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Tuesday, January 19, 2010

CNAMB Presents: The 25 Best Films of the Decade Part 2!

I got some nice feedback with numbers 25-11 yesterday, so thanks to everyone that commented. I can’t wait to hear what you folks think about the rest! Continuing right where we left off yesterday, I present you with my top 10 films of the decade. Ready-set-GO!

10. Apocalypto

 

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After some concise, simplistic character development, Apocalypto throws our main protagonist headfirst into a nonstop, tightly paced adventure that will suck you right in from the very first moment. The movie is shot in such a way that it makes you feel as if you are along for this frightening ride with “Jaguar Paw” as he and his fellow tribesmen are tortured and beaten along the way to their impending sacrifice.  His motivation to escape is so overwhelming, that there is nothing that will stop him from getting back to his preggers wife and son, and the tension built from him looking for any opening to escape is incredible. With the use of Yucatec Maya dialogue, the amazing nobody acting and the true to history locations and costume design, Apocalypto is like watching history come to life in the truest sense.

9. Requiem for a Dream

 

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I caught Requiem at the local (at the time) dollar theater and walked out of it mentally crushed by how unapologetically bleak and dark it was. Darren Aronofsky took what he had started with his feature debut PI, mixed with the intense writings of Hubert Selby Jr. and brought to life a story with themes of obsession and the clouded madness that can come from one’s infatuation. Technically, it is a stylishly made film filled with dreamlike (and nightmare like) qualities and an erratic editing style that would inspire many less than capable filmmakers still to this day. From television, obsessing about one’s looks, to over the counter medicine and street drugs, the numerous themes of addiction are something that could hit home for a lot of viewers and that is where the movie’s effect is strongest. On a side note, Ellen Burstyn was robbed by that fish face scrub for the Oscar…maybe Burstyn would have won if she made her tits look bigger. 

8. Battle Royale

 

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Even with films such as Ringu and Ju-on being best known for spearheading an explosion of interest (and remakes) in dark Japanese cinema, another film that may be just as impactful, but certainly less mainstream, is Battle Royale. A social commentary about the injustices of government, Battle Royale had a lot to say politically, but what it came down to was a bunch of high school kids forced to kill their classmates for the purpose of population control. The brilliant idea of a last man standing, no escape or your head will come clean off, game, played by kids nonetheless, is jarring and incredibly taboo. This is a film that got me to seek out even more Asian cinema than just what it had to offer horror wise and that influence is something that led to me watching other films, films that are also on this list. 

7. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon

 

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Here is another example of a game changer…one that influenced cinema and introduced a lot of people to a world of Martial Arts films outside of what people saw in America. I grew up on the genre, a genre that is more than vast, and to go to a theater and see a movie as well crafted as Crouching Tiger was quite mind-blowing. The fight scenes are some of the best and most beautiful action sequences ever put to screen and the look of the film is more than brilliant with explosive colors and amazing locations. Even outside of the grand brawls, the epic love story was so immense, it could have stood alone as a non-Martial Arts movie.    

6. Let the Right One In

 

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One of the freshest and most original takes on the Vampire genre couldn’t have come at a better time. A beautiful movie from head to toe, Let the Right One In is a very complex and deep film, one that can inspire many different thoughts and theories all wrapped up in what is a basic story about loneliness. Two completely different characters in similar places, but for entirely opposite reasons, you cannot help but feel for both Eli and especially Oscar. There is so much depth to each of these characters and their harrowing back stories that they are destined to come together, with each one needing something that can be found in the other. Let the Right One In shows what can be done in the horror genre, a genre that is often frowned upon. And that ending! But that’s for another time.     

5. The Two Towers

 

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Love the Lord of the Rings films, but by far the best one of the trilogy for me is, The Two Towers. Right from the hair-raising “YOU SHALL NOT PASS!” opening and on through to the final battle for Helm's Deep, I was blown away, jaw dropped all the way to the floor when I saw this film. It is one of the most epic, grand and fucking awesome action/fantasy films ever made and the rollercoaster of emotions that are gone through when watching it are intense.

4. Oldboy

 

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Being able to take a revenge film and make something that is as beautiful, operatic, and thought provoking as Oldboy, is an amazing feat. It has a challenging story that left me thinking for days, rationalizing the decisions that Oh Dae-su made and thinking how wrong is it to do what he did for love? There is no other film that touches on such subject matter and as shocking as it may be, it is made to be almost understandable coming from his perspective. That takes balls. Chan-wook Park has a visual style all his own and one that is better than most every filmmaker working today. The use of colors, patterns, and camera angles come together in a way that can almost boggle the senses - throw in a song like The Last Waltz and you have a film that will forever be embedded into my personal cinema history as groundbreaking. 

3. Unbreakable

 

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Say what you will about M. Night, he can make an amazing film and has done so a few times now. With the exception of  The Happening, I pretty much love all that he has done, but Unbreakable is his masterpiece and one of my all time favorite films. First off, the realistic approach to comic book characters is done so well, it is to the point that you almost have no idea that you are essentially watching a comic book movie…if super heroes were real that is. The acting is top notch and that leads to what is the biggest strength of Unbreakable and that is it’s emotionally driven scenes. There are at least three scenes that choke me up every time I watch this one and the emotion is created in so many different ways. All of the scenes involving David and his son are enough to send chills right down my spine.

2. Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance

 

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Well, I just gushed over the man a few movies ago and here we go again. Many people give me a strange look, or a typed “really?!” when I say that I like Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance more than Oldboy, but I do and that has not always been the case either. Showing just how great Chan-wook Park is, Mr. Vengeance could not be any more different from Oldboy in almost every sense, outside of the revenge aspect that is. It is the definition of slow burn, and yet, it has more going on in it than you think and you don’t even realize it until a second, or even a third viewing. Everything about how this story is told is done in a (technically and narratively) slow moving and very quiet, natural way and it goes along so greatly with the deaf character of Ryu and how he is forced to communicate to the world around him. There is a lot of shit going on in this movie, yet, nothing is force fed to the viewer and we are left to understand what is happening, because it happens, not because someone told us. Park doesn’t treat his audience like children with no ability to think. I have sooooo much more to say about this film and once again, this is not the time, nor the place…so I need to move on.

1. Children of Men

 

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By far and without a doubt, the best movie of the decade in every way, shape and form. The story is very layered and deep, with extreme undertones that mirror modern society in so many ways that to get into it here would be a terrible idea and a very long one at that! It is made in a way that you are on an adventure with Theo and not once are you ever away from this character. Even when he is not the focus of a scene, he is just around the corner and his presence is very known to the viewer and so important to the story. There is much to be said about what the miracle baby represents and the impact and effect on everyone involved, whether it be positive, or negative, the baby represents something greater than flesh and blood and it brings out the worst in people, or the most heroic.

There are a few scenes in this film that are beyond astounding and the one in the car when the protagonists are attacked is so mind-blowing, but it is the end that really does it for me. The last 15-20 minutes of Children of Men is the most powerful, chaotic, frightening, hopeful, and beautiful 15-20 minutes in cinema history. Period. I so want to go on about this movie, but I will save my ramblings for a better time. The fact is, Children of Men is my favorite movie of all time, for the time being and unless something else better comes along, then it will remain that way.  

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Aaaand…done! I had some honorable mentions, but decided to scrap that idea at the last second. There are plenty of other movies that I loved and could have made this list, but to bump anything else off wasn’t going to happen. Once you hit a ceiling, you have to stop and I didn’t want to name movies just to name them…there are too many and it seems pointless. This is the list and I am very happy with it - these are all films I have and will watch many times and films that will give me something new with each viewing. I certainly want to hear your thoughts on my list and if there is anything you disagree with or think I missed, tell me all about it. Thanks for sticking this one out guys – see ya on the other side!

27 comments:

  1. I'm actually amazed at how many of these I haven't seen, but they are on my 'to see' list. I just watched Sympathy For Mr. Vengeance afew days ago and frickin loved it. Not sure if more than Oldboy, but it may grow on me.

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  2. Man... dude! Duuuuuuuuuuuude! EPIC!

    A big hell mf-in' holy yes to Children Of Men! After seeing it for the first time, it easily became one of the best movies I've ever seen. It's lingering presence in my conciousness goes beyond even the straight horror classics.

    I find post-Apocolytic films like this one vast in their simplicity. Children of Men is an example of not what the world will or could become, but it questions the concept of humanity and the motivation behind our basic needs. Where do we stand in prosperity and poverty. And are those states as different as they sound?

    Kee's child is as much of a symbol of life amongst death as it is of destruction. The child a mirror to all the chaos that surrounded them of what has been lost for pointless gain. Because in the film, most characters were engulfed by complete selfishness while Theo (and Miriam) banked themselves on keeping Kee and her child safe, wanting nothing in return. I honestly thought Theo put the pain of losing his son in the background when the heat was on.

    I can watch this movie a thousand times over and still be touched, mumbling every line under my breath simultaneously cutting through their thick accents, and cursing everytime Julianne Moore bites it.

    And I second hard Requiem for a Dream. I went in not expecting much and I'm so glad I can be one of those movie nuts to say I've seen it.

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  3. Whoa, awesome list! You were pushing Children of Men on me back when it came out and I still haven't seen it. I'll definitely try and get to it one of these days. And props for putting Unbreakable and Apocalypto so high on the list - nice!

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  4. I bought Requiem for a Dream with some left over funds from a gift voucher. It totally kicked my arse. Since then I've seen it on lists of "Most Disturbing" movies which I totally agree with!
    Again, cheers for the Unbreakable shoutout. People often forget about that one.
    And I approve of your chosen Lord of the Rings. The Two Towers is my favorite too.
    And lastly, totally with you for Children of Men.

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  5. You know what I keep doing? Not entering in the letters and actually posting what I type.

    I said something very insightful I'm sure.
    Let me paraphrase:

    I am impressed at how varied your list is! And I too love "Children of Men". Not sure where it would fall on my list, if I had a list, which I don't because I am incapable of ranking films unbiasedly.
    But again kudos to you for putting so much thought into this collection.
    LotR & Unbreakable FTW!!!

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  6. Rev: If you loved Mr. Vengeance the first time, you will love it even more upon repeated viewings. I watched it and thought it was very powerful, but a little too slow. After seeing it a few more times, I realize that there is so much going on, but it's all just so subtle. I would turn it on at randoms parts when it would play on Sundance or IFC and be like "I don't remember this scene" and be blown away by whatever scene was playing. There is a ton of depth. I am curious as to what films you didn't see?

    Ashlee: Wow, that comment is no joke! While I think that Children of Men should be everyones favorite film, I am still so happy to hear that you love it as much as I do.

    On a technical level, the film is better than most any film ever made and its ability to immerse you as a viewer is incredible. However, it is the films ability to immerse the viewer emotionally that really makes it stand apart form all other films. The attachment to the characters is so powerful and as you said, when Moore bits it, it is shocking because it happens, but even more so, because you grow so attached to her and her cause.

    I love what you have to say about the movie and I have so many theories as to what the baby represents and how it mirrors modern society, especially in the wake of a catastrophe like September 11th. Like I said though, I will someday write more about the film, so I don't want to blow my proverbial load here. Everyone who loves cinema even on the most basic of levels should see it. Thanks for the awesome comment!

    Jeff: Thanks, Jeff! And I told you Children of Men was dope! I just hpe it isn't too over hyped for you now!

    Unbreakable is a film that divides people, but I love it. Apocalypto, however, does not get nearly enough love (do to some director controversy at the time) and it should because it is fantastic.

    Rach: Thanks, I am happy that so many agree with my choices...I thought there would be a ton of hissing! I love Return of the King, but Two Towers is amazing and introduces some awesome characters, while expanding upon characters that we met in the first film. It's the Empire Strikes Back of this era in film!

    Christine: Thanks a ton! Putting this list together was SOOOOOO hard. I actually had the basic list done at the end of the year, but it is more talking about all the films and not just saying that they are all "awesome" that is almost as tough. Because they are. Even as I did the list, I kept thinking of more movies I loved too and that is what made it really hard...like I am letting a movie I love down!

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  7. Wow nice moves Matt! I'm so glad you put an M Night on here- I've been hiding my secret love for him for YEARS. Now we can openly love him together thank goodness.

    Nice to see so many of these great films on here- like LOTR- which I've seen on no one's list what up wit dat?!

    Anyways, LOVE this list- I still need to see Oldboy and Children of Men though !!!

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  8. Thank you so much! I am an unapologetic Shyamalan fan boy, but his movies just work for me, especially Unbreakable!

    When I do see LOTR on a list, it's Return of the King, which I LOVE, but Two Towers is better for me. All payoff action and character wise.

    And get on Children and Oldboy stat! I would love to hear your thoughts on both films!

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  9. Was really happy to see Apocalypto on the list. I absolutely love that movie and it doesn't get enough credit (unfortunately Gibson screwed himself up with PR).

    I'm a fan of what I've seen from Chan Woo Park, and I'm excited to see more (including the Vengeance series).

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  10. I love chan woo park! Though I probably prefer "Oldboy" and "Lady Vengeance" over "Sympathy for Mr. Vengance". I think just in general, he is an incredible director and his visual style alone is enough to hook me.

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  11. stellar list. If you owned a cineplex, I would go there. And I promise not to sneak into other films after I've paid and finished one already.

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  12. Love the list- not seen all on there but a lot of bloggers are making these decade lists and it seems you have hit on more that I like than many of the others have. For some reason though I confused Children Of Men (which I confess I havent seen) with City of God (which I have and loved)-

    havent noticed Dead End come up on any lists nor Open Water- which were 2 of my favourites of the decade. Glad to see some recognition though for Battle Royal and Pans Labyrinth!

    also universally overlooked is Tsotsi- a great film from South Africa and the Iranian film from the start of the decade A Time for Drunken Horses.

    This aside I would say your list seems to be the one so far that is closest to my tastes. Though most of the films of the last decade passed my by as I am still stuck somewhere around 1976

    oo on the subject of the last decade- why is Blair Witch 2 so hated? I thought it had more to say about perception/reality/media than the original film

    for what it is worth if I had attempted a list I would have put Dead Man's Shoes pretty near the top.

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  13. Excellent list. You know my thoughts on Battle Royale (which I've recently succeeded in introducing to co-workers, go me) but I couldn't agree more with putting Children of Men at number 1. I should really rewatch Unbreakable one day, as I get the feeling it's one of those films that does much more on multiple viewings. The only film I'd battle to add is Pixar's WALL-E, which I think makes a perfect double feature with Curan's classic and remains one of the post powerful and poetic films of the decade.

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  14. Thanks for all the awesome comments everyone...I appreciate it more than you all know!

    Becky: It is very unfortunate that Apocalypto got kind of buried under what happened in Gibson's personal life. It is such a superb film and hopefully it will gain a bigger following as people start to forgive and forget.

    As far as the Vengeance trilogy goes, you HAVE to see them right away! Amazing films and PArk is one of the top 3 and one of my favorite directors working today!

    Kevessence: I liked both Oldboy and Lady Vengeance more than Mr. Vengeance for a long time too, but as I said, after numerous viewings, my mind was changed. I can only highly recommend watching it a few times to really get the full impact of the movie. His films are so powerful and the progression in style from Mr Vengeance to Lady Vengeance is incredible.

    Zach: Thanks a lot! I'll hook you up with extra butter at no charge!

    Nigel: I thin a lot of people confuse Children of Men and City of God....they came out pretty close to one another, if not the same year if I remember correctly. I have not seen City of God, but I really need to get on it with the amount of great things I have heard about it.

    I'm gonna have to also check out the other films you bring up as I haven't seen most of them, but I am surprised that you loved Open water so much. I actually liked it quite a bit too and think it is very underrated and incredibly effective.

    And when it comes to Book of Shadows...I am one of the very few supporters of that movie and I really like it. If you just looks away from the fact that it's a Blair Witch cash in, it is a solid little movie with some great and original ideas. People complain about it being a Hollywood stylized cash in (and it is), but if it were to be like the original, everyone would complain about it being unoriginal, doing the same thing with a 2 added on. Very surreal movie.

    Emily: Battle Royal is such a great way to introduce people to the world of dark Asian cinema. It's "cool" and fucked up enough (but not too much) that most anyone can grasp it. So kudos to you for spreading the love!

    As for WALL-E, I have never seen it and a big reason why is I kind of avoid those types of films due to my horrible experiences watching dreek like the Shrek films Toy Story and shit like that. So in a very film snobby way, I completely avoid animation films from Pixar or Dreamworks. However, I have been thinking about giving it a chance do to everyone saying how great it is (like you!) and because of what people say about the silent opening.

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  15. Matt: Some fine points up there about Apocalypto. Definitely an incredible film with a soiled backstory. Damn sugartits.

    As for animated films, I can totally understand your pain. I personally am NOT a fan of Shrek, but when it comes to Pixar, you're dealing with a whole different art form. What WALL-E does with its opening is absolutely astounding, and even the 'kiddie' stuff towards the second half has a whole lot of modern subtext underneath it. I can't remember the last time I found myself crying in the first 10 minutes of a movie.

    Oh wait, yes I can. It happened two weeks ago when I watched Up. I knew--KNEW I tell you!--that the opening montage was supposed to be all sorts of emotional, but I STILL found myself sobbing at how beautifully it portrayed a lifetime of love in 4 minutes. I thought it was a little more uneven than WALL-E, but the talking dogs are far smarter than you'd expect, and there's a moment towards the end that truly puts life in perspective. Hate to sound like a Pixar cheerleader, but I swear that company is made of fairy dust.

    Also, Toy Story--and its sequel--are not dreck. No sir. No they are not. Chuck Norris may have eaten my baby, but I can always pop out another if it means defending Buzz, Woody, and the very nature of childhood imagination.

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  16. As soon as I hear that fucking "joke" SQUIRREL! I cringe soooo hard at how lame it is and it's something like that that turns me off instantly and maybe unfairly. So 'Up' is a perfect example of a movie that I think looks terrible, but EVERYONE is saying otherwise and talking about how meaningful it is.

    So I am kinda swayed towards seeing that one too, but I'm not in any rush either do to pure reluctance. I just have to give in I guess, but they better not disappoint! As for Toy Story...*fart noise!* Sorry...it is better than Finding Nemo at least!

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  17. I'm late to the party here Matt, but stellar list. I have not seen Apocalypto or Children of Men and need to remedy this ASAP.

    Totally agreed on Unbreakable. A truly amazing film and it shocked the heck out of me when I first watched it. Talk about something completely turning you on your head when you thought the film was going to be about something else entirely.

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  18. I'll pretend I didn't hear that last comment (about Toy Story; I'm of the mind that Finding Nemo is pretty but overrated). Start with WALL-E when you want a quiet but amazing time, or Up if you want to get all blubbery and reflective.

    And the squirrel joke isn't nearly as forced as you would think.

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  19. POT: Thanks man...Unbreakable is one of those films that just hits me over the head with how powerful it is every time I watch it. Happy that so many people seem to enjoy it as much as I do.

    And you MUST remedy not seeing Apocalypto and Children of Men as soon as possible! And please let me know what you think when you do!

    Emily: Hehe...

    WALL-E is on instant watch, so the chances of me seeing it are pretty good. Especially when so many recommend it, and you say it would be in your top of the decade. Your taste is pretty similar to mine for the most part, so I trust you!

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  20. Completely caught me off guard with some of those picks, excellent films all but given the first half I had no clue where you were going to end up! I need to give Sympathy another view, I have only seen it the one time, and I still love Old Boy so much.. Havent seen Children of Men yet, added to the netflix.. Never thought I would see Battle Royale on here though and than entirely made my night!

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  21. Happy that you like the Battle Royale pick...it is so great and certainly deserves the love! I'm surprised that so many people haven't seen Children of Men yet, but I'm pretty psyched that a few will give it a watch based off my glowing recommendation! You have to let me know what you think about it when you do get to seeing it!

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  22. This is a great list and, besides SfMV over Oldboy, I agree strongly with the picks. I was especially pleased to see APOCALYPTO make the list. I think Braveheart is overrated, and thought Passion Of The Christ was silly, but APOCALYPTO is - despite the leanings of the creator - a terrific, wonderfully crafted film. I was astonished at how much my wife and I enjoyed watching it.
    And Children Of Men is great on DVD, but it's awe-inspiring in the theater. One of the best theatrical experiences i've ever had.

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  23. Thanks a bunch, Doug! Apocalypto is such an intense ride and so well crafted that it does deserve recognition for being one of the decades best. And I WISH I saw Children of Men in theaters so badly! I can only imagine how amazing that ending would look on the big screen. It's so grand, epic, and engulfing, even on the small screen.

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  24. I'm terribly jealous of anyone who got to see Children of Men on the big screen, but I still rank watching that film as one of the best "first time viewing" experiences of all time. I don't know that I've ever been so fully invested in a story quite so much, where I was literally holding my breath during several key scenes.

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  25. There were a few moments where I knew I was seeing something special and your so right about being fully invested, because it sucks you in slowly and by the end, you went on that journey with the characters. It's one of the few films that left me almost speechless at the end.

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  26. You are so right about The Two Towers being the best of the trilogy! I was hugely pregnant when I saw it in the theater and for the duration of the film I completely forgot to be miserable...I didn't even get up to go to the bathroom! Now THAT is a testament to the power of the film!

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  27. I think the only thing better than the Two Towers in theaters was watching the extended edition at home! It's such an amazing movie and one that is too grande for me to even attempt to get into. Love it! Thanks for the comment!

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