Can Vanilla Ice heat up the big screen?

The super-hot teen idol rapper will give it a shot in "Cool as Ice," due to begin filming in April.David Kellogg, who has directed videos and commercials, makes his feature film debut with what he calls "a PG-13-type film," a mix of music, romance and dance. He adds that Ice "is pretty gung-ho" about the break into movies.

For Alive Enterprises, the story has Ice and his "posse" blowing into a small town where he falls for a suburban golden girl - whose dad doesn't approve of Ice and his chums. It's only after Ice comes to his aid - dad has a secret past - that Ice gets respect.

Or, as casting materials put it, it's discovered that "beneath his bad-boy facade lurks a romantic and noble soul."

Among the subplots: An elderly couple, who've rented rooms to Ice and his pals, get caught up in . . . rap culture.

"Cool as Ice" doesn't mark Ice's screen debut. That honor goes to the upcoming "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze," which will find him singing and rapping with the reptilian heroes. - PAT H. BROESKE

- `Ishtar,' the Remake:

HOLLYWOOD - Faced with a film-class assignment to restage and shoot scenes from an already filmed screenplay, one University of Southern California graduate student has chosen . . . "Ishtar."

The big-budget 1987 Columbia Pictures comedy was a monumental critical and commercial bomb, despite the presence of Dustin Hoffman, Warren Beatty and writer-director Elaine May.

But budding director Larry Travis remains undaunted. His reasoning: "The first half hour of that movie was absolutely hilarious - some of the funniest comedy I've ever seen. Then it does start to bog down in places . . . "

While his classmates reinterpret scenes on video from more critically successful films, such as "To Have and Have Not" (1944) and "Something Wild" (1986), Travis will re-create three sequences, totaling about 15 minutes, culled from the first half hour of "Ishtar."

Hoping to shoot soon, Travis believes the challenge is finding actors who can handle the delicate balancing act demanded by the two lead characters - a pair of singer-comedians who take their unsuccessful act to Morocco, stumbling into espionage shenanigans.

"They think they're funny," Travis says, "but they're not funny - and that's funny." - PAT H. BROESKE

- Researching the Role:

HOLLYWOOD - "The Hard Way" opens March 8 from Universal Pictures - and it's loaded with Hollywood references.

Some preview samples:

The storyline has Michael J. Fox playing hot screen actor Nick Lang - $1.2 billion "in combined ticket sales" and a People's Choice award - who's anxious to get the gritty role of a tough cop. Tired of sequels - such as his upcoming "Smokin' Gun II" - Lang decides to hang with a real-life, hard-as-nails New York City detective, played by James Woods.

Lang drives the cop batty as he takes showbiz to the mean streets - like phoning his agent (Penny Marshall) from the ghetto on a cellular phone, or asking a hot-dog vendor for Grey Poupon mustard.

Look for Fox to pass newsstands with his image emblazoned across Rolling Stone, Premiere - "Still Smokin', Still Jokin', But America's Favorite Good Guy Wants to Get Serious" - and the fictitious scandal sheet Rag Le Monde.

Names dropped include Steven Spielberg, Arsenio Hall and Phil Donahue, and Fox plays characters modeled after Indiana Jones and - by the looks of that ponytail - Steven Seagal.

Woods' character, in turn, gets in plenty of digs about what he perceives Hollyweird to be about, including "Scientology gurus" and "gerbil racing." -PAT H. BROESKE

- Feathered Fiends?:

HOLLYWOOD - Talk about flocks of would-be stars.

The filming of "The Dark Half," based on Stephen King's novel, required some 4,500 birds - possibly the biggest bird casting call since Alfred Hitchcock's "The Birds" (1963).

Directed and scripted by scare-meister George A. Romero, the Orion Pictures film stars Timothy Hutton as an author with a murderous subconscious. When it comes to the surface, so do the birds - who symbolize the writer's dark side.

One dramatic sequence has some 1,200 taking flight.

Bird coordinator Mark Harden - of Animal Actors of Hollywood - says the bulk of the feathered thespians were cutthroat finches, "with a few other little guys, like silver bills, thrown in for spice."

On location on the film's Pittsburgh set from September through January, they went through some 100 pounds of birdseed, assorted veggies and 12-15 gallons of water each day. Spritzing with an anti-bacterial soap kept them looking spiffy.

Purchased from wholesalers, they were returned to the pet trade at shooting's end.

Harden worked with six other bird trainers - and, he adds, "a clean-up staff." - PAT H. BROESKE

- Ellipses Strike Again:

" `Perfectly Normal' is your movie. . . ." goes the blurb attributed to Los Angeles Times film critic Sheila Benson in an ad for the new Four Seasons release. It may be yours, but it's not Benson's. What she really wrote in her largely negative review was, "If opera-kitsch sounds fabulous to you, then `Perfectly Normal' is your movie."

- Cinefile:

HOLLYWOOD - Dolly Parton will star as a radio-station receptionist who winds up as a talk-show psychiatrist in the Hollywood Pictures-Sandollar musical "Straight Talk." Parton will write the songs, Tim Rice will oversee the music. Barnett Kellman directs Pat Resnick's script in Chicago in June for producer Robert Chartoff.

Armand Assante and Antonio Banderas will star in Pace Films' "Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love," based on Oscar Hijuelos' award-winning novel. Arnold Glimcher produces-directs Cynthia Cidre's script in New York and Los Angeles beginning March 12.

Tim Roth, Alexis Arquette and Danitra Vance star in "Jumpin' at the Boneyard," getting under way in New York. The film, under exec producer Lawrence Kasdan, is about a crack addict whose older brother tries to get him into drug rehab. Jeff Stanzle, who works as a drama therapist at a drug rehab center, writes and directs. Nina Sadowsky and Lloyd Goldfine produce. - KIRK HONEYCUTT

- The Movie Chart:

Films going into production:

MISTRESS (Mistress Productions). Shooting in Los Angeles. Robert De Niro is executive producer and has a cameo in this dark tale of former Hollywood stars who try desperately to get a movie made. The comedy occurs when their meddlesome mistresses vie to get cast in the film. Producers Meir Teper and Ruth Charny. Director Barry Primus. Screenwriters Primus and J.F. Lawton.

RUSH (The Zanuck Co.). Shooting in Houston. Jennifer Jason Leigh, Jason Patric and Sam Elliott star in Kim Wozencraft's best seller about a woman undercover narc who becomes addicted to the substance she's been hired to confiscate. Producer Richard Zanuck. Director Lili Fini Zanuck. Screenwriter Pete Dexter. Distributor MGM-Pathe.

WIND (Filmlink-International-Zoetrope). Shooting in Rhode Island and Australia. Matthew Modine and Jennifer Grey star in director Carroll Ballard's action-adventure-drama about yachting's prestigious America's Cup. Executive producers Francis Ford Coppola and Fred Fuchs. Producers Mata Yamamoto and Tom Luddy. Screenwriter Rudy Wurlitzer.

SOMEONE LIKE YOU (Artistic License). Shooting in Sacramento, Calif. This comedy looks at the ways people go about seeking the right romantic partner. Executive producer Tom Naygrow. Producer Frank Coccaro. Director-screenwriter Jim Meyers. Stars Jim Bonfield, Amy Tribbey and Rena Davonne.

-DAVID PECCHIA