Anna Kendrick Brittany Snow

Some Movies To See This Weekend, May 15, 2015

Friday, May 15, 2015 Rob Samuelson

This is no time for tepid, “we'll see”-style contemplation. This weekend offers up two films many people are praising, if not outright losing their minds over. The fun thing is they couldn't be more different. Prepare yourselves for a musical comedy and a bonkers action epic, both sequels to well-remembered films, if not stone-cold classics. We'll see if their pre-release reputations bear fruit. Let's take a look-see.

Pitch Perfect 2
Director: Elizabeth Banks
Writer: Kay Cannon
Starring: Anna Kendrick, Rebel Wilson, Hailee Steinfeld, Brittany Snow

Elizabeth Banks, who had a hilarious side role in the first Pitch Perfect, makes her directorial debut with the terrific cast and screenwriter returning. These are immensely funny people, and their musical talent is just cherry-on-top goodness.

The first movie gave me an idea for an essay, yet unwritten, about whether musical comedies are better than musical dramas because the sense of timing translates so perfectly between music and comedy. The precision needed for both is daunting, and actresses like Kendrick and Wilson pull it off with spades. Under normal circumstances, this would be my most anticipated movie in a while, and it's up there, but, well, look below.

Mad Max: Fury Road
Director: George Miller
Writers: George Miller, Brendan McCarthy, Nico Lathouris
Starring: Tom Hardy, Charlize Theron, Nicholas Hoult

I can tell you even without seeing anything more than the trailer, this movie is a game changer. Whether it's a hit isn't up to me, but its near religious adherence to the use of practical effects and still going bigger than most CGI-reliant blockbusters could be the type of filmmaking that keeps movie theaters relevant against the rise of direct-to-video and streaming services that make seeing things at home even easier. It is an event that demands to be seen projected on a giant screen, if only to try to suss out how they accomplished things like a giant, high speed pendulum and flipping gladiator cars over live actors.

Even beyond the boldness of the stunts, there's something special going on in this fourth installment of the Mad Max series. Tom Hardy replaces Mel Gibson in the title role, one of the best upgrades in film history. Make no mistake, Gibson is a good actor who has done fine work in a number of things over the years. But, as is often the case, big stars aren't exactly chameleonic in their roles. Rare is the star like Hardy, who can disappear into a character, completely transforming in the process. Stuff like Bronson, Locke, and giant blockbuster roles like Bane in The Dark Knight Rises are examples of Hardy's greatness, and fingers crossed he continues that as Mad Max.

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