Weekly Video Picks

We Were Soldiers (2002)

Vietnam is the war Hollywood loves to hate. We Were Soldiers, based on a book by Lt. Gen. Harold Moore and Joseph Galloway, is one of the few films to treat its soldiers sympathetically. In 1965 Lt. Col. Hal Moore (Mel Gibson) and 450 men are helicoptered into a highland area where they're surrounded by 2,000 enemy troops and must fight their way out.

Director Randall Wallace also devotes considerable time to the home front. Moore cares as much about raising his five kids with proper values as he does about his career. A practicing Catholic, he teaches them how to pray before they go to bed. When one of his officers (Chris Klein) wonders what is “God's plan,” Moore also prays with him for guidance. As America continues to face up to the challenges posed by Sept. 11, it is important to realize that we can be inspired by our soldiers' performance in Vietnam rather than ashamed. The violence and language are raw, but appropriate for a realistic battlefield drama.

Andre (1994)

Even animals can be celebrities, and the effects can be beneficial for them in a way it usually isn't for humans. Andre, based on a true-life book by Harry Goodridge and George Dietz, is the story of an orphan seal pup of the same name who's adopted by the Whitney family of Rockport, Maine, in 1962. Papa Harry (Keith Carradine) is the seaport's harbormaster who allows Andre to accompany him while scuba diving. His youngest daughter, Toni (Tina Majorino), also bonds deeply with the creature.

At first the media coverage has a negative impact as Andre becomes a tourist attraction. When a local lobsterman (Keith Szarabajka) complains that the seal is stealing his lobsters, the creature is removed to a Boston aquarium. Andre escapes and returns to Rockport. When the seal rescues one of his human protectors from a life-threatening incident, the resultant publicity forces the authorities to allow him to swim free. Director George Miller (The Man from Snowy River) involves us emotionally while keeping a light touch.

The Lady Vanishes (1936)

Alfred Hitchcock invented the spy movie in a series of British films made before World War II. One of the best is The Lady Vanishes, adapted by Frank Launder and Sydney Gilliat from Ethel Lina White's novel. It's unusual in that the story is told primarily from a woman's point of view. On a train in the Balkans, Iris (Margaret Lockwood), a young English woman, befriends a sympathetic elderly lady, Miss Froy (Dame May Whitty). When the older woman suddenly disappears during the trip, Iris sets out to find her. But all the other passengers on board deny having ever seen the missing lady.

The only person who believes Iris' story is Gilbert (Michael Redgrave), a musician. Together they uncover a spy ring that's connected to Miss Froy's disappearance and they must save her from further harm without fully understanding what she's up to. The story has the genre's key ingredients — mystery, intrigue, romance, suspense-filled action and a secret message — all mixed together with wit and style.