Capsule reviews for June 30

The B-Side: Elsa Dorfman’s Portrait Photography

You don’t have to be an artistic type to appreciate this affectionate documentary from director Errol Morris (The Fog of War) chronicling the life and work of the New England portraitist who was inspired in part by a friendship with Allen Ginsberg. The film mixes an engaging interview with glimpses of her work, which was unique because of Dorfman’s use of a rare Polaroid camera. As she approaches retirement, her archives are a treasure trove of bittersweet nostalgia, as the proliferation of digital cameras has rendered her antiquated equipment almost obsolete. It’s repetitive at first, but provides valuable exposure for the artist and her craft. (Rated R, 76 minutes).


Pop Aye

Deliberately paced but consistently charming, this offbeat road movie takes place in Thailand, following an architect (Thaneth Warakulnukroh) enduring a midlife crisis. He impulsively buys a former circus elephant with ties to his childhood, then takes it on a nostalgic odyssey across the country to reconcile with his family. Some quirky happenings along the way, including an encounter with a suicidal homeless man (Penpak Sirikul), launch a contemplative examination of loneliness, aging, mortality and regret. The sharply observed screenplay by rookie Singaporean director Kirsten Tan adeptly balances gentle humor and poignancy. And even if the result is sometimes uneven and aloof, the pachyderm steals the show. (Not rated, 104 minutes).


The Skyjacker’s Tale

Despite its dubious moral stance, this Canadian documentary takes an intriguing look at issues such as terrorism, colonialism, American foreign policy and the justice system. It chronicles the story of Ishmael Muslim Ali, a Vietnam War veteran and native of the U.S. Virgin Islands who was one of three men convicted for a 1972 country-club massacre in which white business executives were murdered apparently over lingering racial tensions and socioeconomic disparity. Then he escaped to Cuba by hijacking a commercial airliner, claiming unfair treatment. Through interviews and re-enactments, the film capably examines the ethical complexities of Ali’s actions and their broader ramifications, which still resonate today. (Not rated, 75 minutes).


13 Minutes

The title refers to the time by which a Munich bomb attack missed killing Hitler in 1939. Yet this German drama about the perpetrator from director Oliver Hirschbiegel (Downfall) lacks the audacity of its protagonist. Georg Elser (Christian Friedel) was arrested by Nazi authorities after the explosion that killed a handful of bystanders following a speech. He eventually confesses and reveals his motives, revealing a resistance among ordinary Germans to fascist ideals. Considering its true-life source material, the film’s structure mutes its suspense with intermittently compelling flashbacks. While the film explores the moral complexity behind Elser’s actions and subsequent legacy, the result lacks consistent intrigue. (Rated R, 114 minutes).



Take Groundhog Day, subtract the comedy, add in some pretentious metaphysical mumbo-jumbo, and you’ve got the idea behind this muddled thriller. It follows an emotionally disturbed New York air-traffic controller (Michiel Huisman) who begins having visions about the same series of tragic events every day at the titular time. While trying to decipher the patterns behind his troubles, he meets an passenger (Teresa Palmer) aboard a plane that he almost caused to crash, who apparently finds his mysterious affliction alluring. That’s among the many contrivances that diminish the potential for emotional investment in the characters — or figuring out what’s happening to them and why. (Rated PG-13, 98 minutes).