Film Review: The Overnight

Posted in Film, Reviews
By Martin Roberts on 26 Jun 2015

In The Overnight – Patrick Brice’s short, sweet but lightweight comedy drama – a couple, Alex and Emily (Adam Scott and Taylor Schilling) move into a well-to-do area of LA and quickly find themselves in the company of Kurt (Jason Schwartzman) and his wife Charlotte (Judith Godrèche). Alex and Emily are looking for friends in the area, but what are Kurt and Charlotte looking for? Show the rest of this post…

After lubricating the social situation with wine and, inevitably, a bong, the evening’s activities start to move further and further away from a conventional dinner party and into sexually suggestive territory. Are Kurt and his wife swingers? Emily begins to think so. You’ll have to wait and see.

This story of an evening’s escalating entertainment is part comedy, part drama. Many of the situations are played – often successfully – for laughs, but at the heart of the film are two fairly real couples, delivered in the form of four strong performances, and Brice isn’t interested – with the exception of an awkward and, it has to be said, quite funny, dancing sequence – in grand statements or stereotypes.

There are occasions when the script strains to provide believability and these, ironically, strip the situations of their honesty. When the film ignores such contrivances and simply lets its characters breathe, it can be quite strong. Kurt, in particular, is a charismatic but weird individual, and it takes a while for the audience to suss what these characters are all after. In the end, the film decides to avoid doing anything overly daring with the material, and the denouement is cut short by a reprise of a gag earlier in the film. It’s both funny and frustrating.

What the film has to tell us about relationships is no more revelatory than that they’re all different, although it does have a refreshing honesty and a message that talking about things is therapeutic. Talking, indeed, is the film’s primary register – hardly surprising given the presence of mumblecore proponents Jay and Mark Duplass as producers.

Brice’s film adopts an unusual angle through which to look at adult relationships, and benefits  from that, as well as a cast on good form. It lacks dramatic weight, and isn’t funny enough to work entirely on a comic level, but is still a confident, thought-provoking picture.

3/5

Film Review: Slow WestFan The Fire Recommends

Posted in Film, Recommended, Reviews
By Martin Roberts on 23 Jun 2015

Originality is not a quality regularly associated with the Western genre anymore, mainly because its celebrated canon is adhered to a little too closely by budding directors and writers keen to pay homage to the greats. Which is why Slow West, the debut feature from director John Maclean, is such a pleasant surprise: a Western which manages to bask in the glow of its stately predecessors while maintaining an identity all of its own. Show the rest of this post…

The story, as in many Westerns, is simple: young Scotsman Jay (Kodi Smit-McPhee) is making his way across Colorado (represented by beautiful New Zealand shooting locations) when he meets a drifter by the name of Silas (Michael Fassbender), who offers to keep Jay safe for money. Jay is searching for his lost love Rose (Caren Pistorius), but Silas may well have his own reasons for wanting to find her.

Silas impresses upon Jay the dangerous nature of the territory he’s rather naively stumbling into, but Maclean allows his film to meander along at an unhurried pace, refreshingly choosing to eschew the traditional ‘dangers’ we might see in Westerns in favour of chance, almost whimsical, meetings with idiosyncratic individuals and situations. In traditional Western fashion, it all ends with a shootout, but even then it’s one full of twists and surprises.

And black comedy. Indeed, the darkly humorous edge of Maclean’s film is part of its individuality, and the director relishes in subverting what we might be expecting. There are even one or two moments of outright slapstick – unexpected but oddly fitting in Maclean’s version of the Old West.

If the film is little light in terms of character development or emotional depth, it’s not to any great detriment. The characters work, the landscapes are shot beautifully and there’s a lovely soundtrack accompanying the action. Whe n the action breaks out, Maclean has a keen grip on that, too. This quirky, confident Western belies the fact it is the director’s first feature, and marks him out as one to watch.

4/5

Foster Huntington’s short ‘The Cinder Cone’ follows a group of friends who built a treehouse and skate bowl up in the mountains

Posted in Film, Short Films
By Sam Bathe on 19 Jun 2015

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After months of preparation, last summer, Foster Huntington and a group of friends set out to complete a childhood dream, building an escape up in the trees. From breaking ground to completing the interconnected treehouses, skate bowl and hot tub-with-a-view in the Columbia River Gorge, Foster’s short, The Cinder Cone, follows their story. While some were professional carpenters, other learned on the job, but really this is a about a bond between friends, and making your life’s ambitions come true. Find out more about the project, plus a book which successfully found funding on Kickstarter, on the Cinder Cone site: www.thecindercone.com

Photographer Matt Lief Anderson explores the grandiosity of nature in his series through the Southwest

Posted in Art, Photography, Travel
By Sam Bathe on 17 Jun 2015

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Travelling through Colorado, Utah and Arizona, photographer Matt Lief Anderson got lost in the great expanses of nature in his series through America’s Southwest. With the landscape ever-changing, Anderson takes in sights from desert roads to snowy peaks, experiencing all four seasons in a matter of days. Show the rest of this post…

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Check out more of Matt’s work on his site: www.mattliefanderson.com

Keiji Inafune calls on ‘Star Wars’ and ‘Wall-E’ in apocalyptic adeventure title ‘ReCore’

Posted in Games
By Sam Bathe on 15 Jun 2015

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Announced at E3 and instantly touted as one of Xbox One’s big tentpole exclusives for 2016, ReCore is an adventure game set in a mesmerising apocalyptic world. From Keiji Inafune (Mega Man, Dead Rising) and the makers of Metroid Prime, ReCore blends the magic of Star Wars, desolation of Wall-E and exploration of Journey, following one of the last surviving humans with nothing but a series of quirky mechanical robots to help her survive. ReCore will hit the Xbox One in Spring 2016.

Hong Kong label MMT bring back a classical style with their pocket and new wristwatch collection

Posted in Products, Style
By Sam Bathe on 12 Jun 2015

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Founded in 2011 to make pocket watches, MMT, short for Momento, have now spread their wings with with four stylish and sleek timepieces for the wrist. The R collection features a removeable solid wood shell, while the C range is a more classic model. The Hong Kong label uses a thin-style watch strap, while those looking for something even more classical can choose from MMT’s pocket watches. The MMT range is available from their online store, with engraving available at checkout: www.mmtstore.com

Film Review: Jurassic World

Posted in Film, Reviews
By Martin Roberts on 11 Jun 2015

There’s a perception of Hollywood at the moment that everything is remakes, reboots, re-hashes, sequels, threequels, and so on. Even if that isn’t the whole story, it’s true that the mainstream propensity for revisiting old material is at a particularly high level. Show the rest of this post…

2015 alone has already seen new entries in a number of franchises, and there are many more to come.

A certain generation, of which I am a part, probably felt trepidation towards Jurassic World, the fourth entry in the series started off in such exemplary fashion by Steven Spielberg in 1993.  To allay those fears from the off: this doesn’t feel like a shameless cash-in, nor is it a failure. Director Colin Trevorrow has put together a fun, mostly solid family blockbuster. It lacks the transcendent brilliance of the original, but has enough bite to be worthy of recommendation.

Ty Simpkins and Nick Robinson star as Gray and Zach Mitchell who, after a brief introduction to their family life, are whisked away to Jurassic World, the now fully-functioning park that John Hammond dreamed of creating in the first film, where their aunt Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard) works as operations director. Claire is overseeing the park’s new “asset”, a genetically-modified dinosaur called Indominus Rex, a splicing of the DNA of a T-Rex and a secretive second species. Claire is instructed by park CEO Simon Masrani (Irrfan Khan) to bring in velociraptor expert (and trainer) Owen Grady (Chris Pratt) to help inspect the new creature’s enclosure. Very quickly, it gets out, and the park is sent into meltdown.

Colin Trevorrow (whose only feature prior to Jurassic World was indie comedy Safety Not Guaranteed) was a pretty leftfield choice to helm a project this big, but the majority of the film’s issues come from script and plotting rather than the director’s chair. The film is credited with having four writers (following a legal dispute over accreditation) and, while we’ll never know exactly how much of the script came from where, it does feel like a lot of ideas and plot strands have been contrived into the same story. There’s a family element which is fairly well established but then mostly abandoned; there’s a never entirely convincing military storyline headed up by Vincent D’Onofrio; a strand about raptor training which sort of works, but strains credibility, particularly in the final act; and a romantic subplot which feels entirely incidental.

Trevorrow does a pretty good job of holding the slightly rickety structure of the film together, though. At times, he captures the sense of awestruck wonder that Spielberg brought so convincingly to the first film, and there are some nicely constructed set pieces. What he can’t gloss over is the fact that these new CGI dinosaurs, while they are well done, actually feel less effective – less believable, less scary – than the extraordinary, primarily-animatronic creatures of the original. The dinosaurs also lose effectiveness because none of the characters or relationships are given enough time to develop. There is some effective sibling stuff between the brothers early on, including one genuinely touching moment, but Zach and Gray get less and less to do as the film goes on. Chris Pratt gives a solid performance as the rugged, raptor-training Owen, but often looks like he’s looking for more interesting things to say. Bryce Dallas Howard gives the strongest lead performance – her guilt over the breakdown of the park, and the fact that her nephews are caught up in it, is one of the few personal motivations that convinces all the way through.

There are a lot of nostalgic nods to Jurassic Park in here, from a glimpse of the cartoon DNA character from Hammond’s theme park ride to an uncovering of old props. These are nice touches, but Trevorrow and his crew might have reined in the nostalgia a little – throughout, there are shots and situations designed to mirror events from the first film a little too closely, though to be fair, for a kid going to the see this as his or her first Jurassic Park film, this might not be an issue. Where the nostalgia really does work is in the slightly reworked versions of John William’s classic theme tune, which tinkle and boom when the action demands.

To give the script its due, there is some considered material in here about the workings of the park and about the treatment and nature of the creatures. It isn’t just a dumb blockbuster, and the production designers obviously had fun piecing together how Jurassic World looks and feels. There’s gentle criticism in here of consumer culture and profit-making – similar themes to the first film, and they still work.

It won’t stand the test of time the way its predecessor did, but neither is Jurassic World an outright misstep; indeed, it’s better than Jurassic Park III and close in quality to The Lost World. If its primary function is ultimat ely to remind all the oldies how brilliant Jurassic Park was, and simultaneously to inspire a new generation of kids to go and check it out, then that’s surely a good thing.

3/5

The video for Art Department’s latest single ‘Walls’ is as sultry and alluring as the track itself

Posted in Music, Music Videos
By Sam Bathe on 9 Jun 2015

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Hugo Moreno‘s stunning video for Art Department’s new single, Walls, is a dark tale as the world turns from light to dark. With hover cars on the road, one man struggles in the retro-futuristic world, soon filling the city with his over-powering blight. Directed by Grandson & Son, Hugo Moreno and Jonny White, the alluring track has a fitting accompaniment in this 80′s-inspired video.

Tom Hanks is a lawyer fighting against the odds in Steven Spielberg’s cold war thriller ‘Bridge of Spies’

Posted in Film, Previews, Trailers
By Sam Bathe on 5 Jun 2015

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Putting Steven Spielberg, Tom Hanks and Coen Brothers on the same call sheet, Bridge of Spies is a cold war thriller about a Brooklyn lawyer (Hanks), sent to the Eastern Bloc to secure the release of a captured American pilot. Directed by Spielberg and written by the Coen brothers from Matt Charman’s initial script, Bridge of Spies looks like it’ll be part-courtroom drama, part-war time thriller, with Mark Rylance, Austin Stowell, Amy Ryan and Billy Magnussen also starring. Bridge of Spies will hit theatures October 16th.

HBO does ‘Entourage’ again with Dwayne Johnson comedy-drama ‘Ballers’

Posted in TV
By Sam Bathe on 3 Jun 2015

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HBO take on the glamour and the sleaze of professional American football with their Entourage re-do, Ballers. Starring Dwayne Johnson as Spencer Strasmore, a retired athlete-turned-player agent, guiding their stars through the parties and the breakdowns en route to the top. Though Ballers looks like it’ll fall similarly short on the Bechdel test, Johnson brings a natural charisma that always felt out of reach on Entourage. Let’s just hope they manage to find a little depth and it’s not all surface when Ballers premieres on Sunday 21st June on HBO.

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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