Project has been compared to Broadway show 'Wicked'
Family and fast cars, evolution and Euro-destruction ...
Looking back, hiring Justin Lin -- at the time an indie sensation who'd made an uneasy leap to big-studio films with "Annapolis" -- to take over the "Fast & Furious" films with the third installment must have seemed like a risk at the time; in retrospect - and after films 4 and 5 gave the franchise new life by returning to old friends -- it was a stroke of genius. The "Fast" films have become commercial and critical successes - and it's all Lin's work, in many ways. We spoke with the director in London about shooting in that great city, forging a family out of characters and why his Aston Martin has a unexpected after-market add on in the back seat ...
MSN Movies: I mean, how strange is it to be in charge of a franchise where people are actually looking forward to part six of anything? I mean, is that testament to the work you've done on this series?
Justin Lin: (Laughs) All I can say is when I first signed on my dream was to hopefully change the sensibility, embrace the characters, and hopefully help them evolve, you know? And through their evolution the obstacles are going to shift. And I remember pitching to the studio and Vin back in '05 about like what we've built -- a mythology -- and where we should go with it. And so to be sitting with you here eight years later, it means that a lot of the stuff I've been talking about since eight years ago has now come to life.
Do you know geographically where you're going from film to film? Do you think? Do you just throw a dart at a map and go, "Oh London, we'll blow up that city next"? I mean how do you pick the locations?
(Laughs) Well I get the perks of the job to travel around the world you know? And I act like it's really hard so I get to travel more.
But Rio just felt like it was the right location for all the characters to come together for the first time. And I think after "Fast Five" I knew it was probably going to be somewhere in Europe, and I flew around and I really hung out at different countries. And there are some beautiful cities, but as soon as I landed in London I felt like this is the right place. It's a huge city. It's diverse. But there was something about even the quality of the sun. Like, even on a sunny day like this it's not fully sunny, at least from someone from L.A. you know? And that tone just felt right for what we're about to do to culminate everything.
And I know you used Glasgow to double in some of the street racing scenes, but this one of the most crowded urban areas in the world. I mean you drive for 50 minutes here, you're in Belgium. How do you get around the logistics of shooting here? Is that a challenge?
It's a huge challenge. I mean I tend to pick cities that are impossible to shoot driving scenes in, but what I love about my job is that that should not be an obstacle. You know I think my job is to just come up with ideas, and I have the best crew in the world to help execute. So the example here is that I remember seeing Piccadilly Circus and saying that it'd be great if you had this iconic Dom car coming right through, and they're like, "You're probably not going to get it." But I think having once we settled and were able to talk to the right people about why that needs to happen. We became only the third film they allowed to shoot in Piccadilly Circus.
Videodrone's take on the biggest, best, coolest and culty-ist releases of the week
"Side Effects" (Universal), medical drama-turned-psychological thriller with Jude Law and Rooney Mara, is ostensibly the last feature film from Steven Soderbergh, and it's a pretty sharp piece of filmmaking. Kind of like an updated Joe Esterhaus thriller from the nineties, only smarter and without any ice picks in sight. Blu-ray, DVD, and On Demand. Videodrone's review is here.
"Beautiful Creatures" (Warner), the latest teen romance with a supernatural setting, stars Alice Englert as the new girl in town with magical powers and Alden Ehrenreich as the local boy entwined with her fate. Apparently it wasn't popular to spawn a franchise. Blu-ray, DVD, and On Demand.
On the more traditionally action-oriented front, there is "The Last Stand" (Lionsgate, Blu-ray, DVD, On Demand and at Redbox), the Arnold Schwarzenegger come-back film, and "Parker" (Sony, Blu-ray, DVD, On Demand and at Redbox), with Jason Statham as the brutal anti-hero of the Richard Stark's crime novels. Skewing older is "Stand Up Guys" (Lionsgate, Blu-ray, DVD, and at Redbox), the geriatric gangster buddy film with Al Pacino, Christopher Walken and Alan Arkin.
"The ABCs of Death" (Magnet, Blu-ray and DVD) is an indie anthology horror film with 26 short pieces, "The Rolling Stones: Crossfire Hurricane" (Eagle Rock) looks back on the first two decades of the legendary band, and the Israeli drama "Yossi" (Strand, DVD) toplines the foreign list this week.
Most releases are also available as digital download and VOD via iTunes, Amazon, and other web retailers and video services.
TV on Disc:
"True Blood: The Complete Fifth Season" (HBO) is the final season of HBO's gothic pulp vampire melodrama supervised by Alan Ball, and he goes for broke with the most extreme season yet: more blood, more conspiracies, more transformations, and way more internal wars within and between the species. A little too much for many fans, but it's still addictive supernatural soap opera for many others. Oh, Sookie! 12 episodes on Blu-ray and DVD, plus commentary tracks, featurettes, and other supplements. Videodrone's review is here.
"Teen Wolf: Season 2" (Fox), MTV's entry in the supernatural teenager series, is turning out to be one of the best of the genre and a much more interesting and engaging series than "True Blood," as far as I'm concerned. 12 episodes on two discs on DVD. Reviewed on Videodrone here.
Plus 'Defiance' with Daniel Craig, 'Longmire: Season 1,' revisiting 'Khan,' and more
The big news of course is the Netflix original revival of "Arrested Development," which debuts on Sunday, May 26 when 15 episodes all launch at once. We'll try to get a review in by next week. Meanwhile, here's what's available now.
"The Dictator" (2012) is a Sacha Baron Cohen comedy that forgoes all pretense of mock documentary or reality TV parody to make a big, crazy, outrageous comedy that rides roughshod over all boundaries of taste to make both its point and its punchlines. And "it's all the more focused and consistently funny for that," argues MSN film critic Glenn Kenny. For this one, Baron Cohen plays Admiral General Aladeen the blithely brutal, oppressive, and self-aggrandizing dictator of the fictional North Africa nation of Wadiya, who gets accidentally deposed and replaced by a dazed and idiotic double (Baron Cohen again) on a trip to speak at the U.N.. To get back at his back-stabbing head of security (Ben Kingsley), he teams up with a dizzy activist health-food store manager (Anna Faris, still one of the funniest women in the movies today), despite her ungainly armpit hair and inexplicable compassion for oppressed refugees from brutal regimes. Videodrone's review is here.
"Defiance" (2008) dramatizes the real-life story of the Bielski brothers, Polish Jews who escaped the Nazi roundups and created a sanctuary for thousands of Jews in the Bellarussia forests during World War II. It was a passion project for director Edward Zwick and Daniel Craig, Liev Schreiber and Jamie Bell star as Bielskis.
Not new but getting a lot of renewed interest is "Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan" (1982), still the best "Star Trek" feature ever made, a pirate movie in space with an obsessed villain (wild-maned and bare-chested Ricardo Mantalban) and an impish Kirk. Director Nicholas Meyer brings a panache to the production and William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, and DeForest Kelley seem to have both gotten in touch with their characters and relationships all over again.
On feta and fidelity, long conversations and longer takes
Beginning with "Before Sunrise" and followed up by "Before Sunset," one of American independent cinema's milestones continues (or possibly concludes) with "Before Midnight." Reuniting director Rick Linklater with stars and co-writers Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy, "Midnight" continues the intertwining lives of Jesse (Hawke) and Celine (Delpy.) The two met on a train in 'Sunrise," reunited in Paris in "Sunset" and now, in "Midnight" find themselves married with twins, in Greece on a writer's retreat, where the passage of time has made their conversations -- and their wounds -- all the deeper. We spoke with Linklater, Hawke and Delpy in Los Angeles about getting the band back together, why some women find Delpy's character "insufferable" and the horrible indignities of couple's massage.
MSN Movies: Let me just start by asking the obvious question, which is when exactly do you come upon the decision to say, "Let's get the band back together"?
Richard Linklater: You know it happened similarly now that we've done it twice. It was still this kind of six, seven year gap I think when we don't have .. as much as we would all like to work together, we're not going to do it just to do it, you know? We have to realize Jesse and Celine have something to say.
Julie Delpy: And we have something to say.
Linklater: And we can't know that. I mean time is such a big player here, it has to be like six or seven more years of life accumulation. And then it's like Jesse and Celine, these parallel characters we've created, kind of emerge and kind of maybe have something to say about this new station they find themselves at. So that's how it's worked twice. We kind of have the same trajectory where we joke about it, there's funny titles thrown around ...
Delpy: (Laughs) "Before the Grave."
Linklater: Yeah before, you know, there's... But then at some point it gets a little more serious, then something of substance hits the table, and it takes on a slowly different tone. And we realized Jesse and Celine are sort of reemerging in a potentially real way, but it still takes awhile. That's at year six. And then we get two years of what-if this what-if that. And we get to use that luxury of the time we have to actually explore maybe what they have been doing for nine years.
Does it ever happen that two-thirds of the constituency are on board and one has to be cajoled or convinced? Or does everybody roughly sync up at the same time?