First Daughter Forest Whitaker. (PG) Katie Holmes stars as the eighteen-year-old daughter of the President of the United States (Michael Keaton). Already, the film tests the very boundaries of believability by asking audiences to accept that 1) Katie Holmes is eighteen and 2) Batman is president. Anyhoo, the titular First Daughter falls for a hottie secret-service agent who's been assigned to keep her safe. She doesn't know he's part of the secret service; he wasn't supposed to fall in love. Stuff ensues. We're gonna rent Pieces of April instead. Opens Friday, September 24, at multiple locations. NR
The Forgotten Joseph Ruben. (PG-13) Opens Friday, September 24, at multiple locations. Reviewed in this issue.
The Last Shot Jeff Nathanson. (R) Ensemble comedy about a struggling filmmaker (Matthew Broderick) who finally gets a chance to make his movie -- but it has to be filmed in Rhode Island. Apparently unfazed, said filmmaker goes to the wee state, where it turns out that his producer (Alec Baldwin) is actually an FBI agent setting up a sting for mobsters and their union collaborators. Darn the luck! Opens Friday, September 24, at multiple locations. NR
Mean Creek Jacob Aaron Estes. (R) This terrific, thought-provoking film concerns five kids and what happens when their plan to get revenge on the school bully goes awry. Despite its relatively unknown cast (Rory Culkin is the biggest name), the film contains some of the best performances of the year. First time feature writer/director Jacob Aaron Estes doesn't burden the script with unnecessary exposition or dialogue, and he has a real feel for what each kid is going through. Adult viewers may question if the kids' reactions ring true, but Estes has been so on target with everything else having to do with his characters that one accepts that he knows what he is talking about here. As perfect as every one of the actors is, special kudos must go to Culkin and young Carly Schroeder (who was twelve when the film was shot). She's so believable and natural, she's like a young Zooey Deschanel. Opens Friday, September 24, at the Plaza Frontenac. (Jean Oppenheimer)
Shaun of the Dead Edgar Wright. (R) Opens Friday, September 24, at the Tivoli. Reviewed in this issue.
Zhou Yu's Train Sun Zhou. (PG-13) After six years away from the screen, the ravishing Chinese actress Gong Li, who may have the most expressive face in film, is back. But not even the radiant star of Raise the Red Lantern can salvage director Sun Zhou's self-consciously arty meditation on desire, betrayal and identity, all tied up in a doomed love triangle. Stuffed with dreamy slow-motion shots, scrambled chronologies and distracting bits of nonlinear narrative, this looks like a parody of an art film, and it's hard to imagine its greeting-card inanities coming off any better in the original Chinese. The title character commutes, by train, to be with her lover, a self-absorbed poet (Tony Leung Ka-fai) who lives in a library, and eventually takes up with a moon-struck veterinarian (Sun Hong Lei). Not only that, there actually may be two of her. Fatally addicted to signs and symbols, the director can't help giving the poor woman an alter-ego or a double, also played by Gong Li. But this Train has long since jumped the tracks. Opens Friday, September 24, at the Plaza Frontenac. (Bill Gallo)