Tag Archive: pixar


Monsters University Review

With Monsters University, Pixar attempts to take back the crown as the best animation studio out there, a title that seems to be swaying towards Illumination Entertainment after the success of Despicable Me and its recent sequel. To prove they have not lost their magic touch, Pixar have brought back a winning pair, second only in animation to Pixar’s own Woody and Buzz, Mike and Sulley. University looks at the events that forced the two loveable monsters together and what made them the record breaking team that we first met in Monsters Inc more than ten years ago.

“I’m gonna be a scarer!”

Returning characters Mike Wazowski (Billy Crystal), Sulley (John Goodman) and Randy (Steve Buscemi) are all back, joined by a host of new talent. The primary new characters are mature student Don (Joel Murray), Squishy (Peter Sohn), two headed monster Terri and Terry (Sean Hayes, Dave Foley) and the unpredictable Art (Charlie Day). These new monsters make up the fraternity Oozma Kappa, the fraternity that Mike and Sulley are forced to join in order to compete in Dean Hardscrabble’s (Helen Mirren) Scare Games to prove they have what it takes to be the best scarers on campus and win their place back in the University as a scaring major. But with personal rivalries and an overall lack of scariness about their new friends, will Mike and Sulley have what it takes? The answer seems almost predictable what with this being a prequel, but what’s important is the journey.

 

While Monsters Inc was arguably Sulley’s moment in the spotlight, University is all about Mike Wazowski. We’re introduced to the adorable one eyed monster as a child on a field trip to Monsters Incorporated where he gets his first glimpse at the scare floor and realises his ambition in life is to be working there in the future. This short opening sequence opens up a whole load of strings to Mike’s bow; he has an ambition, he has a background, he has room to grow and learn right from the off, and by the end of the film Mike Wazowski comes out on top as one of Pixar’s considerably best characters to date.

“I can’t go back to jail”

Sulley, however, does not come off that well: arrogant, cocksure and generally that guy in class who seems really big headed who nobody really likes. Saying that, though, watching Sulley and Mike’s friendship blossom over the course of the (near two hour) movie is something very enjoyable, even though at times it feels like Sulley doesn’t really deserve Mike’s friendship. It is not until the final sequence that he really earns any respect or likeability, but more on that sequence later.

 

Monsters University isn’t really any different to any other college movies, using tropes and plot points to move the story along in the expected fashion. But then occassionaly it veers off the path into the realm of the unknown. It would have been very easy to head straight towards the beginning of Monsters Inc but that’s not what Pixar went with; it would have been even easier to end with Oozma Kappa winning the Scare Games and everything having a happy ending but that’s not where they went either and credit has to go to Pixar for their wonderful storytelling.

“I’m going to wipe the floor with that little know-it-all”

The animation is wonderful. Everything is turned up by ten on the colour scales and the creativity to come up with so many different monsters is really unparallelled. If nothing else, this is beautiful to watch. Things take a darker (both in tone and aesthetics) turn when Mike and Sulley risk their lives journeying to the human world. This wonderful sequence brings the two characters together in a really heartfelt exchange of words and shows great comradery between the two as they work so well with one another to get the better of the humans, playing to each other strengths: highlighting the ups and downs of friendship being worth all that hassle if at the end the two parties come out stronger as one than they were on their own.

 

There seems to be an unwritten rule that if you laugh out loud five or more times at a comedy then it’s definitely worth recommending to someone else. I can’t remember a moment when I stopped laughing while watching Monsters University; there was joke after joke, all aimed at a midway between child and adult so that everyone could share in the joy. There were fantastic set pieces, big laughs and really tru touching moments of a bond forming between lifelong friends.

“You’re just not scary”

It seems unlikely that we’ll get another Monsters prequel and it’s probably best if we don’t get a sequel. Monsters Univeristy never quite matches the original but it compliments it wonderfully.

 

My Rating: 8/10

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What to Watch – July 2013

With most of the biggest summer films come and gone already, it is down to Pixar, giant robots and the least anticipated superhero film of the year to vie for audience attention.

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Now You See Me – 3rd July

A star studded cast embark on a world wide game of cat and mouse to catch a group of ‘Robin Hood like’ magicians turned bank robbers in Now You See Me, which is by far the most exciting film on this list for me.

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The Bling Ring – 5th July

From Sofia Ford Coppola comes The Bling Ring, starring Emma Watson (albeit sounding like an American brat). Inspired by true events, a group of teenagers begin stealing from the rich and famous Hollywood socialites… the whole story is in the trailer pretty much.

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Pacific Rim – 12th July

After what many critics have called ‘the best trailer of the summer’ Guillermo Del Toro’s homage to Japanese monster films has a lot to live up to. And there don’t seem to be many people that think it will fail.

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Monsters University – 12th July

This will be the film that either reassures everyone that Pixar’s last couple of years were just a blip, or confirm what many people fear: Pixar are declining. Hopefully, as Monsters Inc. is probably my favourite Pixar film, the former will be proved correct.

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The World’s End – 19th July

Simon Pegg looks like he’s in the form of his life with the final installment in the Cornetto trilogy. Joined by a rich supporting cast it looks as though Wright, Pegg and Frost will be bowing out in a no less than exceptional manner.

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The Wolverine – 25th July

In a film that not many people want and fewer are excited about (other than me who is quite looking forward to it) Wolverine is taken on his most human and darkest screen voyage to date. However, the main problem here is: if you make Wolverine mortal, surely he dies straight away due to his body being filled with adamantium? But after the massacre to the X-Men film universe that was Origins, I suppose that doesn’t really matter?

UK Release Date: 12th July 2013.

Stars: Dan Scanlon (director), Billy Crystal, John Goodman, Steve Buscemi, Julia Sweeney, Helen Mirren.

Plot: A look at the relationship between Mike and Sulley during their days at the University of Fear — when they weren’t necessarily the best of friends.

In recent years I have questioned whether Pixar have been going off the boil a little bit with recent films Cars 2 and Brave not quite living up to past Pixar films. However, Monsters Inc is one of my favourite Pixar films so I have been looking forward to seeing how Pixar’s first prequel would turn out. Finally we have the trailer and…

… I can’t help but feel disappointed. You don’t get any real storyline or impression of plot, you don’t really get a sense of a funny rivalry between our two heroes like we did in the very first teaser which was hilarious, and most of all you don’t get to see many returning characters despite the cast returning. Instead you have so many new characters thrown in to these two minutes its impossible to make anything of it!

To paraphrase Nick Fury, I still believe in Pixar. And I really hope that there is more to Monsters University than the obvious jokes the trailer throws at us. If this doesn’t do well then the future for Finding Nemo 2 and the rumoured Toy Story 4 does not look good.

February is looking like a very exciting month over here in the UK for film releases. There’s animation, Oscar nominated performances, big laughs and big explosions. Here’s my rundown of the films to look out for over the next four weeks.

 

Bullet to the Head – 1st February

This looks like the speech-slurring Sylvester Stallone is back to his best as he teams up with Fast Five‘s Sung Kang. A very ordinary storyline but throw in some fantastic action scenes and funny one liners and you’ve got yourself one of the most enjoyable action films of the year.

 

Flight – 1st February

Denzel Washington is a man that always delivers and here he is with his latest Oscar nominated performance as a pilot who’s heroic saving of a crashing plane is soon under investigation as he may not be all he seems. With a supporting cast of Don Cheadle, Melissa Leo, Bruce Greenwood and John Goodman this has no choice but to be a fantastic drama.

 

I Give it a Year – 8th February

This is probably the film that I am most looking forward to this month. I can’t remember the last time I saw a trailer that genuinely made me laugh out loud as much as this one does. I Give it a Year looks hilarious and I hope that I will not be disappointed, especially since Simon Baker, of The Mentalist fame, is in it!

 

Wreck-it Ralph – 8th February

Nominated for the Best Animated Film Oscar at this years ceremony, Wreck-it Ralph looks set to be able to rival anything that Pixar have done in the past. Set in the world of video games we follow bad guy Wreck-it Ralph in his attempt to prove to himself and everyone else that he is in fact a good guy.

 

A Good Day to Die Hard – 14th February

The fifth installment in the Die Hard franchise promises to be the biggest one yet. And with the introduction of Jai Courtney as McClane Jr it may be a sign that Bruce Willis is ready to pass on the mantle of leading the series, although I highly doubt that!

 

Cloud Atlas – 22nd February

Cloud Atlas‘ narrative structure is one that hasn’t been seen all that often in film and, upon it’s release in America (a good few months earlier than the rest of the world for some daft reason) it instantly divided critics. Despite this, I am still excited to see how the film will play out and really looking forward to seeing how the adaptation of David Mitchell’s epic novel turns out.

As soon as I saw the first trailer for Rise of the Guardians I instantly fell in love with it. Just from the trailer you could tell it was going to be something special; the characters, the colour scheme, the animation. It soon became one of my most anticipated films of the year… so how would it stand up to my very very high expectations?

DreamWorks’ latest feature film sees the immortal guardians: North – Santa Claus (Alec Baldwin), Bunnymund – Easter Bunny (Hugh Jackman), Tooth – the Tooth Fairy (Isla Fisher) and the mute Sandy – Sandman team up to stop the evil Boogeyman Pitch (Jude Law) from covering the world in fear and taking away all the innocence of the children. To do so a new recruit must heed the Guardians’ call: Jack Frost (Chris Pine).

The story is pretty simple, it in no way tries to over complicate things but that doesn’t take anything away from the way in which the story are told. Right from the off we are presented with this sort of outcast character of Jack Frost and we are quickly brought in to his story, feeling his sense of longing and wishing to know where he came from, wanting to be believed in by the children of Earth. And right from here you are wrapped up in the story. You’re rooting for him right from the word go and the introduction to this magical world is all you need to quickly become engrossed and want to see more. I found myself amazed at how emotionally attached I grew to Jack Frost as the film went on, there was a distinct sense of humanity in his character.

Of course, some of this humanity is installed by the wonderful Chris Pine’s voice acting and the whole cast did a terrific job in voicing their characters. I can honestly say that this is definitely one of Hugh Jackman’s best performances in my opinion, or at least one of my favourite roles I have seen him in. I almost forgot it was even Alec Baldwin voicing North as well, this sort of Russian/Eastern European accent and demeanor he seemed to have really made his character stand out and it was terrific work from Baldwin in doing this. And although Sandy doesn’t say a word (he communicates through sand drawings above his head) he quickly transforms into this lovable little guy and no doubt one of the most popular characters in Rise of the Guardians! As for Pitch, I think he may just be one of the greatest ever villains in a children’s film.

The animation is second to none. We’re talking perfection here in terms of animation. There are some wonderful sets created; Santa’s workshop, Bunnymund’s Easter retreat, Tooth’s palace and Pitch’s headquarters. There is so much attention to detail, everything is so bold and bright and it all feels so real, like your looking at something of immeasurable beauty. And there are some great action sequences to go with the wonderful aesthetics of the film. Right from the beginning where we first meet Jack Frost and he messes about on the iced over pond to the sled ride he takes Jamie (the last believer in the Guardians) on, from the scene in which the Guardians help restore belief in Tooth, right up to the final climax and fight with Pitch.

Everything is done so well. Scenes you thought were pointless when they first appear later show their importance in the film and it has a sort of poetic feel to it. DreamWorks is really showing here, as people are starting to doubt Pixar for the first time, that they can make top quality films as well as anybody else.

Director Peter Ramsay, producer Christina Steinberg, executive producer Guillermo del Toro and Jack Frost himself Chris Pine have all expressed an interest in making a sequel. Usually I do like to see films just stand alone, it makes a nice change these days, but I have to confess I would welcome a Rise of the Guardians sequel with open arms!

My Rating: 9/10.

Disney now owns three of the biggest companies in the world of movie making: Pixar, Marvel and LucasFilm, in particular the Star Wars franchise. So with these three huge franchises all working under the same roof it is inevitable that comparisons will be made, but just which is the biggest and best franchise? I will be ranking Pixar, Marvel and Star Wars out of 10 in categories such as Oscar recognition, box office takings, quality of the films and star quality.

 

Box Office

The box office takings are vital to companies and film franchises such as these three as it indicates whether there is any demand for their films any longer and obviously, at the minute, there is. The Star Wars franchise (the original trilogy and prequel trilogy) have taken $3,793,650,642 at the box office, making an average of around $632million per film. Marvel Entertainment have so far released six films of their own, from Iron Man to The Avengers and have made $3,772,055,196 (with The Avengers making up the most of that) averaging $628million per film. None of this quite matches Pixar who, since releasing Toy Story have amassed an incredible $7,794,770,758 at the global box office, however on average this only amounts to just under $600million per film.

Marks out of 10 for Box Office takings:

Pixar: 6

Marvel: 7

Star Wars: 8

 

“Son?”

Oscars

Each year the Oscars acknowledge the best films and the best efforts in making films. Marvel are really lagging behind in this area with just three nominations, two for Iron Man and one for Iron Man 2. Star Wars have so far managed to win seven Oscars with another fifteen nominations! But still this is far far behind Pixar who have been storming the Oscars with almost all of their films and have won ten Oscars for their feature films with another 30 (yes 30!) nominations!

Pixar: 10

Marvel: 1

Star Wars: 6

 

Film Quality

There is no doubt about who makes the best films out of Pixar, Marvel and Star Wars. Ever since their first release Pixar have continually churned out near perfect, enjoyable family films almost every year. With their recent releases it looks as though they have started to lag but their discography cannot be ignored. Marvel, aside from Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy, have dominated the superhero genre and continue to bring out fun, light hearted but still very very good films and all of this culminated in one of the best films of 2012: The Avengers. I have never really liked Star Wars but I can appreciate that the original trilogy was good (yet nothing to really shout about) however the prequel trilogy is universally disliked.

Pixar: 10

Marvel: 8

Star Wars: 6

Star Talent

Star Wars made stars out of Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher and Harrison Ford primarily, although they were virtual unknowns at the time. However, they did attract Peter Cushing and Alec Guinness to the franchise. In the prequels they managed to cast some good British talent with Liam Neeson and Ewan McGregor along with the huge Samuel L. Jackson. Marvel also signed Samuel L. Jackson up along with huge stars Robert Downey Jr, Ed Norton, Scarlett Johansson, Gwyneth Paltrow, Jeremy Renner, Hugo Weaving, Tim Roth, Jeff Bridges and Sam Rockwell (and that’s not even all of them!). Tom Hanks, John Ratzenberger, Michael Keaton, Kevin Spacey, John Goodman and Steve Buscemi have all provided voices for Pixar characters but a lot of the time the actors are unknown to audiences.

Pixar: 6

Marvel: 9

Star Wars: 4

 

Overall Ratings:

Pixar: 32/40.

Marvel: 25/40.

Star Wars: 24/40.

So overall Pixar comes out on top which is unsurprising to say the least! Although with their two most recent films (Cars 2 and Brave) not going down as well as previous efforts are they on the decline? Marvel have just released the third highest grossing movie of all time this year and their universe of films is only going to continue to grow and get more and more exciting. Star Wars has continued to live on in television shows since the end of the film franchise and everyone is expecting big things from the new instalment. In the next few years it will be interesting to see who Disney is getting the most from.

With the shock announcement that Disney have bought Star Wars and plan to release a completely new trilogy beginning in 2015 it is no wonder that speculation has already begun about who would be the best choice for director. Let’s look at some of the contenders:

Christopher Nolan

Fresh from directing one of the most lauded trilogies of all time in The Dark Knight Christopher Nolan could pretty much get any gig that he wanted which, let’s be honest, makes complete sense. Every one of Nolan’s films so far has gone down a treat and with Inception he certainly showed that he is more than capable of making a truly magnificent science fiction piece and this is something that the next instalment of Star Wars needs to be!

 

Bryan Singer

In a world as big as the one that Star Wars has built for itself the ability to handle and direct an ensemble cast is a must. With X-men and X2 Singer took on a similar challenge and managed to make a couple of the best superhero films to date. Therefore, this shows that Singer has what it takes to work with a large cast and bring out specific characters. Although, with the recent announcement he is set to helm Days of Future Past then he may be out of the question.

 

Brad Bird

Bird made his name at Pixar where he was given the go ahead to direct The Incredibles and obviously because it is Pixar, as well as the fact that it is brilliant, he received a lot of praise for his work. Earlier this year Brad Bird was responsible for reviving the Mission: Impossible franchise with Ghost Protocol and made the Tom Cruise franchise a relevant and important one once more; could he do the same for Star Wars?

 

Guillermo Del Toro

The fan knows fantasy, he knows special effects and can create huge blockbusters. Del Toro is well known for his ability to draw up strange creations and to let him loose on the world of Star Wars would be, for want of a better word, pretty orgasmic. Most notable for Hellboy and Pan’s Labyrinth Del Toro is set to announce his return to the world of huge blockbusters with Pacific Rim next year.

 

Jon Favreau

It was Favreau’s work with Iron Man that convinced Marvel (and importantly Disney) that superhero films were worth backing and proceeding with, culminating in The Avengers. With Iron Man 2 perhaps Favreau did have too much to do and it may be a case of that happening again with Star Wars: it would be a risk but one that could be worth taking, especially as the name of Star Wars is going to bring in the audience anyway.

 

Joss Whedon

A God among geeks. Does much more need to be said about the man’s talents? It is practically impossible for Whedon to direct Star Wars unfortunately as he has a pretty tight schedule with Marvel’s Phase 2 in place at the minute but a future Episode of the huge science fiction franchise, why not?

 

Duncan Jones

The least well known of all of my choices but not at all less talented. With Moon and Source Code in his back catalogue Jones has shown that he is more than capable of telling some brilliant science fiction stories. I would love to see Jones achieve some success and get a chance to show mainstream audiences his talent although maybe this would be a step too far a little too early.

 

Obviously, most of these directors are very commercial and well known to audiences already with a proven record of directing hit films and creating believable and memorable characters whilst exploring the world that their films inhabit. This is an important trait when deciding who is going to continue the Star Wars franchise but there may be some hidden gems hiding in cracks and crevices somewhere… or even in plain sight. So let me know, who would you like to see direct the seventh instalment of Star Wars?

Well you don’t really need to look hard to find the big news of this week and when the announcement came yesterday I think it took everybody by surprise! Not content with already owning Pixar, without a doubt the best animation company in the world, back in 2010 Disney paid $4.2billion to take over Marvel Entertainment. And now on top of all that Disney have forked out around $4billion once again to purchase LucasFilm meaning that Disney now owns Star Wars. News which will no doubt be seen as both positive and negative among fans.

Disney have announced that with the rights going to them they are planning to release a new Star Wars film in 2015, with the next instalments coming every other year. These would effectively be Chapters 7, 8 and 9. With the horrible reception that the Episodes 1, 2 and 3 received you can see why fans would not want any more damage done to their cherished sci-fi western series, yet Disney do seem to get everything right; just look at what they’ve achieved with Marvel! There is no shortage of stories and characters in the Star Wars canon and new stories in such a wide and real world can be easily thought of for those with that ability. With a release date set for 2015 you have to imagine that something is already in the works and a director could soon be announced with only three years to work on the project. It is unknown as of yet if any previously seen characters will return and in what form.

Another piece of information from this deal is the fact that George Lucas will not be directing. This will be well received from fans, no doubt, who perhaps feel that in recent years Lucas has done more harm than good to the series and is using it basically to just milk the name for as much as is humanly possible. With science fiction doing so well right now with all the superhero movies being released and the reinvention of Star Trek Disney obviously feel that they can bring something new to the table with Star Wars and that news can only be good.

The deal struck here also concerns the ownership of Industrial Light & Magic, the special effects company will also be traded into Disney’s hands, along with the rights of other LucasFilm productions such as Indiana Jones although Disney have said that Star Wars is the only series they plan to continue at this time. And with Disney having produced Pirates of the Caribbean and National Treasure recently you can see why they don’t want to be seen to be doing too much of the same sort of style by throwing out Indy too.

So that’s the real big news of the week.

But there has been some other big news that may have escaped many people’s notice thanks to all of this Star Wars stuff. Not so long ago, Matthew Vaughn stepped down as director of X-men: Days of Future Past and speculation was rife as to who would replace him. Thankfully, his replacement has been found in the form of Bryan Singer(!), the man behind the camera of X-men and X2 which will no doubt please fans! This can only spur rumours on of cast members returning from the original trilogy but anyhow, it is great to see Singer back with the X-men.

UK Release Date: 15th February 2013.

Stars: Rich Moore (director), John C. Reilly, Jack McBrayer, Sarah Silverman, Jane Lynch.

Plot: A video game villain wants to be a hero and sets out to fulfil his dream, but his quest brings havoc to the whole arcade where he lives.

With Disney raking in all the money from Pixar and Marvel these days it seems as though their feature length films will become less frequent and they seem to be focussing more on their animated shorts. However, with the release of Wreck-It Ralph I think Disney will be proving that they haven’t lost their touch at all.

Wreck-It Ralph is the latest animated family film from Disney and it seems as though there will be plenty to enjoy. As it is a Disney film you have to sort of expect it to just be a hit commercially anyway. However, I do think that older people, teenagers and young adults will probably get the most from Wreck-It Ralph because it features cameos from video game characters that were popular when this sort of audience were younger.

Among the cameo stars are Bowser from the Super Mario games, Sonic the Hedgehog and his rival Doctor Eggman, Ken and Ryu from Street Fighter,one of the flashing ghosts from Pac-Man: Clyde, Kano from Mortal Kombat, Neff from Altered Beast and the Paperboy. With a rich and vast range of characters I think adults will be more than happy to sit through Wreck-It Ralph.

Obviously with it being Disney you have to imagine that Ralph will leave his ‘bad guy’ days behind him and become a good guy in his own video game, but even if you know the ending Disney always manages to take you on an unforgettable journey along the way. And that if more important than the ending.

Let’s start with some great news for fans of Pixar. For a while it has been thought that there would be a sequel coming up to Finding Nemo, which is probably my favourite Pixar movie there has been so far. No plot details have been released yet but surely it can’t just be Nemo getting lost again and needing to be found? They could go the ‘Taken 2‘ route and have Marlin needing to be found instead this time but that would just be ridiculous too. Pixar don’t usually screw up so fingers crossed but the news this week about the sequel is that Ellen DeGeneres is back for the sequel. DeGeneres played Dory who is often thought of as the most popular character of the first film so this shouldn’t be too much of a surprise.

Lawless is hitting the cinema screens next week and with the cast it boasts (Hardy, LaBeouf, Oldman, Chastain, Pearce) it should surely be a hit. The western is the oldest genre in cinema and is still one of my favourites to this day and I am glad that some big name actors are trying to bring the genre back to the forefront of cinema. Natalie Portman is producing and also starring in a film called Jane Got A Gun where she plays a woman whose husband comes home pumped full of bullets so she reaches out to a former lover to protect her homestead from the criminals who are on the way to finish off her husband. Michael Fassbender is in talks for the role of the former lover! Brilliant news, this could well be another mark of how versatile Fassbender really is.

Tom Hardy, Leonardo DiCaprio and Tobey Maguire are set to team up for a new film with a strong message which takes aim at the horrible world of animal trafficking. DiCaprio and Maguire have long been friends with very strong animal rights opinions and DiCaprio has done plenty of work campaigning for better animal rights. Hardy has recently been fully informed of the actions by friends of his that used to be in the Special Forces but now work as anti-poaching fighters across the world. As of now the trio is only producing the film but with all three having such strong opinions on the subject I wouldn’t be surprised to see one, two or all three of them taking a starring role too.

Space Jam was released way back in 1996 and revolved around Bugs Bunny and his Looney Tunes friends recruiting basketball superstar Michael Jordan to play in a basketball match between the Looney Tunes and a group of aliens who stole the talent of some NBA heavyweights. Modern day Miami Heat star LeBron James has said that he is a huge fan of the film and has expressed interest in teaming up with Bugs, Taz, Daffy Duck and the rest for a sequel. Warner Bros. aren’t actually developing a sequel yet but James’ interest could be the push they need: Warner Bros. always want to make money, the Looney Tunes are guaranteed to pull audiences and sportsmen always want to be actors these days so I would suggest everything is already in place to get it going!

And finally… Tom Hanks has become a viral sensation this week and has earned the respect and adoration of thousands of new fans because of a set of pictures that have appeared on the internet. Tom Hanks is known for being pretty easy going and having a quirky and fun personality and now he has proven it once more as three pictures arrived of him pretending to be drunk and have his glasses stolen by a fan of his. Hanks shows he never gives acting a break and really plays up for the camera! See the pictures below…