Photographer Kasper Nyman celebrates his love of shooting hoops with series ‘Cities of Basketball’

Posted in Art, Photography, Sport
By Sam Bathe on 23 Jun 2016

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Shooting basketball courts from around the world, Danish photographer Kasper Nyman juxtaposes the sacred hoop against backdrops from the project blocks to the beach. Finding a commonality instead in the game on-court, his series Cities of Basketball celebrates the sport going back to its routes, and classic pick-up games against friends and fellow locals players. Show the rest of this post…

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Check out the rest of the series on the Cities of Basketball site: www.citiesofbasketball.com

The London List Abroad: Freemans Sporting Club team up with eyewear designers Ayame for a limited edition of their ‘General’ sunglassesThe London List

By Sam Bathe on 21 Jun 2016

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Teaming up for a Tokyo exclusive, eyewear designers Ayame have collaborated with Freemans Sporting Club for a limited edition of their stylish ‘General’ frames. Available in a gorgeous mottled blue/gold colourways, the sunglasses are hand finished with intricate detailing on the arm hinge and nose bridge. Coming with a custom leather case and signature lens cloth, the General sunglasses are available from Freemans Sporting Club for ¥35,000 (approximately £240).

Freemans Sporting Club, 5-46-4 Jingumae, Shibuya, Tokyo, 150-0001
www.freemanssportingclub.jp

Film Review: Tale of Tales

Posted in Film, Reviews
By Martin Roberts on 13 Jun 2016

Tale of Tales, the latest film from Gomorrah director Matteo Garrone, may have been inspired by fairytales, but is very much not for children. It winds together three loosely connected stories, bringing a touch of mischief and danger to familiar fairytale story tropes. Show the rest of this post…

The stories are entwined together in a way which suggests they are more interconnected than they really are, but despite the slightly convoluted structure, the three narratives are clear. We begin in Darkwood, where the Queen’s (Salma Hayek) desperation for a child drives her to seek help from a mysterious stranger; then on to Highhills, where the King (Toby Jones) pays more attention to his disgusting pet flea than to his daughter (Bebe Cave) and finally Stronghold, where the promiscuous King (Vincent Cassel) becomes enchanted by the voice of a pauper in his city.

I enjoyed the film’s weirdness – its desire to play with its characters, to subvert expectations, and to fill the narrative with intrigue. And indeed its willingness to be dark: the sight of a an woman, skin flayed from her bones, staggering towards a palace, is not easily forgotten. Garrone and his cinematographer Peter Suschitzky have created a rich world in which to enjoy these narratives, and there is a pleasing reliance on practical effects.

In many ways it’s a strange film. I was rapt by, but also distant from it, perhaps because the stories, while fun in their own playful ways, ultimately promise more than they deliver. There are good performances in here, in particular from Cave as a captive princess, but while the result is tonally satisfying, there isn’t a great deal more to it than surface. I found myself wondering what the connections between the stories might be or, in the absence of such connections, what the themes would turn out to be, and in that respect I was frustrated, because the film didn’t deal with much more than its basic narratives. It’s perhaps a result of the film’s structure and length that I found myself looking for crossovers that weren’t really there.

Where the stories are united, though, is in their stran geness and arresting visuals. In that sense, the film certainly has an identity of its own, and those in search of a fairytale oddity will find much to enjoy in Tale of Tales.

3/5

Film Review: Warcraft

Posted in Film, Reviews
By Martin Roberts on 31 May 2016

Film adaptations of computer games have tended to be failures. Too often, filmmakers have adapted well known franchises but failed to help them transition from one medium to the other. This year, there are two noteworthy computer game adaptations helmed by noteworthy directors. 2016, it seemed, could be the year that Hollywood finally got computer game adaptations right. Show the rest of this post…

At the end of the year we have Justin Kurzel’s Assassin’s Creed to look forward to, but for now we have Duncan Jones’ adaptation of the Warcraft series, which began life as a real-time strategy game and later morphed into World of Warcraft, the biggest and most popular MMORPG (massively multiplayer online role-playing game) yet released. As a fan of Jones’ two previous films – Moon and Source Code – and as someone who has logged a decent amount of play time with the Warcraft games, I had higher hopes for this film than I might have done otherwise.

The result, I’m both relieved and afraid to say, is a mixed bag. Relieved, because there are things in Warcraft (subtitled ‘The Beginning’ in some regions) that are promising; and afraid, because it also falls into many of the traditional traps of this kind of adaptation.

The story is set in Azeroth, a peaceful world into which is brought an army of warmongering orcs led by the villainous Gul’dan (Duncan Wu), who has harnessed the power of Fel magic (which draws its power from the taking of life). Anduin Lothar (Travis Fimmel), as commander of the armies of Stormwind, must help King Wrynn (Dominic Cooper), protect the humans’ lands and find the source of the evil magic.

Duncan Jones and his design team have done a pretty good job translating the look of the games onto the big screen – the orcs are appropriately massive and smashy (but also with the potential for nobility and calm) and the armour and landscapes look the part, even if the whole thing is very CGI-heavy. To some extent, I also felt that the feel of the games was there, although that may simply be down to my familiarity with some of the characters. I can see, however, that a complete newcomer might be bamboozled by some of the fantasy vocabulary. That is not a criticism of the story itself, but more the script and the way it delivers it. The film does its best to be accessible to a mainstream audience, but is repeatedly undercut by thinly explained lore and, in some cases, characters without proper introductions. The structure doesn’t help either. The beginning of the film introduces a whirlwind of new locations, characters and concepts, not all of which are adequately explained. So while the film tries to be approachable, it simultaneously holds its audience at a distance with its sometimes jumbled storytelling.

The performances are a similarly mixed bag. Travis Fimmel, leading his first film of this scope, does a pretty good job as Lothar, although his performance, which is pitched between dashing, heroic and slightly unhinged, feels a little like it could’ve used a bit more explanation. Dominic Cooper, as the king, hardly gets enough dialogue to make any kind of impact, and isn’t given any meaningful scenes with his family or friends to make his role really take hold. As the much talked about ‘guardian’, Ben Foster is also sold short by the script, making an important character feel muddled, while Ben Schnetzer, to his credit, develops the initially annoying character of Khadgar, a young and talented mage, into a decent screen presence. The orcish side of things benefits from two of the strongest characters: Paula Patton, as a “half-breed” orc named Garona, is effective, overcoming the character’s lack of real backstory to make an impact, and Toby Kebbel gives an excellent motion-captured performance as noble Durotan, who is at odds with Gul’dan’s schemes.

In the end, despite the flaws, this is one of the better computer game adaptations, even if that may be damning with faint praise. Jones holds all the parts together, just about, and the things that work are strong enough to leave an impression. The action is hefty and well done, and there is a pleasing respect for characters on both sides of the conflict, which mirrors the story in the games. The plot, which has changed a little from the source material, is told in an overly muddled way, but enough of it comes through to make for a watchable, if uneven, action film.

3/5

 

Film Review: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows

Posted in Film, Reviews
By Martin Roberts on 30 May 2016

2014 saw the release of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, a Jonathan Liebesman-directed reboot of the well known 90s comic book franchise, in which four ordinary turtles mutate into walking, talking ninjas and do battle with the foes of New York City. Show the rest of this post…

The film used motion capture performances to portray the turtles, and starred Megan Fox as April O’Neil, the reporter who befriends the turtles and one of the few humans who knows of their existence.

This sequel, which has been directed by Dave Green (Earth to Echo), brings pretty much the whole gang back together. Fox is back as O’Neil, Will Arnett as Vern Fenwick (now a celebrity, having agreed to take credit for the turtles’ heroics) and Pete Ploszek, Alan Ritchson, Noel Fisher and Jeremy Howard as the turtles – Leonardo, Raphael, Michelangelo and Donatello, respectively.

The film is similar in many ways to its predecessor, in that it’s an untidy, inconsistent action film with hints of something better lurking underneath. This time, the turtles must bring their unique brand of bickering, brotherly justice to a dastardly plot to summon a being from another world. This plot is headed up by Shredder (Brian Tee), the villain from the first film, and his two new henchmen Bebop and Rocksteady, who, those familiar with the series will recall, are a talking warthog and rhinoceros.

Actually the elements of the film you might expect to misfire – in particular the ‘out there’ mo-capped characters – turn out to be one of its few strengths. The motion capture is fairly well done, and the turtles, as well as their new opponents, are pretty convincing. Where the film is less convincing, much like the first one, is in establishing an effective plot or characters. Although the turtles are well realised visually, their sibling squabbles come across as light and ultimately meaningless; as indeed do any of the human interactions. Megan Fox has little of real note to do as April and, in an early scene, is leered over by the camera in a pretty crass way. If the film had made her more of a character, it might’ve been easier to overlook. Steve Amell joins the cast as Casey Jones, and does his best with the hockey-stick toting vigilante, while Tyler Perry makes a decent impression as questionable scientist Baxter Stockman, but is quickly reduced to just laughing manically.

The action sequences feature fast-moving cameras and lots of whirly shots, some of which are impressive but most of which are just difficult to follow. There are flashes of invention, and the special effects are of a good standard, but it’s hard to really care when the film feels so hollow. The plot frequently descends into ludicrous contrivances that steer it from point to point, and at no point do we ever feel a sense of jeopardy or character progression.

I was disappointed to find that my reaction to this film more or less mirrored my reaction to the first.  The first film made  a decent profit, and most of the principal cast are signed on for a third, so I doubt this is last we’ll see of our reptilian crime fighters. Perhaps third time will be the charm.

2/5

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 her 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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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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