For whatever reason, there is very little in this world that I enjoy so much as spending an hour and a half in a darkened theater watching films whose target market was conceived around the time that I lost my virginity. Awash in adolescent cliché, packed with teen television starlets, and hinged on the Judy Blume-iest premise this side of Forever, Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants seemed to have all the comfortable trappings I've come to expect in vapid tween fodder. Imagine my surprise, then, when halfway through this episodic coming-of-age story a rather startling sentiment began to emerge in my mind: Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants is fucking delightful.
Based on the teen novel about four lifelong friends, Sisterhood certainly has its flaws--but in its refusal to transcend the story's formula, the film succeeds as an adept orchestration of its clichés. With a great deal of help from the surprisingly nuanced leads--Alexis Bledel and America Ferrera among them--and some carefully handled "adult themes," Sisterhood is a perfectly contrived teen heart-tugger, and a surprisingly enjoyable watch. ZAC PENNINGTON
Opens Fri June 3
Every Danish movie I've ever seen has left me feeling as though my will to live just got taken out back and beaten with a tire iron. Brothers is true to form. Writer/director Susanne Bier starts with charming, likeable characters, then in the most depressing way possible, slams shut every door that might lead them to a happy ending.
Michael (Ulrich Thomsen) is a professional soldier with a beautiful wife (Connie Nielsen) and two adorable little girls. He's kind and good, and when his plane is shot down in Afghanistan, he's presumed dead and his devastated wife, Sarah, is left to pick up the pieces of her life. One of the pieces she picks up is Michael's brother, Jannick (Nikolaj Lie Kaas). The catch? Michael isn't dead--he's been taken prisoner. Though alive, his captors have broken his spirit; he comes back a changed man who beats on his wife and terrifies his children, and everyone realizes that life was better when they thought he was dead.
Brothers isn't for everyone--but if you don't mind losing a little faith in humanity, or if you didn't have any to begin with, it's ultimately a powerful, well-acted, and worthwhile film. ALISON HALLETT
Sam Peckinpah: Poetry & Tyranny
June 3-July 3
Guild Theater, Whitsell Auditorium
Of the great American directors, Sam Peckinpah has always been one of the more problematic, spiking even his most impressive films with hard to digest moments of outré misogyny, sadism, and just flat-out meanness. Thankfully, the Northwest Film Center's thorough Peckinpah retrospective offers a look at the multiple facets of the man, the myth, and the magnificent bastard.
Rightly kicking off with 1969's squib-happy western The Wild Bunch, the nine-film lineup spans both the deconstructionist highs (the languid, elegiac Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid) and the studio-molested for-hire lows (the junky, yet fun, Robert Duvall vs. Ninjas saga The Killer Elite). The jewel of the show, however, might be Major Dundee, Peckinpah's first big-budgeted film, which kicked off his career-long squabble with fearful producers. Ferociously entertaining in its own right, it features newly restored footage of Chuck Heston stumbling through a Mexican brothel which suggests that the dissolute anti-heroes of The Wild Bunch were perhaps never far from the director's mind. And then there's the notorious thriller Straw Dogs, with its uncomfortably passionate rape scene. Thrillingly unclean, Straw Dogs perhaps best illustrates Peckinpah's essential dichotomy: Unpleasant at times, yes. But man alive, could he ever make a movie. ANDREW WRIGHT