The Master ****
A charismatic man returns home to America from World War II and forms a faith-based organization. He is now known as “the Master” and his belief system is catching on. As the group is gaining momentum and adding new converts, a young drifter arrives and becomes the Master’s invaluable aid. The World War II veteran and drifter (Joaquin Phoenix) falls under the sway of the charismatic leader (Philip Seymour Hoffman) in the latest film from writer-director Paul Thomas Anderson (Boogie Nights, There Will Be Blood). Also staring Amy Adams, Rami Malek and Laura Dern. (R) 137 minutes, Four stars. Best Actor Academy Award nomination for Phoenix and Best Supporting Actor for Hoffman in his best role yet.
Trouble with the Curve ***
Although he said Gran Torino would be his final screen performance, Clint Eastwood apparently changed his mind to play an aging baseball scout with his sight failing, who takes his daughter (Amy Adams) along on his last recruiting trip to check out a hot prospect. Justin Timberlake plays the young ballplayer who just might be good enough for a big league broadcaster after blowing out his pitching hand. (PG-13) 111 minutes, Three stars
End of Watch **1/2
Longtime LAPD partners and friends, Brian Taylor (Jake Gyllenhaal) and Mike Zavala (Michael Peña) patrol one of the most dangerous neighborhoods in Los Angeles. Though they may bend the rules, their honor and dedication to the job are unquestioned. Taylor and Zavala always have each other’s back, even if Taylor’s surreptitious filming of their daily activities for a college course is a bit ill-advised. All hell breaks loose for the officers when they run afoul of a vicious Mexican drug cartel who have them marked for murder in the latest gritty cop drama from writer-director David Ayer ( Training Day, Harsh Times). (R) 109 minutes, Two and a half stars
Note: Barry Epstein is president of Barry R. Epstein Associates, a public relations/marketing firm. Epstein enjoys watching and writing reviews of the latest movies. Epstein’s views are strictly his own.