Film Review: Mad Max: Fury RoadFan The Fire Recommends

Posted in Film, Recommended, Reviews
By Martin Roberts on 14 May 2015

Thank goodness somebody finally gave George Miller $150m to make a Mad Max film. Fury Road harks back to the director’s 70s/80s trilogy in a number of ways – most closely to 1981’s Road Warrior – but nevertheless feels like the Mad Max film Miller has always wanted to make, at last shorn of budget restraints. Show the rest of this post…

As a result, the 70-year-old director injects as much raucous energy into this film as in any of its predecessors. Miller’s last two features were the CGI cute-fests Happy Feet and Happy Feet Two, and he hasn’t worked on a live-action picture since 1998’s Babe: Pig in the City; Fury Road feels like a glorious release of pent-up, demented energy.

“I doubt we’ll see many more daring films this year”

Miller has reimagined his apocalyptic future wasteland – in which scarce gasoline is the most sought-after commodity – as opposed to completely reinventing it. This time things revolve around a crazed dictator called Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne, who played Toecutter in the original Mad Max) who keeps the ravaged population subdued by controlling the water supply, while his army of car-obsessed fanatics work to do his bidding. We begin when a routine supply run is revealed to be a ruse: lead driver Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron) is actually smuggling Immortan Joe’s “breeders” (captive women with whom he hopes to procreate) out of his citadel to a promised land across the desert. Max (Tom Hardy, replacing Mel Gibson) ends up involved in this by accident – chained to the front of one of the cars sent to recover the missing women.

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From there, the film plays out as a mad, spectacular chase, as the rig driven by Furiosa flees from Joe’s vehicular warriors. The film expounds on its plot in much the same way that its predecessors did: through hints, asides and audience guesswork. Miller invites us to luxuriate in the insane concoction he has imagined up: we don’t get the finer details, and we don’t need them. We also don’t have much time for them – once we’re out on the road, the film’s extended vehicular action sequences fly past at a furious pace. But this indulgence is not an exercise in repetition; nor is it lazy plotting. Miller builds his film around these gargantuan chases, but not because of a lack of material. The sheer imagination and lunatic propulsion of these scenes is the point of the film. The fact that he manages to establish likable characters during this time is the icing on the cake.

“The sheer imagination and lunatic propulsion of these scenes is the point of the film”

Chief among these is Charlize Theron’s Furiosa, who is both the heart and the muscles of the film. It’s an action heroine role the likes of which we rarely see: tough, conflicted, emotionally resonant and thoroughly memorable. Given the film’s title and the series’ propensity for macho insanity (though to be fair it has also featured strong female characters), we might not expect feminism, but Furiosa – and indeed the escaping ‘wives’ she’s protecting – add real steel and charisma to proceedings. Throwing the supposed hero, Max, into this mix is a stroke of genius from Miller and his co-writers – playfully and effectively subverting our expectations. Not that Max himself suffers for this, however; Hardy plays him with a fitting mix of mad energy and the same removed charisma that Mel Gibson channelled in the originals, and which inspired comparisons to Clint Eastwood’s Man With No Name. He’s not a man of many words, though he does get one of the most poignant lines late on. Throw Nicholas Hoult’s Nux – a crazed member of Joe’s elite guard – into the mix, and you’ve got a memorable triple-header.

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Miller throws everything at the screen in balletic, joyous conflagrations that, while long and in some ways repetitious, never get boring. As viewers, we’re too busy revelling in the inventiveness of these scenes to be longing for plot exposition or background information. Throughout, Miller plays with the frame rate, speeding up and slowing down shots, fast cutting into and out of little fragments of memory, all of which accentuates the sense of out-of-control madness. If the final act flags a teeny bit, it can be forgiven, because it isn’t drawn out.

It’s a real pleasure to see Miller back in what is resolutely his wheelhouse: smashing up cars filled with freaks in the desert. His eye for a  pleasing shot has never been stronger, and nor has his sense of off-kilter fun. For sheer imagination, sheer will to entertain, I doubt we’ll see many more daring films this year.

5/5

Film Review: The Man Who Saved the World

Posted in Film, Reviews
By Martin Roberts on 12 May 2015

The Man Who Saved the World tells the remarkable story of Stanislav Petrov, who in 1983 made a decision, based on gut instinct, that may well have saved every life on the planet. Show the rest of this post…

Towards the end of the Cold War, the Soviet nuclear defence system glitched, appearing to show US warheads heading for the Soviet Union. Petrov went against protocol – a decision that could’ve landed him in trouble – and reported it as a false alarm. He saved millions of lives, but hardly anyone knows his name.

This film, which blends documentary footage and recreations of events in the 1980s, is director Peter Anthony’s attempt to offer what he describes as “my truth about ‘the man who saved the world’”. The word “my” is key here, because although the film tells a true story, and a gripping one, its mix of shooting styles means that it is intended to be an interpretation of the truth, rather than a telling of it.

The thrust of the narrative is a journey Petrov (playing himself) makes to the US, accompanied by his translator Galina (also herself). The film establishes a touching relationship between these two, even if their interactions (and those with others) call into question how much of this is really documentary footage, and how much is scripted. There are also cameos from famous US stars, most prominently Kevin Costner, of whom Petrov is a huge fan, and who invites him to his set to celebrate a “real hero”.

Dramatised scenes of Petrov’s decision (in which he is played by Sergey Shnyryov) are effectively done, if a little clichéd. More successful, and surprisingly so, is a short sequence in which Petrov deals with his wife’s (Nataliya Vdovina) cancer after the war. It’s very well acted, and enhances the whole film, drawing parallels between Petrov’s individual life and the decision he made in the Cold War – how we deal with the influence of the past is a big theme, on both a personal and global level.

The film’s overarching anti-bombs message is a little laboured at times, but it would be churlish to criticise this too heavily – the film makes a convincing, if obvious, argument, and does so through a story that is nowhere near as well kno wn as it should be. I found the mix of styles a little disconcerting at times, but The Man Who Saved the World remains an interesting and unique telling of an important story.

3/5

Leather artisans Hard Graft take on the classic men’s briefcase with their gorgeous Atelier Assembly bag

Posted in Products, Style
By Sam Bathe on 11 May 2015

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A coming together of the best Tuscan leather and classic Italian style, the Atelier Assembly Briefcase is a painstaking artisan creation from masters Hard Graft. From superior leather, hand-picked and mastered by one Italian craftsman, the exclusive edition of products come with triple hand-painted edges and subtle hand-stitched details, with enough room in the main compartment to fit a 13″ laptop, A4 documents and folders and an inside zip pocket. Four small metal feet protect the base of the Atelier Assembly Briefcase, which is available now from the Hard Graft online store for a cool £658: www.hardgraft.com/products/atelier-assembly-briefcase

Walker Workshop’s Oak Pass Main House is a beautiful piece of understated luxury in Beverly Hills

Posted in Architecture
By Sam Bathe on 8 May 2015

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Designed “upside-down” by talented architectural studio, Walker Workshop, the Oak Pass Main House in Beverly Hills, California, puts the public spaces above the bedrooms. Buried deep into the 2.5 acre ridge the house is built on, the house features an infinity pool and green roof of edible herbs, and carefully integrates into the surrounding landscape. Show the rest of this post…

With floor-to-ceiling windows making the most of the gorgeous views and over 130 coast live oak trees on the plot, the home’s sumptuous interiors complete an understated design, so often overlooks in this part of Los Angeles.

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You can find more of Walker Workshop’s projects on their site: www.walkerworkshop.com

Photographer Katharina Jung’s New Zealand series reminds you life’s most spectacular sights are outside the urban environment

Posted in Art, Photography, Travel
By Sam Bathe on 7 May 2015

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Traveling the length of New Zealand with camera in hand, photographer Katharina Jung‘s series, The Freedom of the Open Road, captures how liberating it can be to step into the wild. Hoping to share the “endless beauty of this land and every creature on it”, Katharina invites you to “free yourself, follow your heart and spread the message, ‘Dream on little dreamer, this is how it all begins.’” Show the rest of this post…

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Check out more of Katharina’s photography on her Flickr profile: www.flickr.com/indpndt

Patagonia highlight Ramon Navarro’s mission to save the Chilean coast in docu short ‘The Fisherman’s Son’

Posted in Film, Nature, Short Films, Travel
By Sam Bathe on 6 May 2015

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An ode to surfing ambassador, Ramón Navarro, outdoor apparel brand Patagonia have collaborated with Save The Waves and filmmaker Chris Malloy to produce 30-minute short, The Fisherman’s Son. From a modest upbringing to the top of big wave surfing, Navarro has used his influence to build a new profile as an environmental activist and fight save his home break, Punta de Lobos, from the threat of huge corporate development. This vision to protect the culture and environment of the Chilean coast became his great goal, donate online to help the appeal: www.lobosporsiempre.org

Film Review: Spooks: The Greater Good

Posted in Film, Reviews
By Martin Roberts on 5 May 2015

This continuation of David Wolstencroft’s BBC spy series Spooks, which ended its run in 2011, takes the same basic formula – MI5 agents struggle to protect the UK from bad people – and expands it. Show the rest of this post…

You don’t need to have seen the show to understand what’s going on, though there are a couple of nice references that will go over newcomers’ heads.

It’s a spy thriller, and it’s centred on Britain, but comparisons to the James Bond franchise end there. This is smaller in scale, and less concerned with action. It draws its thrills from a twisty – if fairly standard – spy plot, in which MI5 loses custody of a dangerous terrorist, Adem Qasim (who professes to act on behalf of his “brothers”, but may secretly be pursuing a more personal vendetta), leading to pressure from the CIA.

After losing Qasim, Head of Counter Terrorism Harry Pearce (series ever-present Peter Firth) loses his job, and it’s up to promising young thing Will Holloway (Kit Harington) to assist him in uncovering exactly what has gone on. Harry is a slippery devil, and Holloway isn’t sure who he can trust – the employers who previously cut him out of MI5, or Harry, who told them to do it. The plot twists and turns on a regular basis, and does at times establish a genuine sense of uncertainty and threat.

Firth is really the star of this film (which seems only fair, considering his long years of service to the series) and every time he’s on screen he’s fun to watch. Harington is fine opposite him, but one of the film’s flaws is that it never really establishes Will as much more than a drone – we hear flickers of his past, but the character is still relatively thin by the end. So, Pearce aside, we’re left to invest in the plot, and it’s generally a decent effort, even if some of the twists feel a tad arbitrary. In truth, the villain’s scheme isn’t hugely original or interesting, but the film at least does a good job of telling it, so it’s never boring.

Director Bharat Nalluri keeps proceedings moving along at a consistent pace, and doesn’t let things flag. There are bits and pieces of imagination in there, but the film can’t quite escape its television roots, and does end up feeling like a long er episode of the show, with an increased – but only moderately increased – budget. Ultimately, it’s Firth’s film, and he ensures it’s never less than thoroughly watchable.

3/5

The London List Review: The horde is upon you in zombie immersive theatre production ‘The Generation of Z’The London List

Posted in London, London List
By Sam Bathe on 4 May 2015

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Taking over a derelict basement in East London, The Generation of Z is the latest in a long line of immersive theatre productions, hot on the heels of The Heist, The Drowned Man, and to a lesser extent, Secret Cinema. Show the rest of this post…

Turning a 25,000 square-foot space into an apocalyptic wasteland, it’s still 2015 but London has fallen, with the deadly Z virus transforming the global population into a rabid horde of the infected. The Armed Rescue Coalition are the only hope so when one of our own starts coughing up blood, it sets off a thrilling 60 minutes of twists, turns and gnarly-looking zombies.

Unlike the free-form 2.8 Hours Later where you have to run for your life, in The Generation of Z everything is carefully scripted promenade theatre. The main cast of A.R.C. officers are drilled and know their lines and timings to a tee, but it all feels like you’re living the action live as the action is genuinely riveting and, at times, terrifying too.

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During the performance the group splits and then splits again, so you end up in one of four parties. It means there’s replay value in going back for a second, third or fourth time but on a solo trip it did make it difficult to pick up the entirety of the plot. However, it was great that you felt like you were impacting on the narrative; decisions you make during the production change course of events, with your group deciding the fate of tertiary characters in plot.

At the end you’re invited back into the living stage to take a selfie with the zombies and you can even volunteer to be on the other side of the curtain and be one of the hoarde on a future production.

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The Generation of Z is a lot of fun, best enjoyed with friends, and another wonderfully unique night out in London. At just under £40 mid-week and £42.50 on Friday and Saturdays it is an expensive event, but given that the latest Secret Cinema is selling out at £78 at ticket, that’s unfortunately now the going rate. And to its credit, The Generation of Z feels worthy of the money, with fantastic set design and an engaging cast. If you want to live out your Walking Dead fantasies, this is the perfect chance.

The Generation of Z runs until July 5th, for more information and to buy tickets please head to their website: www.thegenerationofz.com
The Generation of Z, 69-89 Mile End Road, London, E1 4TT

Two characters make the journey across an alien landscape in the video for Muta’s new single ‘Praise’

Posted in Music, Music Videos
By Sam Bathe on 30 Apr 2015

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On a mysterious musical planet, two people cross a great ravine in Titouan Bordeau‘s animated video for Muta’s new single Praise. With rocks falling from the sky and creatures jumping out from beneath the earth, Bordeau’s bright video is the perfect accompaniment to the rhythmic electronic track. Praise is out now on King Deluxe.

The London List Abroad: Rome’s G-Rough Hotel turns the deconstructed look into luxury accommodationThe London List

By Sam Bathe on 29 Apr 2015

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Transforming a 16th century palazzo-style building, Gabriele Salini and Emanuele Garosci describe their G-Rough Hotel as “unconventional luxury suites”. Combining traditional and modern Italian design ideals with a deconstructed aesthetic, details like worn plaster walls and vintage furniture give the hotel a unique atmosphere. Offering 10 unique suites, each decorated with original works from designers including Guglielmo Ulrich and Giò Ponti, the hotel also includes a ground-floor bar and cafe which is open to the public.

G-Rough Hotel, Piazza di Pasquino, 69, 00186 Rome, Italy
www.g-rough.com/hotel-rome

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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