The cold-weather movie boom is upon us. And that's no surprise, since the weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas are traditionally a period for lots of new pictures - all clamoring for attention during our holiday spare time, and rushing to beat the deadline for the coming Oscar race. Theaters are already filled with new pictures, and, as every hardworking reviewer knows, there are plenty more to come. Fortunately, some of the holiday releases look promising.
High on the list is a drama called ``Mississippi Burning,'' set in 1964 and featuring Gene Hackman and Willem Dafoe, two of the most accomplished screen actors around. They play FBI agents in the Deep South. Mr. Hackman's a local law-and-order man, while Mr. Dafoe's a Northern liberal type. Both are trying to solve what appears to be the murder of three missing civil rights workers.
Based on a true story, the film is directed by Alan Parker, who's made every kind of picture from ``Bugsy Malone'' comedy to ``Angel Heart'' horror. His movies don't always click, but ``Mississippi Burning'' has the right kind of ingredients.
Another tantalizing item is ``Rain Man,'' the latest from Barry Levinson, who gave us ``Tin Men'' and ``Good Morning, Vietnam,'' among others. Dustin Hoffman plays a fellow who's not very bright, but has a talent for memorizing just about anything. That's a skill his brother, played by Tom Cruise, is very interested in, since he's a small-time gambler and con man. Also on hand is Valeria Golino, who played Pee-wee Herman's girlfriend in ``Big Top Pee-wee'' and certainly won my heart. With talents like these, ``Rain Man'' could be a winner.
Robert Towne has written excellent movies like ``Chinatown'' and ``The Last Detail.'' But his first movie as a director, ``Personal Best,'' was disappointing.
Now, six years later, he has directed another one, ``Tequila Sunrise.'' It's about two high school friends who've chosen different roads in life: One is a policeman, the other a drug dealer. They still have something in common, though: They both love the same woman. She is played by Michelle Pfeiffer, not ``Married to the Mob'' anymore, and her would-be boyfriends are played by Kurt Russell, as the cop, and Mel Gibson, as the pusher. Sounds dramatic.
For those who prefer a comic look at crime and punishment, there's ``The Naked Gun,'' a spinoff of the ``Police Squad!'' television series. It comes from the creators of ``Airplane!'' and stars Leslie Nielsen as the world's klutziest cop. He's a hero, though: Here he vanquishes Mikhail Gorbachev, Muammar Quaddafi, and Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, and that's all in the first three minutes!
Other holiday movies range from the ``The Accidental Tourist,'' with William Hurt and Kathleen Turner, to ``Torch Song Trilogy,'' based on Harvey Fierstein's Broadway play. Not to mention Dan Aykroyd in ``My Stepmother Is an Alien.''
Along with others on the way, these should to keep moviegoers busy until well into the new year.