First off, to answer the questions: yes, I liked LotR. No, it wasn't as good as it could've been, but it was good. The first hour was actually bad... boring, slow, and just feeling very unpolished. The 2nd hour picked up some, and the final hour was actually very, very good. They twisted and warped some aspects of the movie, but no one's more qualified (or more eager) to discuss it than weetanya so I'll send you first off to her post about it if you want to know what a true, die-hard Tolkein fan thought of it: http://www.livejournal.com/talkread.bml?itemid=17967960
Now, my thoughts on the movie, post-seeing it and reading her commentary? Liv Tyler didn't bother me at all. I thought the objections to the beefing up of Arwen were entirely valid, but Liv's portrayal of that character didn't bother me - I thought it was pretty good, actually. Cate Blanchett was almost a let-down after seeing photos of her in the previews - she did in fact make a beautiful elf but something about the way she played it just sort of rubbed me wrong.
Now, I'm going to say something that might shock a bunch of people, but I actually disliked Ian McKellan as Gandalf. His voice was terrible for the part, I thought, even though he himself is a skilled actor. He looked decent for it, but trying to take my internal "picture" of Gandalf, and merge it with the way he was made-up as Gandalf, and then to slap on that terrible voice of his, and it was very disappointing. I'm not saying his voice was all that bothered me - I felt the way he portrayed Gandalf was mildly disappointing as well. He managed to get a lot of heart into the character, but none of its majesty, which surprised me. Gandalf, even though far from perfect, has a certain dangerous mystery about him - he's one of the most powerful wizards left in the world. Even when confronting the Balrog, he seemed more like an old man waving his arms to shoo a pesky cat or bird, rather than an ancient and powerful wizard confronting the most powerful and impressive foe they had yet encountered. All I can say is, I hope when he gets back that he's acquired some of that, or I'll be really disappointed.
I found the CG work to be of fair-to-middling quality - some of it was good, but a lot of it was only so-so at best, and they used so much of it that it got to really bother me by the end. I know, there's only so much that actors can do, but still... a lot of action scenes were pure CG, rather than a mix of blue-screen and CG, and I think that mix would've served them better. Look at how effective the Matrix or CTHD were - at all times, you could see real humans moving, you could get snippets of faces, etc. That can make a big difference in bringing the scene to the forefront.
However, I will say that the battle scenes they filmed with the actors (or perhaps stunt doubles + CG work) were very, very effective - they made up for a lack of real fighting skills and such in the actors by making rapid, slashing camera cuts that moved around the fight at quick speeds and kept you from focusing too long on any movement - actor takes a slash, cut to another actor drawing back a bow, slash over to another actor swinging their sword, zip over to another actor crashing their axe down onto someone's head, etc.
I'm not saying all of the fights were like that - some of them let you see the actors for more than half a second at a time, but many of them just leapt around too quickly to see any flaws, but not so quickly that you totally lost track of the action. It was a clever, and more importantly, well-executed maneuver. A lot of MTV-style directors have done similar things but made it so that it became confusing - Jackson managed to make it feel chaotic and uncontrolled without getting totally out of hand.
I'll also retract my earlier questions about Sean Bean as Boromir - I thought he did one of the best acting jobs of the bunch. Viggo didn't impress me as Aragorn, he was fair to middling at best, and I think he was a little ugly for the role, but I really liked Sean Bean. He portrayed a wider range of emotions than most characters, and more effectively and believably than many of them. Gimli (John Rhys-Davies), for instance, was a rather boring character - one of several that were just there. Legolas (Orlando Bloom) was a little better, in that he looked almost perfect for the part, but didn't really have much to do in the way of real acting. I've always liked archers, though, so he won some cool points for being so bad-ass with his bow.
Ian Holm as Bilbo - he did a good job of acting, but looked and sounded nothing like I pictured Bilbo, so I had mixed feelings. Frodo (Elijah Wood) was the same deal - he did a decent job of acting the role out, but didn't look like I pictured Frodo, so that was disappointing. The other hobbits varied in consistency and appropriateness, with the exception of Samwise - I really liked the way Sean Astin portrayed him. Not only did he look and sound better for his role than most of the hobbits, I also thought he carried off Sam's innocent and simple but incredibly faithful and loyal nature really well. I will admit he didn't have a huge role in the first movie, but I was very happy with what he did. Boyd and Monaghan were pretty decent as Pippin and Merry, but not particularly noteworthy I thought. They definitely emphasized the comic-relief aspect of the characters, probably overly much so.
Oh, and Christopher Lee did a better job than I expected as Saruman - he had more dignity and less cheese than I expected, I'm happy to say. He did a much more subtle job on it than I thought he would, thankfully.
I felt really sick last night, though. It started after eatin' some soul food down at Soul Fixings, and got worse as the night went on. Honestly I wasn't sure if I'd make it through the movie. After the end of it, I came home an laid in bed for a long time curled up and feeling like crap. I was very nauseous all night (still am, a little) and had diarrhea several times over the course of the night. I'm not sure what I have, but I do know that Tuesday night J suffered from similar symptoms and Monday night was M's night, so I guess my beautiful lil kids gave it to me and last night was my turn. Hopefully today will be better. Ugh. Sort of made it hard to appreciate the movie, although it wasn't nearly as bad as it was when I got home. I was in bed from 11 pm last night, but I doubt if I got much real sleep at all. I know I still feel like crap, anyways. Sigh. Oh well, time to get ready for work...