SNEAK PEEK THE COUNSELOR

FALL'S A-LIST THRILLER

For five of the sexiest stars alive, things are about to get pretty ugly. In The Counselor, out Oct. 25, Michael Fassbender stars as a lawyer who invests in a drug deal that leads him to tangle with some very shady - and cruel - people. Directed by Ridley Scott and written by No Country for Old Men author Cormac McCarthy, "it's a great group of actors playing enticing characters you haven't seen on the screen before," says producer Nick Wechsler. Among them are Javier Bardem and his real-life wife, Penélope Cruz, Cameron Diaz and Brad Pitt, who sports a cowboy look reminiscent of his breakthrough role in Scott's 1991 hit Thelma & Louise. "Brad has a lot of confidence," Wechsler says, "and you'll see him play a cool character with enormous amounts of clever, dark wit. He delivers an extraordinary performance."

Only God Forgives

Ryan Gosling, Kristin Scott Thomas | R |

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THRILLER

Gosling reunites with his Drive director Nicolas Winding Refn, but while their earlier effort was a brilliant study of violence and silence, this one is bloody and inert. The actor plays Julian, a drug dealer in Thailand harangued by his dragon-lady mom, Crystal (Thomas), after a sword-wielding cop (Vithaya Pansringarm) kills his brother. Thomas is divine, giving a banshee shriek of a performance despite the movie's shtick of having people pose and declaim rather than just talk. Gosling, though, is as expressive as a brick, his blank face an odd contrast with the buzzing set design. But the sword is the real star, slicing off limbs and heads, aerating human flesh. I'd suggest it was poetic, but that would imply that the film has something to say.

The Conjuring

Patrick Wilson, Vera Farmiga, Lili Taylor | R |

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HORROR

This movie was so scary I cried. Granted, I'm a bundle of barely repressed childhood phobias, but The Conjuring, based on a true story, is terrifying. Plagued by a spirit attacking her kids in their new house, mom Carolyn (Taylor) begs paranormalists Lorraine (Farmiga) and Ed Warren (Wilson) for help. Better known for their work on the Amityville Horror case, the pair get to work battling the family's demons. The plot is standard issue, but the great cast and director James Wan's clever shots and perfect pacing make for exquisite psychological torture.

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GIRL MOST LIKELY

Imogene (Kristen Wiig) fakes suicide, hoping that her boyfriend will save her. But who'll rescue Wiig from this cringe-worthy comedy costarring Annette Bening as her dotty mom? Skip this and rewatch Bridesmaids instead.

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STILL MINE

James Cromwell has never been better than he is in this heartfelt drama about a man building a house for his wife (Geneviève Bujold), who's in the early stages of dementia. Still Mine touches on love, loss and all the beauty in between.

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BLACKFISH

You'll never see SeaWorld the same after this exposé about Tilikum, the orca who killed trainer Dawn Brancheau in 2010, and possibly others. Blackfish is tough to watch, but it makes a strong case against keeping whales in captivity.

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