Screening Room: “Trouble With the Curve,” “End of Watch,” “The Master”

KANSAS CITY, MO –

TROUBLE WITH THE CURVE -PG-13 (Warner Brothers)

RUSS
Clint Eastwood aims his cantankerous barbs at his stubborn daughter instead of an empty chair in the new comic drama, “Trouble With the Curve.” Clint plays a baseball scout who’s having trouble with his eyesight and relies on his estranged daughter, played by Amy Adams, to help him out.

SHAWN
The biggest problem is there are no curve balls. This is a straight forward movie that’s too predictable, too neat and too made for TV.

RUSS
The cast is fine in what could be called the “anti-Moneyball” baseball movie. It’s predictable and very traditional in its execution, so “Trouble With the Curve” doesn’t hit it out of the park. Still, it’s a solid double.

SHAWN
So it’s the Billy Butler of movies? The bonus is Clint Eastwood’s performance. He’s got the cranky old man thing down. This however is the most human character he’s delivered in his career.

RUSS: 4 Popcorn Bags
SHAWN: 3 Popcorn Bags

END OF WATCH -R (Open Road Films)

RUSS
I don’t think that the police will use “End of Watch” as a recruitment video any time soon. If you liked the gritty, profane and violent cop drama “Training Day,” then filmmaker David Ayer’s very episodic follow-up is for you.

SHAWN
Dude only wrote “Training Day” so don’t expect the same cinematic fireworks. But Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Pena are excellent together. Loved their give and take. Solid. The action is sparse but when it hits it’s hardcore.

RUSS
Some of it seems overcooked, but thanks to the believable camaraderie between the actors, “End of Watch” is a competent police procedural.

SHAWN
More of an examination about the dynamic of the pair’s relationship as they patrol the mean streets of LA than a typical bang, bang shot ‘em up cop movie. But it’s all very urban sprawl interesting and smart.

RUSS: 3 Popcorn Bags
SHAWN: 4 Popcorn Bags

THE MASTER -R (The Weinstein Company)

RUSS
At a telling moment in the absorbing new drama “The Master,” one character says, “He’s making it up as he goes along.” At times, that’s a how this movie feels, as well. Director Paul Thomas Andersons’ sprawling but intriguing fictional tale about an L. Ron Hubbard-type cult leader is as frustrating as it is mesmerizing.

SHAWN
It’s very frustrating and not that easy to watch. It’s also off-putting, weird and an un-accessible bore but well made and well acted.

RUSS
Joaquin Phoenix gives the performance of the year as a sexually obsessed alcoholic who falls in with Phillip Seymour Hoffman’s self-actualization group called “The Cause.” These two actors bring humanity to this rambling and obscure opus. Because of its lack of focus, what could have been a masterpiece is merely a very good movie.

SHAWN
I’m sorry Ms. Jackson, Russ can’t be for real. Phoenix and Hoffman are good. Wouldn’t say best of the year. And overall this cryptic movie is basically an avant garde biopic about the creation of Scientology. No Tom Cruise jumping on a couch but the movie could have used the energy and less of that headache inducing score.

RUSS: 4 Popcorn Bags
SHAWN: 2 Popcorn Bags

Also opening this week: “Dredd 3-D” is the second big screen go-round for the comic book judge and super cop.  “For a Good Time Call” is the latest in a long line of tacky Hollywood sex comedies. Jennifer Lawrence stars in a horror flick called “The House at the End of the Street,” and “Beauty is Embarrassing” is a documentary about cartoonist, Wayne White.

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