''The Master,'' ''End of Watch,'' and September's other featured films

By EW Staff
August 10, 2012 at 04:00 AM EDT

Trouble With the Curve
Amy Adams earned an Oscar nomination for playing Mark Wahlberg’s combative girlfriend in The Fighter, but when it came to playing Clint Eastwood’s feisty daughter in this baseball drama, the actress was terrified. ”I had to immediately jump in and be really sassy and sort of petulant to Mr. Eastwood,” the 37-year-old actress says in a hushed, still-can’t-believe-it tone. ”I really had to give myself a talking-up [just] to tell him off the first day. That was not an easy thing for me to do.” In his first onscreen role since 2008’s Gran Torino, Eastwood stars as a veteran Atlanta Braves scout with failing eyesight who reluctantly accepts his daughter’s help on an important recruiting trip. Justin Timberlake costars as a rival scout trying to smooth out a lifetime of hard feelings between the two.

Trouble With the Curve is also the first film in nearly two decades in which Eastwood has acted for another director. Of course, first-timer Robert Lorenz is also the 82-year-old star’s longtime producer. ”We’re friends, but there is still an intimidation thing when you go on the set,” says Lorenz, 45. ”It was as challenging for him to be directed again as it was for me to ask him to do something.” Luckily, Eastwood’s a lot more easygoing than the growling characters he plays on film. —Anthony Breznican Sept. 21

The Words
When a desperate writer (Bradley Cooper) lucks upon a brilliant lost manuscript, he publishes it as his own — and becomes a literary sensation. All’s well until the actual author (Jeremy Irons) emerges to confront him. ”[The older man] had faced his own demons, so to speak. He knows that a man has to carry the burden of what he’s done,” says Irons. ”The characters kind of mirror each other,” says Ben Barnes, who plays a younger version of Irons in flashbacks to post-WWII Paris. ”All of them have this yearning ambition, but they’re all so flawed.” Cooper, who helped his boyhood friends Brian Klugman and Lee Sternthal get the film made, says he was drawn to its themes: ” ‘Will my life ever have meaning? Will I ever fulfill my potential?’ Could I relate to that? Absolutely.” —Jeff Labrecque Sept. 7

The Perks of Being a Wallflower
Stephen Chbosky started writing the novel The Perks of Being a Wallflower in college but didn’t get very far — just a title and the main character, Charlie (Logan Lerman), a painfully shy high school freshman. Years later, while recovering from a breakup, Chbosky turned to writing as a distraction. This time the rest of the story came easily — how Charlie is taken under the wing of two charismatic older students, Sam (Emma Watson) and Patrick (Ezra Miller). ”It was like Charlie tapped me on the shoulder and said, ‘It’s time,”’ says Chbosky. The book was published in 1999 and became an instant young-adult hit, with more than 1.2 million copies in print. But while many approached Chbosky — who in the meantime wrote the screenplay for 2005’s Rent and co-created CBS’ Jericho in 2006 — about selling the movie rights, he held out for his dream director: himself.

For his debut feature, he scored another coup: casting Watson in her first major post-Harry Potter role. Watson can point to one particular scene — when Sam stands up in the back of a pickup truck driving through a tunnel — as the moment she was able to truly graduate from Hogwarts. ”I started as Emma with some Hermione still left in my system,” she says. ”I went through the tunnel and I came out ready to start something new.” —Sara Vilkomerson Sept. 14

Won’t Back Down
While it professes to be ”inspired by actual events,” Won’t Back Down — the tale of two women (Maggie Gyllenhaal and Viola Davis) who try to take over a broken inner-city school — is based more on the general state of public education than on any specific occurrences. Still, that doesn’t mean the fiction didn’t hew close to reality. ”There were certain things in the script that we had just invented, and a few months later I’d read a headline about a school somewhere where the exact same thing happened,” says director and co-writer Daniel Barnz, the son of two educators and an active protester during his youth in the 1980s. ”I’m a sucker for David-and-Goliath stories.”

Gyllenhaal was lured not only by the subject matter but by the role: a troubled single mom who’s not the usual movie heroine. ”When I see people doing things that are heroic or self-sacrificing, I think, ‘Well, that’s just something in their DNA,”’ says Gyllenhaal. ”My character is just as much a mess as we all are, and she’s still able to do something really extraordinary.” —Keith Staskiewicz Sept. 28

Dredd 3D
Karl Urban was working at a pizza parlor in his hometown of Wellington, New Zealand, when he first read the comic-book adventures of merciless future cop Judge Dredd. ”I was about 16,” recalls the rebooted Star Trek‘s ”Bones” McCoy. ”Most teenagers rebel against authority, but I gravitated towards this ultra-brutal representative of the law.” More than two decades on, Urban found himself in South Africa portraying the lawman in a movie he hopes will go one better than 1995’s Sly Stallone-starring Judge Dredd and spawn a sequel. ”I’d love to make more,” says Urban. Well, it beats slinging pizza dough. —Clark Collis Sept. 21

Hello I Must Be Going
Sundance crowds were abuzz over New Zealand actress Melanie Lynskey’s turn as Amy, a depressed 35-year-old divorcée forced to move back in with her parents (Blythe Danner and John Rubinstein). Amy doesn’t expect to fall in love again, but she’s taken by surprise by a 19-year-old actor (Girls‘ Christopher Abbott). Lynskey and Abbott have some steamy love scenes — but their chemistry wasn’t exactly instant. ”We had a very practical conversation after the first time we kissed,” says Lynskey. ”We were like robots.” At least it was great practice for the awkward sex scenes in Girls. —Grady Smith Sept. 7

The Master
Philip Seymour Hoffman would like to set one thing straight about The Master, Paul Thomas Anderson’s much-speculated-upon follow-up to his 2007 drama, There Will Be Blood. ”It’s not the L. Ron Hubbard story,” he says. Hoffman plays Lancaster Dodd, the charismatic leader of a 1950s spiritual movement that seems to have similarities to Scientology, the Hollywood-friendly belief system that Hubbard founded in 1952. ”[Scientology] was one of the bigger movements at the time, but there were a lot of movements at that time,” says Hoffman. ”There’s nothing about how I’m behaving or talking that echoes [Hubbard]. I thought of a lot of other bigger-than-life personalities, charismatic people like Orson Welles.” And what of the ”Scientology movie” rumors that have long swirled around the project? ”People are going to have to draw their own conclusions to that aspect of the movie,” says producer JoAnne Sellar, who declined to comment on reports that Anderson screened the film for his Magnolia star — and noted Scientologist — Tom Cruise.

In fact, the movie’s central figure isn’t Dodd at all but a damaged alcoholic named Freddie Quell (Joaquin Phoenix), who feels adrift in the years since fighting in WWII. ”[Anderson] is interested in how veterans came back from World War II,” says Sellar. ”They were these lost souls who were uncertain about their future.” Eventually Quell is taken under the wing of Dodd and his wife (Amy Adams). ”Joaquin’s character is like a beaten dog,” says Hoffman, who adored working with the famously intense Phoenix in his first big-screen appearance since 2010’s faux documentary I’m Still Here. ”No matter where he goes, [Quell] gets into severe trouble. And somehow I’m able to deal with him.” Spoken like a true leader. —Rob Brunner Sept. 14

End of Watch
Training Day screenwriter David Ayer delves again into the often frightening world of LAPD officers in his third directorial effort, about two young cops (Jake Gyllenhaal and Crash‘s Michael Peña) whose partnership is tested when they battle a ruthless drug cartel. ”In Training Day, they were bad guys. In this, they’re good guys,” Ayer explains. ”[I wanted] to be able to tell the story of two best friends who really freaking love each other.”

For Gyllenhaal, the film required more preparation than any previous role. ”You typically hear actors talk about how they went on a couple ride-alongs,” he says. ”We spent five months doing it, three nights a week. By the end of this movie, Mike and I really believed we were partners. It was hard to have anybody convince us otherwise.” The result is an unsettling exploration of friendship in the face of dangerous working conditions. Just how dangerous? ”The first ride-along I went on, someone was murdered — I saw it,” says Gyllenhaal. ”It changed my life, this movie.” —Dave Karger Sept. 21

Hotel Transylvania
Adam Sandler?s Dracula isn’t your average vampire — he runs a hotel for things that go bump in the night and tries to shelter his 118-year-old teenage daughter (Selena Gomez) from humans. But Drac’s helicopter parenting is tested when a buoyant backpacker (Andy Samberg) accidentally checks in. Hotel Transylvania is the first animated feature from Genndy Tartakovsky, creator of the late Cartoon Network hit Samurai Jack, which megafan Samberg used to watch with his Lonely Island troupemates. For Samberg, the biggest surprise was just how physical voice acting can be. ”You definitely try and move your body more,” he says. ”Genndy was really good about being like, ‘Don’t forget you’re running!”’—Nolan Feeney Sept. 28

Since he’s playing a billionaire money manager whose well-manicured world crumbles after years of engaging in fraudulent activities, Richard Gere is prepared for the Bernie Madoff comparisons. ”I said, ‘Embrace it,”’ says the actor, a Golden Globe winner for the 2002 musical Chicago. ”[The character] speaks to our heart of hearts, where maybe we’ve all made compromises we shouldn’t have.” Expect a big push for Gere to score his first Oscar nod for director Nicholas Jarecki’s timely drama, which was well received at this year’s Sundance Film Festival. —Dave Karger Sept. 14

No, Bachelorette isn’t about teary reality-TV rose ceremonies. Debut director Leslye Headland adapted her darkly comic play about three party-hearty BFFs (Kirsten Dunst, Isla Fisher, and Lizzy Caplan) who embark on a night of debauchery just before the wedding of a plus-size friend they used to call Pig Face (Rebel Wilson). It’s less Bridesmaids and more The Hangover by way of Heathers. ”I thought it would be funny to call it Bachelorette because we don’t have a word for women who are single,” says Headland. ”We just have bachelor with -ette on the end of it — which is sort of sad, but funny, too.” —Adam B. Vary Sept. 7

Also Playing Paul Dano fights with his ex-wife For Ellen, their 6-year-old daughter (9/5)…. Prepare yourself for trippy F/X, conspiracy plots, and the presence of Leelee Sobieski in the thriller Branded (9/7)…. In The Cold Light of Day, Henry Cavill cleans up the mess made by his secret-agent dad (Bruce Willis) in three easy steps: Run. Shoot. Repeat (9/7)…. A raunchy U.K. series about four awkward 18-year-old lads gets the big-screen treatment in The Inbetweeners Movie (9/7)…. Pacific coral reefs find a dazzling added dimension in Finding Nemo 3D (9/14)…. Elizabeth Olsen is a Liberal Arts student who gets caught up with an older man, played by writer-director Josh Radnor (9/14)…. Milla Jovovich wakes up and kills zombies in Resident Evil: Retribution (9/14)…. Con Air‘s director (Simon West) and star (Nicolas Cage) reteam for the heist thriller Stolen (9/14)…. After 10 Years apart, Channing Tatum and his high school friends reunite (9/21)…. Two bandmates (Ryan O’Nan and Michael Weston) play kazoos and xylophones while road-tripping in Brooklyn Brothers Beat the Best (9/21)…. The doc Diana Vreeland: The Eye Has to Travel follows the famed Harper’s Bazaar fashion editor (9/21)…. Jennifer Lawrence will need to use all of her Hunger Games skills to survive in House at the End of the Street (9/21)…. Two gangs of children face off in occupied France in War of the Buttons (9/21)…. Famke Janssen directs Milla Jovovich and Bill Pullman in her first feature, Bringing up Bobby (9/28)…. An irresponsible man (Patrick Huard) discovers he’s fathered 533 children after two years of sperm donations as Starbuck (9/28). —Grady Smith