Writer-director Paul Thomas Anderson follows There Will Be Blood with The Master, another story about a monomaniacal sociopath who ruins the lives of virtually everyone he meets — even those whose lives were in ruins to begin with. Philip Seymour Hoffman was nominated for a Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his portrayal of the titular Master, Lancaster Dodd, who (modestly) describes himself as "a writer, a doctor, a nuclear physicist, and a theoretical philosopher." To the viewer, however, he mostly seems like a cult leader and a con artist, peddling nonsense to weak-minded acolytes — none weaker or more vulnerable than maladjusted WWII veteran Freddie Quell (Joaquin Phoenix, who was nominated for a Best Actor Oscar).
Anderson has been coy in interviews about whether The Master is a fictionalized biopic of L. Ron Hubbard, the founder of Scientology.
New and Notable
An annoying, fatherless kid (Jonny Weston) harasses a crabby surfer (Gerard Butler) until the latter agrees to teach the former how to surf.
French weirdo drives around town in a limousine, periodically getting out to mess with people.
Chicken With Plums
The directors of Persepolis are behind this story of a legendary Iranian musician (Mathieu Amalric) who is thrown into despair when his wife destroys his violin.
The Fitzgerald Family Christmas
It's Ed Burns's take on The Royal Tenenbaums, with all that that implies.
Beware of Mr. Baker
Cream drummer Ginger Baker looks back on his colorful life in this documentary. I have a policy against any movie that prominently features Johnny Rotten, but if you have no such prohibition, totally watch it.
In this "action-style drama," a Russian man must figure out how to solve all the chaos in his life before he finishes a pack of cigarettes.
If this English film about two female track stars from opposite sides of the socioeconomic spectrum is even half as good as Bend It Like Beckham, it'll still be pretty great.
Laura Prepon has an epically terrible birthday party, also attended by Dreama Walker (as her sister) and Bryan Greenberg (as her ex).
A couple of altar boys get up to high jinks their parish priest would probably not approve of. Like smoking! (And more.)
In the early 20th century, a progressive woman (Emily Mortimer) becomes a literary editor and has a doomed affair with her writer, a Japanese poet.
Jonas Åkerlund went from directing the videos for "Paparazzi" and "Telephone" to this dark comedy that unites Billy Crystal, Johnny Knoxville, Scott Caan, and Little Britain's Matt Lucas, FINALLY.
Nobody Gets Out Alive
The story of a man turned into a psychotic killer after a teenage drunken driver struck and killed his daughter is just a legend! OR IS IT?!
A guy who hooks up would-be illegal immigrants with the coyotes who'll help get them over the U.S.-Mexico border gets kidnapped himself, and it's up to his journalist sister (Sharon Stone, in a very weird brunette ringlet wig) to try to rescue him.
Marin Ireland plays the irresponsible single mother to a morose, climate-change obsessed middle school girl.
My Lucky Elephant
Boy meets elephant. Elephant becomes famous painter. Basically, it's Pollock with an elephant instead of Ed Harris.
Beyond the Trophy
This crime drama is the kind of thing that stars Eric Roberts and Michael Madsen. One is a drug lord and one is a corrupt cop? (It really doesn't matter which is which.)
Girls Against Boys
Two very angry young women (Danielle Panabaker and Nicole LaLiberte) get violent revenge on the various men who've screwed them over.
"In Theaters" VOD Picks
A Place at the Table
The team behind Food Inc. examines the issue of food insecurity in America.
The End of Love
Widower Mark Webber (most recently of the lovely Save the Date) is challenged by having to raise his toddler son after the death of his wife.
The Frankenstein Theory
The titular theory is that the novel Frankenstein was based on a real experiment gone bad, and that the monster is still kicking around somewhere.
This is the kind of crime drama that stars Damian Lewis and Ray Winstone.
This Syria-set Taken ripoff stars Marisa Tomei and Alexander Siddig (as Liam Neeson).
Weird Indie of the Week
Does the fact that it's based on the work of Elmore Leonard negate the fact that its headliners are Christian Slater and Crispin Glover? You'll have to answer that for yourself.
Early VOD Premiere of the Week
When a young girl is her village's lone survivor of a bloodbath perpetrated by government forces, she is recruited into a rebel army.
Julianne Moore plays a therapist opposite Jonathan Rhys Meyers, who is a challenging patient in that he toggles among six distinct personalities.
The Brass Teapot
A young couple facing professional setbacks finds a teapot that spits cash whenever either of them is injured. A comedy?
Step Up franchise alumna Olesya Rulin tries to teach parenting skills to her mother (Kristin Chenoweth) and father (Matthew Modine) by restraining them in the house and subjecting them to a kind of intervention. A comedy also?
Charisma Carpenter and Sebastian Spence attempt to salvage their terrible marriage by going on a weekend getaway in the wilderness, but oops, his company gets hacked; the hackers also try to kill them; and the couple ends up lost in the woods without any survival skills. And limited acting skills.