Terrence Malick at his worst—tossing a bunch of stars into an ill-defined story, committing their blindman’s bluff to celluloid, and pulling it all together in postproduction with the forced ethereality of dazzling landscape photography, special effects, and the characters’ hushed voice-over narration. Christian Bale stars as a screenwriter hungering for transcendence amid the skeezy glamour of the movie biz; thank God for all the million-dollar beachfront property, because Malick loves to have his characters walk along the sand, pondering the mystery of sea and sky as the waves roll in. When the hero isn’t doing this, he’s philosophizing with the various women in his life (Imogen Poots, Cate Blanchett, Natalie Portman, Freida Pinto, Teresa Palmer) or getting together with his younger brother (Wes Bentley) and hard-hearted dad (Brian Dennehy) so they can roar at each other. Malick has long shown a preference for handsome studs who can serve as empty vessels for his metaphysical yearning (Richard Gere, Jim Caviezel, Colin Farrell, Ben Affleck), though in this case Bale is more like a sieve.