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The Cricket
Sean P. Means
Sean is the movie critic and columnist for The Salt Lake Tribune. Follow him on Twitter @moviecricket.

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Friday movie roundup: “Master” is commanding

This weekend’s movie offerings include a cult leader, an old scout, a con artist and a pre-wedding party from hell.

The pick of the week, and one of the best movies of the year, is Paul Thomas Anderson’s "The Master." It tells of a disillusioned WWII sailor (Joaquin Phoenix) who fights his own demons and falls under the influence of a charismatic author (Philip Seymour Hoffman) whose quasi-religious group is growing in post-war America. Anderson’s detailed character study is gorgeously photographed, and bolstered by stellar performances by Phoenix, Hoffman and Amy Adams as the cult leader’s steely wife.

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Adams also stars in "Trouble With the Curve," a corny but still effective baseball comedy-drama. It centers on Gus, an aging baseball scout played by Clint Eastwood. When Gus’ eyes start going bad while checking out a hot prospect, his daughter Mickey (played by Adams) is encouraged to take time off work to help Dad out. There’s plenty of humor and warmth, as well as a nice turn by Justin Timberlake as a young scout. But director Robert Lorenz’ focus stays sharply on the tough-but-tender father-daughter relationship. (Read The Cricket’s interview with Lorenz, talking about how intimidating it is to direct Eastwood.)

The documentary "The Imposter," opening at the Broadway, takes a riveting story — about a missing-teen case in Texas that took a strange turn when a French con artist masqueraded as the teen three years after his disappearance — and tells it in fascinating, moody fashion. Director Bart Layton draws compelling interviews out of the con artist and the Texas family hurt by his lies.

Brewvies is opening with "Bachelorette," a funny and mean-spirited comedy that debuted at this year’s Sundance Film Festival. It follows three former high-school friends (Kirsten Dunst, Isla Fisher and Lizzy Caplan) who are bridesmaids for their less-popular classmate (Rebel Wilson), and endure a disastrous night before the wedding.

Four more movies are opening this weekend, but thanks to a confluence of forces — from Hollywood’s September "dumping ground" mentality to the fact that some distributors are trying to save money by not screening films to critics outside the top 10 markets — They were not screened for Utah critics.

They are: "House at the End of the Street," a suspense thriller starring Jennifer Lawrence; "Dredd 3D," a futuristic shoot-’em-up starring Karl Urban as a one-man justice delivery system; "End of Watch," a gritty cop drama starring Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Peña; and the Christian-themed romantic drama "Unconditional," starring Lynn Collins and Michael Ealy.

Also this week, the Tribune is launching "Means on Movies," a weekly online video look at the week’s movies — featuring clips and The Cricket’s capsule commentary. Just click on the video posted above.

Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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