Following the bruising brilliance of There Will Be Blood (2007), director Paul Thomas Anderson returns this week with the no less challenging tale of The Master. Drawing inspiration from the life of Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard, Joaquin Phoenix’s psychologically damaged World War II veteran is lured by the charismatic leader of a fledging religion (Philip Seymour Hoffman).

Featuring stunning 70 mm cinematography and a startling disdain for the conventions of modern cinema, the film’s unpredictability and the unresolved plot threads of its final scenes have evoked both howls of outrage and fevered applause. Phoenix is extraordinary, blurring the lines between thespian performance and realism, though thankfully not to the same degree as his pseudo-documentary I’m Not There from a couple of years ago. Accompanying the frequent arrival of Phoenix’s wild tendencies, Jonny Greenwood’s hypnotic score reiterates that Anderson is in a class of his own.

The Master (K12)
Release Date: 8 February
Director: Paul Thomas Anderson
Starring: Philip Seymour Hoffman,
Joaquin Phoenix
Hansel & Gretel Witch

Hunters (K16)
Release Date: 8 February
Director: Tommy Wirkola
Starring: Jeremy Renner,
Gemma Arterton

Flight (K16)
Release Date: 8 February
Director: Robert Zemekis
Starring: Denzel Washington,
John Goodman

21 Tapaa pilata avioliitto (K7)
Release Date: 8 February
Director: Johanna Vuoksenmaa
Starring: Armi Toivanen,
Riku Nieminen

On a somewhat lighter note, Norwegian director Tommy Workola moves from Nazi zombies to German fairy tales, following up his cult hit Dead Snow (2009) with Hansel & Gretel Witch Hunters. Jeremy Renner and Gemma Arterton star as the fairytale brother and sister, who earn their crust as professional witch hunters. But have they met their match in the form of Famke Janssen?

This is just another tired mash-up of genres in the vein of Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter and Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. At least left-of-centre Swedish actor Peter Stormare brings some class to the proceedings.

Robert Zemeckis digs himself out of the animated rut he has been wallowing in for the past decade or so, returning in style with the live-action airborne drama of Flight. Denzel Washington’s pilot struggles with both a substance-abuse problem and a crippled airliner. With a supporting cast that includes John Goodman and Don Cheadle, advance word has been strong.

Following on from the roaring success of In Bruges (2008), Irish director Martin McDonagh delights many cinemagoers, returning this week with the black comedy Seven Psychopaths. Three friends (Colin Farrell, Christopher Walken, and Sam Rockwell) incur the wrath of a violent LA gangster (Woody Harrelson) after the kidnapping of his prized shih tzu. After the inspired Belgian setting of In Bruges’, Los Angeles promises a broader canvas for the esteemed playwright and director.

Finally, the local scene offers up Johanna Vuoksenmaa’s 21 tapaa pilata avioliitto (21 ways to ruin your marriage), as a researcher examines the many ways in which people, well, ruin their marriages.