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Introduction to Linux - A Hands on Guide
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This may have nothing to do with it, but try running gmplayer rather than mplayer. I had an issue with mplayer where my controls did not seem to appear anywhere, so I tried gmplayer and all was well.
Launch it from a command line by simply typing
and see what happens. If this works, and you use an icon somewhere to launch the program normally, you can right click the icon and choose properties, and then edit the command it uses to launch it by changing it to gmplayer.