Persons of Interest, and Also a Shark

This man may well be a geniusSo in the latest issue of NOW, I have an interview with Richard Ayoade, who is kind of an amazing fellow, and I offer previews of the film components of the NXNE and Luminato festivals. I also talked to Jessica Chastain, one of the stars of Terrence Malick’s brilliant new film “The Tree of Life”, but that won’t be up until later today; I’ll post the link as soon as it goes live.

Something else to know about: The Toronto Underground Cinema is screening “Jaws” tonight (at 7 pm) and Sunday (at 9:30 pm), on 35mm and everything. Since he knows it’s one of my favourite movies, Andrew Parker interviewed me about it at length for the Underground’s blog; you can read that here if you’re so inclined.

Now, I can talk for hours about that film, and Andy very nearly let me. But if you have a few minutes to spare, check it out.

Breaking “Community”

Not Since Kickpuncher ...“Community” is my favorite TV show, and has been pretty much since the sixth or seventh episode of the first season, or whenever it was that creator and showrunner Dan Harmon let us know he had much more on his agenda than a simple ensemble comedy.

So you can understand my glee when I learned that the Harmon interview Todd VanDerWerff has been promising to put up at The AV Club has metastasized into a four-part epic analysis of every Season Two episode in chronological order. As far as I can tell, this is why the internet was created.

Part One was posted yesterday; Part Two went up this morning. I’ll link to Parts Three and Four when they go live. You should be reading them — and, it goes without saying, you should be watching “Community”. It’s just the best thing.

Great Expectations

I can see the whole world from here ...In this week’s MSN DVD column, I take a look at the latest films from Mike Leigh and the Coen brothers, and finds them to be considerably more than just “the latest films from Mike Leigh and the Coen brothers”.

Not that the Coens have been slouching or anything of late, but they do have a reputation for a certain sort of movie, which “True Grit” absolutely is — and yet, somehow, isn’t. And for those of us who think Leigh has been slouching of late, “Another Year” is the sort of movie I was hoping he still had in him.

You know what I mean, right? I dunno, I’m spending about 24 hours immersed in the world of Terrence Malick, so I’m feeling all back-to-front today.

Perhaps Magneto Kept the Change

I don't know, old chap, I thought we'd at least break $65 millionHere’s a surprise: “X-Men: First Class”, which makes up for the disappointments of the previous two “X-Men” movies, had the smallest opening weekend of any film in the franchise since the original “X-Men” opened with $54.5 million eleven years ago.

“First Class” took in $56 million — an entirely respectable figure for a summer blockbuster, unless you compare it to the other X-movies. “X2” opened with $85.5 million; “The Last Stand”, $102.7 million; even “Wolverine”, despite the whole piracy kerfuffle, did $85 million in its first weekend.

So why the low numbers for the new one? I’d like to believe that comics fans, feeling burned by “The Last Stand” and “Wolverine”, held back until they could be sure this one actually delivered on the promise of an “X-Men” movie. But this is the age of the internets, and anyone who was on the fence would have known by Friday afternoon at the latest that it was worth the ticket price.

Lack of big stars, maybe? I mean, I’ll go see James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender in anything, but they aren’t exacly megaplex marquee names yet. Lack of a breakout character? Jennifer Lawrence’s self-loathing Mystique doesn’t have quite the same appeal of Anna Paquin’s tormented Rogue or the lovesick hardass that was Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine in Bryan Singer’s first film … and Fassbender’s Magneto is too sinister to really click in the same way.

I dunno. Maybe people just held off because the weather was really nice, or they were still catching up to the “Hangover” and “Kung Fu Panda” sequels. ($32.4 million and $24.3 million, respectively.) Maybe “First Class” will have a strong second showing as people play wait-and-see with “Super 8” next weekend.

In the meantime, people still go to the movies on weekdays, right? Go see it tonight, if you’ve been hesitating. No time like the present to see a movie set 49 years in the past …

A Decent Friday

WIZARD HANDSIt makes me a little sad to realize that a five-movie week is “light” these days. But it still beats ten openings, right? Diving in, then:

“Good Neighbours”: After the squalid drama of “Twist” and the broad comedy of “The Trotsky”, Jacob Tierney feints towards the thriller genre for this strangely charming study of three people in a Montreal apartment building who start wondering whether there’s a serial killer amongst them. Rad liked the mood more than the script, and I can see where he’s coming from, but it worked for me.

“Midnight in Paris”: Susan sees Allen’s latest — in which Owen Wilson finds himself shifting between present-day Paris and its much more exciting 1920s version — as a sweet trifle. I see it as, “Hey, Woody Allen finally caught up to ‘The Moderns’ on cable!” Remember when Allen’s movies were genuine cultural events? Yeah, it’s been a while.

The Princess of Montpensier“: Hey, here’s Bertrand Tavernier with that two-and-a-half-hour French bodice ripper you’ve all been clamoring for. What’s that? You want a story that justifies the running time? Sorry, he’s all out.

Le Quattro Volte“: Michelangelo Frammartino’s philosophical dramedy contains one of the greatest long takes you’ll see this decade, involving some goats, a truck and a dog possessed of expert comic timing. The rest of the movie is pretty good, too.

X-Men: First Class“: No, Matthew Vaughn’s prequel to the Bryan Singer canon doesn’t do anything especially new or challenging with Marvel’s mutants. And yeah, the backstory on Charles Xavier and Erik “Magneto” Lensherr didn’t really need to be fleshed out at feature length. And sure, the subplot about young Mystique’s self-loathing and inability to find love is kind of exactly the same as Rogue’s. But you know what? All that stuff works, thematically, within the larger world of the X-Men. And Matthew Vaughn makes it work as entertainment, which is more than the last couple of movies have managed.

Right, then! Off to do more things!

A Quiet Little Thursday

Well, DUHThe combination of Hot Summer Guide and post-Memorial Day lull means the film section in this week’s NOW was a little less labor-intensive than it’s been in recent weeks — and I’m thankful for that, because it only gets busier from here.

But I still have my share of stuff — here’s the movie content of the HSG, and a look at the Terrence Malick retrospective starting up at the Lightbox on Saturday. (I may prefer Malick’s earlier, funny films, but “The Thin Red Line” and “The New World” are still worth seeing on a big screen.) Oh, and Susan and I did a little thing about our favourite scenes from Woody Allen’s movies, which you may or may not enjoy.

And now, I must scramble off. I did say it gets busier …