"Windtalkers" -- There was a good idea behind John Woo's World War II drama. Unfortunately, it almost got drowned out by the endless cacophony of combat. The premise is one of the fascinating, little-known success stories of the war, a secret military program in which the difficult, unwritten Navajo Indian language would be used as a code against the Japanese in the Pacific. With hundreds of Navajos, or "windtalkers," recruited to handle the code, the enemy could never break it and it became an invaluable tool in winning the war. Although the code is introduced early in the film and two of the Indians play key roles, it's rarely used and almost lost in the brutal, graphic battle scenes. That, of course, is right down Woo's walkway, proving again his talent as an action director but this time on a bigger stage than usual. Nicolas Cage stars as a battle-scarred sergeant assigned to protect one of the Navajos (Adam Beach), a man with whom he reluctantly forges a bond (he's supposed to kill him rather than let the "code" fall into enemy hands) in a bloody assault on the Japanese island of Saipan. There are the usual battlefield clichés and sketchy characters and almost constant combat, realistic and violent, with a humongous body count. 2002. 134 mnutes. MGM Home Entertainment. Rated R (pervasive graphic war violence and language).
"Mr. Deeds" -- Adam Sandler takes his goofy humor into the realm of a vintage classic in this remake of Frank Capra's 1936 stemwinder "Mr. Deeds Goes To Town." Sandler has the Gary Cooper role as Longfellow Deeds, owner of a pizza parlor in the tiny town of Mandrake Falls, N.H., where he regales the populace with hugs and verses -- he dreams of becoming a greeting card poet. Out of the blue comes word that a distant relative has died, leaving him a $40 billion business empire in New York. That gets the naïve Deeds to the big city where he's soon dog-paddling in the shark-infested corporate pond against a current stirred up by those who want him to sink. Winona Ryder plays a scheming tabloid-TV reporter setting him up for a fall only to find she's the one falling -- in love, that is. Sander plays his role, for the most part, in low key but rarely comes across as the lovable innocent of the original. Sometimes funny, often silly, aimed at the Sandler set. 2002. 96 minutes. Columbia TriStar Home Entertainment. Rated PG-13 (language, some nudity).
"Y Tu Mama Tambien" -- A sexually candid Mexican coming-of-age tale about two lusting teenage boys and an older woman who shows them a trick or two. While there are some unabashedly erotic scenes, this movie from director Alfonso Cuaron is far more than that. It tells a good deal about human nature, about Mexico, its poor and its privileged as well as its politics (and its inviting scenery), done with both a sense of humor and a nibbling of dread. Julio (Gael Garcia Bernal) and buddy Tenoch (Diego Luna) are a couple of bored teens, their girlfriends away in Europe, attending a wedding when they bump into Luisa (Maribel Verdu), the sexy, playful 28-year-old wife of Tenoch's cousin, who surprisingly accepts their offer for a cross-country jaunt to the beach. It's a trip not only of fun and games and sexual discoveries but of police checkpoints, drug busts, shanty towns and traffic accidents. By any measure, a trip none will forget. 2002. 100 minutes. MGM Home Entertainment. Rated R (strong sexual content involving teens, drug use and language) and in an unrated version that runs 105 minutes.
Coming up next: the spy thriller "Sum of All Fears" starring Ben Affleck and Morgan Freeman... "The Scorpion King" starring pro wrestler The Rock (Dwayne Johnson) is the new No. 1 rental movie across the land...
"E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial" is returning for its gala DVD debut on its 20th anniversary in a plush setting befitting one of America's finest family movies. Steven Spielberg's 1982 masterwork hits the stands Tuesday for a limited 10-week engagement, another powerhouse entry in the burgeoning holiday lineup. Universal, going all out to make a special film more so, is releasing "E.T." in two twin-disc sets, one the collector's edition, the other the expanded Ultimate Collectors Gift Set. Both carry two versions of the movie -- the original theatrical version and Spielberg's re-edited version that was released in theaters last March. Plus hours of extras including the gathering of cast members two decades later ("My first family," Spielberg calls them), none of whom thought their movie would have such an impact, compelling behind-the-scenes footage, interviews and composer John Williams conducting his soaring "E.T." theme. Spielberg, in discussing his film and his reasons for "tinkering" with the original, sees "E.T." not only as "improving with age like a bottle of vintage Bordeaux" but as a movie for "the troubled times we live in," for those ready for a "journey of pure escape."
Focusing on an expected new surge in video fans, those who find a DVD player under the Christmas tree, Disney has decided to hold off release of its hit thriller "Signs" until Jan. 7. And, Variety reports preparations are under way at Disney for a double-disc DVD treatment of the ground-breaking "Who Framed Roger Rabbit," scheduled for a March 25 release.
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