Posted tagged ‘Movies’

(500) more days of Summer

September 29, 2009

This is a bit unusual. Consider it a follow up blog entry to my previous review of (500) Days of Summer. Just highlighting some cool stuff I’ve found on the web to go with it.

Here is a video made by the director to accompany the film.

You can hear Zooey Deschanel’s band (She and Him) singing in it. Zooey Deschanel has come a long way from her part in Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. She was ok in that film, and looked very cute, but she was largely overshadowed by Sam Rockwell. I love that guy, still need to see Moon. Anybody seen it?

This is a link to the soundtrack on Spotify. If you guys haven’t got Spotify, I highly recommened it. You can make your own playlists and stream music for free. Catch being they play adverts every 3/4 songs, but at least it’s legal.

Nifty. If you are really hungry for more, here you go.

Ha. Never thought I’d see that. Of course Joseph Gordon-Levitt has come a helluva long way since playing Tommy Solomon (the kid with long hair) in 3rd Rock From the Sun. That was a great show back in the day. It was very surreal and yet had a lot of classic sitcom pastiches.

Incoming message from the big giant head: new (proper) blog entry coming soon. I’ve been busy filming and writing stuff the last few days so have neglected my blogger duties. Sorry. An exciting review for the play The 39 Steps is on the way.


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Adventureland – Sticking the eyes on bananas

September 24, 2009

When did I start watching so many romantic comedies? (500) Days of Summer should have slated my thirst for indie rom-coms for months, yet here I am watching Adventureland. Adventureland is a sweet little film. Like (500) Days it deals with a twenty-something guy who is a hopeless romantic stuck in the ordinary world. Through their monotonous work the main character meets the girl of their dreams Em/Summer. Pretty, intelligent, deep and just a little damaged. Now our hero James/Tom can save her with his love. Looks like indie has gone mainstream.


But you’ll have to wait to hear more about the film. Just like I had too. I rolled up to Luton with the cinema in mind. I hadn’t checked times but was surprised to find they weren’t showing anything for the next two hours. Luckily they were showing Adventureland as the next film, I wasn’t about to stick around to watch Gamer. Now two hours isn’t the longest amount of time, but it can feel that way in Luton.

If you aren’t familiar with Luton, you are lucky. Spending time there is a difficult and thankless task. It has a large shopping centre and the usual high street full with shops you could exchange for anywhere else in England. What bothered me was how everyone there seemed to have given up. The air was full of defeat and anguish. The one hopeful character was a Chugger (charity + mugger) named Alan. Alan was working for the charity UNICEF, but he was having a hard time of it.

Alan stood out amongst the crowd because he was moving with a frantic energy that the sedate populace was lacking. He was also wearing an electric blue jacket. He quickly moved himself into my line of sight as I stalked Luton’s streets to kill time. I didn’t really want to talk to him, but I understand how difficult it is having that job. So I humoured the lad. Luton was not so kind.

Sensing that I was treating another human being as such, Luton set about to put an end to it. A truck drove down what I thought was a pedestrian area to try and hit poor Alan. Then it was a road-sweeper who sought to run the blighter down. By now I feared for his life. I made my excuses and left him to prey on the guilt of the next person who went by. He was a nice guy, trying to get people to listen to him. If you have a minute check out the UNICEF website and see what you can do.

unicef offical logo

So after two hours the film is about to start. Yippee. The cinema was dead and as a result you had far too many members of staff milling about with nothing to do. They all looked disinterested and dissatisfied. With a serge of zeal one member of the damned ran over to me to check my ticket. During the film a security guard, drunk on power, strutted into the theatre and let us all hear his walky talky go off several times. What a stud muffin he is.

Towards the end of the film our friendly neighbourhood bureaucracy enforcer returned to warn us not to have our feet on the chair in front. The cinema only had a dozen people in and yet four had their feet up. Myself included. But there is a catch. I had my feet resting one on top of the other in the gap between the chairs. No part of my shoe was in contact with the chair. I was too engrossed in the film to get into a debate on the topic but feel I should have mentioned it on my way out. He had run away by that point. Pansy.

Watching the film I had a funtastic time. That isn’t a typo, it’s a clever quote from the film. Now you can use it with your friends and seem really hip. Sure the film is set in 1987 making you some twenty years late to the party, but better late than never. Because the film is set in the late 80’s it is a great excuse to have an awesome soundtrack. Lou Reed is practically part of the cast with his face on posters, t-shirts and album covers. This proto-punk outlook is seen in James and Em. They are stuck in Pittsburgh when they have a more cosmopolitan view on life.


James is a very quiet rebel. Played capably by Jesse Eisenberg, James has just graduated university and looking for what to do next. That sounds very familiar to me. I’m going through the same thing at the minute. I don’t have a theme park near by but I imagine scrubbing dishes in a pub’s kitchen will be similarly depressing. The upside being that I might just meet a girl I’m crazy about.

Em (played by Kristen Stewart) is that girl for James. And I can see why. She is exactly the type of girl I was nuts about in high school. Pretty but didn’t know it. Angry but not militant. Desirable but distant. A few names spring to mind instantly. James can’t believe his luck when a girl like Em invites him to one of her parties. He does the miraculous and manages to not make an arse of himself. Too much. Their small romance feels very private and genuine. Jesse Eisenberg did not have to try very hard to look like he enjoyed kissing Kristen Stewart.

Like most young men, James frequently thinks about sex. This leads to some awkward erection jokes that shows that this film is from the director of Superbad. This is a much more sedate and mature affair though. Whilst Superbad was screwing around with your friends before college, this is about what you have to do to save yourself from becoming a screw up. None of the adult characters are adequate role models for the main characters.

From watching interviews with writer and director, Greg Mottola, I can tell this is very personal. His speech patterns are almost identical to James’s. It seems like we have a man with arrested development, still hanging onto that high school crush that messed his head up. I’m sure he had a lot of McJobs before he was taken seriously as a film maker. Sometimes you just have to stick the eyes on bananas.


Bill Hader provides excellent comic relief in this film that could otherwise tip into melodrama. He plays the crazy manager at Adventureland who has a very certain way of how he thinks the park should be run. None of these expectations bare much resemblance on reality. But that doesn’t matter for his smitten partner who thinks he is just wonderful. It is sweet and surreal.

The story of Adventureland is simple and the characters are routine, but in a nice way. It all feels everyday because that is what it is trying to be. This isn’t the doomed romance of Kristen Stewart’s much other big film this year. It is about life and how it has a way of screwing up. This film is not for everyone but I’d say it is capable of doing a couple of lengths in the pool. At its worst it is treading water, at its best it soars.


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The Dark Knight + Batman 3

September 22, 2009

I stuck on one of my favourite dvds the other day. The Dark Knight goes into my dvd player on a monthly basis. The film has to be one of the most enjoyable ever made. Not only does it have the brilliant Batman, we also get to see the finest depiction of his nemesis: The Joker. You’ve heard all this before. The film came out over a year ago and if you have any interest it in you’ve seen it ten times by now.

The Dark Knight can be viewed as an allegory for the age of terrorᵀᴹ. It highlights the debate between security and liberty. Is Batman right to spy on the whole populace to catch the Joker? Was he right to torture gangsters and crooks to gather evidence? Bruce never seems happy doing these things, eager to let Harvey Dent be the true hero and use due procedure. Is that good enough? Do the ends justify the means? These questions are left to the viewer to answer. Not something you will likely get from another blockbuster. *cough* Transformers *cough*

Not only does the Dark Knight provide a thought provoking story, it also kicks arse. The action set pieces feel fresh and look superb. Shying away from CGI for practical effects and models, the film looks as good today as when it came out. The scene on the ferries was so intense the first time I thought it. I really believed the boats would explode, something that could never happen in a Hollywood summer film. No matter what those criminals had done you couldn’t justify killing hundreds of them in cold blood. But Nolan made me belief he might. Sweet.

How do you top the scale of the Dark Knight for Batman 3? Joker terrorised with thirty million inhabitants, killed police commissioners and judges, destroyed Harvey Dent and almost cracked Batman. If you had Catwoman stealing an Egyptian cat statue from Gotham’s museum, it wouldn’t cut it. It needs to be a massive story without losing the characterisation that makes the Dark Knight such a watchable film.


The quickest way to do that is to bring back the Joker. It is clear that Nolan intended to bring back the Clown Prince of Crime in the final part of his trilogy. Heath Ledger’s untimely death may have scuppered this plan but I believe there are alternatives. Ledger did a terrific job, but the show must go on. An obvious replacement would be the very intense Daniel Day-Lewis. After seeing him in There Will Be Blood, I have no doubt he could play a psychopath convincingly. Another choice would be my favourite: Joseph Gordon-Levitt. He has worked with Ledger before and has similar flare. Gordon-Levitt has also just filmed Inception with Christopher Nolan which will help his chances.

Women. The one thing more interesting than films and superheroes. Not that I think of women as things… I’m just going to stop there. As much as I respect Nolan as a director, I do not think he is great at directing his actresses. I know from experience that it is difficult to direct women and he does the right thing by casting strong actresses. But women are a huge part of Batman’s ethos. They have to make an appearance in the next film, but which ones?

When most people think about women in Batman I bet the first one that springs to mind is Catwoman. She is iconic, sexy and anything but predictable. As I mentioned earlier, I fear that her flirting with Batman and stealing some artifacts would not make a film two hours long. Rumours have been going around and around about who has been cast as Catwoman, but Nolan has been quoted as saying we wouldn’t see her. He seemed pretty serious about there being no Robin, so I doubt we’ll see Catwoman in his films either.

Where there is the Joker, Harley Quinn is not far behind. She was created for Batman the animated series. The Joker’s former psychiatrist at Arkham was driven mad and became his sidekick. She is sort of stuck in the shadow of the Joker and I doubt would work as a stand alone villain. Harley is close friends with Poison Ivy but her supernatural abilities are likely to rule her out of the Nolan-verse Batman.

A woman I would like to meet is Talia al Ghul, daughter and heir of Ra’s al Ghul. In the comics, whilst Batman was training with Ra’s, he fell in love with Talia. This would be a great way for the third film to tie back into the first one. She is just as experienced as her father in martial arts and strategic planning. She is now motivated by revenge for her parent’s death, making her the perfect foil for the Dark Knight. Not only that, she will know Batman’s secret identity.


All that makes Talia a great choice of villain. Her involvement could force Batman to give up being Bruce Wayne to protect himself from assault in public by Talia. This issue is often touched upon in Batman lore. Is he Batman or Bruce Wayne? The pain of losing Rachel Dawes may be enough for him to bury Wayne. Talia’s reappearance and his mixed feelings towards her will not help matters.

The new Nolan films have been following some of Batman’s graphic novels fairly loosely. Batman Begins was inspired by Batman: Year One and the Dark Knight was inspired by The Long Halloween. The Long Halloween had a sequel called Dark Victory and could obviously serve as the basis for the next film. The problem is that Dark Victory covers the origin of Robin, this won’t happen in a Nolan/Bale film.

Dark Victory does look at how the three protagonists of the Dark Knight (Batman, Gordon and Dent) are now at odds with each other. Batman is an outlaw, Gordon has to hunt him and Dent is a crime boss called Two-Face. In the story Batman is really losing touch with his humanity, Robin acts as an anchor for him. This role could be transferred to Alfred/Lucius Fox.

What better way to capitalise on Batman’s vulnerability than by having him beaten by the super strong Bane. Don’t mistake him for a mindless idiot as he was portrayed in Batman & Robin. Bane is one of Batman’s smartest foes. In the Knightfall story Bane exhausts Batman before breaking his back. This would make a great set piece and send our hero to his darkest depths yet.

I’d like to see Talia and Bane working together. Maybe even dating. It wouldn’t be a great stretch to see Bane trained by Ra’s al Ghul before his death and chosen as a successor. In the comics Bruce was favoured by Ra’s as his successor but it would be interesting to see him replaced by the more savage Bane. I’d then add in an element from the graphic novel The Cult by having Batman brainwashed into killing someone. Whilst he is incapacitated Talia could use drugs and mind control to get Bruce back into the fold.

That’s my idea anyway, and something I could see Nolan using. Other big villains floating around the rumourmills are: The Penguin and The Riddler. The Penguin would make a nice bridge between the psychotic characters and the mob influence but isn’t big enough to fill a whole film. The Riddler (often rumoured as Johnny Depp) may seem like too much of a watered down Joker. I could see him brought in to try and solve the Hangman murders if they did choose to go with the Dark Victory storyline.


Interesting aside. Some people believe the character of Coleman Reese (the accountant who tries to blackmail Bruce Wayne) could become the Riddler. Mister Reese becomes mysteries. In the Dark Knight he says a little line that goes “what are you building for him now? A rocket ship?” A sly clue to a Justice League film and the Watchtower (orbital satellite) that Bruce finances.

So there you have it. I wish I was in a position to say what is coming next in the Batman films but sadly I am not. I think the Joker will be back in some capacity and that a member of the al Ghul family will come seeking revenge in a Die Hard 3 sort of way. I’d love to see a devilish Bane pursue the Batman as only he is capable of. Whatever happens, it is going to have a tough time living up to the high expectations set by The Dark Knight.

What are your thoughts? Which villains do you think we will see? Which storylines from the comics will be used? Leave your comments below.


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Up – Thanks to Total Film (and my sister)

September 17, 2009

Last week I was lucky enough to attend an advance preview of the new Pixar film Up. Even better was the fact that it was playing at the British Film Institute. Better still, it was free. The cherry on top of all this magnificence was that it was in 3D. I’ve got to thank my sister for winning the tickets in a Total Film competition. Well done to Total Film for being a quality film publication. *cheesy thumbs up*


So. I arrive at the BFI (British Film Institute) at noon to collect my tickets. The woman behind the counter is very confused. I explain, slowly, how I won the tickets in a competition. She is more confused. She asks if I have a reference number. I apologise that I don’t have one, and produce the email I was sent from Total Film. This was a mistake. Upon seeing the email her entire sense of the world disintegrates. Desperate to get rid of me she sends me to another desk. They have no idea what I am talking about and direct me to the box office (where I just came from). After this poor girl asks three of her colleagues for help, they collectively decide the best thing for me to do is come back later. I return at seventeen-hundred hours and a Pixar employee hands me a shiny pair of tickets. They can do anything.

On the way to the cinema screen we (my friend Tori and I) see two BFI staff trying to cram about a thousand balloons into a lift that is only made for a very petite person. Tried to get a picture but it came out very blurred. They must have been wearing portable shame-cloaking devices. I’d love one of those.

The 3D glasses were delivered in mighty chests that I thought would contain the director and producer. I was disappointed to see them containing the sensible and necessary glasses. But there was more to the glasses than met the eye. They were part of the Decepticon army. Front and centre on the Disney glasses was the Decepticon logo. Why was it there? My theory is that its an infra-red splodge to track audience eye movements.

The other strange feature of the glasses was a small circular disc on one of the legs. Clearly there to read your thoughts. Put that in tandem with tracking your eye movements and you have some powerful market research on your hands. A lot of people complained that their glasses didn’t work. I don’t know how they could not work but some people managed it. One child protested the whole way film that it had yet to go 3D. Despite these issues, Tor and I agreed these were the most comfortable glasses yet. Tor wears glasses herself and said she almost for the other pair was there. Isn’t that nice?

3d glasses

480 words in, time to talk about the movie. Before that, let’s talk about the story. The most important part of any film is that it has a good story (take note Michael Bay). Up had one of the most compelling stories I’ve seen. On paper you could see a lot of stock elements. Grumpy old man paired with irritatingly happy youngster. Comedy. Throw in some animal sidekicks for comic relief and action elements. Let it simmer gently for 90 minutes. You get so much more than that, and a lot of that is down to Ellie.

Ellie is Carl’s wife. They meet as children and discover they are both fuelled by the spirit of adventure. I really don’t want to spoil it but Pixar uses a montage even better than the one in Wall-E to show their relationship develop. For the whole sequence they barely speak, another tool learnt from Wall-E. And yet we are left with a character who the whole audience had limitless affection for. You see emo-kids covered in Nightmare Before Christmas badges now, in five years they will be wearing Ellie badges.

ellie badge

Onto the bad guy. And what a bad guy. I thought Colonel Hans Landa (Christopher Waltz) would easily walk away with bad guy of the year but Charles Muntz (Christopher Plummer) really throws down the gauntlet. It’s a good olde fashioned Chris-Off. Waltz plays the scheming and ruthless Jew Hunter. Plummer shoots a nine year old boy with an elephant gun. Several times. In a kid’s film. And Russell (the little child) is cute. He loves exploring, chocolate and Kevin. You can’t shoot a child that innocent. The point is that Charles Muntz is a scary character that really adds jeopardy to the story.

Dug does not. Dug is a talking dog. Comic relief is rarely done as well as it is here. He is voiced by writer Bob Peterson, he also voices the bad dog: Alpha. Watch the clip below.

Up takes a lot of influence from the Arthur Conan Doyle novel: The Lost World. Or so IMDB tells me. I haven’t read The Lost World. What I have done is seen the Looney Tunes. As much as the Lost World may have impacted the story of ancient life still existing in South America, just as apparent are the sight gags from Looney Tunes. When you first meet Kevin the bird she does an amazing impression of Road Runner. Some dogs chasing Kevin even fall of a cliff in a typical Wile E. Coyote way. If Charles Muntz wasn’t so evil he would look like Elmer Fudd chasing Bugs Bunny with a rifle. These didn’t feel like a cheap rip-off, but more of a homage to days of yore.

Afterwards there was a Q&A with the director, Pete Docter, and producer, Jonas Rivera. Except Pete Docter had completely lost his voice. He drew pictures instead. Being a world class animator this wasn’t really a problem. Sadly dear readers I wasn’t able to ask them a question. But I did learn that: Docter sees a lot of himself in Carl and the desire to float away, that Docter’s daughter voices young Ellie on the instruction of Edward Asner, and that Up was almost about the fountain of youth.


As I mentioned earlier I went to see this film with Tor. She just graduated from the University of East London. As she is as unemployed as I am currently we are going to get together and do some joint film reviews. She will give you the girly side, whilst I’ll give you that tough guy perspective you all depend on me for. Here is the nutty part, they will be video reviews. Now I’m not great at editing, yet, but these should be a lot of fun. Watch out!


ActorScope: Jeff Bridges – What can’t he do?

September 12, 2009

Welcome to the first ActorScope where I examine an actor. ActorScope will be looking at their past, present and future film projects. We’ll also cover trivia, rumours and any cool connections they may have. Our first actor in the spotlight is none other than Jeff Bridges. Scientists have often wondered how someone as cool as Jeff Bridges came into being. I imagine it was a magazine editor who entered a bowling tournament when, suddenly, he was sucked into a computer and was forced to steal his business partners high tech armour to escape.

Jeff Bridges has been in a lot of movies. Born into an acting family, Bridges was raised on the set. I’ll be looking at his more modern films today. I’m sure there are many great films I’ve missed off but I wasn’t alive at the time to watch them. What I have watched is the Big Lebowski. This is a brilliant film. It’s by the Coen brothers so you can expect all the quirky dialogue and vivid visuals that goes with that. The Big Lebowski has a massive cult following, in one day I saw three people wearing different slogans from the film on their t-shirts. The Dude abides, The Dude and Little Lebowski Urban Achievers. For indie film makers the Coen brothers sure know how to merchandise.

I watched Iron Man again the other day. What a fun film. Whilst Robert Downey Jr steals the show, Jeff does a great turn as Obadiah Stane. It is very strange seeing Bridges yelling at scientists when they can’t recreate the Iron Man armour. When the slackers finally do piece it together, Iron Monger’s voice is great. Hearing a guy as cool as Bridges saying “collateral damage” really chills me. I’m sad he won’t be back in the next one.

A Bridges film I’m very keen to see would be Fisher King. Not only does it star the focus of this ActorScope, it’s also directed by Terry Gilliam. We all know I love him. Terry Gilliam is clocking up quite a few tags on this blog now. Wait till the Imagianarium comes out. A film I don’t really want to see is Seabiscuit. Now admittedly seeing Spider-Man and the Iron Monger in one film would be good, I doubt it would live up to the awesome Batman/Wolverine picture (The Prestige).

K-Pax. That was an odd one. It starred the ever watchable Kevin Spacey alongside Bridges. The only thing was that Spacey is sure he is an alien from the planet K-Pax. Bridges plays the psychiatrist trying to inform Spacey that he is human. It is an enjoyable film, but not one of my favourites. I felt frustrated that Bridges never accepted the idea that Spacey could be an alien, because if he had the film may have been more fun. It was a psychologically interesting film though.

Surf’s Up is skewed much more towards fun and away from psychological intensity. Bridges plays a hippy surfer penguin called Big Z. If you thought that premise was funny, you’ll probably like this movie. It has a lot of heart and as I remember it was very funny. The Beef (Shia LeBeouf) stars and he is a lot less irritating when you don’t see his smug little face. All I can say is that I hated Happy Feet with a fiery passion, so Surf’s Up went a part of the way towards redeeming the penguin genre.

How to Lose Friends and Alienate People saw Bridges as a magazine editor who had lost his edge. Before he had always been about serious journalism and bringing to light what the government wanted hidden, now he did cover stories on little starlets. Bridges does a great job of showing someone who as forgotten why they do their job. Simon Pegg stars as the bumbling young journalist out to show Bridges how to get it back. An entertaining film that lampoons modern celebrity culture. The love story between Pegg and Kirsten Dunst feels tacked on but doesn’t destract greatly from a fun film.

TRON. No look at Jeff Bridges’ career would be complete without mentioning the 1982 geek bonanza. I am ashamed to admit I have not seen it. But I will before the sequel, TRON Legacy, hits cinemas. I’m sure it will be all over our television sets in the run up to the new film. We’ve all been touched by the vast cultural impact of TRON. Whether it is TRON guy on youtube or the light-bike race on Family Guy. Check out the exciting teaser trailer below. Bridges looks a little bit evil in this one, which is great fun.

The most exciting upcoming project, for me, of Jeff Bridges has to be The Men Who Stare at Goats. It looks incredible. A journalist (Bridges has a thing for those) discovers that America has been secretly training psychic super troops for thirty years. Or Jedis as they call themselves. It stars George Clooney, who starred in another Coen brothers’ classic – O Brother, Where art thou?, and Ewan McGregor. Bridges stars as the psychic instructor. A true hippy who looks like the dude on anti-depressants.

“I often feel that the actual movie is like the skin sloughed off the snake; it’s the by-product of the real valuable stuff, which is the real-life experience of doing it.” Jeff Bridges


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DC Entertainment – Jealous of all of Marvel’s free press

September 9, 2009

Disney buys Marvel and now Warner Bros is cracking the whip with its comic superpower DC. I know a decision like this takes months of planning but it looks a lot like the exec are screaming “Marvel are killing us, let’s do what they are doing.”

There aren’t a lot of details at the minute but basically DC Entertainment is born. Its role is to govern over all the DC characters when they aren’t busy in comic books. This new division will over see: films, games and cartoons. This raises a lot of important issues, but what really stands out is films. If you’ve follow geeky film news like I do, you’ve probably seen rumours of Wonder Woman, Flash and the big old Justice League come and go over the last few years. Now they properties are getting pulled back in and will likely the same sort of co-ordination as Marvel is attempting with its own Avengers’ films.



What about games and cartoons? Batman: Arkham Asylum has just come out and is a critical darling. It’s also setting records in how fast its selling. Win. The big question over at DC is why aren’t all their games like this. This is a question asked by the fans as much as the big wigs. If better planning will turn into better games than everyone wins. I think Mortal Kombat vs DC was a bit of a wash out and hopefully they have learnt from that. DC’s direct to dvd cartoon’s have been good lately. I can see those being used as a template for how other properties should be handled.

With the exception of Batman, DC has been having it rough lately. No Wonder Woman film. No Justice League. No Flash. But it looks like this is a big move to change it all around. Green Lantern, yes. Batman 3, yes. Wonder Woman, yes? Lets hope so.

Ant-Buoy away!

Ant-Buoy away!

Completely unrelated closing point: Gossip is going round that Ant-Man may be turned into a Pixar film. That is such a cool idea. And look at his name! I should be his freakin’ sidekick.


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Up – Advanced review coming soon

September 8, 2009

Check this out. I’m going to an advanced preview of Up on Friday at the amazingly cool BFI Southbank. Not only that, I’ll be attending a Q & A with the director, Pete Docter, and producer, Jonas Rivera. Pete Docter previously directed Monsters Inc. and was a writer on everything Toy Story.

I’ll be bringing you a review of the film (and any Pixar gossip I can grab) a whole month before the film is out at cinemas. I hope I can do this more for you in the future.

If you have any questions you’d like me to ask just write them as a comment below. Check back here on Saturday to get all the news.

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