A boss mob film "New Jack City" is Mario Van Peebles' first film as an actor-director, and he shouldn't have any trouble getting his next assignment. The film, a melodrama in which drug merchants take command of an inner-city housing unit, is fast, exciting and well written. Van Peebles said he wanted to make the film look like ''The Untouchables,'' and he has. This is a mob movie done with more than the usual amount of care. Van Peebles appears in the film as a detective. Others in the cast are rap singer Ice T and Judd Nelson. Sex, language, violence, nudity. Rating: R. *** Two concerts of choral and cello music are planned tonight. Gloriae Dei Cantores, a 44-voice choir from Cape Cod, Mass., under director Elizabeth Patterson, sings at 8 p.m. at the Basilica of the Assumption, 408 North Charles St. Featured will be "Resurrexi," a new work by American composer Gerald Near. Tickets are $12.50. Call (800) 543-3041. Also, Towson State University's weeklong cello festival ends with a concert featuring Stephen Kates and Cecylia Barczyk and other musicians at 8:15 p.m. at the Fine Arts Concert Hall. Tickets are $12 and $8. Call 830-2787.
Jockeying for a comeback
What an irresistible story! A 45-year-old Hall of Fame/Cy Young Award-winning pitcher tires of the broadcast booth, where for several seasons he has aired the exploits of all those young guys. So he works out all winter and gets invited to his old team's spring training camp in hopes of a comeback. He's Jim Palmer, of course, trying to make the Orioles team. And while the story has been big local news for weeks, NBC's "Sunday Today" (at 8 a.m. tomorrow, Channel 2) is scheduled to cast a national spotlight on Palmer's effort. Try an oldie this week. Get the newly released ''The Champ,'' not the 1979 version with Jon Voight and Ricky Schroder but the original, done in 1931 with Jackie Cooper and Wallace Beery. Berry plays a heavyweight trying to make it back in the ring, and Cooper is the son who adores him. Irene Rich plays the boxer's ex-husband in this heart-warming tear-jerker. Beery won the Academy Award for his work in the film. No rating. ***
2 Two in one
Theatre Hopkins is staging two strong Edward Albee plays. Directed by Suzanne Pratt, the first one-act, "The American Dream," is a scathing satire attacking the false values of today's society. The second play, "The Zoo Story" (with good performances by Tom Blair and Greg Seagle), makes a powerful statement about human alienation. In "Dream," Betty Corwell gives an impressive portrayal as a grasping, nagging wife and Marie Ipes plays her spunky old mother. 8:30 p.m. The Merrick Barn, Johns Hopkins University campus. Tickets: $8. Call 338-7159.