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November 09, 2000

What's New

M:I-2 (2000). Hong Kong action-meister John Woo brings his marvelous visual sense and showy flair to this follow-up to the 1996 blockbuster. Tom Cruise, looking a bit shaggier but still appropriately steely-eyed in this new incarnation of special agent Ethan Hunt, is one of "M:I-2's" strongest weapons. With Dougray Scott, Thandie Newton and Ving Rhames. Paramount: no list price; DVD: $29.99; (CC); PG-13, for intense sequences of violent action and some sensuality.

Titan A.E. (2000). A feature-length animated science-fiction tale about life in the 31st century, after Earth has been incinerated by the sinister Drej, leaving humans to cope with being the homeless people of the universe. Although many elements are either standard or ruthlessly calibrated to the likes and dislikes of teenage boys, co-directors Don Bluth and Gary Goldman have done an excellent job of using computer-generated effects to create a vast and wondrous outer space world. Fox: $19.98; DVD: $26.98; (CC); PG for action violence, mild sensuality and brief language.

* Winter Sleepers (2000). Made just before "Run Lola Run," this Tom Tykwer film is a stylish dazzler, an ironic fable about love and destiny played out in a German skiing village. With Floriane Daniel, Heino Ferch, Ulrich Matthes, Marie-Lou Sellem. Fox: no list price; DVD: $29.98; (CC); unrated: sex, nudity, complex adult themes.

What's Hot

* Last week's Top 5 VHS rentals:

1. "The Patriot" (selected theaters). An epic look at America's war for independence that is more serious and skillful than might be expected from the team that gave the world "Independence Day." But the benefits of star Mel Gibson's charisma aside, its attempt to blend a broad canvas with an intimate family story is not completely successful. R for strong war violence.

2. "Rules of Engagement" (2000). This courtroom-combat drama--directed by veteran William Friedkin and starring Tommy Lee Jones, Samuel L. Jackson and an impressive Guy Pearce--is a passable, moderately diverting entertainment that raises all kinds of thought-provoking questions it's not really interested in answering. R for scenes of war violence and for language.

3. "U-571" (2000) This ripping yarn of the attempt to steal a crucial code machine from a German sub gets high marks for tension and excitement, although it's undernourished in terms of dialogue and character development. Matthew McConaughey, Bill Paxton and Harvey Keitel star. PG-13 for war violence.

4. "Toy Story 2" (1999). Lively and good-humored with a great sense of fun, it picks up where its predecessor left off. With the voices of Tom Hanks, Tim Allen and Joan Cusack. G.

5. "Keeping the Faith" (2000). Edward Norton directs and co-stars in this potent romantic comedy about a young rabbi (Ben Stiller) and a young priest (Norton), lifelong friends whose lives are turned upside down when their best pal from eighth grade reenters their lives in the stunning and witty form of Jenna Elfman. PG-13 for some sexuality and language.

* Last week's Top 5 DVD rentals:

1. "The Patriot"

2. "Rules of Engagement"

3. "Shanghai Noon" (2000). Jackie Chan, as an Imperial Guard out to ransom a kidnapped princess (Lucy Liu) in the Old West, and Owen Wilson, as a rowdy train robber who becomes his sidekick, make for a terrific team in this zesty comic western. (1:48) PG-13 for action violence, some drug humor, language and sensuality.

4. "Pitch Black" (2000). This routine sci-fi horror action-adventure, filmed in the Queensland, Australia, outback, is at least fast and energetic. Its biggest plus is its imposing and compelling star, Vin Diesel, who plays a dangerous prisoner among a group ofpeople stranded in a distant, forbidding planet. R for sci-fi violence and gore, and for language.

5. "Final Destination" (2000). Swift and scary thriller of the supernatural, starring Devon Sawa as a high school student who has a sudden premonition that the jetliner that's about to take him and 39 classmates to a Paris field trip will explode on takeoff. R for violence and terror, and for language.

* Last week's Top 5 VHS sellers:

1. "Toy Story 2" (1999).

2. "The Green Mile: Collector's Edition" (1999). Though its Stephen King story is a good one, this Frank Darabont-written and -directed version is hampered by excessive length, the suffocating deliberateness of its pace and some truly stomach-turning moments. Even Tom Hanks' compelling performance as a prison guard can't overcome that. R for violence, language and some sex-related material.

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