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The Master:: Set in the post–World War II era, P.T. Anderson's oblique epic follows the misadventures of Freddie (Joaquin Phoenix), an alcoholic vet who ends up on a yacht with Lancaster Dodd (Philip Seymour Hoffman), the charismatic master of the title, founder of a religion that preaches psychic healing through Scientology-like procedures. Hallucinatory, explosively acted, acutely detailed — is it all a dream?

Bachelorette:: Three 30-ish high-school classmates played by Kirsten Dunst, Lizzy Caplan, and Isla Fisher celebrate the wedding of a fourth. Sounds familiar, but Leslye Headland's debut subverts expectations with its honesty. Boasting the best ensemble cast of the year, it's a party that doesn't end well, but for this bunch it's all for the best.

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