NEW THIS WEEK
-- CLINT EASTWOOD PLAYS A CURMUDGEONLY BASEBALL SCOUT IN THIS ENGAGING FATHER-DAUGHTER TALE:
"TROUBLE WITH THE CURVE" PG-13 -- Clint Eastwood didn't direct "Trouble with the Curve," but he stars in it and co-produced it, and the director is Robert Lorenz, who seems to be his protege. So it feels like one of Eastwood's quieter, homier movies, and that means teens who like slower-paced, character-rich films will enjoy this little one a lot, even if they can see every plot twist coming from a mile off. Eastwood plays Gus, an aging scout for the Atlanta Braves. His eyes are failing, but he won't admit it, and one young executive (Matthew Lillard) in the organization longs to put him out to pasture. Gus' daughter Mickey (Amy Adams), whom he raised alone as a widower, has gone on to become a hotshot lawyer. She's still bitter over the way he abandoned her to boarding schools or relatives while he traveled. Gus' pal (John Goodman) from the Braves' front office warns Mickey of her dad's situation. So she follows Gus to North Carolina where he's scouting high-school players and tries to talk some sense into him, except he refuses any help and can't talk about anything but baseball. It turns out, of course, that Mickey's every bit as savvy about the game as her dad. And Johnny (Justin Timberlake), a discovery of Gus' who was sidelined by an injury, shows up as a rival scout and Mickey's potential romantic interest.
THE BOTTOM LINE: The dialogue features a lot of crude, occasionally profane language, most of it well in PG-13 territory. Characters use some sexual slang and innuendo, also fairly mild, as well as toilet humor. Several scenes involve drinking and there is a bar fight. When Mickey and Gus finally talk about their longtime estrangement, the scene feels very emotional and real.
-- A VIOLENT, PROFANE, GUT-WRENCHING, VERY ADULT POLICE STORY SET IN SOUTH CENTRAL L.A.:
"END OF WATCH" R -- With its close-up violence, disturbing images, profane and sexually explicit dialogue and dizzying camera work, "End of Watch" tells a police story geared exclusively to those 17 and older. Performed with gritty naturalism by terrific actors, the film aims to make you feel the tension, fear and adrenaline rush that cops experience when they face street gangs and drug thugs. Partners and pals Brian Taylor (Jake Gyllenhaal) and Mike Zavala (Michael Pena) are uniformed officers who cruise South Central Los Angeles in their black-and-white squad car. Determined to help clean up inner-city crime, they take extra risks and investigate suspicious activity that's supposed to be the purview of plainclothes detectives or federal agencies. The film repeatedly shifts among intense, cinema verite-style scenes with Brian and Mike on the job to trash-talking banter back at the station to their happy off-duty lives with Brian's girlfriend Janet (Anna Kendrick) and Mike's wife Gabby (Natalie Martinez). These shifts start to become formulaic, until the tumultuously violent climax.
THE BOTTOM LINE: The point-blank gun violence and gut punches in "End of Watch" feel so realistic that the film can be hard to watch. In addition, the partners encounter scenes in which very small children are put at risk. They also see many dead bodies stashed inside homes used by drug dealers, and they find undocumented workers locked in cages, seemingly enslaved by human traffickers. The images are highly disturbing. The dialogue includes graphic sexual slang and steaming profanity. Various characters use drugs, drink and smoke and engage in semi-explicit sexual situations.
-- A STUNNING, ADULT-ORIENTED PSYCHOLOGICAL STUDY OF A TRUE LOST SOUL AND HOW HE IS DRAWN INTO A KIND OF NONRELIGOUS CULT:
"THE MASTER" R, Limited Release -- This extraordinary film by Paul Thomas Anderson may not appeal to the wide moviegoing public. It is a brilliantly conceived fly-on-the-wall character study, deeply searching and visually ravishing, but only the most adventurous college-age filmgoers will tune into its wavelength. Joaquin Phoenix, in a courageous and raw performance, plays Freddie Quell, a sailor just out of the U.S. Navy at the end of World War II. Eddie, hunched and scowling, struggles with temper, impulse control, depression and alcoholism. When he works as a department store photographer, he attacks a customer. When he picks cabbages, he has to run for his life because his homemade hooch nearly kills a migrant worker. So when he stows away on a yacht anchored near San Francisco, Eddie is himself ripe for the picking. The founder of the onboard party is Lancaster Dodd (Philip Seymour Hoffman), aka the Master, a philosopher and demagogue of dubious credentials who, with his true-believing wife (Amy Adams), attracts followers and gets rich widows to underwrite his efforts. The Master makes Eddie his project, putting him through a kind of crackpot psychoanalysis. Their years-long relationship, fueled by Eddie's hooch, becomes a roller coaster careening between belief, disillusion and back.
THE BOTTOM LINE: The movie includes sudden outbursts of nonlethal physical violence, very strong profanity, very heavy drinking, a couple of graphically implied sexual situations, and female nudity.
(c) 2012, Washington Post Writers Group.