Thanks to my thoughtful and crafty sister Claire, i just fininshed watching the Return of the King in beautiful laptop/pirate format. While i was a super big fan of the other two, this one left me wanting a little bit more. I think that it was primarily that the visual effects couldn't take precedence in my apartment the way they would on a big screen full of entranced viewers. As far as my personal viewing pleasure goes, i'd have to say that the first movie really was the best for me, principally because i was soooooo blown away by the visuals and the fact that anyone would tackle the greatest fantasy story of modern times.
My gripes about the series are pretty par for the course:
The acting was at times a little lacking, but realistically Tolkein doesn't give a whole lot of character development in the books. It's a saga afterall, not a personality study.
Gripe number 2 is the cheesy music at importune times in the movie. I didn't really care for the "holy music" that popped up oddly. Maybe it would have been better had it not been for my computer speaker setup, but I doubt it would have jived with me anyway.
Gripe 3 is principally one with hollywood in general and is closely tied to gripe 2: too much gratuitous sound effect. Some ones that i got kind of irritated with were primarily Frodo's excess gasping in Mordor and elsewhere. Realistically, when you're super thirsty you're going to try to make as little noise as possible to conserve the moisture in your mouth, and you won't sound like a fish out of water. The other one that pissed me off was the shelob web spinning noise, it sounded like taking a poop, and it just kind of ruined the effect for me.
I would also have liked to see some of the cleaning out of the shire, but that could have easily stretched into another hour, which would be totally insane.
Anyway, the overall effect was great, just like in the books, i was sad to have the story end. Middle earth is no more, and in fact it just existed in one schisophenic mind to begin with, complete with its people, its customs and mythology. I honestly think that most people would be happier in a world like that with issues in black and white. I know our president would, since he casts it that way in his head already.