Author Archives: Andy Burns

It’s a Home run for Dreamworks at the box office

Well, it was a huge weekend at the box office, and not nearly the tight race that we anticipated. As you’ll see by the numbers, families were clearly starved for some fare, at one film delivered above all others. Here’s what went down:

The Dreamworks animated film Home had a stellar opening weekend, bringing in $54 million to claim the top spot at the box office. While reviews have been decidedly down the middle for this one, families didn’t care, as they flocked to theaters. Home should enjoy a nice little run at the box office over the next few weeks until the summer box office season kicks off May 1st.

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Will you Get Hard or go Home this weekend?

A powerhouse couple and a new animated flick are taking over theaters this weekend and looking for your money. Will either of them hit the top spot at the box office? Here are our predictions:

Get Hard is a comedy starring the reigning king of movie laughs, Kevin Hart and the one and only Will Ferrell. In theory, that should be enough to have this movie top all others this weekend, and it likely will do reasonably well, even as it battles middling reviews. Hart’s recent release, The Wedding Ringer, didn’t light up theaters, so it will certainly be interesting to see how Get Hard performs. Look for a first place debut with $33 million.

That is, if it can hold off the new animated feature, Home, starring the voices of Jim Parsons and Rhianna. Now, truth be told, I hadn’t heard too much about this new Dreamworks film until a few nights ago when my daughter and I came across the trailer, which she found absolutely hillarious (and I admit, I thought it was pretty funny as well). Families with younger children haven’t had anything to look forward to for a little while now, so Home could be the answer to parents’ prayers. Look for a second place showing right behing Get Hard with $31 million, with a good chance it could wind up in first place.

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Little divergence year to year for Insurgent

Hi gang – the box office wrap is going to be brief. Main reason is, I’m just wiped out. Here at Biff Bam Pop central, it’s been a busy few days. Our own Amanda Blue is in town with her fella, and we’ve been keeping busy eating, visiting and hittin the Toronto ComicCon, along with a wonderful BBP Pub Night with our other Toronto writers on Saturday night. So, I’m pooped, and not feleing too analytical.

Insurgent_posterI will say that our predictions about Insurgent was pretty much on the money, as the film opened in number one with $54 million, just $600,000 less than Divergent did last year. That’s not horrible, but as mentioned on Friday, you want to see franchises increase their opening weekend takes, and that just wasn’t accomplished here.

As for the rest of the top five, Cinderella fell to second place with $34.9 million. Run All Night was in third place with $5.1 million. The Gunman debut in fourth place with a lacklustre $5 million, while Kingsman: The Secret Service closed things out in fifth with $4.6 million.

So, to recap, here were our predictions:

1) Insurgent – $54 million
2) Cinderella – $35 million
3) Run All Night – $9.5 million
4) The Gunman – $9 million
5) Do You Believe? – $7 million

And here’s how the weekend turned out:

1) Insurgent – $54 million
2) Cinderella – $34.9 million
3) Run All Night – $5.1 million
4) The Gunman – $5 million
5) Kingsman – $4.6 million

Next weekend sees the release of Get Strong, Me sure to check on Friday to see our predictions.

Robin Renée On… Steely Dan

Each week, one of Biff Bam Pop’s illustrious writers will delve into one of their favourite things. Perhaps it’s a movie or album they’ve carried with them for years. Maybe it’s something new that moved them and they think might move you too. Each week, a new subject, a new voice writing on… something they love.

Becker Fagen

Some time ago I took on the “just because” task of cataloging my hundred favorite songs. This was not an easy task. I found that no matter what I did, I was never entirely comfortable with calling the list definitive. One of the things I learned in the process is that favorite songs and favorite bands don’t necessarily go hand-in hand. I’d gotten pretty far into the list before I realized I had some glaring omissions. It was incredibly difficult to choose songs by one of my absolute favorite bands – Steely Dan. I found myself struggling to pick a few to include since their absence would make no sense at all.

Having to wonder why it was so hard to pick favorites brought me to a realization about this enigmatic Walter Becker and Donald Fagen duo that has become part of the fiber of my being over decades: It is the overarching concept-sound-imprint of Steely Dan that draws me in. Like their magnum opus, Aja (1977), Steely Dan is a unified experience. You can lift out individual songs, but a discussion of each one in turn is a very partial sum of the parts. I love this band from having absorbed their music whole cloth through time. This love has taken me on lots of adventures – an amusing and geeky one in 2008 when a friend and I took on our own “Steely Dan Drink Quest” to imbibe all drinks mentioned in SD songs and Becker and Fagen solo recordings (Drinking “kirschwasser from a shell” was not the soothing tropical experience I had expected.).

Here, I will share some tunes with which I resonate and bits of my personal experience. To explore the band with more depth, pick an album, relax, grab a beverage of choice, and listen start to finish. Try it old school style, lyrics in hand (or on screen).

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Will Insurgent diverge from the success of the first film?

It’s the last weekend of March Break, so theaters should be packed, likely with families catching up on last week’s big release. But there are a few new films looking to score as well. Will they? Here’s our predictions:

The big new release is the second film in the Divergent series, Insurgent. The first film did strong business last year, bringing in $150 million in North America. Those aren’t The Hunger Games numbers, but it’s still enough to hope for a decent showing for Insurgent. Typically, you want to see your numbers go up with a second film, so that’s what Insurgent needs to do. However, I’m just not sure the hype is there. On that note, look for a first place showing with $54 million, the same amount Divergent debut with in 2014.

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Step into Gina Lee Ronhovde’s Boudoir

Last summer, when I was at the Twin Peaks Festival outside of Seattle, Washington, I met a woman named Gina Lee Ronhovde. It was very brief, on a bonus tour that her husband, Twin Peaks expert and filmmaker Josh Eisenstadt, took a few of us on. Through that, I became Facebook friends with them both, where I discovered that Gina herself is a filmmaker. On her page, she was often talking about her short film Boudoir, which stars Dominique Swain, who many of us know from Adrian Lyne’s outstanding mid-90s take on Nabokov’s Lolita. I asked Gina if I could see the film, which she graciously allowed and which, I’m happy to say, I really enjoyed. Boudoir has a cool, mysterious feel; there’s a definite David Lynch vibe throughout it, no surprise considering the filmmaker’s long love of Lynch’s work.

I was impressed with what my friend accomplished, and who she managed to have work on this writing and directorial effort that’s already been winning awards. I thought Gina would have a lot to talk about, and she did, as you can see from this email interview we did about Boudoir.

Andy Burns: When did you decide you wanted to make a short film?

Gina Lee Ronhovde: There wasn’t one moment (see below answers lol). I first learned filmmaking at the Los Angeles Film School and made short films while in school – one of them was a finalist for the Jay Leno show – and my graduating thesis short film Bereft Left went on to festivals and was nominated for awards. After graduation I worked at a variety of studios, management and production companies, and also on set – producing, writing, and script consulting. So, I had that background behind me already when I just suddenly decided to write something down one day.
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Biff Bam Pop’s March Break Reading List

The fine folks at Biff Bam Pop have put together a March Break reading list, so whether you’re on the beach with your kids, or are babysitting your parents who are still into family time when you just want to chill, here are some books and graphic novels to help you pass your week. You know, when you’re not sleeping, or doing “other”.


Asterios Polyp

Asterios Polyp by David Mazzucchelli

There are a number of graphic novels that have changed comic books and sequential art: broadened it, pushed its boundaries and turned it into something that it wasn’t before. For me, in that lineage of great works, the most recent is David Mazzucchelli’s Asterios Polyp.

For comic book fans, Mazzucchelli is perhaps best known as the artist on Frank Miller’s acclaimed gritty and noir Daredevil and Batman: Year One stories. Those works are great indeed. But with Asterios Polyp, the story of a lonely and immensely flawed professor of architecture, Mazzucchelli plays his character against design in both the telling of the story and its visual representation. The graphic novel is pushed into becoming an entirely different type of storytelling mechanism here.

No worries. Even though Mazzucchelli’s art is indistinguishable from his mainstream comic book work, he’s a masterful artisan of image and story and Asterios Polyp quickly becomes a tale that warms the heart as much as it broadens the art form.

The Sculptor

The Sculptor by Scott McCloud

Best known as the writer and artist of Zot! as well as the brilliant and well-regarded non-fiction books Understanding Comics, Reinventing Comics and Making Comics, The Sculptor is McCloud’s first work of graphic fiction in quite some time, just released earlier this year.

The Sculptor tells the story of a man who, with less than a year to live, has been given the opportunity to absorb himself in his childhood dream and sculpt anything he can imagine with his bare hands. Who hasn’t been motivated by a deadline?

This is the graphic novel I’ll be reading over my March break.


The Chronicles of Prydain by Lloyd Alexander

I read The Book of Three, the first book of five novels in Lloyd Alexander’s Chronicles of Prydain series in Grade 5, courtesy of my childhood school’s book club. A new brochure would come each month, listing books that students could order via the club, and the cover of The Book of Three stood out from all the rest that September: a horned skeleton of a man riding a black stallion, sword raised threateningly; and the foreground, with his back to us, a boy with a knife drawn in plaintive defense. I had to read that book.

So began a Grade 5 love affair that still lasts today in adulthood: the story of a young Assistant Pig-Keeper, a princess of magical arts (his one true love), and his search for identity, as he grows to become a man. It’s a common story, to be sure, but this one, a fantasy series steeped in folklore and Welsh mythology, fired my imagination like no other. Everyone of every age should read it.



Joyland by Stephen King

This is King’s second novel for the Hard Case Crime line (his first was “The Colorado Kid”), a series of books designed to look and feel like the pulp crime paperbacks of the 1950s and 60s. King, who has had the best selling book s in the line, gets that original flavor right while keeping with his own style. This book was a delight to read, as were most of his older works. This is a step backward to his golden years, pun unintended.

Also, to maintain the charm of its nostalgia, this line took some time to go digital, so it was the one hardcopy book I read after moving on to Nook and Kindle. The story set in an amusement park in the 1970s fittingly is both a murder mystery and a coming of age story. Some things we’ve seen King do before and some we find out he’s also pretty good at. I dug it, and it’s a quick read, worth the time.

Not That Kind Of Girl

Not That Kind of Girl by Lena Dunham

Released last year under a storm of controversy, I had to see what all the fuss was about, so I bought it, and then didn’t read it. Like most of America, I was a fan of Lena Dunham when “Girls” first premiered on HBO but it didn’t take long before it became tiresome and a parody of itself. Why would I read her book when I couldn’t stand her show any more, right? Luckily one night in a fit of boredom, I started reading. Wow.

Dunham is still the same person she is on her show, still a incomprehensible millennial, but she’s funny, really really funny. Fully titled “Not That Kind of Girl: A Young Woman Tells You What She’s ‘Learned,'” it’s truth in advertising. We have a litany in the form of short personal essays about her misadventures and multiple mistakes, and she’s funny. It’s almost as if someone took your psycho ex-girlfriend from college and dropped her into a blender with early Woody Allen. It’s fun, twisted, and I liked it.

Murder On Edito

Murder on Edisto by C. Hope Clark

In the spirit of fairness I have to admit friendship with the author who has been a mentor and advisor in all writing matters for over a decade, but that said and out of the way, Hope Clark is one hell of a writer. I had compared her to a modern day Raymond Chandler when talking about her previous series, the Carolina Slade Mysteries, and while that’s true, she doesn’t really bring the noir full force until her second series, begun with “Murder in Edisto.”

With the Edisto Island Mystery Series and protagonist Callie Jean Morgan, Hope is mining film noir and hardboiled detective style like a champ. She fools you with beautiful idyllic places, but pulls the noose tight with the characters and the situations. Hope takes the big city crime and thriller and brings it down home, with style, finesse, and hardcore suspense. This is Hope’s best book yet, read it!



Child 44 by Tom Rob Smith

Leo Demidov is a feared and respected MGB officer in Stalin’s Soviet Union, until he starts noticing cracks in the philosophies of his beloved State. Several young children have been found murdered and mutilated, and the crimes are being covered up or passed off as tragic accidents because there is “no crime” in Stalin’s perfect society. Leo must decide whether to risk his life and find the killer or keep his mouth shut, but how do you find a killer everyone is too terrified to even admit exists? Tom Rob Smith’s debut novel was unbearably suspenseful and kept me up way too late every night until I was done. Child 44 is the first in a trilogy and I will be reading the next two books as soon as possible, as well as seeing the film version of Child 44 which is set to be released on April 17.

wrapped in plastic tp

Wrapped in Plastic: Twin Peaks by Andy Burns

Andy Burns explains all the reasons to still love Twin Peaks 25 years later. Delving into the show’s origins and almost overnight success, discussing its lasting and undeniable effects on pop culture even today, and sharing his own personal connections to the show, it’s a pleasure to read. Whether you’re a longtime Twin Peaks fan or have never seen a single episode, pick this one up – Andy will even send you a signed copy if you send him a message on Facebook!


Stiff by Mary Roach

Mary Roach uses her dry sense of humour to make light of a topic we can all only avoid for so long – death. More specifically, dead bodies. What happens to your body after you die? How many ways can you die? What part of a plane or car crash actually kills you? In this scientific yet very un-textbook work, you’ll get all these answers and more. Stiff is fascinating, chilling and heartwarming all at once, if you have a soft spot for the macabre and an interest in the grim. Just don’t read it while you’re eating.

Andy Burns:


Avengers/X-Men: AXIS by Rick Remender and various artists

What happens when the world of superheroes gets literally turned inside out? When our greatest heroes suddenly become villainous and maniacal, and the only hope is monsters who appear to have seen the light? That’s the basis for the recent Marvel miniseries AXIS, which finds heroes like Tony Stark’s Iron Man and the new Captain American, Sam Wilson, suddenly overcome by evil because of the machinations of the Red Onslaught, best described as the Red Skull on steroids and in possession of the psychic abilities of the late Charles Xavier. Meanwhile, Deadpool puts his guns down in favour of pacifism while Sabretooth is riddled with guilt for his past actions and looks to atone.

AXIS flew a little under the radar this past year, what with Jonathan Hickman stealing all the glory as he rips the Marvel Universe apart. However, writer Rick Remender and a stellar line-up of artists manage to have a lot of fun with this miniseries that’s repercussions are still being felt today. Though not nearly as heady as Watchman, it does leave one wondering what would happen if the good guys in any world decide that they’re done saving us. Avengers/X-Men: AXIS is available now in hardcover, and comes complete with a digital download code so you can read the title on your tablet or desktop computer.

Audiences slip the glass slipper on Cinderella at the box office

The early weekend box office numbers are in and, as expected, one movie among all others managed to hit hard. Here’s what went down:


The live action version of Disney’s classic Cinderella had a fantastic opening weekend, debuting in first place with $72 million. This one definitely had an audience desperate for family fare, and with some decent reviews going along with it, Kenneth Branagh’s film certainly scored and scored big time. I don’t think anyone really ever thought of Branagh as a blockbuster film director, but with two big hits with Thor and now Cinderella under his belt, he’s certainly become a go-to for Disney. Could a return to the Marvel Cinematic Universe be next? With this sort of acclaim, I wouldn’t be surprised.

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Will you pick Cinderella or Liam Neeson this weekend?

Any plans on taking in a ball this weekend? Ok, I know. That was weak. Let’s ignore the attempts at movie humour and jump straight into what’s happening at the box office this weekend. There’s a sure fire new number one entering the fray, but just how much will it bring in, as March Break kicks off in North America? Here’s our prediction:


Director Kenneth Branagh teams up with Disney for a live action version of the classic Cinderella. Consider this along the lines of Maleficent, but far more kid friendly, which should make it prime for family viewing. Reviews have been positive and, as the father of a little girl, I feel confident in saying that princess (or would-be ones) always have a built-in audience. Look for a strong debut weekend for Cinderella, with $62 million and a lock on first place.

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Robot down! CHAPPiE lands hard at the box office this weekend

Well, it was an incredibly terrible weekend at the box office for every new release. In fact, for every film, it was lacklustre and disappointing. Here’s what went down:


Do you know wanted to see Neil Blomkamp’s CHAPPiE? Absolutely nobody. The sci-fi film debut with $13 million, a number that is nothing short of a gigantic letdown for all involved. Even with Hugh Jackman attached, audiences literally turned their noses up at this one. It’s safe to say that Blomkamp better nail his new Alien film if he wants to keep doing big budget Hollywood flicks.

As for the rest of the top five, Focus fell to second place with $10 million. The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel debut in third place with $8.6 million, definitely on the low side of expectations. Kingsman: The Secret Service was in fourth place with $8.3 million, while The Spongebob Movie: Sponge Out Of Water closed things out in fifth place with $7 million.

Meanwhile, Vince Vaughn’s Unfinished Business bombed, landing in tenth place with just $4.8 million.

So, to recap, here were our predictions:

1) CHAPPiE – $20 million
2) The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel – $14 million
3) Focus – $10 million
4) Unfinished Business – $8 million
5) The Spongebob Movie: Sponge Out of Water – $5.9 million

And here’s how the weekend turned out:

1) CHAPPiE – $13 million
2) Focus – $10 million
3) The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel – $8.6 million
4) Kingsman: The Secret Service – $8.3 million
5) The Spongebob Movie: Sponge Out of Water – $7 million

Next weekend sees the release of the live action Cinderella and Run All Night. Be sure to check back on Friday to see our predictions.


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