TINSELTOWN is giving us the Christmas rush again, with a dozen highly touted, lavishly budgeted pictures opening at your local tetra-octa-plex. In fact, they really ought to call it Hollywood and Pine. And they would, except that most "holiday" movies have nothing to do with peace and goodwill. "Beverly Hills Cop" was last year's Christmas blockbuster, for instance, with "Sudden Impact" making Dirty Harry's year in 1983, despite stiff competition from that jolly yuletide classic, "Scarface."
This year there are fewer films opening than usual, and these are by contrast rather peaceful -- even if the "Rocky IV" trailers warn us to get ready for the next world war. (Although it starts off as a story about the struggle between east and west, the final message is detente. Phew.)
Unlikely as it seems, judging by Christmases past, there are actually a couple of genuinely seasonal films this year. Walt Disney offers "One Magic Christmas," an improbable perennial, with Mary Steenburgen as a young mother and Harry Dean Stanton as the angel Gideon. And the "Superman" people provide "Santa Claus: The Movie," a kids' special-effects extravaganza with Dudley Moore as a perky elf and John Lithgow as an evil toymaker who tries to stay Santa's annual one-nighter. And if you can't make the mall, this one is concurrently opening on an airplane near you.
"Rocky," "Santa Claus" and "One Magic Christmas" are reviewed on page 9. Meantime, here's what else is on your local theaters' Christmas list this year:
Naturally it wouldn't be Christmas without Meryl Streep, who's as much a harbinger of the season as newspaper articles on holiday depression. Last year she was "Falling in Love," while we were falling asleep. In 1983, she fared better as "Silkwood" and in '82, she made her finest performance to date in "Sophie's Choice."
If you haven't had plenty of her already this year, there's more Streep to come in Out of Africa, the tragic, romantic biography of Karen Dinesen Blixen, a Danish writer who settles on a Kenya coffee plantation in 1914. Austria's Klaus Maria Brandauer of "Mephisto" plays her promiscuous husband and cousin, though the movie concentrates on her love affair with an adventurer played by Robert Redford. The advance word from industry gossips is good on this one, and a local benefit for the Very Special Arts is set for December 18.
Sidney Pollack directs the scenic life story, which is his first film since "Tootsie" in Christmas of 1982, a magic season that also brought "48 Hrs.," "The Verdict," "Sophie's Choice" and "Gandhi."
Sir Richard Attenborough, who won the best director Oscar for "Gandhi," makes his musical debut with a screen adaptation of the backstage musical A Chorus Line, winner of nine Tonys and a Pulitzer. It's a potentially sensational movie about 17 young dancers -- all played by newcomers -- who compete for the same eight parts in an upcoming Broadway show. "A Chorus Line" kicks off with a premiere to benefit the Variety Club set for the 19th.
Marvin Hamlisch adapts his own showstopping score, with Jeffrey Hornaday of "Flashdance" choreographing for screen. Michael Douglas, the only big-name star in the company, plays the director, Zack, whose affair with one of the hopeful hoofers is highlighted in flashbacks.
Douglas also returns this season as swashbuckler Jack Colton in The Jewel of the Nile, the sequel to last year's "Romancing the Stone," again with Kathleen Turner as the feisty, best- selling novelist Joan Wilder and Danny DeVito as the couple's knee-high nemesis, Ralph. The Flying Karamazovs appear as whirling dervishes.
"Jewel" promises to deliver the same winning ingredients as its predecessor -- romance, comedy and adventure in exotic locales -- as the couple sail for North Africa in their new sloop Angelyne. If you liked the first one, you'll like this one, say local distributors who've seen it. Naturally, they would say that YO, HO-HO
Sylvester Stallone knocks himself out for us again -- writing, directing and starring in Rocky IV, in which the Italian Stallion defends America's honor against the Russian amateur boxing champion. Grace Jones' beau, Dolph Lundgren, plays the people's palooka, with Carl Weathers as Apollo Creed. Stallone's real-life girlfriend, musclewoman Brigitte Neilsen, plays the Russian's girlfriend. (See review page 9.)
If you imagine you'd like some combination of "A Chorus Line" and "Rocky IV," there is White Nights, a choreographic thriller for right-wing ballet fans, a rare breed though they may be.
Mikhail Baryshnikov is cast, not surprisingly, as one of the world's best ballet dancers, a defector who is forced to make an emergency landing in Siberia. Gregory Hines plays Baryshnikov's American counterpart, a tap dancer who emigrated to Russia to protest the Vietnam War. Hines, who has fallen out of favor with the KGB, is given a chance to persuade the other dancer to un-defect.
Taylor Hackford of "Officer and a Gentleman" directs, with original choreography by Twyla Tharp and Baryshnikov, and with energetic cinematography by David Watkin of "Chariots of Fire." Ingrid Bergman's daughter Isabella Rossellini costars as Hines' weepy interpreter wife.
Dan Aykroyd and Chevy Chase also tangle with the KGB as a pair of raw recruits in the espionage spoof Spies Like Us, directed by John Landis and cowritten by Aykroyd and "Splash" authors Lowell Ganz and Babaloo Mandel.
Described as fast-paced and action-packed (and what adventure isn't?), "Spies" follows the comics on a misguided mission to save the world from nuclear destruction. Donna Dixon, Aykroyd's wife and former Washington model, plays straight to the former "Saturday Night Live" costars. THINKING AHEAD TO THE FUTURE
Young Sherlock Holmes is the first of two Christmas encounters with Steven Spielberg, whose company presents this mystery directed by Barry Levinson of "The Natural" and "Diner." Chris Columbus of "Goonies," "Gremlins" and a new script for Indiana Jones, is the author of the familiar-sounding screenplay.
Good-looking special effects bolster the performances of Britain's 18-year-old Nicholas Rowe as Sherlock, and 14-year- old Brian Cox as the future Dr. Watson. It's an affectionate tribute to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle detectives, set in the sleuths' college days.
The two boys try out their fledgling criminological skills in a case that centers on the deaths of some distinguished oldsters. The quest takes them deep into the arcane recesses of Victorian London and to the headquarters of a religious cult. YOU SLEIGH ME
Clue, a slapstick whodunit based on the board game, offers a second option for mystery fas, and maybe a third, fourth and fifth chance, too. It has three different endings -- identified as prints A, B or C in advertisements -- all running concurrently at various theaters near you. Check local listings.
The all-star cast includes Eileen Brennan as Mrs. Peacock, Madeline Kahn as Mrs. White, Christopher Lloyd as Professor Plum, Michael McKean as Mr. Green, Martin Mull as Colonel Mustard and Lesley Ann Warren as Miss Scarlet.
Clues are provided so audiences can play along. A PURPLE CHRISTMAS
Broadway comedienne Whoopi Goldberg makes her film debut in The Color Purple, the screen adaptation of Alice Walker's powerful Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, directed by Spielberg.
Goldberg, as a young woman whose spirit sees her through years of hardship and abuse, costars with Danny Glover of "Places in the Heart," Adolph Caesar, Margaret Avery and Rae Dawn Chong.
Initial reports escaping the usual Spielberg hushhush say "Purple" rates a 12 on a scale of one to 10. It's a major departure for the director, who categorizes it as a "powerful, specific story about one family. . . and the particular struggle they endure because of circumstance, tradition and hand-me-down victimization."
The Washington premiere on December 18 will benefit the National Political Congress of Black Women and the MS Foundation for Education and Communication. Rae Dawn Chong, Margaret Avery, Akosua Busia, Willard Pugh and Oprah Winfrey are scheduled to attend. DAS SCI-FI
Last winter, science-fiction was the hot genre, with the holiday turkey "Dune" perhaps the most notable among lesser failures such as "Runaway," "Starman" and "2010."
This year's single space entry is the arty epic Enemy Mine, with Lou Gossett Jr. and Dennis Quaid as warring space pilots in a distant sun system. Wolfgang Petersen of "Das Boot" directs the visionary drama set one hundred years in the future, on the two-sun, six-moon volcanic Fyrine IV. Creeping glaciers and "indescribable lurking predators" force the downed pilots to make friends or else.
Gossett, as Jeriba Shigan, a Drac from the planet Dracon (where else?), wears three hours worth of make-up (including a mask that actually sweats) for his role. Quaid is Davidge, a battle-hardened Earthman with inbred enmity for this complex being from an ancient culture.
Mixed reports on this enterprise so far. A NEW YEAR'S REVOLUTION, ET AL
Revolution, with Al Pacino as an American colonist, Donald Sutherland as a soldier of the Crown and Nastassja Kinski as the daughter of a loyalist, originally scheduled for December 13, moves forward to January 24.
Walt Disney's Adventure of Natty Gann, likewise set for Christmas, will open here January 19. Around New Year's, the Key Theater will open Akira Kurosawa's titanic Ran, the story of a 16th-century Japanese warrior played by Tatsuya Nakadi, and Germany's Sugarbaby, a stylish comedy by Percy Adlon.