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"Love & Basketball," "Gossip," "The Third Miracle," and on video, "Being John Malkovich"

Quick Flicks

!B! "Love & Basketball"
!B! "Gossip"
!B! "The Third Miracle"

Now on Video:!B! "Being John Malkovich"

"Love & Basketball" — He got game. She got game. We got good movie. Part romance and part sports tale, "Love & Basketball" joins such films as "The Best Man," "Soul Food" and "Eve's Bayou" in looking for universal elements in the African-American experience. First-time filmmaker Gina Prince-Bythewood's movie has so many astounding moments of sophistication and romantic dreaminess between the two likable leads (Omar Epps and Sanaa Lathan) that you easily forgive the movie's missteps. Just like the game at its heart, "Love & Basketball" is divided into four quarters with Epps and Lathan's characters fighting, competing, laughing and loving each other from grade school on. While the movie suffers from too many musical montages, its heart is pure. The romance between these two gifted athletes is just as believable as their love of the game, even when it separates them.

"Gossip" — OK, someone needs to have a talk with "Dawson's Creek" star Joshua Jackson. Someone needs to explain to him that he's dangerously close to becoming a clichAc at the ripe ol' age of what? 20? Still on screen in the silly "Skulls," although Jackson does a nice job with what he's given there, now he's competing with himself in "Gossip," another marketing scheme masquerading as a movie.

At least "Gossip" has an intriguing notion at its center unlike the hackneyed "Skulls" and it certainly boasts a slick, stylish look thanks to director of photography Andrzej ("Romeo Must Die") Bartkowiak. When a trio of good-looking Manhattan college kids start a vicious rumor about a fellow student as part of a journalism class project, things get ugly and deadly. That intriguing notion, by the way, is that all "news" is nothing but hearsay.

"The Third Miracle" — Sensitively directed by Agnieszka Holland ("Europa, Europa" and "The Secret Garden"), Ed Harris portrays Father Frank Moore, a Catholic priest struggling with his belief in God. Also a sort of spiritual detective, he's often sent out by the Church to probe the truth of reported miracles. Usually able to debunk these modern myths, Father Moore now finds himself slowly coming to believe that his latest case is the real thing. Add to that the fact that Father Moore is falling in love with the daughter (Anne Heche) of the woman he's investigating for possible sainthood and you've got quite a burning dilemma.

"Being John Malkovich" — Spike Jonze's ingenious and surreal fantasy can now be rented and pondered over in the privacy of your own home. You can also hit rewind when the plot gets complicated. Although half of the fun of this brilliantly original tale is just going with the flow.

John Cusack stars as a world-weary puppeteer who discovers a portal into the brain of actor John Malkovich. Then the movie gets really weird when his opportunistic co-worker Maxine (Catherine Keener) conspires to make love to Malkovich when Cusack's wife (the almost unrecognizable Cameron Diaz) is nestled inside the actor's gray matter. This movie would have been impossible without the presence of Malkovich, who plays himself with great ironic and comic restraint as he tries to make sense of these unseen invaders. But be warned, using a bit of your own gray matter is required for maximum enjoyment.

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