The word “master” comes with several connotations. If I hear master crafter, I think of a skilled creator. When a person is referred to as the master of the house, I think of slavery. The title of this dramatic movie was a perfect choice. Freddie Quell, played by Joaquin Phoenix (Walk the Line, Hotel Rwanda), was a naval veteran who had a gift for making alcohol, out of a variety of substances. A majority of his life had been spent in a haze of drunkenness. When Freddie met the charismatic Lancaster Dodd, played by Philip Seymour Hoffman (Moneyball, Doubt), he hoped to find some clarity in his life. Lancaster saw something in Freddie that could be purged with his help. The two men began a tumultuous relationship; Freddie would become both a guinea pig and an example of Lancaster’s unorthodox methods. Staging assemblies around the country, Lancaster’s fervent beliefs began to attract followers. If for nothing else, the amazing acting from Joaquin has to be seen. Besides his explosive, emotional rants; his physical transformation was mind blowing. Pitting him with Philip should easily earn the two Oscar nominations, in my opinion. As for the story, I found it tedious and wordy. Scenes that were carefully detailed did not help with the drawn out passages that I found boring. There were parts that made no sense to me and Amy Adams (Trouble with the Curve, The Fighter) as Lancaster’s wife Peggy was underutilized. She was the wrong choice for the role. Without excuses or making judgements, this movie simply presented a man with his flock; others could interpret it as the master and his cult.
2 1/2 stars
I felt as if I had just been dropped out of the sky in the first few minutes of this unusual movie. With no explanation given; Peter Aitken, played by Christopher Denham (Shutter Island, Charlie Wilson’s War) and Lorna Michaelson, played by Nicole Vicius (500 Days of Summer, Last Days), were going through a prescribed set of directions before meeting Maggie, played by Brit Marling (Another Earth, The Recordist). The precautions were necessary because Maggie was from the future. I hesitate to explain why Peter and girlfriend Lorna wanted to meet this individual. The two were filmmakers who wanted to infiltrate Maggie and her followers; but at what cost? An interesting story that I found engaging, to the credit of Brit Marling who shared in the writing credits. I enjoyed her performance here as much as I did in her movie Another Earth–both off center, but with emotional depth. What pulled me into this movie were the scenes when the followers were assembled before Maggie. It felt creepy, watching individuals losing their identity. There were some scenes I did not understand and the ending felt rushed to me. When the movie was over, I was left trying to figure out what was real.
2 2/3 stars
I have not been a fan of Adam Sandler’s (Grown Ups, Bedtime Stories) movies for a few years now; to me, they all seem to be the same formula. In fact, I could not bring myself to see that last one where he played both the brother and sister. So imagine my surprise when I watched this DVD. It was the best performance I have seen out of Adam. His character was Charlie Fineman, a man who never recovered from the loss of his family in the 9/11 attack on New York City. Though there were some of Mr. Sandler’s typical acting elements, he was surprisingly good for this role. It was not until a chance meeting of his old college roommate Alan Johnson, played by Don Cheadle (The Guard, Hotel For Dogs), that both men began to find parts of themselves they had lost over the years. Both actors were excellent in their roles, having just the right amount of emotional vulnerability. I, also, appreciated the touches of humor that were sprinkled throughout this dramatic film. Not only was I pleasantly surprised by the thoughtful story, I was moved by these real life characters. This movie validated my belief that there are no accidents in life; there is a reason for everything and with every person we meet we exchange a gift.
3 1/4 stars — DVD