Monthly Archives: August 2010
Why Did I Get Married Too? – This Tyler Perry film focuses on four couples who go to the Bahamas on a vacation. Their lives become complicated when they begin to realize that their marriages are not as perfect as they seem, and to add a wrinkle into things, and ex-husband of one of the women arrives and is determined to win her back.
Marmaduke – This film is inspired by the popular comic strip and focuses on Marmaduke and his family trying to settle in to their new suburban lifestyle. Knowing how Marmaduke is, you know that chaos and destruction are sure to follow. It’s a talking dog film, and I personally think there are a lot better talking animal films then Marmaduke. The film features the voices of Owen Wilson, Fergie, Emma Stone, George Lopez and Kiefer Sutherland.
Harry Brown – This film stars Michael Caine as a widowed man who sees a neighbourhood crumbling before him. When his best friend is murdered by a local group of thugs, and is frustrated the legal system will let them off the hook, he decides to go and exact his own revenge and clean up the neighbourhood. Think of this film as a British Gran Torino.
Red Riding Trilogy – This is really a British mini-series that was released in North America as three films. The films follow serial murders in different years and the investigations, scandals and corruption that happens as the cases continue to go unsolved.
TV ON DVD
House: Season Six – This season starts with Dr. Gregory House going through a detox program to get himself clean and to stop his hallucinations from happening. House tries to fool the doctors that he is getting better even though he is not taking his medication, but he is forced to stay in the detox unit, as House’s doctor says that he will write a letter of recommendation to reinstate House’s medical license if he cleans up.
Brothers and Sisters: The Complete Fourth Season – This season starts off with Nora and Holly organizing an engagement party, Sarah looking for business prospects in France, Tommy looking to find himself in Mexico and Kitty has a secret that could destroy the Walker’s. I have never watched an episode of this show, but it does have a following, and I must say it has an awesome cast.
NCIS: Los Angeles – The First Season – This series is a spinoff of NCIS and starts off with a Navy officer being killed. All is not what it seems as the officer was being picked up and dropped off by a group of shady characters. It is revealed that the officer was using his military clearance to help a drug cartel, and now the members of NCIS: LA have to go undercover to get close to the cartel’s leader.
Flash Forward: The Complete Series – The series follows a group of people as they deal with a global phenomenon that causes the entire world to lose consciousness for a couple of minutes. During this time, people are able to see into the future and what will happen on April 29, 2010. A group of FBI agents try to figure out why the event happened and the series goes on ending on April 29, 2010. The show was critically acclaimed but ratings challenged, and was cancelled after its first season.
Parenthood: Season One – This is the second TV series based on the Steve Martin film and follows three generations of the Braverman family and all the joy and heartaches they have in their daily lives. The series is yet another show that has a great cast, and is also one I have never seen.
Sons of Anarchy: Season Two – This show follows the lives of a motorcycle club in California. This season starts off with the club dealing with the death of Donna and a white separatist group comes to town and threatens to take control of things.
The Vampire Diaries: The Complete First Season – This series follows the life of a woman named Elena who falls in love with a man who turns out to be a vampire. Their lives are turned upside down when the man’s brother comes to town, looking to exact revenge.
Until Next Tuesday!
Well, it’s the end of August, which means that Fan Expo 2010 has come and gone. However, what’s been a yearly pilgrimage for myself and some other Biff Bam Poppers for some time wasn’t the clear cut success it has been in the past. Here’s a brief rundown on what worked and what didn’t at what has become one of the biggest conventions in North America.
LINING UP: First off – the lines to get into the Metro Toronto Convention Centre’s North Building on Fan Expo Day 1 were absolutely ridiculous and unwarranted. Deluxe pass holders were promised early admission (2pm) but the line that went around the building guaranteed that that wasn’t going to happen. And it didn’t. Long line-ups may make for a great visual on the news and throughout the industry, but for those fans that ponied up their cash early, this was pure case of screwing the customer. Day 2 was apparently worse for those coming just for the day. With “record” crowds allegedly onhand, thousands were stuck outside the venue while movement between the floors was body to body, hot and uncomfortable, and a legitimate fire hazard. It’s to be expected that moving on the convention floor to the various booths is going to be a sticky situation with the gathered throngs, but getting into the venue needs to be revisited for next year. It was such an unpleasant experience that, combined with the next criticism, I made the decision to skip out on Day 3 of the show. Organizers did try to make up for things by extended yesterday’s show hours, but I’m not sure that would completely quell people’s frustrations.
WHERE WERE THE DEALS? This has nothing to do with the organizers and more to do with what you expect when you go to a convention like Fan Expo. Me, I’m looking for deals. I want to walk in and buy my books at an exceptional discount. This year, 20% and 30% off US cover just wasn’t going to cut it for me. Sadly, this meant I really didn’t come away with anything particularly exciting. It also meant I was going to come home and purchase the books I didn’t get off of Amazon.ca for the best price that’s out there. I’m all for supporting the industry, but as a guy with a family and a mortgage, I’m also into watching my wallet.
SAN DIEGO SPOILS IT FOR THE REST OF US: I don’t know about you, but with all of the hype that came out of this years San Diego geek gathering, this years Fan Expo left me pretty cold. Sure, there was a big Tron booth and the Alien pod display for the upcoming Blu-Ray release, but where was our Avengers panel? Where was Ryan Reynolds espousing the virtues of next year’s Green Lantern film? I know that Fan Expo has not been the place for those sorts of events in the past, but seeing as how much it’s grown over the last few years, and considering the emphasis put on San Diego just a few weeks ago, it’s hard not feeling as though this year’s show lacked real buzz.
SHATNER ON SUNDAY ONLY: This had to be one of the biggest let downs for me of the entire convention. The fact that William Shatner was only going to be in attendance for one day. That meant longer line-ups if I wanted to even contemplate meeting him for a picture or autograph. And since he wouldn’t be there until Day 3, nobody knew what sort of fees he would be charging (I later heard it was $80 for a picture or autograph – in the words of a great Totontonian? “Cha, right!!”). Another reason I chose to take a pass on Sunday.
ROGERS WIRELESS TICKETING: Full disclosure – it’s through being a Rogers employee that I pay my bills, but that fact has nothing to do with my kudos. As a subscriber, I decided to save the service charges and buy my Fan Expo ticket wirelessly (I also had an interest in this newfangled technology). Well, as it turns out, those of us who purchased tickets via Rogers Wireless wound up getting a phone call and email informing us that we could enter the convention via the Premium ticket holder line-up, thus saving me hours of waiting to get inside. This was a huge and totally unexpected bonus. If I attend next year’s show, this is my guaranteed method of ticket purchase.
THE STAN LEE VIP EXPERIENCE:For old school comic book fans, the biggest guest of the year was Marvel legend Stan Lee. And it was clear by the massive lines for every signing and photo-op that there were thousands of folks eager to meet the man who created Spider-Man, The Fantastic Four, Iron Man, The X-Men, Silver Surfer and so many more. Luckily, myself and my compatriots acted quick and early and purchased the expensive Stan Lee VIP Experience months ago. This meant no waiting in lines for pictures or autographs. Instead, out VIP pass brought us to the front of line for those events, saving us considerable time and angst. It also meant that we had some nice moments with the legend himself. Stan The Man told BBP contributor JP he was a great model during their picture together; he smiled and told me “I’m proud of you” when I mentioned I had Spidey tattooed on my shoulder; meanwhile our art contributor Denny co-ordinated a nice group shot of the three of us together with Stan at the VIP meet and greet reception that occurred on Friday night (with free food to boot). While there may have been some serious screw-ups for the everyday pass holders, the Fan Expo big wigs made sure that everyone who paid the big bucks to schmooze with Stan got their money’s worth.
FINAL THOUGHTS: Rather than trying to hustle for interviews, this year I attended Fan Expo as a fan. And as a fan, I walked away with the realization that I was no longer interested in long line-ups to meet celebs (not that I ever was much, but I have waited a while to meet certain creators and would have liked to shake Captain Kirk’s hand). Because I’m at least 4 or 5 months off of my comic reading because I like to wait for trades to come out, I wasn’t interested in attending panels that would either spoil stories or use a lot of hyperbole to generate interest in the next big events (Spider-Man’s world will never be the same?Where have I heard that before?). And because of budget and responsibility I was working with a “what do I need” mentality rather than a “what do I want” one, which took a bit of the thrill out of shopping. I guess that’s why it’s called growing up.
However, I did meet Stan Lee in the company of two of closest compadres, to which I say any disappointments do pale in comparison. And if my Fan Expo days are coming to a close as I’m left feeling as though they are, it’s nice to know that I at least got to meet the man who taught me that with great power comes great responsibility.
The weekend box office has a new #1 film, but it has also given us one of the closest battles of the year, which makes it hard to give a definitive answer about what is truly the number one film. Only $0.3 million separates the #1 and #2 films. Currently The Last Exorcism is in 1st place with Takers placing second. I doubt that most people thought that both films could gross over $20 million, but that’s exactly what happened. My predictions were just average this weekend, so without anymore rambling, here’s how things broke down:
Debuting in 1st place is the horror film The Last Exorcism with a gross of $21.3 million (I predicted a 1st place finish and a gross of $15 million). The Last Exorcism had a per theatre average of $7,411. The opening weekend for the film continues the trend of horror films debuting well in late August. It didn’t do as well as some of the elite horror franchises that debuted this time of year, but it was still a very strong debut for a film with no built in audience. See below:
2010 – The Last Exorcism – $21.3 million opening weekend
2009 – The Final Destination – $27.4 million opening weekend
2009 – Halloween II – $16.3 million opening weekend
2007 – Halloween – $26.3 million opening weekend
Horror films do tend to suffer big drops on their second weekend, but The Last Exorcism is receiving some great reviews, so we’ll see if that trend continues or stops. The film reportedly cost around $1.8 million to make, so Lionsgate has to be thrilled with how well the film has done in three days. We’ll see if it can keep it up next weekend.
Debuting in 2nd place is the heist film Takers with a gross of $21 million (I predicted a 3rd place finish and a gross of $7 million). The per theatre average was $9,519, which was the highest per theatre average of any film in release. What’s so impressive about this debut is that I don’t think Sony had any expectations for the film. They only put it in 2,206 theatres, which is pretty low for a release, and I didn’t think they did a great job in promoting the film, but audiences who did see the advertising liked what they saw. Critics didn’t think much about the film, but it didn’t seem to matter because Takers is truly a surprise hit. Even considering the films that I used to compare Takers with, I barely thought $10 million was reasonable, let alone $20 million. It also could be the #1 film when final numbers come out on Monday. Takers has a budget of $20 million, so everything that the film makes going forward is profit for Sony.
Dropping from 1st place to 3rd place is former box office champion The Expendables with a gross of $9.5 million (I predicted a 2nd place finish and a gross of $8.6 million). The Expendables had a per theatre average of $2,796 and suffered a drop of 44%. The hold was once again pretty decent, but the film definitely lost some business because of the surprise debut of Takers. Still, the film is finding an audience because audiences want to see these big name action stars together in one film. There is a definite curiosity factor. After three weekends, The Expendables has grossed $82 million, and with a budget rumoured to be around $80 million, the film can be considered profitable.
Dropping from 3rd place to 4th place is the Julia Roberts drama Eat Pray Love with a gross of $7 million (I predicted a 4th place finish and a gross of $6.7 million). Eat Pray Love had a per theatre average of $2,252 and was down 42.2% from last weekend. Eat Pray Love had another decent hold at the box office, but because its opening weekend was not as strong as some people hoped, the film is not doing as well as some people thought it would. After three weekends, Eat Pray Love has grossed $60.6 million, and has now made back its reported $60 million budget.
Staying in 5th place for the second weekend in a row is the action-comedy The Other Guys with a gross of $6.6 million (I predicted a 5th place finish and a gross of $6.3 million). The Other Guys had a per theatre average of $2,075 and dropped 35.1% from last weekend. The budget for The Other Guys is around $100 million and after four weeks of release, it has taken in $99.3 million.
Dropping from 2nd place to 6th place is the comedy Vampires Suck with a gross of $5.3 million (I predicted a 10th place finish and a gross of $4.5 million). Vampires Suck had a per theatre average of $1,639 and was down 56.6% from last weekend. The drop was one of the higher drops for the Friedberg//Seltzer films as per the list below:
Meet The Spartans – 60.4% second weekend drop
Vampires Suck – 56.6% second weekend drop
Epic Movie – 54.8% second weekend drop
Date Movie – 52.2% second weekend drop
Disaster Movie – 48.1% second weekend drop
The drop is not a great sign, and the film is definitely headed for DVD shelves soon. The film has a reported budget of $20 million, and after 2 weeks of release Vampires Suck has grossed $27.9 million.
Moving up from 9th place to 7th place (that’s not a typo) is Inception with a gross of $5.1 million (I predicted a 7th place finish and a gross of $5.3 million). The per theatre average for Inception was $2,466, and the film was down 34.9% from last weekend which continues the trend of having its percentage drops being below 40% each weekend of its release, and it was also the lowest percentage drop in the top ten. After seven weekends, Inception has grossed $270.7 million.
Staying in 8th place for the second weekend in a row is Nanny McPhee Returns with a gross of $4.7 million (I predicted an 11th place finish and a gross of $4.4 million). Nanny McPhee Returns had a per theatre average of $1,695 and was down 43.6% from last weekend. The budget for Nanny McPhee Returns is around $35 million and after 10 days, it has grossed $17 million.
Dropping from 7th place to 9th place is the comedy The Switch with a gross of $4.6 million (I also predicted a 9th place finish and a gross of $4.66 million). The Switch had a per theatre average of $2,309 and was down 44.8% from its opening weekend. After 10 days, the film has grossed $16.4 million.
Dropping from 6th place to 10th place is the horror film Piranha 3-D with a gross of $4.3 million (I predicted a 12th place finish and a gross of $4.2 million). Piranha 3-D had a per theatre average of $1,729 and suffered a drop of 57.4% from its opening weekend. The percentage drop was the highest in the top ten, and I also think that The Last Exorcism took some of Piranha 3D’s potential audience. After two weekends, the film has grossed $18.2 million, so the film is not going to be a money maker for The Weinstein Company as the budget for the film is around $24 million.
Suffering the biggest drop of any film is the comedy Lottery Ticket which fell from 4th place to 11th place with a gross of $4.01 million (I predicted a gross of $5.9 million and a 6th place finish). The film had a per theatre average of $2,031 and suffered a 62.4% from last weekend, which was the highest percentage drop of any film in release as of this writing. It is quite the reversal of fortune for the film which last weekend was widely considered to be the surprise hit of the weekend, and now I think most people would say that it has faded out in its second weekend. The budget for Lottery Ticket is around $17 million, and after 10 days of release the film has grossed $17.4 million.
Debuting in 12th place is Avatar: Special Edition with a gross of $4 million (I predicted a gross of $4.8 million and an 8th place finish). The per theatre average for the film was $4,926 and the film performed about how most re-releases do, especially considering that there was not that much new footage to be shown, and the film has been on DVD for quite awhile now.
In limited release:
Mesrine: Killer Instinct– This film is part one of a two-part biopic that stars Vincent Cassel and is about a legendary French gangster. The film grossed $150,000 from 28 theatres for a per theatre average of $5,357.
Centurion, The Milk of Sorrow, Change of Plans, and Aashayein (Wishes) have not reported their opening weekend grosses as of this writing.
So to recap, here were my predictions:
The Last Exorcism – $15 million
The Expendables – $8.6 million
Takers – $7 million
Eat Pray Love – $6.7 million
The Other Guys – $6.3 million
And here are the actual numbers:
The Last Exorcism – $21.3 million
Takers – $21 million
The Expendables – $9.5 million
Eat Pray Love – $7 million
The Other Guys – $6.6 million
My predictions compared to the actual top five films were off by $21.8 million.
Next weekend, The Last Exorcism looks to be the #1 film against the George Clooney thriller The American, the Drew Barrymore/Justin Long romantic-comedy Going the Distance and the action flick Machete starring Danny Trejo. Check out Biff Bam Pop next Friday to read my predictions!
Two films look to dethrone The Expendables from the top this weekend in a very weak frame at the box office. Takers is an ensemble heist flick that hopes to surprise people at the box office, while horror fans get The Last Exorcism. Also getting re-released is Avatar: Special Edition. From what I have read, this film will have some extra footage, and will only be shown in 3-D. Who knows, it may surprise people and lead a lackluster box office. Here’s how I see the weekend breaking down:
The Last Exorcism looks to continue a trend of horror films doing well in the month of August. The plot revolves around a preacher who brings a camera crew to film an exorcism, but they all realize that they are in over their heads on this case. I mentioned right off the top that horror films have generally done well in the month of August. Here are some recent examples:
2009 – The Final Destination – $27.4 million opening weekend
2009 – Halloween II – $16.3 million opening weekend
2007 – Halloween – $26.3 million opening weekend
Average Opening Weekend – $23.3 million
The Last Exorcism has a scary trailer but I don’t think the marketing campaign has been all that strong, and I don’t know how high awareness is for the film. The films listed above were franchises, so I don’t think The Last Exorcism is going to reach the heights of Halloween or The Final Destination but I do think it could get an opening weekend around Halloween II’s. The film has a 64% positive rating from Rotten Tomatoes (which is quite amazing for a horror film), and it has the biggest theatre count of the new releases this weekend. It is also hoping to attract horror fans by attaching Eli Roth’s name as a producer of the film. We’ll see if that helps. Debuting in 2,874 theatres, I’m predicting that The Last Exorcism will be the #1 film with a gross of $15 million.
The other new release is Takers which stars Idris Elba, Matt Dillon, Chris Brown, Hayden Christensen, Paul Walker, Zoe Saldana and T.I. The plot follows the gangsters as they come up with a plan to try and rob a bank and score a heist worth $20 million. Unfortunately the police try to interfere, and there is some back-stabbing among the members causing the perfect plan to go not so perfectly. Two films pop to mind when coming up with a comparison for the film, and they are as follows:
2010 – The Losers – $9.4 million opening weekend
2009 – Armored – $6.5 million opening weekend
Average Opening Weekend – $7.95 million
The film is definitely being marketed toward a younger audience, but I don’t think they have much interest in it. August is a dumping ground for movies, because with the end of summer, a lot of people are getting ready to go back to school or are planning one last weekend away with their friends. Although the actors are all recognizable, I wouldn’t say any of them can draw in crowds. The studio doesn’t seem to have a lot of faith in Takers either as the theatre count is pretty low at 2,206. Reviews at Rotten Tomatoes list the film as being 35% positive, but that shouldn’t make too much of a difference with the audience. I’m predicting a 3rd place finish and a gross of $7 million for Takers.
Avatar: Special Edition gets re-released in 811 theatres, which will only be in 3-D. I don’t expect the film to do all that well on the re-release, as the film has been out on DVD for awhile now, and most re-releases don’t do all that well (The Passion of the Christ, The Nightmare Before Christmas come to mind). I’m predicting that Avatar: Special Edition will gross $4.8 million and finish in 8th place.
With The Last Exorcism and Takers making the top five, I’m predicting that Vampires Suck and Lottery Ticket will be knocked out of the top five. Here’s how I see rest of the top five unfolding:
The Expendables looks to hold onto its title as king of the box office for a third weekend in a row, but its reign will come to an end. I’m predicting a drop of 49%, giving The Expendables a gross of $8.6 million and a 2nd place finish.
Julia Roberts latest film Eat Pray Love should hold up this weekend, as it is the only major film geared towards females that is in release. I’m predicting a drop of 45% and a gross of $6.7 million, making it the #4 film at the box office.
The Other Guys held up well last weekend, and has been doing all right during the week, so I’m predicting a drop of 38%, giving The Other Guys a gross of $6.3 million and a 5th place finish.
Lottery Ticket was a surprise last weekend considering the low theatre count and pretty decent box office it had. This weekend, I’m expecting Lottery Ticket to hold up because there is no other comedy that poses a serious threat in release. I’m predicting a drop of 42%, giving it a gross of $5.9 million and a 6th place finish.
Inception continues to post amazing holds each weekend. This weekend, I’m predicting a drop of 32%, giving Inception a gross of $5.3 million and a 7th place finish at the box office this weekend.
The Switch had a debut right around where Jennifer Aniston’s film Love Happens had on its opening weekend, and I’m predicting that the second weekend drop for The Switch will be similar to Love Happens as well. The Switch should fall 45% this weekend, giving it a gross of $4.6 million and a 9th place finish.
Vampires Suck should suffer a pretty steep decline this weekend, but you would be surprised how similar films have held up on their second weekend:
Disaster Movie – 48.1% second weekend drop
Meet The Spartans – 60.4% second weekend drop
Epic Movie – 54.8% second weekend drop
Date Movie – 52.2% second weekend drop
Average Second Weekend Drop – 53.9%
Vampires Suck might have the worst second weekend drop because I think the Twilight parody is more for the ladies and I think they will abandon the film this weekend. Dropping 63%, I’m predicting that Vampires Suck will gross $4.5 million and finish in 10th place.
These next two films have to be disappointed about falling out of the top ten in only their second weekend.
Nanny McPhee Returns had a very disappointing debut last weekend, as its gross was lower than the original’s. This weekend does not look to be any better, as there is no way that it will have as low a second weekend drop as the original did back in 2006 (the original Nanny McPhee was down only 32.5% on its second weekend). I’m predicting a drop of 48%, giving Nanny McPhee Returns a gross of $4.4 million and an 11th place finish.
Piranha 3-D had some great reviews but failed to translate that into any momentum at the box office. I think this film will find a larger audience on DVD, but this weekend Piranha 3-D will suffer a drop of 58% giving it a gross of $4.2 million and a 12th place finish.
Opening in limited release, we have the following films:
Centurion – This film is about the Roman army’s siege on Britain. The film does not have an official theatre count and has a 55% positive rating at Rotten Tomatoes.
Mesrine: Killer Instinct – This film is part one of a two-part biopic that stars Vincent Cassel and is about a legendary French gangster. The film does not have an official theatre count and has an 81% positive rating at Rotten Tomatoes.
The Milk of Sorrow – This is an Oscar nominated film about a woman dealing with a rare disease. The film does not have an official theatre count and has an 80% positive rating at Rotten Tomatoes.
Change of Plans – This film is about some couples who reveal a little too much information at a dinner party. This film does not have an official theatre count and has a 20% positive rating at Rotten Tomatoes.
Aashayein (Wishes) – This film is about a man who is given 90 days to live and what he does with his life in his remaining time left on the planet. This film is being released in 15 theatres and has yet to be reviewed at Rotten Tomatoes.
Chakjawana – This film is about a former captain of the Indian naval force reviving his struggling village, and inspiring the youth of the community. This film is being released in 15 theatres and has yet to be reviewed at Rotten Tomatoes.
So to recap, here are my predictions:
- The Last Exorcism – $15 million
- The Expendables – $8.6 million
- Takers – $7 million
- Eat Pray Love – $6.7 million
- The Other Guys – $6.3 million
Remember to check back on Sunday to see how I did!
Every week this summer, we’ll be bringing you a new installment of a 12-part series of reviews of meaningful comics found in the collections of our writers. “Long Box” refers to the lengthy, white cardboard boxes most comics find themselves stored within – bagged, alphabetized and numerically ordered.
These reviews, then, are the tales of those collections: illuminating characters, artists, writers – even eras – in addition to the personalities of the very owners of those fine collections.
The Punisher War Journal # 1
Writer: Carl Potts
Artists: Carl Potts and Jim Lee
Toronto’s Fan Expo 2010 is this weekend, running from Friday, August 27 thru to Sunday, August 29 at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre. It’s something that my friends (and friends of Biff Bam Pop! everywhere) look forward to each year. We meet up, we grab coffees and, if we’re lucky, breakfasts, we wait in lines, we attend crowded seminars, we gawk at people wearing superhero or anime character costumes and we float around aisles upon aisles of back issue comics, looking for deals on obscure titles.
Well, at least that’s what I do.
The landscape of comic book conventions has changed a lot since I first began collecting way, way back in 1985. Actually, I didn’t attend my first con until 1989, back in those early, formative years of high school. If I remember correctly (and I think I do), it was in a small seminar room at the Courtyard Marriot at Yonge St. near College Park. I remember the colour brown. It was everywhere: in curtains and carpeting, in floor tiles and felt-covered chairs. It made the surroundings seem so drab.
But not the convention itself. No, the convention lit the hotel up!
However, as I mentioned, it wasn’t like the conventions of today.In 1989 there were only a few hundred con goers on that weekend day – not the thousands that will be in attendance at the Expo this coming weekend. There were probably only a few dozen retailers there as well, selling back issues of comics, pulps and posters. These days, there are literally hundreds of tables selling everything from t-shirts to obscure toys, models, figurines and candy in addition to comics, electronics and film and television paraphernalia.
One thing that hasn’t changed (but like everything else, has become more popular) are the line ups to meet comic book creators.
I love this aspect of comic book conventions: the chance to talk to your favourite writer or artist and let them know what you think of their work, perhaps ask for a sketch or ask for a signing.
In 1989, it was Jim Lee.
Jim Lee had just begun a run on the popular series, The Punisher War Journal, which had premiered months earlier during the summer of 1988. After some work on Marvel’s Alpha Flight series, War Journal was Lee’s first big-time mainstream success, originally as inker over writer and artist Carl Potts’ pencils, and then as full-time illustrator of the hard-hitting, violent series.
As a character, The Punisher’s popularity was on the rise. After an acclaimed mini-series in the mid eighties and a monthly book titled, aptly enough, The Punisher, War Journal was the second series to feature the gun-blazing rogue with the skull on his chest. The era was very mush post-Dark Knight, post-Watchmen and gritty and violent and stylized realism in comics was the norm, a perfect landscape for the one beat, second-tier character of the Punisher. But War Journal, for all of its bullets and bombs, its death and violence, was very much rising star Jim Lee’s coming out party.
And, as one of my favourite artists at the time, I stood in line to talk to him, to let him know how much I liked his work and to get his autograph on issues one, two, three, four and five!
The first page of the first issue would signal the tone for the rest of the series. It depicts a full page spread of the Punisher, against a brick wall, facing the viewer, (here his adversary), while a gun barrel bears down on him in the foreground. His first words are: “Go ahead. Do it. I don’t have all day.”
Jim Lee was fairly new to comic books and although he only had work as an inker on the first issue of The Punisher War Journal, his illustrative style was evident. Finishing Carl Potts’ pencils, Lee’s inks were tight and crisp, emphasizing highlights but also scratchy in areas, depicting muscle tone and facial, arm and chest hair. These artistic elements can still be seen in his work today, although, perhaps, more subtly, used with more care than they were in the late nineteen eighties. His work on The Punisher War Journal was reminiscent of the legendary Frank Miller’s early work in the pages of Daredevil, while staying close to contemporaries like Whilce Portacio, Marc Silvestri and Rob Liefeld. Lee, however, filled his panels with detail, a realism not unlike a camera taking a photograph with everything in focus: foreground, middle ground and background. His heroes and villains were always larger than life: muscular, expressive and ready for action, his layouts always dynamic.
After The Punisher War Journal, Lee’s star would continue to rise, winning a Harvey Award in 1990 for Best New Talent. He went on to draw acclaimed runs on both Uncanny X-Men and The X-Men, his name becoming synonymous with comic books in the 1990’s and using his popularity to change the industry itself after breaking away from Marvel Comics and co-founding the Image and Wildstorm companies and brands. Wildstorm would later be purchased by DC Comics, embedding Lee, now the business man as well as artist, into the sizable and powerful Warner Brothers organization.
Most recently, in February of this year, Jim Lee was named the new Co-Publisher of DC Comics. Not a bad career as a fan favourite artist, influence-maker in the comic book industry. And I’ve got his autograph – back when he was “just” an inker! It’s almost like I knew what he’d become in the industry!
Which takes me back to Fan Expo and waiting in line to meet the writers and artists of the industry. One of these young creators may very well become the Jim Lee of the next generation of comic book power brokers.
And a word of advice: looking back, I probably should have asked Lee for a drawing. A Punisher would have been great. Maybe a Wolverine. Those things could cost you your soul these days!
Still, it’s the chit-chat with creators and contemporaries, strangers and friends, that makes this industry, this hobby, as exciting and as fun as it is!
It’s hard to believe that it’s been two years that Biff Bam Pop popped up onto our little space on the world wide web. 2 years of interviews, reviews, features and more. I’m clearly biased, but I think we do a great job of writing about the stuff which we, and more importantly, you care about.
So on our birthday, I must thank the fellows that continue to contribute to the site, whether it be weekly, monthly or emotionally:
JP, my right-hand man and our resident DC fan – I’m glad he’ll write about Green Lantern so I won’t have to. For a look at some of his great work, including his great interview with Toronto artist Willow Dawson, click here.
Scotty G, who every week blows my mind with his commitment to the site and his columns. Scotty is a workhorse and Biff Bam Pop wouldn’t be what it is without his amazing work. One of my favourite pieces of the past year was the tag team review Scotty and I did on our experience watching Paranormal Activity. That movie still freaks me out.
Ian Rogers, our Lost boy and literary hero, who started as a contributor and has become a great friend. A stand-out bit of Ian’s work on our site, his live blogging of the series finale of Lost, is worth another read.
Kudos also go out to David “Ogmios” Ward, whose contributions are random but always revelatory; Pdawg, my oldest friend, who manages to find something more to Survivor than just bikinis and biceps; along with JMT,Geflon Don, ohthree, Canker Canison, and Denny B. And I would be remiss if I didn’t thank the Queen (and the Princess) for the support and patience when I’m updating the site.
Looking forward to what’s next for Biff Bam Pop, we’ve got some fairly cool stuff lined up. An in-depth look at this weekend’s Fan Expo for starters, the return of Biff Bam Boo in October, and perhaps an endeavour that might call for libations and the opening of your wallets. Stay tuned on that one.
So once again, thanks for reading. This site is a labour of love and we hope you enjoy it as much as we do.
Excelsi…er…Biff Bam Pop!
One of the greatest comic books of the past decade is getting the live action treatment. But not on the big screen but on AMC, home of Mad Men. Based on the work of Robert Kirkman and overseen by Frank Darabont, he of The Shawshank Redemption fame, it’s safe to say that The Walking Dead could be the highlight of the Fall TV season when it debuts on Halloween. Check out the spectacular preview below.
The Back-Up Plan – This film stars Jennifer Lopez as a lady who doesn’t have much luck with men. She desperately wants a child so she decides to get pregnant through artificial insemination. Soon after she meets a guy that she actually likes, and begins dating him even though she is showing signs of her pregnancy. Will he stay with her throughout her pregnancy even though it is not his kid? You’ll have to watch to find out.
George A. Romero’s Survival of the Dead – This film is about two feuding families. One family kills zombies, while the others keep zombies alive. The different philosophies cause a standoff, and violence erupts. What’s interesting is that the film is not really about the undead, but focuses more on the battling families that will kill zombies in the process of their feuding.
TV ON DVD
Lost: The Final Season – The popular series has come to an end and fans of the series were hoping to finally know all the secrets and mysteries of the island, and it is debatable if the final season answered everything. Still, this DVD comes with some bonus features that help explain the mysteries of the island. For those who have been waiting for the entire series to come to Blu-Ray, they also get their wish today as the complete series is available for purchase.
The Simpsons: The Thirteenth Season – The adventures of Homer, Marge, Bart, Lisa and Maggie continue as this season is from 2001-2002 and features the episodes “Blame it on Lisa”, “Weekend at Burnsie’s” and “Papa’s Got A Brand New Badge”.
NCIS: The Seventh Season – This season starts with the gang at NCIS dealing with their former co-worker Ziva joining the Mossad but being captured and tortured to reveal information about NCIS. The group goes on a mission to try and save their old co-worker and bring her back to the U.S.
Gossip Girl: The Complete Third Season – This season starts with Blair and Chuck dealing with their new relationship, Nate shows up with a mysterious new girl and Serena returns from Europe with some secrets. Unfortunately I do not watch this show so I have no idea what the first sentence even means to people.
90210: The Second Season – This season starts off with Annie avoiding people as she does not want to talk to anyone about her accident. It’s not like anyone wants to talk to Annie after she ratted her classmates out and they have been forced to attend summer school. I thought there was a lot of hype in this show in the 1st season, but it seems to have subsided. I’m sure fans of the show will disagree with me.
Until Next Tuesday!
The apathetic gamer. That is I. Try as I might, it’s rare that I can sit and play a video game for an extended period of time, regardless of how good or bad the game might be. I’ve got the critically acclaimed Heavy Rain and the critically derided Deadly Premonitions and neither have captured my imagination for very long (though, admittedly, I plan on revisiting both of them; I love Hard Rain’s plot and the wacky Twin Peaks elements of Deadly Premonitions). I was an avid purchaser of the yearly WWE games since the late 90’s, but my lack of commitment to playing the last few years of Smackdown Vs Raw even resulted in me passing on the 2010 edition of the game (a lackluster few years of wrestling storylines didn’t help much either).
Seeing as how I have poor gaming habits, over the last year I’ve tried to watch my purchases. So when Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2 was released late in 2009, I actually took a pass on picking that game up as well. This is a big deal because 1)I was a fan of the first Ultimate Alliance offering, even if I’m stuck someplace in the middle of that one, and 2) the sequel is based on the fantastic Secret War/Civil War storyline that had a huge impact on the Marvel Comic universe for the last few years. Even with pressure from some fellow Biff Bam Poppers to pick it up so that we could play online together, I held firm that I wouldn’t drop the dough on the game; at least, not until tit experienced a price drop that would make the purchase a little more justified. I would keep my eyes open for a used copy in the meantime, but I wound up waiting until a few weeks ago, when retailers started offering Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2 for the nice price of $20. I’m glad I waited.
Keep in mind that these are rough impressions because, not surprisingly, I haven’t spent too much time with the game as of yet. It certainly looks good – the cut scenes are great to view and the character designs are solid for those I’ve played with (including Wolverine, Iron Man, Luke Cage, Captain America, and Spider-Man). And the plot is as memorable as the comics it’s based on. Nick Fury has taken a group of heroes to the country of Latveria (home of Doctor Doom) and whose Prime Minister has helped facilitate weapons to super villains. However, if you’ve played the original Ultimate Alliance, or going back even further to the X-Men: Legends that were on the original X-Box and Playstation 2 platforms, the controls and four player scheme is pretty familiar, which leaves a bit of a “more of the same” feeling for this admittedly average gamer. Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2’s big claim to fame upon its release was the Fusion capability of two characters being able to deliver special power moves together, but I should probably spend a little more time with the instruction manual, since I don’t find using it particularly intuitive. As well, sometimes the onslaught of villains attacking you is just too much and too busy, and you lose your characters in the fray. What Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2 does do wonderfully well is place me in the Marvel Universe, which was always the games selling point, even with its faults. I may not be the best gamer, but it does leave me wanting to pick up the joystick and return to the world.
There’s another Marvel Universe game that I’d been holding off on for months, waiting for the inevitable price drop, but this one was a little more under the radar. Marvel Super Hero Squad is based on the kids tv program of the same name, and doesn’t take itself seriously at all. In both the show and the game, we’re given access to mini versions of our favorite Marvel Heroes, as they do battle against the Lethal Legion, led by (not surprisingly) Doctor Doom. If you’re unfamiliar with the Super Hero Squad, consider it to be a Muppet Babies take on characters like Iron Man, Silver Surfer, Thor, the Hulk and others. The stories are written with good humor and a sense of the absurd, and the game carries that over.
While the reviews for Marvel Super Hero Squad upon its release were far from kind, I must admit that I found it pretty refreshing when comparing it to Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2. Simple controls, unique character designs and that sense of humour (not to mention its cheap price) gave me a chuckle as I started plowing through the first level with Thor and Hulk against the agents of A.I.M. The game also offers up a battle mode, where you can put your Squad members head to head in something akin to the old Mortal Kombat game. Marvel Super Hero Squad may be designed for kids, but I’m getting a kick out of it (I may even be able to convince The Queen to pick up a controller and do battle with me).
Marvel Super Hero Squad and Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2/strong> are very different takes on one fantastic universe. While I couldn’t have recommended either of them at their full price when they were both released, with their recent price drops you can play two unique games for the price of less than either’s original price. If you’re into story and graphic, Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2 is for you. If you’re looking for simple game play and a few laughs, Super Hero Squad (and it’s upcoming sequel) is for you.
I know they’ll be keeping my attention for at least a few hours and for this apathetic gamer, that’s saying something.
Sylvester Stallone and the boys of The Expendables were able to repeat as box office champions, leading a lackluster August box office frame. My predictions were back on track this weekend as I correctly predicted four of the films in order at the box office, and I was truthfully not far off in any of my predictions. The five new releases this weekend did not make a major impact with theatergoers and I would expect them all to be on DVD shelves sooner rather than later. Here’s how the box office broke down:
Staying in 1st place for the second weekend in a row is The Expendables with a gross of $16.5 million (I predicted a 1st place finish and a gross of $14.2 million). The Expendables had a per theatre average of $5,046 and suffered a drop of 52.6%. The hold was pretty decent because I expected that the film had a lot of up front demand on its first weekend, as everyone wanted to see these action stars in the same film together, but I didn’t know if it would be able to draw a lot of new business going forward. Also, with the sheer amount of new releases this weekend, I thought that people might want to see one of the five new films over older entries in theatres, but audiences still wanted to see Sylvester Stallone and the boys. After two weekends, The Expendables has grossed $64.8 million, and with a budget rumoured to be around $80 million, that’s a pretty good gross after 10 days of release.
Debuting in 2nd place is the comedy Vampires Suck with a gross of $12.2 million (I predicted a 2nd place finish and a gross of $14 million). Vampires Suck had a per theatre average of $3,774, which is absolutely atrocious considering the film was released in 3,233 theatres. Anytime a film that debuts in over 2,500 theatres and has a per theatre average of less than $5,000, you know that audiences don’t care about the film. It also shows you how little interest there is by audiences in movies right now if the film was able to finish in 2nd place with those bad numbers. Here’s how the film did compared to the other spoof comedy films from the duo of Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer:
1) Date Movie – $19 million
2) Epic Movie – $18.6 million
3) Meet the Spartans – $18.5 million
4) Vampires Suck – $12.2 million
5) Disaster Movie – $5.8 million
So the opening weekend is an improvement over the duo’s last film Disaster Movie but it is not at the levels they were once used too. The film has a reported budget of $20 million, which means the film will make money as Vampires Suck opened on Wednesday and has so far taken in $18.5 million.
Dropping from 2nd place to 3rd place is the Julia Roberts drama Eat Pray Love with a gross of $12 million (I predicted a 3rd place finish and a gross of $12.7 million). Eat Pray Love had a per theatre average of $3,894 and was down 48.1% from its opening weekend gross. The film did a pretty decent job this weekend in terms of not suffering a big drop at the box office, but the disturbing number is the per theatre average. Eat Pray Love was not quite the Julia Roberts’ comeback film people had hoped it would be, but it has done well. After ten days, the film has grossed $47.1 million, and it should be able to make back its reported $60 million budget.
Debuting in 4th place is the comedy Lottery Ticket with a gross of $11.1 million (I predicted a gross of $8 million and a 7th place finish). The film had a per theatre average of $5,639 which was the highest per theatre average of any film in the top ten. Lottery Ticket had the best debut (in my opinion) by a major release this weekend, and what’s so impressive is that it had the 2nd lowest theatre count of any film in the top ten, yet it has the best per theatre average. It’s pretty much the lone bright spot of any release this weekend, and considering the budget is around $17 million, the film will definitely make back its money.
Dropping from 3rd place to 5th place is the action-comedy The Other Guys with a gross of $10.1 million (I predicted a 5th place finish and a gross of $9.7 million). The Other Guys had a per theatre average of $2,909 and dropped 42% from last weekend. The drop from weekend to weekend is very good, considering that five new releases came out this weekend, but it is not a good sign that The Other Guys already has a per theatre average that is below $3,000, and this is only its third weekend. The film will definitely make more than its budget (rumoured to be around $100 million), as after seventeen days of release, The Other Guys has grossed $88.1 million.
Debuting in 6th place is the horror film Piranha 3-D with a gross of $10 million (I predicted a 6th place finish and a gross of $9 million). Piranha 3-D had a per theatre average of $4,063. Despite the fact that the film was in 3-D, audiences were not interested in the picture and it should be on DVD shelves soon. With a budget that is rumoured to be around $24 million, it will be interesting to see if the film makes back its money considering that horror films suffer big drops on their second weekends, and the fact that another horror film gets released next weekend.
Debuting in 7th place is the family film Nanny McPhee Returns with a gross of $8.3 million (I predicted a 4th place finish and a gross of $10.5 million). Nanny McPhee Returns had a per theatre average of 2,985. The film’s debut was nowhere near as strong as the original’s debut of $14.5 million back in 2006. It is never a good sign when a sequel does not have a better opening weekend than the original. With a budget rumoured to be around $35 million, I don’t think the film will be making back its money in North America, and it will be looking to find a bigger audience on DVD shelves.
Debuting in 8th place is the comedy The Switch with a gross of $8.1 million (I predicted a 9th place finish and a gross of $6 million). The Switch had a per theatre average of $4,026. The debut was almost identical to the Jennifer Aniston film Love Happens so this gross is becoming the standard for Jennifer Aniston romantic films. The per theatre average is pretty good for an 8th place film, but I think that audiences would rather watch this on DVD than pay big bucks to see it in theatres.
Dropping from 4th place to 9th place is Inception with a gross of $7.6 million (I predicted an 8th place finish and a gross of $7.3 million). The per theatre average for Inception was $3,188, and the film was down 32.2% from last weekend which continues the trend of Inception having its percentage drops being below 40% each weekend of its release. After six weekends, Inception has grossed $261.8 million.
Dropping from 5th place to 10th place is the comedy Scott Pilgrim vs. the World with a gross of $5 million (I predicted a 10th place finish and a gross of $4.1 million). Scott Pilgrim vs. the World had a per theatre average of $1,785 and was down 52.6% from its opening weekend. It’s a terrible sign that the film has a per theatre average below $2,000 in its second weekend, but as I have stated for the past two weeks, Edgar Wright and Michael Cera films tend to find larger audiences on DVD, and I’m sure this film will continue that trend. The budget on the film is rumoured to be around $60 million, and so far Scott Pilgrim vs. the World has taken in $20.7 million.
In other movie news:
The Twilight Saga: Eclipse became the highest grossing film in the franchise this week, and its overall gross is now at $297.2 million.
In limited release:
A Film Unfinished – This film is about a long lost Nazi propaganda film. The film grossed $37,500 from 4 theatres giving it a per theatre average of $9,375.
The Tillman Story – This documentary is about the life and death of football player/Army Ranger Pat Tillman. The film grossed $52,400 from 4 theatres giving it a per theatre average of $13,100, which was the highest per theatre average of any film in release as of this writing.
Army of Crime, Soul Kitchen, Mao’s Last Dancer, Calvin Marshall and Making Plans for Lena have not reported their opening weekend grosses as of this writing.
So to recap, here were my predictions:
strong>The Expendables – $14.2 million
Vampires Suck – $14 million
Eat Pray Love – $12.7 million
Nanny McPhee Returns – $10.5 million
The Other Guys – $9.7 million
And here are the actual numbers:
The Expendables – $16.5 million
Vampires Suck – $12.2 million
Eat Pray Love – $12 million
Lottery Ticket – $11.1 million
The Other Guys – $10.1 million
My predictions compared to the actual top five films were off by $8.3 million.
Next weekend, The Expendables looks to be the #1 film for the 3rd weekend in a row but it will be taking on the horror film The Last Exorcism, the crime thriller Takers and the re-release of Avatar. Check out Biff Bam Pop next Friday to read my predictions!