A West Coast delight Steve Martin kids the Los Angeles lifestyle in ''L.A. Story,'' a film in which he plays a TV weatherman whose life is influenced by a traffic sign that helps him face the problems of everyday life. Victoria Tennant is the English journalist who falls in love with the weatherman. The film is gentle and also beautifully photographed. Marilu Henner plays the woman who is keeping company with the weatherman, and Sarah Jessica Parker is the one-girl aerobic class who can't seem to stand still. Sex. Rating: PG-13. *** Two classical music programs tonight make for a tough choice. Pianist Paul Maillet plays Mozart's Concerto No. 21 in C Major ("Elvira Madigan") with Concert Artists of Baltimore in an all-Mozart Bicentennial program at 8 p.m. at the Friedberg Concert Hall, Peabody Institute. Mozart's Symphony No. 41, Ave Verum Corpus and Mass in C Major are also offered by chorus and orchestra. Tickets: $15 and $10. Call 628-0027. Uptown, in the Shriver Hall Concert Series at Johns Hopkins University at 8:30 p.m., The Bowdoin Trio of pianist Jon Klibonoff, violinist Alexander Simionescu and cellist Semyon Fridman performs Beethoven's Trio in C Major, Schonberg's Verklaerte Nacht and Schubert's Trio in B Flat. Tickets $16 and $6. Call 338-7164.
Playground prowess prompts many youngsters to dream of stardom in the National Basketball Association, yet the odds of success are steep. Hence a youth-oriented special today, sponsored by the NBA and airing on NBC and cable networks, urges young people to stay in school. The "NBA All-Star Stay in School Jam" airs live at noon on Channel 2 and the Nickelodeon and TNT basic cable services. Young performers such as Will Smith ("The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air") and Tempestt Bledsoe ("The Cosby Show"), are joined by NBA stars including Michael Jordan. "The Illustrated History of Violence" being staged at Towson State University by the new experimental group, Big Dog Ensemble, is an excellent, finely choreographed work that presents fighting styles from Biblical times to the current Persian Gulf war. This entertaining, wildly farcical piece was written by director-actor Lewis Shaw. The show also features the talents of James Brown-Orleans and Dianne Signiski. 8 p.m. Studio Theater. Tickets: $6/$4. 243-3361.
WORD MEETS MOTION
J. L. Conklin
"Power of the Moving Word" is an apt title for the program of works being performed this weekend by movement artists Jeff McMahon and Tish Carter at Towson State University as part of the Brave New Works production.
Both artists depend on the doubling of intent that occurs when language meets movement.
The effects of visual-movement imagery colliding with words can be wickedly funny or profoundly poignant, as all four works on the program proved.
While Ms. Carter and Mr. McMahon have their own individual, indelible visions to impress upon us, it was Mr. McMahon's strong poetic and theatrical character that was the more moving.
Ms. Carter's works are querulous, while Mr. McMahon's are declarations.
Ms. Carter uses a stable of props -- Mr. McMahon uses only his body.
Ms. Carter's works are animated fantasy. Mr. McMahon's feet are solidly planted in actuality.
Ms. Carter's opening work -- "Do You Suffer From Insomnia -- Or Do You Sleep In The Nude?" -- whimsically revolved around the title's question. Yet the text written by Ms. Carter and Prosser Sterling, while witty at times, did not pack the punch of the visuals.
Yet Ms. Carter's "Bread Series," which tries to make sense of hunger using bits of family myths and obscure folklore, is both clever and moving.
Mr. McMahon's performance is charismatic.
His nearly hourlong excerpt "Discontent" is a litany of diatribe on money, power, sex, politics, class and dance. Both movement and word spurt out of him like blood let lose from an artery.
He modulates both voice and movement so quickly that one thinks he has flipped his mental channels. Part poet, part preacher, part rapper and dancer, he presents a patter of stream-of-conscious language that is brilliant and filled with mixed metaphors and snatches of cliches.
Mr. McMahon takes us thrillingly close to the edge of disaster on a roller-coaster ride, but we love it.
"DIE HARD 2"
Trouble in his way
"DIE HARD 2" -- Bruce Willis continues as the New York cop who seems to follow trouble. This time, he's at Dulles Airport, where terrorists take over the facility in a plan to rescue a drug baron who is being flown there to face U.S. drug charges. The sequel is overdone at times, but is nevertheless swiftly paced and exciting. Bonnie Bedelia continues as the cop's wife. She is aboard one of the planes stacked up over the airport as the battle continues below. Language, violence. Rating R. ***