(PG-13, 107 minutes, Sony): This dramatization of the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus turns out to be an intriguing, if ultimately frustrating, retelling of the familiar story, here reconfigured as a detective procedural, wherein a skeptical Roman military tribune is sent to investigate the disappearance of Jesus’s body from the tomb. Directed with relative restraint by Kevin Reynolds, this biblical thriller for the most part avoids the simplistic storytelling and amateurish production that have plagued so many Bible movies of yore.
Rather than focus on the most familiar characters from those retellings, “Risen” is the story of Clavius (Joseph Fiennes), a tough, ambitious Roman soldier who, when the story begins, is serving as an enforcer for Judea’s peevish imperial prefect, Pontius Pilate (Peter Firth). Following Pilate’s order to prevent an uprising inspired by the torture and death of Jesus (Cliff Curtis), Clavius embodies the classic qualities of an antihero, bearing no ill will or even interest toward the martyred leader as a revolutionary force, much less the Messiah.
Viewers already well-versed in the greatest story ever told might find their interest piqued by the filmmakers’ unconventional take. It’s unlikely, however, that “Risen” will preach to anyone outside the choir.
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Contains Biblical violence including some disturbing images. Washington Post
‘The Finest Hours’
(PG-13, 117 minutes, Walt Disney): This waterlogged disaster movie is a moderately gripping whoosh of nostalgia that shamelessly recycles the ’50s cliché of the squeaky-clean all-American hero. Based on real events in February 1952, Bernie Webber (Chris Pine), a Coast Guard sailor based in Chatham, Mass., leads a next-to-impossible rescue mission during the most fearsome nor’easter this side of “The Perfect Storm.” Bernie heads a party of four dispatched to save the 32-member crew of the Pendleton, an oil tanker stranded off Cape Cod.
Mr. Pine persuasively embodies a comic-book archetype so hoary that you half expect him to preface sentences with “gee whiz,” “gosh” and “golly.” Bernie’s counterpart aboard the Pendleton, Ray Sybert (Casey Affleck), is the tanker’s chief engineer, who made the decision to strand the ship in the unlikely event that help would arrive.
“The Finest Hours” never departs from a tried-and-true formula, but that’s one of its quaint charms. Although set in the 1950s, it’s really an old-fashioned World War II film and a paean to the “greatest generation.” Unlike today’s space adventures, “The Finest Hours” doesn’t flaunt the kind of computer-generated effects that turn so many would-be blockbusters into cheesy-looking cartoons. Here the filmmakers strive for authenticity. Especially in the film’s first two-thirds, the most exciting moments conjure a genuine awe.
Contains intense sequences of peril. New York Times
(PG-13, 102 minutes, Paramount): “Zoolander,” Ben Stiller’s 2001 cult fave, was a one-joke movie that happened to be predicated on a very stupid, but very funny, joke: What if a male model was tasked with superspy duties? Fifteen years later, Stiller’s titular male model returns, along with his best bud/rival/one-time sexual partner Hansel (Owen Wilson), for a sequel that tries to go bigger: more action, more cameos, sadly less David Bowie. But Stiller is still working off the premise of one joke, and while it may keep one movie afloat and in the hearts and minds of stoned college students everywhere, that one joke can’t keep two moving, no matter how much time has passed and how many cameos it has stuffed within its running time.
For every laugh that “Zoolander 2” eicits, there’s a pang that all this was funnier the first time around.
“Zoolander 2” is stupid fun, and if you’re looking forward to not thinking for a couple hours, you could do so much worse. There are some moments of brilliance, like the climactic scene featuring Will Ferrell reprising his role as Mugatu. But we’ve also been here before, and “Zoolander 2” can’t reach the madcap hilarity of the first iteration.
Contains crude and sexual content, a scene of exaggerated violence, and brief strong lanaguage. Philadelphia Inquirer
Also out on May 24
- “How To Be Single”
- “Major Crimes: Season 4”