Blu-ray Review: Green RoomFan The Fire Recommends

By Martin Roberts on 16 Sep 2016

Director Jeremy Saulnier’s first feature was a little-seen horror called Murder Party, but the film that established him as a director to watch was Blue Ruin, a taut, stripped-down thriller with a stream of jet-black humour running through it. Show the rest of this post…

And that description more or less suits his follow-up, Green Room, in which a punk band become trapped in a neo-Nazi stronghold after stumbling upon a crime following a gig.

Like Blue Ruin, Green Room’s premise is simple. There isn’t a superfluity of narrative here, just a situation played out to its resolution. The members of the band – played by Anton Yelchin, Alia Shawkat, Joe Cole and Callum Turner – are variously wounded and picked off by Nazi thugs as their attempts to escape become more and more desperate. The owner of the titular green room, Darcy (played with understated menace by Patrick Stewart), dispatches his henchmen calmly and collectedly while his underling Gabe (Macon Blair, who was so good in Blue Ruin) tries his best to clean up the mess.

Saulnier orchestrates the outbursts of violence with aplomb, proving once again he has a knack for tense situations exploding into disarray. While Green Room’s narrative is perhaps a tad repetitive and the ending a little anticlimactic, it establishes its idea wholeheartedly and runs with it until there’s nowhere left to go. There isn’t a massive amount of depth in its characters , but the performances are strong and the actors inject the film with charm and tension. Green Room is a memorable thriller, and I can’t wait to see what Saulnier does next.

4/5

Film Review: Hunt for the WilderpeopleFan The Fire Recommends

Posted in Film, Recommended, Reviews
By Martin Roberts on 15 Sep 2016

New Zealand director Taika Waititi’s (Boy, What We Do in the Shadows) latest film, Hunt for the Wilderpeople, is a thoroughly likeable coming-of-age comedy drama, set in the wilds of the director’s home country, and starring Julian Dennison as Ricky Baker, a troubled kid who ends up in a new foster home with adoptive guardians Aunt Bella and Uncle Hec (Rima ti Wiata and Sam Neill). Show the rest of this post…

It hasn’t been easy to find Ricky a home, as social worker Paula (Rachel House) is all too happy to remind Aunt Bella, but Ricky and his new aunt quickly form a restrained but very touching bond. That is, until a surprise incident throws Ricky and Uncle Hec together in the wilderness, where the two must learn to get along if they are to survive.

Ricky’s infectious enthusiasm and surprising good nature come out the more we see of him, brought to life by Dennison’s charming and very funny performance. Opposite him, Sam Neill does a good job playing the familiar ‘grumpy but softhearted’ role. In many ways Waititi’s film is reminiscent of countless other entries in the coming-of-age genre, though it stands out because of its wonderful sense of place, its fantastic sense of humour, and its witty script, which Waititi wrote himself. The director divides his film into chapters and plays with montage, giving the film a freewheeling sense of fun that is maintained even when the film flirts with more serious issues.

There are perhaps a few too many montages set to music, which threaten to saddle the film’s carefree nature with a sense of treading water, and one or two instances of contrived comedy, but in general I enjoyed the film’s consistent tone and revelled in its dry, and very funny, sense of humour. Just as the film is beginning to feel a tad overstretched, the excellent Rhys Darby turns up in a cameo role to thrust the film into its joyous and lovely final movement.

The film’s musical score and lush visuals complement the performances of the leads, lending the film a unique feel in a pretty busy genre. Ricky Baker is a memorable hero and the supporting cast bring laughs where we might not expect them. Waititi himself shows up in a brief cameo as a priest in a bizarre but entertaining scene.

It’s hard to imagine anybody not being won over by this charming adventure, which I’m alre ady looking forward to watching again. Waititi’s next film will be 2017’s Thor: Ragnarok, and I’m very curious to see what he can bring to Marvel’s franchise universe.

4/5

The London List Abroad Review: Hotel G, San FranciscoThe London List

By Sam Bathe on 13 Sep 2016

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Just one block west from tourist haven Union Square, walking into the plush, foliage-lined foyer of San Francisco’s Hotel G immediately takes you out of the bustle of the city, and into your own, hip, oasis. Show the rest of this post…

Re-opening in May 2014 after a two-year renovation, Hotel G’s Geary Street location is steeped in history. A hotel ever since the building was first constructed in 1909, the new owners renovated each floor under the watchful eye of interior designers Hun Aw Studio, maintaining the original flooring throughout and fully restoring the building’s front façade.

In a style described by the Michelin guide as ‘demolition chic’, Hotel G has a modern and youthful vibe. Complementing the rough textures of original tiling and exposed concrete with mid-century furniture, plush rugs and warm fittings, the hotel splits 153 rooms over 12 floors to become a different sort of option for downtown San Francisco.

Location

Less than a 10-minute walk from downtown Market Street and just one block away from Union Square, Hotel G is perfectly situated for exploring the city.

The immediate surrounding area is known for shopping, with big chain shops like Niketown, Macy’s, the Disney Store just a few minutes walk away, and the Westfield Centre also nearby. Just beyond Market Street are the wonderful museums of the SoMa neighbourhood, including the Contemporary Jewish Museum and Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, plus SoMa’s burgeoning restaurant scene.

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To get further afield is just as easy. From the Powell St. Bart station, you can go north-east to the Ferry Building and into Oakland, while lines south-west go to the hip Castro, Mission and Lower Haight neighbourhoods. You’re also just a few block away from the end of the historic San Francisco cable car, which while touristy is still a must, and makes it easy to reach Fisherman’s Wharf and Lombard Street to the north.

Rooms

The style of the hotel carries through to the rooms. The interior is minimal and can feel a touch sparse if it’s not what you’re used to but the style works. The crisp, white walls, curtains and bathroom are softened by warmer, wooden furniture and slick detailing. The rooms are sleek and everything is functional, there’s no excess or clutter on show, meaning it’s the beds that really dominate.

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Big and comfy with excellent pillows, fluffy duvets and luxury linens in every room, Hotel G’s beds boast tall, feature headboards that are the real showpiece; perfect for lounging in bed, day or night. Blackout blinds really do the job too, so you’ll get a great night’s sleep, or well-deserved lie-in.

We stayed in a Greatest King, the largest of the hotel’s five room types. Akin to a suite, it was big and spacious with a sofa, small coffee table and armchair, with enough room to have a couple of friends up while we planned the day. Plus all rooms come with a mini-bar and espresso machine so you’re able to start and end your days right.

The original concrete floor was a touch cold but rugs covered the important floorspace, and it’s a small price to pay for original features. Guests are given hotel slippers for the room too.

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With Geery Street down below, we were worried about late night traffic and noisy pedestrians but we had no problem in the room. Unfortunately, however, being surrounded by similarly high rise buildings, there weren’t particularly impressive views, even on the 10th floor.

One great surprise though, the rooms and communal space throughout the hotel are decorated with art from a collaboration with Creativity Explored, a local non-profit arts centre that works with adult artists with developmental disabilities. The pieces are all for sale, with profits going back into the program. It’s a really nice touch and the artwork brings an individual personality to the space.

Bathroom

Our bathroom featured luxurious marble tiling and fittings, with larger rooms boasting a magnificent table sink, and smaller rooms just a freestanding basin. It was more of a classical bathroom but matched the sleek, minimal style of our room. The shower was excellent and very refreshing in the morning, while all rooms come with C.O. Bigelow toiletries.

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Amenities

Hotel G has all the amenities you’d expect from a modern city hotel. WiFi is free downstairs and in your room, and if not particularly fast, it’s perfectly acceptable for holiday planning and just about streams Netflix if you need a little SF breather. The gym on the second floor boasts four Technogym machines for a range workouts, plus there’s floor space for yoga or stretching. It’s not a huge gym but perfectly functional and definitely big enough for a hotel of this size.

Hotel G also have a well-equipped conference room available for hire, and as an extra little sweetener, if you book directly, they’ve partnered with a local limo company to pick you up from SFO for free.

Restaurant and bars

Two excellent restaurants and a superb cocktail bar are the Hotel G’s surprise up its sleeve. On the corner of the building, Three 9 Eight is a French-American brasserie menu serving hearty breakfasts from 7am, and classic French sandwiches, steaks, moules frites and charcuterie and cheese boards until late.

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On the other side of the hotel foyer, Klyde Cafe and Wine Bar is a little more snacky, serving a small yet composed menu throughout the day alongside an excellent local wine list.

But the Benjamin Cooper Cocktail lounge is the jewel in the crown and has rightly become a local hangout. Styled like a speakeasy, the cocktail list is superb while the bartender also made an excellent rendition of a couple of our favourites. If it’s your thing, Benjamin Cooper also serve local oysters until close.

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At the time of reviewing, Hotel G was not offering a breakfast service, but the hotel does now offer packages with breakfast at the Klyde included.

Verdict

A modern and stylish city hotel, Hotel G finds a balance between being a hip yet welcoming stay for leisure travelers, and a more edgy, suave stay for business guests.

Perfectly situated for downtown exploration and the vibrant, traditional neighbourhoods beyond, Hotel G stays true to the history of the building, the attention to detail while renovating each floor and the period features they were able to retain really pays dividends.

But most importantly the Hotel G is an escape. The second you step inside the foyer, the bustle from outside is cut off, and while you can certainly have fun at the excellent restaurants and bar, the rooms and superb beds will ensure you can recoup precious energy, ready to go again the next day.

For reservations and more, please visit: www.hotelgsanfrancisco.com
Hotel G, 386 Geary Street San Francisco, CA 94102

The London List: Artist Liz West creates a stunning rainbow installation for the 2016 Bristol Biennial festival of designThe London List

Posted in Art, London List
By Sam Bathe on 3 Sep 2016

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Part of an on-going series titled Your Colour Perception, visual artist Liz West has created a remarkable immersive light installation for the 2016 Bristol Biennial. Taking over almost an entire floor of The Pithay building, Our Colour is a glorious rainbow tunnel, drenching visitors in colour and light. So vividly recreating the full spectrum of a rainbow, West hopes to question guests; does colour change the way you feel? “I observe that after moving through the space, people often go back to the colour they find most comfortable,” West explains. “They will then stand, sit or lay there for some time to reflect.” Our Colour is part of the 2016 Bristol Biennial and runs until September 10th.

Our Colour at The Pithay, All Saints’ Street, Bristol, BS1 2LZ

Henrik von der Lieth’s video for Mass & Fieber track ‘James Bomb’ is the perfect secret agent title sequence

By Sam Bathe on 30 Aug 2016

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A preview to their play which will open next summer in Zurich, Henrik von der Lieth has created a sumptuous video for Mass & Fieber’s sultry track, James Bomb. Inspired by the James Bond franchise’s iconic title sequences, the music video blends an electric colour palette with course texture and detailing as a secret agent sleuth tracks down a mysterious villain. Releasing an album and performing the music in concert this summer, expect updates about Mass & Fieber’s play, also titled James Bomb, later this year.

Filmmaker Greg Dennis follows a getaway to Norway where for weeks on end, they live without the sun

Posted in Film, Short Films, Travel
By Sam Bathe on 27 Aug 2016

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Visitng Norway every year to escape the stresses and strains of the modern world, Jeff Allen finds peace in northern Scandinavia during the ‘blue time’, where the local Sami people can go for months on end without sun rising above the horizon. Jeff kayaks with whales and longtime friend Bjørn Eines, dog sleds under the wing of Tore Albrigtsen and now guides expeditions so others can experience the beauty of this wonderful place. Captured by filmmaker Greg Dennis, short film The Blue Time charts one of Jeff’s trips, as much about relaxation and meditation as recreation and entertainment.

Film Review: War Dogs

Posted in Film, Reviews
By Martin Roberts on 24 Aug 2016

War Dogs, the new film from Todd Phillips (The Hangover), is based on the real life story of AEY Inc, which became a successful arms dealing operation for the US Government in the noughties. Run by Efraim Diveroli and David Packouz (played by Jonah Hill and Miles Teller respectively), the company found quick financial success, but was soon involved in criminal activity. Show the rest of this post…

The film joins a recent wave of politically-charged dark comedies and drams which aim to portray, and pick apart, the economic and political systems that hold sway. Many of these followed in the wake of the financial crisis, most recently The Big Short, with which War Dogs shares a similarity of tone. But whereas that film was righteously angry in an endearing way, Phillips’ film feels more like it is trying to be two things at once, and not quite succeeding at either.

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But that’s not to say there isn’t much to enjoy in War Dogs. Although I felt the film was sometimes yearning to be both a Todd Phillips’ style bromance comedy and something more seriously satirical, there is more bite in this than there initially appears to be. In the first half, during which the film allows itself to veer into buddy comedy antics more often, I began to think it may be enjoying the morally dubious antics of its antiheroes a little too much, but as the film goes on, it develops more of an edge, and isn’t afraid to flirt with actual darkness. Jonah Hill’s portrayal of Efraim Diveroli, with his cracked, maniacal laughter, is darker in tone than it first appears, and both he and Teller have a good double act here. Teller is the straight guy by comparison, but the two of them work well together. There’s also a brief cameo role for a Todd Phillips regular which is satisfactorily creepy, and adds a welcome bit of shade to the antics of the main characters.

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The film deviates from the true story of Diveroli and Packouz in a number of ways, but I felt that the liberties Phillips and his co-writers took with the story were in keeping with the overall tone, and even the more extravagant flights of fancy felt believable within the context of the film. Where the film is less successful is in its structure, which devotes too much time to the antics of its leads in the first half, and too little to the breakdown of their relationship in the final act. There’s also a thinly written role for Ana de Armas as Packouz’s partner, which to her credit de Armas makes more credible than it really ought to be.

War Dogs also reminded me, on occasion, of Scorsese’s The Wolf of Wall Street, another film co-starring Jonah Hill and dealing in a similar way with the profits of criminality. But while Scorsese’s film went full-on into the depths of its central character’s depravity, and in doing so ended up being quite scabrous in its indictment of the activities on show, War Dogs feels tonally  less secure. But having said that, I did find the film to have more depth than I thought it was going to, and more political bite, all gravitating around Hill’s memorable antihero.

3/5

Photographer Thom Pierce captures the majestic Lesotho townsfolk in series ‘The Horsemen of Semonkong’

Posted in Art, Photography
By Sam Bathe on 19 Aug 2016

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Nestled high up in the Drakensberg mountains, the region of Semonkong, Lesotho, is made up of many small villages, almost entirely inaccessible by car. With villages up to four hours apart, the local population take the routes by horse, to herd, to trade and just go about their daily life. Spending eight days in the region in May 2016, photographer Thom Pierce captures the majestic horsemen and women against the even more astounding Lesotho landscapes. Show the rest of this post…

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DVD Review: Only YesterdayFan The Fire Recommends

Posted in DVDs, Film, Recommended, Reviews
By Sam Bathe on 18 Aug 2016

Re-released in theatres in celebration of its 25th anniversary, Studio Ghibli’s classic, Only Yesterday, is a beautiful film about reflection of the past, and embracing the people we become. Show the rest of this post…

Unfulfilled by life in the city, Taeko (Ridley) heads home to the country for a much-needed vacation. Looking back on childhood memories, stepping back into her old way of life, and reconnecting with her old self, Taeko wonders if she has been true to the dreams she made so long ago. With stunning hand-drawn animation that hasn’t aged a day since the film’s original 1991 release, Daisy Ridley and Dev Patel’s first ever English dub has been mastered perfectly to the original visuals. Switching between the present and the past, we follow Taeko on a journey of rediscovery; this is a slower, human Ghibli film, rather than their f antastical features like Spirited Away or Totoro. With Studio Ghibli in an indefinite haitus, we must cherish their beloved films, and this is one of the very best.

4/5

Film Review: Cosmos

Posted in Film, Reviews
By Martin Roberts on 15 Aug 2016

Here is the new film from cult Polish director Andrzej Żuławski, which sadly will also be his last. His many fans have had to wait 15 years for the curious riddle that is Cosmos – his previous effort was Fidelity, in 2000 – and I’m sure many will find much to like in it. Show the rest of this post…

The plot, in as much as there is one, is based on the novel Kosmos by Witold Gombrowicz, and concerns two young men, Witold (Jonathan Genet) and Fuchs (Johan Libéreau), who take a vacation in a country house in order to temporarily get away from their lives, and where they soon begin to notice some alarming oddities. The film begins with Witold discovering the corpse of a sparrow strung up from a pipe, which is a thing he cannot fully grasp. Who would do such a thing, and why? And how does it relate to the events in the house?

Witold becomes obsessed with the idea of how everything relates to everything else, driven to distraction by the possibility that the answer may simply be that it’s all random. He’s recently failed a law exam and disappointed his father, and is attempting to pen a novel about his experiences, which becomes increasingly tied to the heightened reactions he has on his vacation. Witold and Fuchs share some amusing dialogue – in which Witold tries to explain literature to Fuchs, who resolutely isn’t interested – while the proprietors of the house in which they’re staying (Sabine Azéma and Jean François-Balmer) indulge in their own bizarre, hysterical routines. The rest of the occupants of the house drift in and out, and include Clémentine Pons as a maid with a disfigured upper lip and Victória Guerra as Lena, both of whom inspire a sort of madness in Witold. At times this is driven by repressed sexual urges, but at others seems to come from his inability to fully comprehend anything he’s experiencing.

As an audience, we are sucked into Witold’s increasing instability by Zulawski’s determination to keep the film’s ideas at arm’s length. This is a film to be appreciated for its tone and performance, rather than a strict plot or narrative arcs. I have to say that I often found the film’s quirks  frustrating, and that at times I felt it indulged in anarchism without a great deal of result. I appreciated its madness (and indeed the intensity of Genet’s unhinged central performance), but at others felt I was being held at a distance by its unusual visual and dialogue choices.

While, as a whole, the film did not entirely work for me, there were elements to enjoy: in particular a sequence in some woods in the final act, in which the visuals and music came together with the purposefully eccentric script to produce some memorable moments; and some of Zulawski’s interesti ng camera work and visuals. There are ideas aplenty in Cosmos, many of which are compelling, but there is a lack of insight or resolution to most of it that feels frustrating.

3/5

FAN THE FIRE is a digital magazine about lifestyle and creative culture. Launching back in 2005 as a digital publication about Sony’s PSP handheld games console, we’ve grown and evolved now covering the arts and lifestyle, architecture, design and travel.

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