"42" – Jackie Robinson was the ideal class act to break the barrier and become the first black player in Major League Baseball. Writer-director Brian Helgeland's Robinson biopic is a class act itself, though not always an engaging act. It's such a familiar story that any faithful film biography almost inevitably will turn out predictable, even a bit routine. With an earnest performance by Chadwick Boseman as Robinson and an enjoyably self-effacing turn by Harrison Ford as Brooklyn Dodgers boss Branch Rickey, "42" hits every button you expect very ably. It riles with its re-creations of the heartless, ignorant racism to which Robinson was subjected. It uplifts with its depictions of Robinson's restraint and fortitude. It inspires with its glimpses of support and compassion from teammates and fans. Yet like a sleepy, low-scoring ballgame, the film is not the jolt of energy and entertainment we wish it could be. The story plays out safely and methodically, centering on his rise to the majors from 1945-47 and letting that time unfold with slow, sturdy momentum. Helgeland's dialogue becomes preachy at times, and the film often languishes in soapiness. Boseman and Ford forge a nice bond, while Christopher Meloni is a delight in a short appearance as Dodgers manager Leo Durocher. Alan Tudyk delivers perfectly in an ugly role as a rival manager hurling racial slurs at Robinson. PG-13 for thematic elements including language. 128 minutes. Two and a half stars out of four.
_ David Germain, AP Movie Writer
"To the Wonder" – More than any other of Terrence Malick's films, his latest distills his distinctive approach. There's hardly any dialogue at all, just the story of a French-speaking Ukrainian single mother, Marina (Olga Kurylenko), and her up-and-down romance with Neil (Ben Affleck). He's a kind of sample-taking environmental scientist of polluted blue-collar areas who brings Marina and her 10-year-old daughter, Tatiana (Tatiana Chiline), from vibrant, sundrenched Paris to his home in an austere suburban development in Oklahoma. The particular events and ruptures in Neil and Marina's relationship aren't closely followed, only the familiar tidal swells of love and loneliness. During a separation, a local former flame (Rachel McAdams) also drifts in, forming an evanescent triangle. What this is, then, is a straightforward, abstractly rendered rumination on love, mostly from Marina's perspective. "What is this love that loves us?" she wonders. The state of bliss she finds with Neil – on a train to Paris, on the shores of Mont Saint-Michel, on the plains of Oklahoma – is inevitably, mysteriously fleeting. Malick places these questions in a spiritual context. Javier Bardem plays a tangentially-related priest who wanders heavily among the unfortunate. The lead performances don't pull it off, and the film is missing something to bind it. But if it's a failure, it's the best kind. It strives, in a superficial medium, to communicate something universal about our inner nature. Cinema is a cathedral for Malick, and in it, light is heavenly. R for some sexuality and nudity. 113 minutes. Three stars out of four.
_ Jake Coyle, AP Entertainment Writer