Plagiarists are seldom heroes, even when the works they sneakily publish succeed in capturing tons of readers. After all, these literary cheats are guilty of stealing and taking credit for the precious, painstakingly wrought imagery and feelings of a writer who, as a result of this rapacious theft, may forever remain an unsung artist. Yet one suspects that we may somehow be persuaded to root for Bradley Cooper as the desperate but not conspicuously talented wannabe writer who stumbles upon a valise containing a bulky manuscript that manages to say everything he ever wanted to say about the beauty, cruelty and mystery of life. In other words, it’s a natural-born, can’t-miss classic, a best seller ready to roll off the presses and turn him into a literary sensation.

At last, he’s a man who can prove to his ravishing wife (Zoey Soldana) that she did not marry a loser. That’s fine for Bradley Cooper. But how about Jeremy Irons, who plays the crusty, arguably wacko writer who actually penned this masterpiece? How do you think he’s going to feel when he learns that his book is big news, but he’s still no more than a face in the crowd? Put it this way—if you’ve ever seen Irons play down and dirty (and who hasn’t?)—you know what to expect. And, if you’re anything like me, you’re probably looking forward to the pleasure of Jeremy’s sweet revenge. Also on hand for the chilly festivities promised by this impudent-sounding indie from writer-directors Brian Klugman and Lee Sternthal: Dennis Quaid, Olivia Wilde, Ron Rifkin and J.K. Simmons. Opens on 9/7/12
















Paul Thomas Anderson, one of America’s most darkly intoxicating directors, has mastered the art of disorienting moviegoers by turning their perceptions and passions upside down and inside out. Recall, for example, “Boogie Nights,” the 1997 thunderbolt showcasing Mark Wahlberg as a non-achiever who morphs overnight into Dirk Diggler, a bird-brained, enormously endowed, much-in-demand porn performer who’s ultimately short-circuited by his own delusions of eternal, orgasmic superstardom. Then rummage through your memories of “Magnolia,” the surreal 1999 trip in which Tom Cruise freaked us out with his mega-wired ferocity in the role of a loony mystic on the make. And who could possibly forget the riveting journey of Daniel Day-Lewis from humble gold miner to greedy oil baron to maniacal killer in Anderson’s 2007 epic “There Will Be Blood”?

That was then, but this is now. So we should prepare ourselves for “The Master,” Anderson’s latest excursion into a world populated by visionaries, rogues, captives, inquisitors, saints and perhaps some kind of god. And that world, according to various reports that have been neither verified nor persuasively denied by the Anderson camp, is the world of L. Ron Hubbard, founder of The Church of Scientology, the powerful, controversial, celebrity-hugging religion passionately embraced by Tom Cruise, Mimi Rogers, Kirstie Alley, John Travolta and Kelly Preston and other prominent Hollywood figures. (While Will and Jada Pinkett Smith are not official members of the Church of Scientology, they do share their close friend Cruises's enthusiasm for the religion and its founder.) In the film, set during the early fifties, the spiritually rabid intellectual assumed by many to be Hubbard is played by Philip Seymour Hoffman, who got one of his first shots at cinematic glory when he played a porno hanger-on with a giant crush on Dirk Diggler in "Boogie Nights."

Early in “The Master,” before the religion (called The Cause in the movie) has caught fire, Hoffman is seen systematically grilling a mystified young man--played by Joaquin Phoenix—who hasn’t a clue as to how he got where he is and why he can’t remember an awful lot of his recent past. After a period of time, the confused stranger is converted to The Cause and becomes his interrogator's second-in command, but eventually he begins to question his master’s motives and wonders if it isn’t time for him to go back where he came from. The question is, does he manage to escape? For the record, Amy Adams and Laura Dern are also featured in the film, but we don’t know if writer/director Anderson made them believers or non-believers. And, of course, the whole world is waiting for the premiere of “The Master” to see if Tom, Mimi, Kirstie, John, Kelly, Will and Jada will strut their stuff on that red carpet. Opens on 9/14/12
















In the current housing market mess, it's no slam dunk to find decent, affordable digs. Yet the single mom played by Elisabeth Shue in Mark Tonderai's horror flick had no trouble cinching the deal. She was a stranger in town, though, and it does seem she might have checked out the neighborhood a wee bit before moving in, along with her sexy, exceedingly sociable teenage daughter (Jennifer Lawrence, just before she hit the mark with "Hunger Games"). Well, maybe living next door to a house where an agitated kid murdered her mom and pop is not the worst thing in the world. On the other hand, maybe it is the worst thing in the world. And, by the way, who is that weird young man moping around the house next door, and should the new girl on the block be getting quite so up close and personal with him? Opens on 9/21/12









This complex, uncompromising documentary marks the directorial debut of David France, a veteran journalist who has researched and written at great length about the anguished, heroic efforts of men and women who have fought the war against AIDS from the early eighties to the present. The film has been thunderously applauded by audiences at numerous festivals, including the Sundance Film Festival, the San Francisco International Film Festival, the New Directors/New Films Festival in New York, and the Seattle International Film Festival, and it was the Documentary Centerpiece at Outfest. It’s safe to bet that the film will be among the Oscar nominees for best documentary of the year. Opens on 9/21/12

Click here to read Andrew Sullivan’s splendid article on “How to Survive a Plague” in The Daily Beast.



















If you were asked to cast an actor to play the role of a weary, nearly blind baseball scout who’s been instructed to evaluate the potential of a volatile young major-league candidate, would you choose Clint Eastwood? Well, somebody chose the 82-year-old, younger-than-spring-training time megastar and director. Perhaps he chose himself, since this offbeat drama of the diamond is being released by his very own Malpaso Productions, and the film’s hand-picked first-time director, Robert Lorenz, has served as assistant director to Eastwood in the past.

The puzzling question is how on earth will the vision-impaired senior manage to assess the talent of the wannabe major leaguer played by Justin Timberlake? And the answer is with more than a little help from Mickey, his strong-willed, formerly estranged but still miffed daughter, played by Amy Adams.

In any case, let's hope the normally classy Eastwood hasn’t taken a stab at political humor in this film, as he did so crudely on the final night of the Republican Convention by swapping smutty jokes with an empty chair upon which he pretended President Obama was seated. On the other hand, it may not be too late to change the title to "Hail to the Chair." Opens on 9/21/12