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Page6 The Palm Beach Post DECEMBER 5, 1997 TGIF Hollywood horde: 40 flicks due for holidays ji vii ia in..! ii. Piw.jippi ij . ""pxnMi .'.Ml i 1 -rirr.., r . - -1MJTO.. Titanic has a budget fit for a masterpiece or a mega-flop. Leonardo By Bob Tourtellotte Reuters What do a sinking ship, a super spy and a slave revolt have in common? Christmas season movies, of course. Titanic, the 20th century's most famous shipwreck; James Bond, the suave spy with a license to kill; and Amistad, the Spanish ship where a bloody slave revolt went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, are all among the season's top movies. But they are not the only subjects sure to draw moviegoers to theaters from now to January the most profitable season for Hollywood except for the summer. Nearly 40 movies will roll into . theaters featuring big name directors such as Steven Spielberg and Woody Allen, hot young stars such as Matt Damon and Neve Campbell, and proven veterans such as Jack Nicholson, Robin Williams and Kevin Costner. The reasoning behind the big move in movies is simple: film-goers have leisure time and money to spend. Last year, for instance, U.S. theaters hauled in roughly $754 million during the season, or about 13 percent of the year's $5.8 billion in U.S. ticket sales, according to industry researcher Paul Kagan and Associates. For filmmakers, a strong Christmas showing also can mean Oscars. The Academy Awards, the industry's annual tribute to itself, follows the holidays by only a couple of months, making the season pivotal as studios vie for the little gold statues. "This season is the whole ball-game for the movies," said Larry Gerbrandt, industry analyst at Ka- 8an- . , , For audiences, it can be frustrating because so many movies come out in such a short period. To make it easier, then, here is a sampling of what is ahead. The big guns The season's biggest film of all will likely be Titanic, set to open on Dec. 19. At a cost reportedly over $200 million, director James Cameron's film could be either one of the most expensive flops ever made or a cinematic masterpiece. Early buzz is favorable, but the question is, is it good enough for audiences to want to spend almost three hours watching the luxury superliner go down? James Bond returns to theaters, also on Dec. 19, in Tomorrow Never Dies with Pierce Bros-nan repeating his role as the English super spy. In this version, Bond takes on a media mogul, using all the fast cars and electronic gadgets audiences have come to expect, even a killer cell phone. Spielberg and the new studio he co-owns, DreamWorks SKG, brings Amistad to screens on Dec. s--l m SINK OR SWIM? At $200 million, ..-V "A .!. iff ' DiCaprio and Kate Winslet star. FUNNY FARM: Tim Allen and Kirstie Alley are New Yorkers who head for Amish country to escape the IRS in For Richer or Poorer. '-f Demi Moore, Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Kirstie Alley. It opens on Dec. 25. AlleyAllen combo Alley also stars in For Richer or Poorer with comedian Tim Allen as a New York couple in trouble with the IRS who flee to Amish country in Pennsylvania. It opens on Dec. 12. DreamWorks' Mouse Hunt opens on Dec. 19. It is about two brothers who are forced to battle a pesky rodent when they set out to renovate their house. Jack Nicholson teams with Helen Hunt, Greg Kinnear and director James L. Brooks in As Good as It Gets opening on Dec. 25; Scream 2, the sequel to 1996's surprise hit Scream, starring Neve Campbell and Courtney Cox, hits theaters on Dec. 12. AMISTAD: Morgan Freeman (from left), Chiwetel Ejiofor and Matthew McConaughey star in the story of an 1839 slave-ship t JIUUJUU"MMMM,. Ik ,JI &f; X- gether with Robin Williams as a troubled youth and his therapist. It is directed by Gus Van Sant and hits movie theaters on Dec. 25. Also among the independent fare are Welcome to Sarajevo, about a journalist's struggles in wartorn Bosnia. Welcome to Sarajevo opens Dec. 31. Costner's 'Dirtworld?' Kevin Costner stars in The Postman, a tale of a lone man's survival in the post-apocalyptic American West. It sounds like Waterworld on land Dirtworld, cynics call it but Costner directs this one himself, his first ft directorial effort since Dances With Wolves swept the Oscars for 1990. It opens on Christmas day. The same day, Quentin Taran-tino brings Jackie Brown-to movie screens. The film stars the former queen of "blaxploitation" movies, Pam Grier, as its heroine, sneaking money past gunrunners and federal agents. Director Barry Levinson, a master of satire, brings Wag the Dog to movie screens on Jan. 2. A black comedy, it tells of public relations movers and shakers who attempt to cover up a president's sexual promiscuity by creating a fictitious war on the eve of an election. Woody Allen's latest movie, Deconstructing Harry, brings together a typically eclectic ensemble cast one of his hallmarks including Allen, Billy Crystal, 12. Set in 1839, the movie tells the true story of a mutinous band of slaves trying to unlock the shackles of servitude. Early talk is that its star, newcomer Djimon Houn-sou, could bring home an Oscar. Martin Scorsese's Kundun, about the Dalai Lama's early years, has become a sore spot in recent relations between the United States and China because of its depiction of China's invasion of Tibet. Like Amistad, this movie has strong early Oscar appeal. Good Will Hunting produced by quasi-independent moviemaker Miramax puts Matt Damon to-.