Firefighting family "Backdraft" is hot stuff. It may take an hour or so to ignite, but when it does, it is terrifically exciting. The first hour is mostly special effects, and they are big enough to persuade us to overlook the fact that the film doesn't have much of a story initially. Kurt Russell and William Baldwin are brothers who work for the Chicago fire department. Someone is setting fires that are endangering the lives of the firefighters, and the arson squad is trying to find out who it is. Ron Howard directed, and Robert De Niro has a supporting role. Language, sex, violence. Rating: PG-13. ***
An exhibition of photographs by 45 contemporary artists in the Soviet Union provides a view of the interior workings of Soviet life at this time of great social change. Displayed in the former Greyhound Bus Service Terminal on Centre Street at Park Avenue, "Photo Manifesto" consists of works of "unofficial" art which were not shown publicly before the era of glasnost. The exhibition ranges from portraiture to photographs which are manipulated by double exposure or by altering negatives. Presented by the Museum for Contemporary Arts, the show runs through June 21. Hours: Noon to 6 p.m. daily. For details: 462-3515.
500 laps to glory
At the Indianapolis 500, it is not enough to drive fast. Myriad mechanical adjustments, pit stop strategy, weather and just plain chance all conspire against the best of competitors. That is why last year's winner, Arie Luyendyk, faces long odds in seeking a repeat win in tomorrow's 75th running of America's premier automobile race. It's being carried live, from green flag to checkered, beginning at 11 a.m. on ABC (Channel 13). Not since 1971 has there been a second consecutive victory, by Al Unser Sr. Coverage includes the use of a dozen "race-cams" mounted in six cars (including Mr. Luyendyk's) to take viewers down to track level.
Meryl Streep is the daughter, and Shirley MacLaine is the mother in "Postcards From the Edge," a comedy-drama adapted from the book by Carrie Fisher in which Ms. Fisher describes her time spent in a drug rehabilitation center and her experiences as an actress. The acting in "Postcards" is magnificent, and so is the film, which is mostly talk, but smart talk. And wait until you hear Ms. Streep sing. Language, sex. Rating: R. ****
A royal production
A pleasantly entertaining version of the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical "The King and I" is on stage at the TowsonTowne Dinner Theatre. The show features Dennis Knight the King of Siam and Sue Centurelli as the English governess who instructs him in Western ways. There are nice renditions of all the familiar tunes, including "I Whistle a Happy Tune," "Getting to Know You" and "Shall We Dance." Choreography and music direction by Robert Jenkins. 7500 York Road. Dinner at 6:30 p.m., show at 8 p.m. Tickets: $25.95. Call 321-6595.