Film Review: Alice Through the Looking Glass

Posted in Film, Illustration, Reviews
By Martin Roberts on 26 May 2016

Alice in Wonderland and Tim Burton seemed like a perfect match of source material and director, but the film that resulted in 2010 was a disappointment – lacking a sense of magic, and ultimately forgettable. Now, six years later, James Bobin (The Muppets) has brought us Alice Through the Looking Glass, a somewhat belated but, as it turns out, not unwelcome sequel. Show the rest of this post…

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This time around, Alice (Mia Wasikowska) must travel back to Wonderland (or ‘Underland’, as it was known in the first film) to try to snap the Mad Hatter (Johnny Depp) out of a depression brought on by an item he found in the forest, which lead to him to believe that his long-lost family, whom he thought dead, may actually be alive. To do this, Alice must employ the power of the Chronosphere, a device that will allow to travel through time and revisit past events. In order to reach the Chronosphere, however, Alice must cross paths with Time himself, as personified by Sacha Baron Cohen.

The film succeeds where the previous one failed, in that it attempts to actually have a story, and to tell it. Where the first film got bogged down in a rambling mess of CGI, this sequel establishes that things are at stake, and although some of the backstory feels contrived, it is done well enough that the quest feels meaningful, and the finale can muster up some suspense.

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Thankfully, Bobin and screenwriter Linda Woolverton (improving hugely on her screenplay for the first one) give Mia Wasikowska more of a chance to make an impression, so it feels like Alice is actually important beyond people simply talking about her importance. Johnny Depp is still doing his baffling Mad Hatter performance and still treads a fine line between endearing, weird, and just plain annoying, but this time at least has some plot to work with. Most of the rest of the supporting cast return, primarily in tiny cameos, and thankfully Helena Bonham Carter gets to reprise her fun Red Queen role. As Time, Sacha Baron Cohen brings a mix of silliness and surprising weight, and although some of the character’s jokes aren’t really very funny (same goes for his little helpers), the character is well implemented, and his lair has some nice visual touches.

It still all feels a little unfocused and rambling, but this time much less so. There are contrivances in the story and  some of the performances still hover on the annoying side, but this sequel is surprisingly a better effort than its predecessor, with some fun action and inventive visuals to enjoy.

3/5

Metronomy throwback to a ’70s dinner party in the video for new single ‘Old Skool’

Posted in Music, Music Videos
By Sam Bathe on 21 May 2016

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The first track off upcoming album, Summer 08, Old Skool is a throwback to middle England dinner parties, with parents letting loose downstairs while the kids experience the mayhem through the banisters. Styled to a T, director Dawn Shadforth‘s music video comes complete with shag carpets, bell bottoms and too much food and drink, as Sharon Horgan and Ben Crompton take a lead on the dance floor. As the eccentricities play along to the quirky track, the album itself is named in honor of the last summer front man Joseph Mount had free, so hopefully the rest of it is similarly spritely. Metronomy’s new album, Summer 08, is out July 1st.

Blu-ray Review: CreedFan The Fire Recommends

Posted in Film, Recommended, Reviews
By Martin Roberts on 19 May 2016

Ryan Cooler’s Creed is both a sequel to and a reboot of the Rocky franchise. Michael B Jordan plays Adonis, the son of the original series’ Apollo Creed, and is struggling to find happiness in a high-flying office-based career in LA. He decides to move to Philadelphia, seek out Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone) and convince him to train him to be a boxer like his father. Show the rest of this post…

The film succeeds on many levels and it very much feels like a Rocky film, even though Rocky himself if now a supporting character. The tone is right; the environment feels right; and the underdog story, though familiar, establishes a hero to root for. Michael B Jordan brings the required physicality to the role of Adonis, but also gives the character depth and heart. The relationship that develops between him and Rocky, whom he affectionately calls “Unc” is a pleasure to watch, and Stallone is sensible enough to downplay and not try to take Jordan’s film away from him.

It’s tough to make boxing films feel fresh, especially as this is technically the seventh film in the series, but Coogler (who also co-wrote the film with Aaron Covington) manages to retread old ground in a new way, delivering drama and depth. The boxing sequences, which feature roving cameras and long takes, are fantastic, full of real weight  and tension. Most importantly, Coogler has remembered that the original Rocky was a drama before it was an action film, and Creed satisfactorily fits into that legacy.

4/5

Film Review: X-Men: Apocalypse

Posted in Film, Reviews
By Martin Roberts on 17 May 2016

In 2014, Bryan Singer made Days of Future Past, a pretty decent return to the X-Men franchise that he had started all the way back in 2000, and which is part of the reason we are now seeing such a proliferation of comic book films. Show the rest of this post…

Now, just two years later, he’s back with Apocalypse, which tells of the rebirth of the first mutant, En Sabah Nur (Oscar Isaac), who has been buried beneath a pyramid for thousands of years.

There is a lot of for Singer and his screenwriter Simon Winberg to set up here. First we establish the background of the villain before catching up with various mutants – some new to (or reimagined for) this series, some not – before all the bits come together to create what it has to be said is a bit of a jumbled mess. Like many current-generation comic book films, Apocalypse is torn between fan service and getting on with the story, and ends up sacrificing structure and pacing for cameos and attempts at crowd pleasing.

This series, for all its many flaws, has always benefitted from its roster of compelling characters to root for; but here, even the best of them get lost. So Michael Fassbender (as Erik Lensherr/Magneto) must once again appear torn between his good and evil natures (in this case, prompted by an obvious and contrived story turn), while James McAvoy must dispense wisdom and use Cerebro to help uncover the plot. These two actors, incidentally, have always been two of the strongest aspects of this reimagined franchise and, when the script lets them, they’re very good; but they, like all the characters in the film, must routinely be sidelined. This is a film with lots of very good actors acting like they’re in a much better film, and at times you almost think it’s pretty good, but the moments when it works are outnumbered by the moments when it doesn’t.

En Sabah Nur (or Apocalypse, as he is also known) is given a certain gravitas by Oscar Isaac (who does well to make the character work at all) but carries little real weight. He basically wakes up, decides the world is rubbish, and decides to make a “better one” by destroying everything. The film tries hard to make him compelling, going full-on with the bombast, but he strikes hollow. As do his ‘four horsemen’ (four mutants he takes under his wing) who are generally little more than poorly established window dressing. Sadly, most of the rest of the supporting cast also fall under that description, most damagingly in the form of Jennifer Lawrence, a terrific actress who was always compelling as Raven/Mystique, but who in this film has essentially no arc or character progression, and is reduced to delivering boring motivational speeches. New additions such as Sophie Turner as a young Jean Grey, Tye Sheridan as Scott Summers (aka Cyclops) and Kodi Smit-McPhee as Kurt Wagner (aka Nightcrawler) do what they can but aren’t given much chance to make an impact.

So, given the story is fumbled and the characters underdeveloped, we might expect the film to deliver in the action stakes, but it’s sadly a letdown in that department as well. Pretty much all of the previous X-Men films had more compelling action scenes than this one, and the most inventive sequence (in which Quicksilver (Evan Peters) returns to the fold) is a fun but sub-par retread of one of the standout sequences from the previous film.

X-Men Apocalypse has a lot of stuff in it, but those elements don’t add up to much. Its loose structure, hit-and-miss action sequences and underused characters mean it struggles to hold the attention consistently. For a film that i s striving so much for grandeur and scale, it actually feels rushed. As a result, the post-credits teaser for the next film left me feeling underwhelmed for the future of the series.

2/5

The London List Abroad: The Rivertown Lodge in Upstate New York re-invents roadside motels for the design-consciousThe London List

By Sam Bathe on 13 May 2016

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Two hours out of New York City, the Rivertown Lodge is a 27-room retreat in Hudson, Upstate New York. Stylish for a purpose, the former movie theatre was converted into a motel in 1958, and more recently into the Rivertown by local makers using only authentic materials. Decked out with stunning mid-century furniture, the minimal rooms boast everything you need to get away, and nothing more, with a communal kitchen and retro Papillionaire bicycles also available to guests. Show the rest of this post…

“There’s no stress, you don’t worry about anything — and if you do need anything, we take care of you. It’s a very simple thought, but it’s very rare,” explains co-founder Ray Pirkle. Sounds good to me. Rooms start at $199 for a double, $219 for a queen.

Rivertown Lodge, 731 Warren St, Hudson, NY 12534
www.rivertownlodge.com

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Nike release the limited edition Mercurial Superfly Heritage iD to celebrate one of their most iconic ever football boots

Posted in Design, Sport
By Sam Bathe on 12 May 2016

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Inspired by the iconic 1998 Mercurial R9, Nike have released four limited edition colourways for their Mercurial Superfly football boot. Available through the NIKEiD customisation service, the Heritage iD designs turn back the clock for four retro-futuristic looks. One of the last Superfly releases before Nike release a new Mercurial for Euro 2016, the Heritage iD boots feature all of the standard Superfly features and can be built with a soft-ground, firm-ground or artificial grass soleplate, available for a limited time only through the Nike Football online store: www.nikefootball.com

Film Review: Sing StreetFan The Fire Recommends

Posted in Film, Recommended, Reviews
By Martin Roberts on 10 May 2016

I liked Sing Street pretty much from the word go and only went on to like it more from that point onwards. As this musical comedy/drama eased into its period 1980s Ireland setting, I totally fell for its romantic, almost old-fashioned view of the world: John Carney’s film believes that creativity has a purpose no matter how tough circumstances might be, and that expressing oneself can lead to great things – not necessarily in terms of financial success or wish fulfilment, but in self-discovery. Show the rest of this post…

With a cast of mostly little-known actors, Carney’s film tells the story of Conor (Ferdia Walsh-Peelo), who is forced to move from his expensive private school to a gritty state school in order for his parents to save money. Things get off to a pretty bad start, but when Conor finds the mysterious and beautiful Raphina (Lucy Boynton) standing on the steps outside school, he manages to charm her the way his older brother Brendan (Jack Reynor) tells him will be successful – by telling her he’s in a band. From there, Conor has to gather together a disparate group of kids – most of whom are poor but talented – to form a rock band. Raphina, who stars in the band’s videos, becomes Conor’s muse, and the songs he writes reflect their burgeoning relationship.

What a good-natured, uplifting film this is; and not in the cheesy sense, either. I found Sing Street to be a joyous experience, successfully combining a fairly traditional coming-of-age story with the quirks of a musical. As Conor, Walsh-Peelo is fantastic, effortlessly conveying the feeling of first love and the joy of discovering expression through music. Lucy Boynton is just as good opposite him, and the two share an increasingly irresistible chemistry that becomes the heart of the film. In fact all of the young cast do a great job, from the members of Conor’s makeshift band to the local bully, bringing spark and laughs to Carney’s witty script. The setting feels real: Carney establishes that these are mostly poor families, and that these kids have a lot to deal with, but watching them get by in each other’s company is rewarding.

Then we have the musical side of things, which I felt complemented the story beautifully. This is not your traditional song-and-dance musical – though Carney does briefly indulge in a well-staged (and sensibly hallucinatory) number – but instead weaves the songs into its narrative. Not all of the original numbers in here are masterpieces, but they are strong enough that they help carry the narrative along. They work because the characters making them are believable and likeable.

Carney wisely allows the adults in the film to take a back seat to his impressive young cast, and through them the film blossoms. Sing Street works as a coming- of-age drama, a romance, a musical, and more, all of which feeds into its pleasingly upbeat, inspirational message. When I got out of the cinema I immediately wanted to see it again.

5/5

Christopher Payne’s new photo series, ‘Asylum’, is both haunting and mesmerising in equal measure

Posted in Art, Photography
By Sam Bathe on 9 May 2016

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Traveling to 30 US states to visit 70 mental hospitals, photographer Christopher Payne captures their haunting, eerie atmosphere in his new series, Asylum. As care practices shifted in the mid-20th century, populations of nearly half a million patients in 1948 declined rapidly over the following 30 years, meaning hundreds of insitutions now lie in total decay. Show the rest of this post…

For Christopher Payne, it was a photographer’s dream.

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Check out more of Christopher’s work on his site: www.chrispaynephoto.com

Radiohead announce the release of their new album with the mysterious Paul Thomas Anderson-directed video for single ‘Daydreaming’

Posted in Music, Music Videos
By Sam Bathe on 8 May 2016

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Coinciding with the announcement of their hotly-anticipated ninth studio album – itself landing as soon as tomorrow on select digital services – Radiohead have released a fascinating video for mesmeric single, Daydreaming. Collaborating with lauded filmmaker, Paul Thomas Anderson, the video follows a mysterious Thom Yorke walk the streets, buildings and beaches of LA, creating a visually arresting short you just can’t take your eyes off. Sent out to independent cinemas across the US, theatres including New York’s Metrograph and Austin’s Alamo Drafthouse will be showing Daydreaming all week before regular listings on 35mm. And don’t miss Radiohead’s new album, out tomorrow.

Snarkitecture team up with The Arrivals for a sleek, limited edition waterproof poncho

Posted in Products, Style
By Sam Bathe on 5 May 2016

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Teaming up with trendy clothing label, The Arrivals, Snarkitecture’s latest apparel venture is a stylish, minimalist waterproof poncho. Dubbed the Element, the poncho is available in two colourways (of course, black and white), constructed from a breathable, waterproof shell and hand-cut for clean and precise edges. Lined with ventilating mesh inside there’s also an amazing later-cut pocket system, including an earbud hole for easy listening. The Element poncho was shot in the Catskills by photographer Noah Kalina and is available for $345 from the Arrivals online store: www.thearrivals.com/unisex-element-poncho-snarkitecture-lmtd-mens

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.

We’ve been featured on the front page of Reddit and produced off-shoot club night Friday Night Fist Fight, launched a Creative Agency and events column The London List.

FAN THE FIRE is edited by founder, Creative Director and Editor-in-Chief, Sam Bathe. Site by FAN THE FIRE Creative.

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