Now that's out of the way, we saw the rest of the extended version of The Two Towers this evening. The final verdict: almost everything they added was beneficial -- sometimes very beneficial -- unfortunately, the movie is still full of the same things they should have taken out. Specifically, lots of scenes of people standing around looking worried at Helm's Deep, lots of yawn-inducing inserted Aragorn/Arwen/Elrond flashbacks, and Elrond and Galadriel having some sort of "for those who came in late" conversation via Elfepathy.
Kind, wise Elrond reduces his daughter to tears in the same completely-out-of-character manner, and Faramir abuses Gollum and takes the hobbits off to Osgiliath in the same out-of-character-and-way-off-script manner as well. But at least with the Boromir/Faramir/Denethor flashback (Yay, Boromir!), it makes a little more sense. Faramir is less wrong with the "sad for the Easterling" speech and flashback than he was before, but still annoyingly wrong in the other parts.
Denethor, so far, is exactly right, which is to say he's a bastard you just want to smack. :)
The forest takes off for Helm's Deep, in a sequence that's quite cool but abruptly cut short. But at least it's there, this time!
So yes, the extended edition is much better than the theatrical release, which was rather disappointing after the strong showing of Fellowship; thing is, if they'd left large swaths of "stand around talking" footage on the cutting room floor, it would have been a much better movie and short enough to show in theaters.