Capsule reviews for June 21

A Hijacking

The level of suspense in this riveting Danish thriller doesn’t build in sweeping melodramatic fashion, but rather at a low-key simmer that emphasizes authentic character dynamics. The titular act involves a cargo boat belonging to a Copenhagen corporation with an executive (Soren Malling) who specializes in financial negotiations. But his skills are given an emotional charge when dealing with Somali pirates who hijack the ship and put the crew in danger, including a cook (Pilou Asbaek) who becomes a pawn during the proceedings. The script by director Tobias Lindholm is deliberately paced compared to most other films of this sort, but it doesn’t sacrifice dramatic tension. (Rated R, 99 minutes).

 

Maniac

Elijah Wood tries a change of pace in this low-budget slasher movie, playing a schizophrenic mannequin shop owner who stalks and viciously murders single women in Los Angeles. He tries to change his troubled ways when an artist (Nora Arnezeder) befriends him in order to use his mannequins for an exhibit. This remake of a 1980 film features some stylish visuals (although the gimmick of always shooting from the killer’s point-of-view becomes tedious) and a cool soundtrack, but not much else. Wood isn’t menacing as a psychopath, the motives for his character remain cloudy, and the film is more interested in gratuitous gore than suspense. (Not rated, 89 minutes).

 

Somm

A glass of fine wine might go nicely with this breezy documentary that chronicles the effort of four young sommeliers to pass the rigorous annual Master Sommelier exam, which requires months of obsessive preparation in areas such as tasting, theory and service in order to join the exclusive ranks of master sommeliers. The structure of the film is familiar as it follows all-night tasting sessions and note-card cramming by its hopefuls in the weeks leading up to the exam. There’s some quirky fun and modest insight along the way, even if the whole process might seem silly to all but the most devoted wine connoisseurs. (Not rated, 93 minutes).

 

This is Martin Bonner

On the surface it seems like a slight, unassuming character study. But dig deeper, and this bittersweet drama is a sharply observed tale of middle-aged reconciliation and redemption that’s both sad and charming. Martin (Paul Eenhoorn) is an Australian man with two grown children trying to start life over in Reno, where he works with a religious group that attempts to reform prisoners. One of his clients is Travis (Richmond Arquette), who shares some of the same personal issues and Martin and forms an unlikely bond. It’s a deliberately paced film that rewards viewer patience through a rich and well-acted story with universal resonance. (Not rated, 83 minutes).

 

Unfinished Song

The healing power of music is explored with minimal depth in this predictably sentimental crowd-pleaser that squanders a talented cast. Arthur (Terence Stamp) is an irascible retiree who remains devoted to his terminally ill wife, Marion (Vanessa Redgrave), who is an enthusiastic member of a progressive local seniors choir. As her health deteriorates, Marion persuades Arthur to become more involved with the choir as a method of catharsis and personal uplift, a process assisted by the young choir director (Gemma Arterton). The actors elevate the material somewhat, but the scattered moments of humor and poignancy in the screenplay are compromised by its formulaic tendencies. (Rated PG-13, 93 minutes).

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