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Category Archives: General

Will ‘Transformers: The Last Knight’ be the last film in the franchise?

This weekend sees the return of those robots in disguise. But will a fifth film be too much for audiences? Here’s our prediction:

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Transformers: The Last Knight is managing to keep the franchise tradition with some absolutely horrible reviews; the film currently sits at a 16% score at Rotten Tomatoes. Usually, this films are critic proof, but its been a while since Michael Bay actually delivered a good Transformers film (some would suggest he’s never actually accomplished that feat). Transformers: The Last Knight opened this past Wednesday with an underwhelming $15 million. Decent for the middle of the week, but far from blockbuster numbers. Consider the bloom off the rose for Transformers. While the film will top the weekend, it will be with a lacklustre $43 million.

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#Kirby100: Kirby’s 1970s Captain America

By the time I was seriously collecting comic books in the mid-1980s, Jack Kirby’s return to Marvel was already history. Kirby had earlier defected from Marvel Comics to rival DC Comics where he created the New Gods Universe. The Powers That Be at DC Comics weren’t supportive of Kirby’s direction and he decided to return to Marvel. Sadly, his return was generally viewed as an unsuccessful one. One of the highlights of this return to Marvel was his run on Captain America, a title he and Stan Lee had taken to epic heights.

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While attending French grade school, I had access to a library of French-language reprints of Marvel Comics of the 1970s. One of them was the treasury edition of Kirby’s Captain America Bicentennial Battles. These over-sized pages were the perfect way to display Kirby’s power-packed and dynamic art.01

The mysterious Mr. Buda (later to be revealed to be the Elder of the Universe known as the Contemplator) sent Captain America on a time-traveling adventure through American history as part of their Bicentennial celebration. Yes, the dialogue is awkward and corny in places, but the visuals from Kirby are impressive. You can see that it’s the work of an artist in his declining years, but there’s still so much energy and passion in those panels. The scenes explode from the pages and sweep you up into the action. Barry Windsor-Smith, Herb Trimpe, and John Romita all embellished Kirby’s art for this stand-alone issue.

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This treasury issue kicked off to Kirby’s run on Captain America, and continued into issue #193, entitled “The Mad-Bomb!”. Look at that cover, inked by the legendary John Romita.

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Captain America 193-000

And the interiors are no less dramatic with explosions, literally and figuratively, on every page. Each panel bursts with Kirby dots and the heavy, solid inks by Frank Giacoia. Even the quiet moments have an impactful presence. This issue was one of the comic books I had amassed during my pre-collecting days, and was very memorable for the Kirby art and style as well as the cliffhanger ending that I wouldn’t see resolved for another 10 years!

Captain America 193-008

This storyline, which run until issue #200, pit Cap and the Falcon against an order of extremely wealthy Americans trying to establish a new aristocracy and crush the freedoms of the lower social order. Cap and Falcon’s adventures continued for another year as they encountered colourful characters like Texas Jack, Brother Inquisitor, Primus, and threats like Argon the Unburied One, Doughboy, and Hector Santiago “The Swine”. Kirby’s run also introduced Arnim Zola, the mad Nazi scientist, who heralded the return of his master, the Red Skull.

Captain America 213-000

The only other issue of Kirby’s Captain America run that I had in my pre-collecting days was #213. This two-part story (concluding in #214) was an amazing bookend to Kirby’s run. #213’s cliffhanger ending drove me as crazy as the one in #193 did. Take a moment to really take in the cover copy of #213. “Only Marvel would dare it! Blinded, Hospitalized, Cap fights his deadliest battle!” “He strikes! He kills! He can’t be stopped! The Night Flyer!”

Dan Green, famous for his work inking John Romita Jr’s Uncanny X-Men in the 1980s, inked Kirby’s pencils for #213 and you can really see the difference. Mike Royer’s inks flattered those thick, bold pencils, while Green’s work was more subtle and almost muted Kirby’s work.

Look at page #12 that introduced the Night Flyer. The stoic figure is holding a sophisticated Kirby communication device, but his presence exudes a confidence and an authority. The heavy inks across his face, his mask, all contribute to that awe-inspiring feeling. “I can’t be stopped! I am the perfect man!”.

Captain America 213-012

The Night Flyer spent the next 4 pages fighting his way through S.H.I.E.L.D. agents and the Falcon to assassinate his target. Turned out he was tricked, and despite being out-manned and out-gunned, the Night Flyer wasn’t ready to admit defeat: “I must find and eliminate my target! No one here can prevent it!!!” You’ve gotta love the captions that wrap up the issue. “Can he really do it??? Can one man defy and armed camp — and take it???” How many triple exclamation points and question marks can Kirby get away with using!

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Did issue #214 live up to the hype?Yes, and no. It was Kirby’s last Cap issue and Mike Royer returned to ink it. While the Night Flyer battled the Falcon and a horde of S.H.I.E.L.D. agents, the injured Steve Rogers dramatically donned his familiar red, white, and blue costume and grabbed his shield to face off against the Night Flyer. In an odd turn of events, it’s a few S.H.I.E.L.D. agents who connect the dots and destroy the Night Flyer’s hang glider which was the source of his power. That dramatic build up is released without any real satisfaction as the Night Flyer is defeated.

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Unfortunately, I felt that in many ways this story symbolically summarized Kirby’s run. Visually a treat, but the execution failed, and not for the lack of trying. He threw in all the right ingredients, the heroes, the threats, the situation, but couldn’t put it together in the right way. It’s an amazing run that captured the 70s Kirby energy and his wacky-ahead-of-his-time-ideas. The raw energy of Kirby’s work was spectacular, but it lacked the finish that his former partner, Stan Lee, often provided. Kirby’s storytelling was ambitious and had an unrelenting pace and action. His tales were filled with social and political commentary, featuring larger-than-life drama and characters, combined with quiet retrospective and introspective moments of real character building and growth.

Cars 3 zooms to the top, All Eyez On Me surprises

Don’t ever count out the legends. That’s the lesson from this past weekend at the box office. Here’s what went down:

As expected, Cars 3 was the new number one in theaters, bringing in $53 million. Though landing in the top spot is nothing to sneeze at, it is with the second lowest opening for Pixar franchise. Word of mouth might keep Cars 3 going over the next few weeks though, as the reviews have been strong for this third installment.

The big story of the weekend is the outstanding debut for the 2pac biopick, All Eyez On Me, which landed in third place with a surprising $27 million. Why the shock? Simply put, the reviews for this film have been horrid. Clearly reviews didn’t matter for the hardcore hip-hop fans, though there will likely be a significant drop-off once the fan base is serviced this weekend.

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Blu-ray/Digital Round-Up: The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, The LEGO Batman Movie, Logan

I’ve had a ton of Blu-rays and digital movies come my way the last few weeks, and I’ve wanted to highlight a few of them, in case you’re looking for something to watch this weekend or over the next few weeks.

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The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks (HBO Films): I’m not going to sugarcoat this. I’d never heard the name Henrietta Lacks or her amazing story before. This was simply one of those films sent my way which I thought I’d give a chance. I’m certainly glad I did, as the legacy of Ms. Lacks is remarkable – she was an African American woman who, in 1951, had her cancer cells immortalized in the HeLa line of cells. Basically, these cells have been used countless times in major medical breakthroughs over the last 60 years. Sadly, nobody asked Ms. Lacks if her cells could be taken or used, and neither her nor her family ever received any sort of compensation for what essentially is her immortality.

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks is based on the book by Rebecca Skloot, who is portrayed in the film by Rose Byrne, who wrote a series of articles on Ms. Lacks and her family. Oprah Winfrey plays Henrietta’s daughter Deborah, and is absolutely captivating on screen. Deborah is hesitant to share her mother’s story with any reporter, and Oprah delivers the character as guarded but loving. It’s a bravura performance that can’t help but overshadow the rest of the film, which sometimes gets muddled as it moves across various timelines. However, Byrne and Winfrey have a great chemistry together, and help The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks rise above some of its pacing and script issues.

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Cars 3 should cruise to the top spot at the box office

This week sees the return of a venerable kids franchise that’s should have no trouble grabbing the top spot at the box office. Here’s our prediction:

Cars 3 has been getting the sort of reviews that eluded the previous two instalments in the Pixar franchise, which is unusual, but exciting. The film, which finds Lightning McQueen debating retirement in the face of a new hot car on the scene, is being lauded for its emotional hooks, which help get partners into theatres this weekend. As if they really have a choice – Cars 3 is the family choice for Father’s Day, and will no doubt debut in first place. Look for it to bring in $65 million.

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Richard Kirwin plants a review of Trees Volume 1

“Even here in sleepy old Cefalu. The Trees affect everything. The way we behave. The way money moves around. The things we believe.”

Trees vol 1: In Shadow (issues 1-8)
Warren Ellis
Jason Howard
5/5

Just to get it right out of the way – I am a Warren Ellis mark. In terms a non-wrestling fan can understand, I’m a big fan. If something has a name on it, there is a good chance I will give it a read.

As a writer, he possesses a real gift for taking a concept or premise in a direction you would never expect. He does this while managing to not get stuck in any one creative lane and over a wide variety of characters, from mainstream super-heroes to independent science fiction.

Because I’m a trades guy, I came across Trees while picking through the 3rd floor of BMV (Bloor and Spadina location in Toronto, amazing selection).

With Ellis name attached I felt comfortable grabbing something I had no ideas about going in. As usual, Mr. Ellis did not disappoint. Read the rest of this entry

Wonder Woman puts The Mummy in its place

It was another wonderful weekend for the biggest hero in theatres right now, while a new franchise failed to rise from the depths. Here’s what went down:

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Patty Jenkins’ Wonder Woman had a fantastic second weekend, dropping just 44% week to week to bring in $57 million and hold on to the top spot at the box office. The film has already crossed the $200 million mark, and is a certifiable blockbuster. Wonder Woman will likely drop to second place next weekend with the arrival of Cars 3, but it will no doubt still cross make at least $300 million before the end of its run.

Debuting in second place with $32 million is The Mummy, starring Tom Cruise. The film is the first entry into Universal’s Dark Universe series of films. Simply put, this is a bad number in North America. The reviews were horrible, as was audience reactions, and its likely The Mummy won’t make $100 million in North America. Amazingly, factoring the numbers from around the world, and with $169 million globally, The Mummy still marks the biggest opening for Tom Cruise.

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The Mummy takes on Wonder Woman at the box office

It’s a big weekend at the box office, as Universal aims to kick off its “Dark Universe” film franchise. However, one woman will stand in their way. Who will come out on top? Here’s our prediction:

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The Mummy is a new horror film based on both the original early 1930’s Universal movie, and the late 1990’s iteration starring Brendan Frasier. This time out, Tom Cruise is the leading man, as Universal hopes to kickstart a new interlocking series of films connecting all of their monsters (Dracula, Frankenstein, The Wolf-Man, the Creature from the Black Lagoon). Good luck with that. Reviews for The Mummy have been absolutely horrid, with the film sitting at just 22% fresh at Rotten Tomatoes. That is a horrible place to be. Look for The Mummy to drastically underperform in its debut weekend. It will debut in second place but with a lackluster $28 million.

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Andy Burns talks to Awakening The Zodiac director Jonathan Wright

Opening in Toronto for a limited engagement this Friday before its arrival on VOD Tuesday, June 13th, Awakening the Zodiac tells the story of Mick (West) and Zoe (Bibb), a young destitute couple hoping to change their fortune when they partner with paranoid, gun-toting, Gulf War veteran, Harvey (Craven) on a deserted storage locker. The locker’s contents appear to be worthless until Harvey makes a discovery deep inside a piece of furniture: an old 8mm film reel. Curious, they load it into a projector and watch something that will change their lives forever. The forty-year-old footage depicts two gruesome murders taken by the killer himself. Harvey has a strange feeling and realizes two things: Those were murders of the savage Zodiac Killer, the most elusive serial killer in history, and there is a reward of $100,000 for any information leading to his capture. Zodiac is out there, and he’s still killing. Determined to uncover the secrets of the films, Mick, Zoe and Harvey begin their search for the Zodiac.

I had the chance to talk to director Jonathan Wright about Awakening The Zodiac, and the enduring legacy of one of thr 20th centuries most notorious serial killers.

Andy Burns: Jonathan, congrats on Awakening the Zodiac – I really enjoyed the film. What inspired your interest in the Zodiac and making this film?

Jonathan Wright: The thriller is my favourite genre of films. The idea of a person going around murdering random people and taunting the police is absolutely terrifying. The fact that the Zodiac was never caught, and could still be out there sends chills down my spine.

AB: Could you give us a little insight into your creative process – how did you come up with the story, what sort of research went into crafting the screenplay?

JW: When Michael Baker came to me asking to direct this movie, I literally jumped at the chance. We wanted to craft characters and a scenario that we’ve never seen before. The film is procedural, but we didn’t want to make a detective movie. Early research revealed that the San Francisco Police Department still have a $100,000 reward for evidence leading to the arrest of the Zodiac killer. I spent countless hours going through FBI documents and witness accounts which spawned numerous theories about who the killer was and how he operated. I also delved deep into code breaking. The infamous cipher known as the 314 cipher has never been broken and supposedly includes the Zodiac’s true identity.

AB: What was it about Shane West and Leslie Bibb that made them the right choices for Mick and Zoe, respectively? Read the rest of this entry

Dive Deep Into Madness With “The Unsound #1” On The Wednesday Run

It’s Wednesday. New comic book day.

Here in Toronto, Canada, the sun is shining and the clock excitedly ticks down to quitting time when many of us make our weekly pilgrimage to the local comic book shop to grab our fill of the world’s best pop culture, visual storytelling, medium.

While some might be excited about today’s release of the ninth – and concluding chapter of DKIII (finally!), others might be looking for a new read. One that won’t be hampered by regular delays (hopefully!) but is also backed up by a proven artistic team.

And you know that we here at Biff Bam Pop! like our horror.

We like it psychological, and dreadful, and full of monsters, and covens, and secrets, and nasty things that play in the dark.

And hey!

It just so happens that’s what we get today with the release of the first issue of…The Unsound.

How’s that for inspiring dread?!?

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