and taking a look at the film's various world premieres.

    [Disc Ten - DVD]

    The Two Towers Behind the Scenes (1:46:17) maintains the structure and tone of the previous documentary piece and continues the exploration of the months-long production process. Once more it’s a compelling look at the making of a monumental film.

    Title Recap
    The Feature: 4.5/5
    Video Quality: 5/5
    Audio Quality: 5/5



    The Return of the King
    Year: 2003
    Rating: PG-13
    Running Time: 4:23:15
    Video: 1080p high definition 2.40:1 (AVC)
    Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio: English 6.1 / Dolby Digital: Portuguese 5.1
    Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish, Portuguese

    The Feature: 4.5/5

    With the forces of Saruman (Christopher Lee) defeated, attention now turns to the growing armies of Mordor, who are poised to attack the human city of Minas Tirith, home of Faramir (David Wenham) and his father Denethor (John Noble). Gandalf (Ian McKellen), Aragorn (Viggo Mortensen), Legolas (Orlando Bloom), Gimli (John Rhys-Davies), Merry (Dominic Monaghan) and Pippin (Billy Boyd) - reunited at last - work to bring Rohan’s remaining army to Minas Tirith’s aid, but the stubborn pride of King Theoden (Bernard Hill) remains a barrier. Denethor’s stewardship over Minas Tirith is also falling apart as his grasp on reality is slipping away, making Sauron’s victory over the race of Men seem all but assured. Meanwhile, Frodo, Sam and Gollum continue their treacherous journey to the heart of Mordor, where Frodo alone can bring an end to the Dark Lord’s ambitions. But the One Ring’s malevolence is relentless; it will take just a simple act of submission for everything to be undone. With Frodo’s strength and will fading, the fate of all Middle-earth - not just that of Man’s - could be forever sealed.

    Though it’s the longest extended version of all, the additional scenes again amount to around 50 minutes. As with “The Two Towers” they tend to be details not especially crucial to the storytelling, but help clarify some minor questions (e.g. why Gandalf looks so haggard at Denethor’s pyre) or satisfy fans of the book (e.g. seeing Faramir and Eowyn get together). Unfortunately, for all the extra material, there’s no additional insight into Denethor’s character - he remains as infuriating as he was in the theatrical version (though I guess that’s what madness will do to a person). The scene at the Black Gate with the Mouth of Sauron also should have stayed out, as its creature design and execution feels at odds with everything that came before it. Though “The Return of the King” seems to benefit the least from the extended treatment, it’s hard not to acknowledge it as the definitive version. Alongside the other volumes, it brings to life an intricate literary world that even its author considered impossible to film. The theatrical versions of course proved that wrong, but the extended versions show things can work - and work better - with even more time and detail. With a visionary director at the helm, a cannily adapted script to guide him, and a multitude of talented people involved, it would seem some things are not as impossible as they seem.


    Video Quality: 5/5
    The film is accurately framed at 2.40:1 and encoded in 1080p with the AVC codec. Brighter and warmer colors make a return for the final film, though Frodo and Sam’s journey continues to be bleak and nearly monochromatic. Regardless, there’s exceptional depth of color and black level throughout, and the final scenes at Mt. Doom, for all their harshness, are some of the film’s most visually compelling. Fine detail also exhibits the same impressive clarity as in “The Two Towers” - bits of thread, specks of dirt and facial hair all well defined with no signs of sharpening or compression artifacts. Detail in the CGI landscapes also holds up beautifully. Viewers will find the closing scenes especially lovely, as they bring the characters back to where they began with its idyllic beauty once again on display..

    Audio Quality: 5/5
    As with the previous films, the presentation of the 6.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track is exceptional. The thrilling battle sequences - of which there are many - are of course the most memorable for their aggressive surround effects and earthshaking levels of LFE. But the more subdued moments, like Pippin’s singing in Denethor’s chamber, also have a fine depth and range that reminds us a quality sound mix isn’t all about the thunder of war. Dialogue continues to be detailed, intelligible, and expertly balanced with the rest of the array.

    Special Features
    The extras include all the items from the 2004 Extended Edition DVD and the feature-length documentary from the 2006 Limited Edition DVD. While the feature and its commentaries are spread over two Blu-ray discs, Discs Thirteen, Fourteen and Fifteen are re-pressings of the DVDs from those past editions.

    The special features package for "The Return of the King" basically follows the same thematic and organizational structure as the previous titles and is no less detailed, exhaustive, and impeccably produced.

    [Various]

    Digital Copy download is made via a website. The offer expires June 26, 2012.

    Printed Booklet provides an index and map to the content on Discs Ten through Fourteen.

    [Disc Eleven - BD]

    Commentaries

  • The Director and Writers: Peter Jackson, Fran Walsh and Philippa Boyens
  • The Design Team: Grant Major, Ngila Dickson, Richard Taylor, Alan Lee, John Howe, Dan Hennah, Chris Hennah, Tania Rodger
  • The Production / Post-Production Team: Barrie M. Osborne, Mark Ordesky Andrew Lesnie, John Gilbert, Rick Porras, Howard Shore, Jim Rygiel, Ethan Van der Ryn, Mike Hopkins, Randy Cook, Christian Rivers, Brian Van't Hul, Alex Funke, Joe Letteri
  • The Cast: Elijah Wood, Ian McKellan, Liv Tyler, Sean Astin, John Rhys-Davies, Billy Boyd, Dominic Monaghan, Orlando Bloom, Christopher Lee, Sean Bean, Bernard Hill, Miranda Otto, David Wenham, Brad Dourif, Karl Urban, John Noble, Craig Parker, Andy Serkis, Lawrence Makoare, Smeagol, Gollum
  • The Lord of the Rings: War in the North Trailer - The Untold Story (1:38, HD) is a promotion for the console video game.

    Elijah Wood Interview (8:59, SD) is a (rather hilarious) practical joke Dominic Monaghan played on Wood during a satellite press junket. Previously included on the DVD as an Easter Egg.

    BD-Live

    [Disc Twelve - BD]

    Commentaries (continued)

  • The Director and Writers: Peter Jackson, Fran Walsh and Philippa Boyens
  • The Design Team: Grant Major, Ngila Dickson, Richard Taylor, Alan Lee, John Howe, Dan Hennah, Chris Hennah, Tania Rodger
  • The Production / Post-Production Team: Barrie M. Osborne, Mark Ordesky Andrew Lesnie, John Gilbert, Rick Porras, Howard Shore, Jim Rygiel, Ethan Van der Ryn, Mike Hopkins, Randy Cook, Christian Rivers, Brian Van't Hul, Alex Funke, Joe Letteri
  • The Cast: Elijah Wood, Ian McKellan, Liv Tyler, Sean Astin, John Rhys-Davies, Billy Boyd, Dominic Monaghan, Orlando Bloom, Christopher Lee, Sean Bean, Bernard Hill, Miranda Otto, David Wenham, Brad Dourif, Karl Urban, John Noble, Craig Parker, Andy Serkis, Lawrence Makoare, Smeagol, Gollum
  • [Disc Thirteen - DVD]

    The Appendices Part V: The War of the Ring

    Introduction (1:33), by Director Peter Jackson, provides an overview of what users will find on the disc and how to navigate through it.

    J.R.R. Tolkien: The Legacy of Middle-earth (29:28) continues the author biography by describing his fascination with languages, the themes he developed for the novels, and the longstanding impact of his work.

    From Book to Script

  • From Book to Script: Forging the Final Chapter (25:02) describes the challenges of adapting the final book and critical changes made to the narrative and characters.
  • Abandoned Concept: Aragorn Battles Sauron (5:18) is an animatic showing Aragorn battling the Dark Lord at the Black Gate instead of the cave troll.
  • Designing and Building Middle-earth

  • Designing Middle-earth (39:57) continues to explore the trilogy's production and costume design, looking specifically at material created for the final film.
  • Big-atures (19:59) takes a look at each of the large scale models used in the film, from Minas Morgul to the Grey Havens.
  • Weta Workshop (47:23) looks at the third film’s swords and weapons, orc costumes, make up effects, and creature effects.
  • Costume Design (12:03) explores the wardobe of Smeagol, Eowyn, and Gandalf, among others.
  • Design Galleries includes a plethora of sketches, concept art, and photographs for the film's characters and settings.
      • The Peoples of Middle-earth
        • The Enemy: The Witch King, Fell Beast, Mouth of Sauron, Orcs, Trolls, Haradrim, Mumakil, Great Beasts, Shelob, Corsairs
        • The Fellowship: Aragorn, Frodo, Sam, Merry, Pippin, Legolas, Gimli
        • Gondor: Faramir, Denethor, Gondorian Army, Citadel Guard, Fountain Guard
        • Smeagol
        • Deagol
        • Eowyn
        • Eomer
        • Arwen
        • Bilbo Baggins
        • The Army of the Dead
      • The Realms of Middle-earth
        • Smeagol’s Story
        • East Ithilien
        • Gondor: Minas Tirith, The Citadel, The Hallows, The Siege of Gondor
        • Rivendell
        • Dunharrow
        • Paths of the Dead
        • Mordor: Minas Morgul, Shelob’s Lair, Cirith Ungol, Orc Camp, Mt. Doom, Sammath Naur - Crack of Doom
      • Miniatures
      • Gondor: Minas Tirith, The Hallows, Docks of Harlond, Corsair Ship, Grond, Siege Towers
      • Minas Morgul
      • Cirith Ungol
      • Paths of the Dead
      • The Grey Havens

    Home of the Horse Lords (30:15) describes the horse work throughout the films - the training techniques, the challenges of filming, and the bonds forged between animals and humans.

    Middle-earth Atlas is an interactive map with various film clips tracking the journeys of Frodo and Sam; Merry; Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli; and Gandalf and Pippin.

    New Zealand as Middle-earth (16:07) shows the various locations used to create the following settings:

  • East Ithilien
  • Dunharrow
  • Paths of the Dead
  • The Pelennor Fields
  • The Black Gate
  • Mordor
  • [Disc Fourteen - DVD]

    The Appendices Part VI: The Passing of an Age

    Introduction (1:39), by Elijah Wood, Billy Boyd and Dominic Monaghan, provides an overview of what users will find on the disc and how to navigate through it.

    Filming "The Return of the King"

  • Cameras in Middle-earth (1:13:08) continues the description of the 14-month filming, specifically looking at third film’s major scenes and sequences, and subsequent re-shoots.
  • Production Photos contains over 60 images from filming.
  • Visual Effects

  • Weta Digital (42:01) continues the exploration of the visual effects work, looking at the battle sequences, Shelob the spider and the climactic scene in Mt. Doom.
  • Visual Effects Demonstration: “The Mumakil Battle” (:32) shows the various layers of effects for the battle sequence, viewable in a multi-frame layout or individually through the multi-angle feature. Each clip also has an optional commentary track.
  • Post-Production: Journey’s End

  • Editorial: Completing the Trilogy (22:14) describes the ongoing editing work and the relocation of various scenes from the second to third film.
  • Music for Middle-earth (22:02) continues the description of Howard Shore's film score, its composition, and its themes.
  • The Soundscapes of Middle-earth (22:09) continues the exploration of the sound design, looking at the creation of battle noises, atmospherics, and other environments and creatures.
  • The End of All Things (21:29) describes the particularly demanding challenges in the post-production phases that made the entire process atypical.
  • The Passing of an Age (25:11) looks at the film’s world premiere in New Zealand and its multiple wins at the Academy Awards. It also features the cast and crew’s final thoughts about their experiences.

    Cameron Duncan: The Inspiration for “Into the West”

  • Cameron Duncan Documentary (32:20) describes the teenage filmmaker’s battle with cancer, his writing and directing work, and the inspiration he provided to Fran Walsh, who wrote the lyrics for “The Return of the King’s” closing song.
  • DFK6498 (4:35) is Duncan’s film about his difficult cancer treatment experience.
  • Strike Zone (11:16) is Duncan’s tribute to the game of softball and meditation on life.
  • [Disc Fifteen - DVD]

    The Return of the King Behind the Scenes (1:51:57) maintains the structure and tone of the previous documentary pieces and continues the exploration of the months-long production process. Once more it’s a compelling look at the making of a monumental film.

    Title Recap
    The Feature: 4.5/5
    Video Quality: 5/5
    Audio Quality: 5/5


    One thing leads to another at cameronyee.com

    #2 of 25 Ronald Epstein

    Ronald Epstein

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    Posted June 25 2011 - 12:08 PM

    Cameron,


    Outstanding job with this review.  Your opinions

    on the video quality should alleviate many concerns.

    Thank you for providing a detailed opinion of the

    video portion of this set.


    I am hoping that as more of us receive our boxed

    sets over the next week that man will discover that

    more was being made of this "green tint" issue than

    was really necessary.  Of course, still not having

    seen the presentation myself, I have no definitive

    opinion to offer -- but yours joins the chorus of many

    here who have already seen the set and see no major

    problems.


    If I may take a break here to interject some humor,

    this was just posted on James Finn's Facebook page

    and felt it was quite appropriate to include here:


    http://static.hometh...um.com/imgrepo/



    Visit our http://static.hometh...um.com/imgrepo/DVDhttp://static.hometh...um.com/imgrepo/BLU-RAY and http://static.hometh...um.com/imgrepo/3D REVIEW ARCHIVES




    Ronald J Epstein
    Home Theater Forum co-owner

     

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    #3 of 25 Mike Frezon

    Mike Frezon

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    Posted June 25 2011 - 02:12 PM

    Thank you, Cameron.


    Well done.

    And, you have given me peace of mind since the discs are on their way to me.  Posted Image


    There's Jessie the yodeling cowgirl. Bullseye, he's Woody's horse. Pete the old prospector. And, Woody, the man himself.Of course, it's time for Woody's RoundUp. He's the very best! He's the rootinest, tootinest cowboy in the wild, wild west!


    HTF Rules | HTF Mission Statement | Father of the Bride

    Dieting with my Dog & Heart to Heart/Hand in Paw by Peggy Frezon


    #4 of 25 Adam Gregorich

    Adam Gregorich

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    Posted June 25 2011 - 04:43 PM

    I second Ron's comments Cameron,  A very thorough review.  Thanks!


    #5 of 25 Mark Booth

    Mark Booth

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    Posted June 25 2011 - 07:18 PM

    Excellent review, Cameron!  Thanks for the thorough job!!


    Mark



    #6 of 25 Ethan Riley

    Ethan Riley

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    Posted June 26 2011 - 06:38 AM

    Thanks, Cameron. I also hope that your more thorough deduction of the color problems alleviates consumer concerns. It's nice to hear from someone who's actually watched the blu-ray!! I do wish that over-reacting pundits would stop freaking people out about minor disc "problems" (if they really are problems) before release dates. But I guess the internet rewards the stupid and ignores the wise.


     

     


    #7 of 25 Robert Crawford

    Robert Crawford

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    Posted June 26 2011 - 07:47 AM

    Thank you for the wonderful review.  I can't wait until later this week when I view this BRD release for myself as it seems like ages reading what other people think of it, particularly, this green issue.








    Crawdaddy


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    Blu-ray Preorder Schedule

     


    #8 of 25 Merrick Gearing

    Merrick Gearing

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    Posted June 26 2011 - 10:00 AM

    LOL.  That sadly wont be the case.

    Originally Posted by Ethan Riley 

    Thanks, Cameron. I also hope that your more thorough deduction of the color problems alleviates consumer concerns. It's nice to hear from someone who's actually watched the blu-ray!! I do wish that over-reacting pundits would stop freaking people out about minor disc "problems" (if they really are problems) before release dates. But I guess the internet rewards the stupid and ignores the wise.






    #9 of 25 Cees Alons

    Cees Alons

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    Posted June 26 2011 - 09:29 PM

    Cameron,


    Thanks for a great and thorough review. (But I hardly dare to praise you, if that would be felt as "a reward".)



    Originally Posted by Ethan Riley 
    ....


    But I guess the internet rewards the stupid and ignores the wise.


    Saying something, Ethan?

    Posted Image



    Cees





    #10 of 25 cineMANIAC

    cineMANIAC

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    Posted June 27 2011 - 03:14 AM

    Anyone who has Amazon Prime and pre-orders this set will receive it on street date? If so, this means they would have to ship before street, which is something Amazon doesn't usually do. Just curious.


     

     


    #11 of 25 cafink

    cafink

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    Posted June 27 2011 - 03:16 AM

    I have Prime and pre-ordered.  Amazon shipped it on Saturday; it's expected to arrive tomorrow.


     

     


    #12 of 25 Ronald Epstein

    Ronald Epstein

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    Posted June 27 2011 - 03:21 AM

    Amazon always ships prior to street date.

    Ronald J Epstein
    Home Theater Forum co-owner

     

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    #13 of 25 PaulaJ

    PaulaJ

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    Posted June 27 2011 - 03:21 AM

    Cameron, thanks for the review.  I am still hesitating to buy this set.  I don't understand at all why any changes were made to the coloring of Fellowship of the Ring. I really wish someone connected to the film would tell us why these changes were made. I wish I could rent this new Fellowship to have a look but it looks like Netflix is not planning to make either the theatrical or extended blu-rays available for rental.  At least I can't find any LOTR blu-rays listed at Netflix.


    PaulaJ

    #14 of 25 Scott Merryfield

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    Posted June 27 2011 - 03:56 AM

    Thanks for the in-depth review, Cameron. And thanks to Ron for that photo of Ian McKellan -- very funny!


    I had canceled my Amazon pre-order because I will not have time to watch these films the way I like until at least August, but Amazon's recent price drop changed my mind. The set may drop in price more before the holidays, but I couldn't resist at $70.



    #15 of 25 Phil Carter

    Phil Carter

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    Posted June 27 2011 - 07:18 AM

    Thanks tons for the awesome writeup, Cameron. We can always count on you to give us a well-written and detailed review. I can't wait for my set to arrive.


    cheers,

    Phil



    "I should never have written all of those tank programs."
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    #16 of 25 lukejosephchung

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    Posted June 27 2011 - 09:32 AM

    My Amazon account page shows my pre-order as "shipping soon"...nice to have reliable confirmation that I'm getting a first-class product in a few days!!! Thanks, Cameron.Posted Image



    #17 of 25 Garysb

    Garysb

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    Posted June 28 2011 - 05:11 AM

    Borders, if you still have one near you, is having a 50% off list price up to 2 blu rays in store. Lord of the Rings Extended Trilogy is $60 with this coupon.


    http://www.bordersme...pid=SL_20110628


    Coupon is good for any in stock blu ray in store or only a select list of blu rays on line. Lord of the Rings discount is in store only. Coupon expires 6/30/2011.





    #18 of 25 johnSM

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    Posted June 28 2011 - 05:17 AM

    Just a heads up to any UK readers that the Extended Edition bluray set is currently available at Tescos online for only £45 - Think I'm going to have to pull the trigger at that price! :)



    #19 of 25 Jeff Ulmer

    Jeff Ulmer

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    Posted June 29 2011 - 09:10 AM

    Amazon.ca has this for $60 right now.

    #20 of 25 Ronald Epstein

    Ronald Epstein

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    Posted June 29 2011 - 09:16 AM

    Just came here to post that.


    Folks, it you don't mind, use the links below.  Costs the
    same but supports the forum.  Thanks!


    http://static.hometh...um.com/imgrepo/http://static.hometh...um.com/imgrepo/


    Ronald J Epstein
    Home Theater Forum co-owner

     

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