The Love Letter

A tender and sometimes very funny romantic comedy set in a New England seaside town, this is also something of a parable about what overheated summers can do to romantic imaginations. An unsigned love letter falls into the hands of various individuals who make creative assumptions about the author and intended recipient; many of them work at a secondhand bookstore. I suspect that a fair amount of the wit derives from Cathleen Schine’s source novel, but producer and lead actress Kate Capshaw (who plays the owner of the bookstore and has never been better), director Peter Ho-sun Chan (Comrades, Almost a Love Story), and screenwriter Maria Maggenti (who wrote and directed The Incredibly True Adventures of Two Girls in Love) make a wonderfully harmonious team. The other featured actors–Ellen DeGeneres, Tom Selleck (also at his best), Tom Everett Scott, Blythe Danner, Geraldine McEwan, and Julianne Nicholson–all seem to be on the same wavelength as well. (The music by Luis Bacalov also is quite appealing.) At times Chan’s quirky direction fudges the storytelling, but I didn’t mind. Esquire, Gardens, Lake, Norridge, Webster Place.

–Jonathan Rosenbaum

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): film still.

Published on 28 May 1999 in Featured Texts, by jrosenbaum

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The Thirteenth Floor

Another virtual-reality SF movie. The main thing that distinguishes this one from the others is the fact that several of the people behind it (including director and cowriter Josef Rusnak, coproducer Roland Emmerich, executive producers Michael and Helga Ballhaus, and actor Armin Mueller-Stahl) are Germanthough a flat boilerplate English is spoken by everyone throughout. Mueller-Stahl and Craig Bierko play inventors who have simulated 1937 Los Angeles on a computer chip; when one is murdered in present-day LA shortly after returning from 1937, the other enters the same simulation to get to the bottom of things. But of course the bottom in this ponderous romp is more simulation: simulated past and present in terms of metaphysics, poorly simulated Blade Runner and Vertigo in terms of story structure and style, and simulated human beings instead of charactersa simulated movie, in short. When the hero finds himself doing the lindy hop in 1937, you don’t know whether the anachronism belongs to Mueller-Stahl or to the screenwriters (adapting Daniel Galouye’s Simulacron 3), and you’re not likely to care. With Gretchen Mol (a pale simulation of Kim Novak), Vincent D’Onofrio , Dennis Haysbert, and Steven Schub. (JR)

Published on 24 May 1999 in Featured Texts, by admin

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War-Zone

Activist-filmmaker Maggie Hadleigh-West got so tired of being stared at and harassed on the street that she decided to fight back and started filming as well as interrogating the men bugging her. Usually she held one camera while behind her a camerawoman held another, and she carried out this counteraggression in several American cities, meanwhile recounting the experiences of other women who didn’t have cameras at their disposal. To the filmmaker’s credit, she doesn’t always select the confrontations in which she comes off best and the men come off worst; just about everything she shows, however, is fascinating, revealing, and provocative. The encounters are also interspersed with some striking experimental and free-form interludes about city street life, and fragments of an autobiographical statement are subtly woven into the mix. Facets Multimedia Center, 1517 W. Fullerton, Friday, May 21, 7:00 and 9:00; Saturday and Sunday, May 22 and 23, 3:00, 5:00, 7:00, and 9:00; and Monday through Thursday, May 24 through 27, 7:00 and 9:00; 773-281-4114. –Jonathan Rosenbaum

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): film still.

Published on 21 May 1999 in Featured Texts, by jrosenbaum

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Trekkies

If you’re interested in learning what the Star Trek craze is all about, this facetious cheap-shot documentary by Roger Nygard isn’t the place to go; it’s merely a freak show that invites the audience to ridicule the show’s fans and fanatics. The flavor of a daytime TV talk show is so thick that even some of the show’s creators and stars are slimed in the process. Denise Crosby serves as hostess. (JR)

Published on 18 May 1999 in Featured Texts, by admin

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Frogs For Snakes

New York actors moonlight as violent money collectors. One (Barbara Hershey) is the ex-wife of a gang leader (Robbie Coltrane) who wants to stage a production of American Buffalo. I assume writer-director Amos Poe, an independent associated with Manhattan’s SoHo and Lower East Side, must have thought this was a funny and not simply ridiculous premise, and that someone else liked the idea enough to finance itor maybe the gore and sadism reminded somebody of Tarantino and somebody else needed a tax write-off. Go figure. A lot of good actors get wasted heretypes as diverse as John Leguizamo and Taylor Mead in a cameoand so does the time anybody spends watching this. PS: The title music is a bad reorchestration of Elmer Bernstein’s main theme for The Man With the Golden Arm; I hope that at least Bernstein received a royalty. (JR)

Published on 18 May 1999 in Featured Texts, by admin

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