Film Review: Star Trek Beyond

Posted in Film, Reviews
By Martin Roberts on 22 Jul 2016

After director JJ Abrams successfully rebooted Star Trek but then left the franchise to work on Star Wars The Force Awakens, it wasn’t immediately clear who would take his place, or indeed what film they would be making. Show the rest of this post…

Eventually, Simon Pegg (who plays Scotty), stepped into to write the script alongside Doug Jung, and Justin Lin, best known for his work on the long-running Fast and Furious franchise, was installed in the director’s chair.

We now have the result, Star Trek Beyond, which feels like a intentional shift towards a slightly more freewheeling, lighter version of Star Trek, perhaps closer in tone to the feel of the original series (which, I confess, I am not deeply familiar with). Although this film’s predecessor, Star Trek Into Darkness, was generally well received by critics (including this one), it also took decisions with tone and narrative that some core fans took issue with. A clear effort has been made here to reintegrate the sidelined members of the series’ prodigious ensemble back into the fold, and tell a romping, perhaps slightly more old-fashioned adventure.

Star-Trek-Beyond-2

In many ways, this has been successful. The plot, which revolves around an attack on the Enterprise (and, by extension, Starfleet) by a mysterious alien called Krall (Idris Elba), sees the crew of the Enterprise stranded on a distant planet, cut off from reinforcement. Captain Kirk (Chris Pine), Spock (Zachary Quinto) and the others must find a way to recover their lost crew members and get off the planet while stopping whatever scheme Krall has cooking. The plot forcibly separates the main cast into small groups, encouraging interactions between characters who did not necessarily share a huge amount of screen time up until now; so, for example, Spock crash lands with Bones, the ship’s chief medical officer (Karl Urban), Sulu and Uhura find themselves trapped together and Kirk must cook up a plan with Chekov (played by the late Anton Yeltchin, in one of his last appearances).

Star-Trek-Beyond-3

In general, these divisions work, and as somebody who bemoaned the lack of screen time for many of the characters in the last film, I was happy to see more of them. The negative side is that the film has a weaker narrative thrust then the previous one, so while the cast members have more to do, what they’re doing doesn’t always feel essential or exciting. The previous film thrived on the relationship between Kirk and Spock, and this film only fleetingly revisits that. Obviously not all Trek films can continue to focus on that, but this film lacks a similarly engaging screen partnership or character depth. New cast member Sofia Boutella (Kingsman) as Jaylah, bring charm and some laughs, but not enough to bridge that gap. Nor does new bad guy Krall offer enough to give the narrative the necessary oomph; Idris Elba actually makes a strong impression when he’s given the chance, but Krall spends too much of the film as a bland villain to be completely saved by a strong final act.

Star-Trek-Beyond-5

As new director, Justin Lin helms the film with assurance, putting his own stamp on things and ensuring this doesn’t feel like a second-rate JJ Abrams impression. He stages his conflicts well, and the sense of place (particularly in a new Starfleet megastation) is occasionally spectacular. There’s also a brief, touching tribute to the late Leonard Nimoy (who portrayed the original Spock, and has appeared in this series), cleverly woven into the plot of the film. Where the film is oddly lacking is in its close-combat action sequences, which are filmed in a fast-cutting, hyper-kinetic style that rendered many of the fights difficult to follow. Intentional, perhaps, but not to my taste.

Overall this is a solid entry in a franchise which, I hope, will continue to explore th e vastness of space for some time. The crew has been well cast, and although this may not be their most memorable adventure, it’s still a cut above your average action blockbuster.

3/5

Fiona O’Leary’s clever Spector device is an eyedropper tool for fonts and colours in real life

Posted in Design
By Sam Bathe on 20 Jul 2016

Spector_PressShot04

While on the web you can ‘inspect element’ to identify a font or colour, it’s never been quite that easy in real life. So for her graduation project at the Royal College of Art, Fiona O’Leary designed a unique tool that lets you eyedrop a magazine, book or pretty much anything in real life. Called Spector, the device will relay information back to your computer and detail the font, size, kerning and colours. Connecting via a plugin for InDesign, essentially Spector is a Bluetooth camera with some complicated software doing the legwork to analyse the image, plus if you’re out and about when you take a shapshot, Spector will cache up to 20 samples until you’re back at your machine. Currently Spector is just a prototype – a working prototype at that – but with its sleek design and an audience clamouring for this sort of technology, hopefully Fiona is able to turn it into a commercial product.

Film Review: The Hard StopFan The Fire Recommends

Posted in Film, Recommended, Reviews
By Martin Roberts on 13 Jul 2016

British readers will certainly remember the case of young Tottenham resident Mark Duggan, who was shot and killed by police in a ‘hard stop’ manoeuvre in 2011 – a hugely controversial incident that sparked anger in local communities about the treatment of black citizens, and is seen as one of the sparks that may have ignited the London riots. Show the rest of this post…

George Amponsah’s thoughtful documentary retells this story through the eyes of two of Mark’s peers, Marcus Knox Hook and Kurtis Henville.

Amponsah keeps the documentary at ground level, in the communities, mostly shirking news footage, and in this way the film becomes not just the story of Mark Duggan, but a portrayal of the deprived neighbourhoods of London (and indeed the UK) and the racial tensions therein. Hook is facing jail time for his role in, allegedly, catalysing the riots, while we see Henville looking for work and trying to provide for his family.

The film remains honest throughout. Our two protagonists come across as likeable, well-meaning guys whose previous lives of crime have been thrown into sharp relief by what they believe to be the unlawful killing of a close friend. Their hatred of police is palpable, and the film helps provide some context for that. The success of the film’s interactions with these two is that they provide an insight not just into Duggan himself, but the tribulations of communities who are getting a raw deal.

Shot mainly around the streets of Tottenham, the film has a genuine sense of place and mood, backed up by the use of music. There are interesting details in here about the shooting of Mark Duggan, which most viewers will remember, but also poignant moments of family, friendship and community. It doesn’t look directly at any aspect of the riots beyond the racial one, but in portraying the lives of struggling, everyday people, Amponsah’s film does more than it initially suggests. It’ s a film that reminds us about the inequality that persists in our country; about the racial tensions that shamefully still hold sway; and how community can provide hope and comfort.

4/5

Film Review: Maggie’s PlanFan The Fire Recommends

Posted in Film, Recommended, Reviews
By Martin Roberts on 7 Jul 2016

In Maggie’s Plan, the new film written and directed by Rebecca Miller, Greta Gerwig stars as Maggie, a smart young woman who decides that she is ready to have a baby. Show the rest of this post…

The only problem is that she doesn’t have a boyfriend, so she attempts to artificially inseminate herself using a donation from an old acquaintance, Guy (Travis Fimmel).

Things are complicated by a chance meeting with John, a “ficto-critical anthropologist” (Ethan Hawke), whose marriage to Georgette (Julianne Moore) is creaking at the seams. Maggie and John quickly begin to enjoy each others’ company, to the point that Maggie’s plan starts to change. We then jump forward a couple of years to see how all the characters are getting on.

The triumph of Miller’s film comes from the meeting of a great cast with a sensitive, clever script that treats them all with remarkable even-handedness. There are no heroes or villains here; Miller is happy to let her characters fumble through their lives without singling any of them out for special treatment. So Maggie is smart and determined, but also controlling and afraid of imbalance; John is a borderline genius but has issues with self-absorption, and so on. Even Georgette, who initially appears to be the comic relief, is formulated by Moore into a rounded and likeable character. There’s also some lovely support from Bill Hader and Maya Rudolph as a bickering but loving couple who Maggie frequently turns to for advice.

In the first act, the film comes across as a little too quirky too quickly, but settles into itself. There are plenty of laughs along the way courtesy of the witty script, and by the end I found myself thoroughly enjoying the company of this cast – at times, its gentle warmth reminded me of a Woody Allen film. Gerwig, in particular, is on great form as Maggie, an d carries the film through its occasionally bitty narrative. The very last shot of the film is perhaps a tad too fairytale, but it’s not much of a bum note and still draws a smile.

4/5

The striking Beoplay H5 earphones are B&O’s first-ever wireless headphones

Posted in Music, Technology
By Sam Bathe on 6 Jul 2016

Beoplay-H5-2

Their first-ever wireless earphones, the Beoplay H5 is Bang & Olufsen’s latest collaboration with Danish designer Jakob Wagner. With users able to choose from preset sound profiles or adjust audio specifications through an accompanying app, the H5 is designed with comfort in mind, and comes with seven different eartips; three sponged, four silicone. Connecting to your phone via Bluetooth, the Beoplay H5′s cloth cable loops around the back of your neck and the earphones will run for roughly five hours on a two-hour charge. Plus when they’re not in use, you can click the earphones together and they automatically power down to conserve battery. Also in the box, the Beoplay H5 comes with a charging cube, cable clip and carrying pouch, and is available now for £199 from the B&O site: www.beoplay.com/products/beoplayh5

Film Review: The Neon DemonFan The Fire Recommends

Posted in Film, Recommended, Reviews
By Martin Roberts on 4 Jul 2016

What a spellbinding director Nicholas Winding Refn is. From his early work through to his biggest hit, Drive, viewers have tended to appreciate his artistry on a visual level, even if the films themselves tend to be divisive. Show the rest of this post…

His films, even when they don’t work, tend to at least look gorgeous. Refn’s latest, The Neon Demon, takes his languid, super-stylised approach – which reached ennui-inducing levels in Only God Forgives – and distills it into a more focused, taut narrative, and is ultimately a much more successful film as a result.

The story follows an aspiring model, Jesse (Elle Fanning), who moves to the city to kick-start her career, and swiftly turns heads in the fashion industry with her youth and natural good looks. She very quickly falls in with makeup artist Ruby (Jena Malone) and her friends Gigi and Sarah (Bella Heathcote and Abbey Lee), the latter of whom are immediately jealous of Jesse’s quick success. Jesse is innocent (and told to lie about her age) and overwhelmed, but her attitude becomes twisted by success and a conviction that she has no real talent beyond her looks.

1-TND5171

In Only God Forgives, I felt Refn’s style overpowered what little narrative and character there was, leaving us with a film that, despite its surface beauty, was hollow and, frankly, boring. I was pleased, therefore, to find myself thoroughly enjoying The Neon Demon. Refn’s languorous style is perfectly suited to the poised, precise world of fashion, to the point that the themes of vanity and the monetisation of beauty crystallise into the very fabric of the film. Like Drive, this is a film whose powerful visual style and hypnotic soundtrack help build the narrative up to a point which it might not otherwise have reached. Refn and his collaborators give the film a very poised sense of tone and mood, which elevate and enhance the thin, genre movie plot. The whole thing is drenched in Cliff Martinez’s throbbing, undulating score – a fusion of electronica and pulsating noir tones. In places, the sound is as important as the visuals – Refn and Martinez clearly work as a cinematic pairing.

The film’s primarily female cast are all on deceptively good form, and while the script (by Refn, Mary Laws and Polly Stenham) doesn’t require huge range from all of its performers, the mannered style and delivery all work towards the film’s overarching sense of tone. The supporting cast are also on great form, from Karl Glusman as Jesse’s friend to Keanu Reeves’ sinister turn as the owner of the motel Jesse moves into. A word, too, for Alessandro Nivola as an unnamed fashion designer, who is just terrific, stealing every scene he’s in and providing one of the best outlets for the film’s sense of jet-black humour.

TND0974

It’s important to note the prevalence of women who worked on this film, from producers to writers to Natasha Braier’s terrific cinematography, because although for the majority of The Neon Demon, Refn shoots his cast with delicacy, there are one or two scenes towards the end which verge on the problematic, in particular a brief dream sequence which feels unnecessarily exploitative, and a crass nude shower scene which feels leery and out of place.

Some of the riffs Refn draws on with the visuals and violence hark back to the work of other directors, but only in a loving way; I felt the film had a mood and style all of its own, and that it subsumed its world so fully that it even came to resemble it, in a sort of formalised satire. Yes, Refn is certainly not the first filmmaker to comment on the beauty industry, but he’s the first to do it quite like this. The Neon Demon is positive step in Refn’s career after the dis appointment of Only God Forgives, which promised so much but delivered so little. I found much to enjoy in its stylised world of bitchy models and disturbing, noirish imagery.

4/5

The London List Abroad: SoHo’s slick 11 Howard hotel pits Scandinavian minimalism against New York coolThe London List

By Sam Bathe on 30 Jun 2016

11-Howard-2

11-Howard-3

At the corner of Howard and Lafayette, New York’s chic 11 Howard hotel breathes new life into the site of an old Holiday Inn. However, step inside and the building is unrecognisable. Decked out top to toe with swish minimalist furniture – bar the stylish bar which feels every bit like a seductive New York speakeasy – 11 Howard apart feel like a Scandi retreat against the bustle of the New York City streets. Show the rest of this post…

With rooms available from Queens to the hugely spacious Terrace Suite, the mid-century rooms are crisp and yet homely, with the soft furnishings taking an edge of the minimalist aesthetic. “There is something about the honesty of these materials that ultimately, even used, they might look better than new. It’s not all distressed and it’s not all polished — it’s a balance,” explains creative director Anda Andrei. Plus the hotel are promoting a mantra of socially-conscious hospitality, with a portion of every room rate goes towards the Global Poverty Project. Right at the heart of New York’s happening SoHo neighbourhood, 11 Howard is now booking with rooms available from $270.

11 Howard Hotel, 11 Howard Street, New York, NY 10013
www.11howard.com

11-Howard-4

11-Howard-5

11-Howard-6

11-Howard-7

11-Howard-8

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

basketball-courts-around-the-world-1

basketball-courts-around-the-world-0

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…

basketball-courts-around-the-world-3

basketball-courts-around-the-world-3b

basketball-courts-around-the-world-4

basketball-courts-around-the-world-5

basketball-courts-around-the-world-9

basketball-courts-around-the-world-11

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

FSC-Ayame-Sunglasses-2

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

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.

You can contact us on: mail@fanthefiremagazine.com

Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Dribbble, Instagram and RSS.