With more spectacle, more action and more talking trees, 'The Two Towers' is raising an army of Middle Earth fans. Heather Neill enjoys a trip to Tolkien-land and finds more attractions
Back to the Rings
If you enjoyed The Fellowship of the Ring, you will love The Two Towers (12A) , the eagerly anticipated second film of the Tolkien trilogy. The set pieces are even more magnificent, the landscape and acting just as stunning.
Join Aragorn, Gimli the dwarf, Legolas the elf and the rest in battle against the evil of Sauron and Saruman, as they face the truly terrifying army of Uruk-hai at the citadel of Helm's Deep. Ride with Merry and Pippin in the branches of Treebeard the Ent (one of the walking trees who release the river and drown Isengard), or risk death a thousand times with Frodo, Sam and Gollum, in the Dead Marshes, with Faramir at Minas Tirith or (hardly breathing) as the faceless Ringwraiths swoop out of the sky on their dinosaur-like steeds.
Skinny, slithery, saucer-eyed Gollum is a digitally created character but his expressions and responses are based on those of actor Andy Serkis in a remarkable development of film technology. Only a year to wait for the completion of the story.
If Arthur Rackham's trees don't exactly walk, they have plenty of personality. The dream-like fairytale world, full of grotesques and romance, which he created for such classics as Alice in Wonderland, A Midsummer Night's Dream and The Wind in the Willows is instantly recognisable.
Rackham's love of nature, his admiration for the great masters, from Ucello to Duerer, and his devotion to detail will be clear in the exhibition of his work at Dulwich Picture Gallery. This is an opportunity to see 70 original works as well as sketches, landscapes and portraits, many never seen in public before, by one of the early 20th century's most popular artists. Until March 2. Tel: 020 8693 5254; www.dulwichpicturegallery.org.uk.
The art of shopping
Just when you thought there was no more to say on the subject, here is consumerism as an art form. Shopping: a century of art and consumer culture, billed by the Tate Gallery in Liverpool as one of the most ambitious and spectacular exhibitions it has ever staged, examines the relationship between display, distribution, consumerism and contemporary art.
Photographs of shop fronts in 19th-century Paris, major installations such as Claes Oldenburg's "Store" and Damien Hirst's "Pharmacy" are among the 240 works on display from today.
A specially commissioned large-scale text work by American artist Jenny Holzer will be projected on to the outside of the gallery in the Albert Dock in February. Until March 23. Information: 0151 702 7400; www.tate.org.ukliverpool.
The Royal Shakespeare Company's season of plays by contemporaries of Shakespeare has transferred from Stratford to the Gielgud Theatre in London. This is a rare chance to get some idea of the context in which our best-known playwright flourished and to discover some almost-forgotten treats.
Antony Sher shines in The Malcontent (1603), a revenge drama by John Marston with echoes of Measure for Measure, here given a black, comic twist by director Dominic Cooke, and in The Roman Actor. This latter play, written by Philip Massinger in 1604, takes the theatre as its subject - is it escapism or a means of truth-telling? - but cleverly suggests that the powerful are also role-playing. Sher is the vain and lethal emperor, Domitian, acting god while Joe Dixon is the impassioned actor in Sean Holmes's pacey, involving production. Tickets: 0870 890 1105.
Huck Finn fantasy
The Tobacco Factory Theatre in Bristol is transformed into the Mississippi for its seasonal show, Huckleberry Finn. Enjoy music, humour and the atmosphere of the American South. An education pack is available. Tickets: 0117 902 0344.