Film Review: Magic Magic

Posted in Film, Reviews
By Martin Roberts on 16 Apr 2014

The promotional material for Magic Magic seems intent on portraying it as a horror film, in particular the slightly lazy trailer, but it isn’t. Chilean director Sebastián Silva’s second film in quick succession, after Crystal Fairy (also featuring Michael Cera), is actually a taut psychological thriller about a girl out of her comfort zone. Show the rest of this post…

That girl is Alicia (Juno Temple), who ventures out of the US for the first time to join her cousin Sarah on holiday in Chile. After briefly introducing Alicia to her friends, including an oddball manchild called Brink (Cera), Sarah is unexpectedly called away for school, leaving Alicia in a strange country with a group of strangers. We soon come to understand that she is a jittery, possibly psychologically damaged person at the best of times, even without the added pressures of dealing with unfamiliar situations.

Juno Temple is excellent in the central role, and gives a performance of real depth and heart. She portrays her character’s growing insomnia and ever-increasing list of eccentricities convincingly – a feat aided by Silva’s script, which is grounded and consistent (barring the ending – more on that later) in a way that most thrillers fail to achieve. The sense that the world is strange, but that it may be strange because of us, as opposed to intrinsically, is an idea that runs through the film, and Silva finds interesting ways to portray the disparity between reality and Alicia’s increasingly nerve-wracked perception of it – often involving animals.

Credit, too, to the supporting cast, who fall just on the right side of ‘weird’ when they need to, but never topple over into psycho-thriller clichés or shake too vigorously the foundations of credulity that Silva establishes. After all, any threat perceived in any of them may well be down to Alicia’s unstable condition. The exception to that rule perhaps comes in the form of Brink, who Michael Cera plays in a kind of darkly discombobulated subversion of the roles he’s well known (and typecast) for. Here, bi-lingual and thoroughly strange, he comes across as an antagonistic but not singularly ‘bad’ character. The fact that Alicia finds him so hard to read, and that he appears to have connection troubles of his own, creates a believable chasm between them. In that chasm there is dark humour, and Cera isn’t completely ‘playing against type’, but this is an interesting step away from his comfort zone.

Silva and his cinematographers Christopher Doyle and Glenn Kaplan shoot the Chilean countryside beautifully, creating a wholly convincing but understated backdrop for Alicia’s unfolding sanity, while the score (both original and licensed) from Daniel Bensi and Saunder Jurriaans, combined with detailed sound effects work, compliments goings on nicely.

One of the film’s few major missteps is the ending, which feels like a bit of a cop out: an attempt to inject either ambiguity or finality (depending on how one reads it) into a screenplay that wasn’t sure where to go. It does at least conclude with an effective shot on a boat, but the ending strains the affection the film has been building up to that point, and sadly diminishes the effect of the whole thing.

But that can be forgiven because the performances and setup are strong. I n a world of cheap crash-bang jump scares and recycled found footage genre flicks, it’s refreshing to see something with a dramatic heart beating beneath its discomfiting exterior.


The London List Review: Secret Cinema 21 is their best and most immersive production yetThe London List

Posted in Film, London, London List
By Sam Bathe on 15 Apr 2014

After an short run of events for Wes Anderson’s new film, The Grand Budapest Hotel, Secret Cinema return to cloak and dagger best with their elaborate, immersive and wholly rewarding production, Secret Cinema 21. Show the rest of this post…

Told little but when and where to be and which colours accent the 1920s dress code, 21 feels like an interactive theatre production in the run-up to the movie at the end of the night. While at previous Secret Cinema events it often felt like a lot of stuff was happening around you but you were never really involved, at 21 we actively progressed the story on several occasions, doing missions for several characters dotted around expansive set.

With events like The Heist and Punchdrunk’s The Drowned Man snapping at the heels of Secret Cinema, 21‘s level of audience involvement needs to become their new norm and the team deserve huge credit for crafting their own complex narrative off the back of the night’s movie, and delivering it with such precision and sheer fun.

After selling out every evening of the initial 29-date run, Secret Cinema 21 has been extended with an addition 12 dates in May. At £53.50, Secret Cinema is an expensive night out but this might be the first production that is really worth the money. With a couple of cocktails in you, racing around doing tasks for the police and the mob and then an amazing movie at the end, it’s one of the best nights out you’ll have all year.

The final dates for Secret Cinema 21 run between 8th-25th May, tickets are available from the Secret Cinema website:

Photography by Hanson Leatherby (Images 1, 3, 4, 5) and Maximilien Letek (Image 2).

Film Review: Locke

Posted in Film, Reviews
By Martin Roberts on 14 Apr 2014

In Locke, a high-concept thriller from Stephen Knight (Hummingbird) set almost entirely in a single car – with external shots of gloomy motorways – Tom Hardy stars as a man – Ivan Locke – who must drive to an important destination while attempting to rectify a number of different problems. He talks on his phone, and has imaginary conversations with his deceased father, and that’s it. Show the rest of this post…

All of Hardy’s co-stars (including Olivia Colman and Ruth Wilson) are off-screen, meaning that Hardy has to carry the film pretty much alone, aided by Knight’s stylish direction (with cinematographer Haris Zambarloukos), which makes varied use of the darkness hanging over the English motorways Locke travels along, and the lights that permeate it.

The entire film was shot multiple times, chronologically, with the best footage combined. Hardy speaks in a thick Welsh accent (pretty much flawless) and has a considered, mannered style of delivery which works oddly well in tandem with the sparse setting and the low hum of the engine. It’s clear that Ivan’s seemingly unflappable personality is a front – deliberate or not – for the turmoil bubbling under the surface, which initially manifests itself in the form a building job that Ivan has abandoned in order to attend his secretive appointment.

The film is not long, and is by definition dialogue heavy, meaning Tom Hardy and the script are left with a pretty big job. While the former is excellent, the latter is not so consistent. There are obvious metaphors for Ivan’s life in his discussions about concrete, which work well, but there are other occasions when the script is a little too on-the-nose – in particular a recurring football motif. In the brief moments when Locke isn’t on the phone, he’s usually talking to an empty seat where he imagines his dead father to be, and these scenes again don’t quite gel.

Considering its protagonist is heading for a very specific destination, Locke doesn’t quite manage to find one itself. The ending is abrupt and in a way I appreciated its sentiment, but for me it lacked emotional weight. I came out of the film respecting what it had done more than feeling moved or overly thrilled by it.

But there are certainly sections of the script when it does hit the right beats, particularly in Ivan’s conversations with his wife, and in a couple of humorous moments.  The film makes quite a lot out of not very much, and features a strong performance from Tom Hardy, whose versatility continues to impress – and for that it’s worth checking out.


Film Review: We Are The Best!Fan The Fire Recommends

Posted in Film, Recommended, Reviews
By Martin Roberts on 11 Apr 2014

Capturing the essence of youth is not an easy thing to achieve in any medium, but it’s something that Swedish director Lukas Moodysson has a good crack at in We Are The Best!, an adaptation of his wife’s graphic novel Never Goodnight about a trio of bored 12- and 13-year-old girls in 80s Stockholm who decide to start a punk band, despite having no instruments or musical knowledge. Show the rest of this post…

Shot and performed in a naturalistic style, the film’s charms are pretty much impossible to resist, and it’s hard to imagine anyone not being won over by the performances of Mira Barkhammar, Mira Grosin and Liv LeMoyne as Bobo, Klara and Hedvig respectively. There are adults here and there, but this is the girls’ show, and they are more than capable of carrying the film’s lighthearted and frequently very funny script.

Their goal of creating a punk band defines much of the film’s comic material, and indeed its soundtrack, but the film is fundamentally about friendship and youth. The script has a very light touch in its treatment of the rites of passage the girls go through, and this helps to maintain the feeling that, apart from anything else, young children just enjoy having fun with each other. Klara’s precocious advocacy of the punk mindset is hilarious, but it’s her friendship with Bobo that defines her; the introduction of Hedvig into the group, and her acceptance, is also deftly and affectingly done.

The rare occasions when the film misses the mark tend to come from the scenes where the actresses are required to be ‘at play’, which is a tremendously difficult thing to recreate in any circumstance, and leads to one or two moments where events feel a tad forced, and the performances suffer as a result. There’s also a bit of a momentum dip in the final third when a minor and unconvincing conflict interferes with the group, but this is thankfully recovered for the rousing and charmingly low key finale.

We Are The Best! is a  delightful film about the friendship between its three young protagonists, set to an amusing and convincing punk music backdrop. I spent half the running time with a grin on my face.


Jon Favreau gets back to his indie roots with SXSW-favourite ‘Chef’

Posted in Film, Previews, Trailers
By Sam Bathe on 10 Apr 2014

One of our picks from this year’s SXSW festival, Jon Favreau turned down Iron Man 3 to make this movie and it was a great decision. Getting back to the spirit of his early independent movie, Chef tells the story of chef Roy Choi, who after a calamitous reaction to a bad review, quits his job and goes out on the road by starting a food truck. Full of heart passion, Chef features a few entertaining cameos along the way, plus great perfrmances from Jon Favreau, John Leguizamo, Bobby Cannavale and Emjay Anthony and hits theatres May 9th in the States and June 18th in the UK.

Metal Gear Solid gets back to its routes with new open world prologue title ‘Ground Zeroes’

Posted in Games
By Sam Bathe on 27 Mar 2014

A bite-sized prologue to Metal Gear Solid V proper, The Phantom Pain, Ground Zeroes intros the new open world structure set to revolutionise the series. Not a full game, instead just a single sneaking mission set on a sprawling black site in Cuba, Ground Zeroes sees the series go back to a more familiar stealth style of gameplay after the odd Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance and feels wonderfully cinematic. The released date for The Phantom Pain is still TBC but Ground Zeroes is out now for PS3, PS4, Xbox 360 and Xbox One.

Jungle dance-it-up in their video for new single ‘Busy Earnin”

Posted in Music, Music Videos
By Sam Bathe on 26 Mar 2014

After pleasantly ditching the their anonymity gimmick for their recent SXSW performances (elsewhere they play in darkness with lights out on the crowd), secretive duo Jungle return with another invigorating choreographed dance video for their new single, Busy Earnin’. In sync with groove of the track, a dance troupe flies about the large hall and shows the kind of movement and joy Jungle are all about. Jungle’s highly anticipated debut album will be release later this year, music video directed by Oliver Pearch.

Libertine-Libertine see out the winter with their 2013 F/W collection

Posted in Style
By Sam Bathe on 25 Mar 2014

Shot on location, described as “waterworld” by photographer Sven Eselgroth, the Libertine-Libertine 2013 F/W collection is perfect for the last days of winter before the bright colours of spring fashion come in. Show the rest of this post…

Film Review: Captain America: The Winter SoldierFan The Fire Recommends

Posted in Film, Recommended, Reviews
By Martin Roberts on 24 Mar 2014

Cap Am 2

Captain America’s detractors often seem to struggle to get past the name. But Marvel’s current iteration of its traditionally flag-waving character isn’t really that at all, but actually the most ‘realistic’ of its major heroes. Show the rest of this post…

The antiquated name rather suits the character in this context – he’s a man out of time, after all. The Winter Soldier, Cap’s second solo (ish) outing, is probably the most ‘down to Earth’ of Marvel’s superhero blockbusters, and in a lot of ways it benefits from that.

Whereas Thor: The Dark World, fun as it was, opted to go fantastical ­– albeit still with London tube gags – Winter Soldier plays it straighter, it’s paranoiac storyline shedding new light on the inner workings of the ubiquitous SHIELD organisation. Regular Marvel players Nick Fury (Samuel L Jackson) and Natasha Romanov (Scarlett Johansson) return here as Steve Rogers/Captain America (Chris Evans) continues to adjust to his new post-ice coma existence.

We begin with a terrific assault on an ocean liner, in which new directorial siblings Anthony and Joe Russo get to immediately show off the way they’ve adapted to and improved upon the action style established in Joe Johnston’s The First Avenger. They’ve stuck to the wide framing methods of that film, keeping fast editing to a minimum, and the result is some genuinely exciting and refreshing hand-to-hand action sequences – some of which have enough clout to push the 12A rating to the limit. They obviously had a great deal of fun showing off how ‘super’ Cap is, and there’s a running visual gag about how quickly the guy can run which works really well.

That intro segues into a quieter section in which Cap begins to question SHIELD’s methods, and who he can trust, while confronting some ghosts from his past. I’ve always thought Chris Evans was great casting for this role and, particularly in the first half of the film, he gets to show off why. The Russo brothers thankfully allow us to spend enough time with Cap, and Evans portrays enough innocence and heart beneath his buffed-up exterior, that the character has the weight he needs. It’s true that the plot dictates that most of the good character stuff comes in the first half – we need room for the now traditional special effects showdown, after all – but there’s enough of Cap’s personality lingering around to keep us on side.

The ramped up action also whittles away some of the good will the story has built up – even if most of the plot points are pretty telegraphed – but it does at least give the relationship between Cap and Natasha a bit of space to breathe. She is more of a character here than she has been before, and it’s nice to finally see a significant female role in a Marvel film, even if Cap is still very much top of the bill. Anthony Mackie brings charisma and likability to a supporting role as Cap’s new buddy Sam Wilson, and manages to carry off the character’s transition into an only mildly interesting jetpack-wearing hero called Falcon.

The addition of Robert Redford to the cast, as shadowy SHIELD exec Alexander Pierce, is also a smart move. The mysterious villain of the film’s title, meanwhile, makes a decent impact with very limited screen time, but he’s too tangential to the story to linger too long in the mind. It’s a shame the film’s plot isn’t able to give more significance to him as a character, but that is evidently being planned for the sequel. It means his impact in this film is lessened, but this is the way Marvel has chosen to play things. After all, it was willing to leave all that incongruous scene-setting guff in Iron Man 2, which was to that film’s detriment too.

For a massive-budget superhero spectacle, The Winter Soldier indulges in some interesting, albeit hardly subtle, musings on defence policy and the use of drones. It’s not highbrow stuff, but nice to see in this context, and gives the film more weight than the fluffier entries in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. There are missteps in terms of plotting, and a couple of sillier moments (on two occasions characters escape from deadly situations via the same lu dicrous method), but with Chris Evans charismatic as ever in the lead, and a good supporting cast, The Winter Soldier is a welcome addition to Marvel’s ever-expanding canon.


Lotus channel TRON with their first ever motorcycle, the C-01

Posted in Cars
By Sam Bathe on 21 Mar 2014

Designed by Daniel Simon of Bugatti and work on TRON: Legacy and Oblivion, Lotus’s first ever motorcycle is absolutely stunning. The futuristic C-01 features a 200 horsepower V-style 2-cylinder engine, six-gear transmission and a carbon fiber body that helps the C-01 weight in at under 400 pounds. Registering early interest is recommended as only 100 C-01s are to be made, and they’re likely to sell very fast indeed:

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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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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