Film Review: Get Hard

Posted in Film, Reviews
By Martin Roberts on 27 Mar 2015

This odd couple comedy from director Etan Cohen, in which disgraced fund manager James King (Will Ferrell) is sentenced to 10 years in a maximum security prison and turns to his car washer Darnell (Kevin Hart) for ‘training’ to prepare him for the experience, is a moderately successful, if somewhat outdated, film. Show the rest of this post…

The title offers the first clue as to the level the film is pitched at (dick jokes à go-go), and the poster suggests the other primary concern: race. The latter theme is the nub of the plot: King turns to Darnell for prison advice because he’s black, and Darnell, despite never having been anywhere near a prison, is willing to play out King’s crude stereotype because he needs the money on offer in order send his daughter to a better school and start his own car washing business.

Ferrell and Hart make for a pretty likeable duo here, although I found myself wishing that the material had made more use of their comic talents. There are faint echoes in Get Hard of Dan Akroyd and Eddie Murphy in Trading Places, although that was a much smarter and funnier film than this one. When the performers are allowed to show off their talents – as in one very funny scene in which Darnell impersonates the types of characters he thinks King will meet in prison, and King reacts as if they’re all standing there with him – the film can be pretty good, but a great many of the set pieces fall into the ‘missed opportunity’ category. For instance, the scene from the trailer in which King reluctantly taunts buff guys in an attempt to learn how to fight, doesn’t really have much to it, but feels like it could’ve been stronger. There are other scenes which feel tacked on; particularly a late foray into a white supremacist hideout.

The other primary source of comedy in the film is King’s fear of being raped in prison – something Darnell latches onto, and which the film is all too happy to make endless jokes about. All this culminates in the ‘money shot’ gag, in which King forces himself to attempt to perform fellatio on a stranger – a scene which is cringeworthy, but not in the way the film wants it to be. The way it’s shot kills any real potential for humour and leaves a slightly unpleasant feeling in the air. It does make one wonder how casually joking about male rape has come to be accepted. In the case of Get Hard, I don’t think the film is homophobic, but I also don’t think it has much to say about the topic, and nor are its jokes in that area particularly funny. Whenever the film got bogged down in this kind of thing, I began to feel the runtime.

The same could be said of the race jokes, some of which are admittedly quite funny, but which do feel a little outdated. Get Hard also can’t really get around the fact that while in many ways it is lampooning race stereotypes, often laudably, it also indulges in a fair few of them itself.

Once Darnell begins training King, that’s pretty much the plot. There’s a subplot about a gangster on their trail, but this gets so little screen time that it’s not really worth thinking about, and the ending is unfortunately a let down. Meanwhile, the only two women in the film are sidelined in tiny roles. Alison Brie (Mad Men) is wasted in an eye candy role as King’s fiancé, while Edwina Findley makes more of an impression as Darnell’s incredulous wife Rita.

Although it has considerable flaws, I did still find myself smirking, and sometimes laughing,  at Get Hard. Cohen’s direction is fairly workmanlike, and the set pieces could’ve been stronger, but the laughs are down to Ferrell and Hart, who hold the thing together.


Film Review: While We’re YoungFan The Fire Recommends

Posted in Film, Recommended, Reviews
By Nick Deigman on 27 Mar 2015

While We’re Young opens with title cards featuring dialogue from Ibsen’s The Master Builder. A conversation between Solness and Hilde. The middle-aged professional, stooping under the weight of his life, and the beautiful, wicked young siren who will lead him to his downfall. Show the rest of this post…

If Noah Baumbach wishes us to carry this idea forward into his story, then Josh and Cornelia are our Solness. All lust for life, lost. They’ve forgotten how to enjoy the pursuit of their half-fulfilled objectives, and are now buried beneath them. Josh’s documentary, eight years in the making, remains unfinished. He can barely bring himself to look at it. They’re trapped in the shadow of Cornelia’s famous documentarian father, Leslie. Cornelia produces his films while Josh has never quite lived up to the mantle of Leslie’s ‘protege’. Not helping matters, their best friends have just had a child and can speak of nothing else. They’re happy for them, of course; but nothing amplifies life’s metronome like watching your best friends play happy families while you forget the plot line to Goldilocks & the three bears.

Jamie and Darby are our Hilde. Married twentysomethings living the Brooklyn Renaissance dream. “They just make things, all the time!” Incorrigible, unjaded, filled with that youthful, malleable passion that can be redirected at a moment’s notice. They make ice cream, they make desks, they make documentaries. They have a record collection that should have taken three decades to amass. Their apartment is filled with “all the things we threw out, but they make it look cool”. Record players, typewriters, old projectors, books, vintage furniture.

While Cornelia and Josh are playing iPhone games and watching Netflix, Jamie and Darby smoke weed and cook and listen to old records. The young, steal our youth. While we’re constantly trying to keep up with the present, they’re building their future out of the wreckage of our pasts. And when we turn back to stare, it throws the even tenor of our lives into a tail spin that is as alluring as it is disorientating. If life’s a race, we hope it’s at least a straight one. But moments like this make us realise we’re running through a hall of mirrors.

The two couples become friends when Jamie, hoping to become a documentarian himself, sneaks into an evening class that Josh teaches. Josh sees in this young man a sort of selfless, boundless passion that he wishes desperately to rekindle, not just in his career, but in his relationship with Cornelia. Their flirtation with this youthful couple is not just for kicks. It is an honest attempt to burrow backwards into their own lives to work out where things started to go wrong. Or, rather, where things just stopped feeling “right”, and enjoyable for their own sake. Baumbach does an astounding job of making a mid-life crisis seem less about foot-dragging and immaturity, and much more about the desperate attempt to right the wrongs of the past before it’s too late.

Ben Stiller creates an almost loveable character in Josh. Rounding off the edges of that misanthropic, wincing sarcasm, making it look more like pathos. Adam Driver channels Jamie effortlessly: the dopey, handsome over-confident shyster, masking a timidity that still shows in the eyes. Naomi Watts and Amanda Seyfried do their best to match up to their male counterparts, but they’re never given the time. Perhaps exhausted from the wonderfully nuanced and feminine Frances Ha, Baumbach has made a film here that is most certainly about men.

Josh buys a fedora and helps Jamie with his fledgling documentary project. Cornelia chooses hip hop dance classes over spending time with her maternal best friend. They sack off a weekend cookout in Connecticut with their middle-aged friends to attend an ayahuasca ceremony with a bunch of childish hipsters and hippies. But it can only ever be a flirtation. The more they discover about themselves, the more they realise it’s probably too late to change.

In order to regain our youth, we must see the world through young people’s eyes. And it is always a different world, with different morals, different attitudes, different neuroses. You cannot simply default back to 26-years-old. It’s not the crow-s feet that will give you away, it’s the lens you see the world through that is old.

And the more they discover about Jamie and Darby, the more they realise things may not be as they first appeared. Has Jamie masterminded their friendship from the beginning in order to gain their support for his documentary? Is Darby the sweetness and light she at first appeared to be? Is their young marriage as pure and impenetrable as they make out?

Baumbach’s latest film ambles along in this slightly hazy, directionless fashion from start to finish. It is to be applauded, really. He allows short bursts of impeccable, comedic filmmaking – with sharp editing, a masterful attention to pace, and wonderful performances – to build slowly in the midst of life’s whimsical funk. You never feel as if he is leading you anywhere in particular. His films do have an economy and discipline that makes 97 minutes slip by quickly, but they are well hidden. There will be moments where you begin to feel bored, but then before you know it you’re laughing again. And then, at some point, the lights come up, and you make your way out of the theatre with a grin and a furrowed  brow. In that respect, it might almost be said that Baumbach does have a touch of Ibsen about him. It’s a very generous parallel, but if he wants it, I’ll give it to him.


The London List Review: The Landmark London HotelThe London List

Posted in Hotels, London, London List
By Sam Bathe on 23 Mar 2015

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The Landmark London is a unique 5-star hotel, steeped in history and regarded as one of the best classical hotels in London. Show the rest of this post…

Location and building

The Landmark London is a mere stone’s throw from Marylebone Station and first opened as The Great Central Hotel in 1899, one of the last of the great Victorian railway hotels of that era. The imposing Gothic Revival facades steep the hotel in grandeur but it is the remarkable central atrium that wows upon arrival. An extension of the road for guests arriving by horse and cart, the glass-roofed courtyard at the heart of the hotel was converted into a dance floor during the “roaring twenties” and now hosts the hotel’s main restaurant, the Winter Garden.

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The local Marylebone area has undergone an impressive regeneration in recent years. Marylebone High Street is now bustling with clothing, homeware and artisan food stores, plus a fantastic local market every weekend. Chiltern Street is now home to the hip Chiltern Firehouse restaurant too, plus the Monocle cafe and stores. A little further south, Selfridges and Oxford Street are both accessible by foot.

Just a five-minute walk to Baker Street or Edgware Road Tube stations, The Landmark Hotel is very well connected within London while Marylebone Station runs connecting trains to Stratford-upon-Avon, Birmingham and beyond.

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We stayed in an extremely spacious Marylebone Studio suite, though the Landmark London is renowned for their space and comfort in all rooms.

Welcomed with some chocolates and an exotic fruit bowl, we couldn’t have felt more at home and immediately sank into the big comfy sofa in the living space. The Landmark London decor is a warm and friendly, classic hotel style. The upholstery and features are reserved yet luxurious, with plush carpet underfoot, a desk should you need to work and big TV in both the living and bedroom spaces.

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The kingsize bed was a dream and you’ll have no trouble getting a superb night’s sleep at the Landmark London, with an armchair for dressing and ample cupboard and drawer space for clothes.

Landmark London suites also feature Nespresso machines, speaker systems and DVD players.

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The bathroom was equally spacious, with luxurious fixtures and fittings and comfy waffle gowns. The bathroom was split into three mini-rooms, the first with big his and hers washbasins leading to the walk-in shower and lavish bathtub, and finally a separate WC at the end of the walkway.

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In a recent change, The Landmark London now offer free WiFi throughout the hotel, including every room, plus free access to the pool and health club.

The 15-metre pool is perfect for morning laps or a relaxing afternoon swim, with plenty of floats and foam boards on hand. The health club also boasts a jacuzzi, sauna, steam room and two excellent monsoon showers. The pool has two designated periods for children, while at all other times it is intended for adult use only.

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As part of the health club, the Landmark London also offers a state of the art gym plus spa treatments in adjoining specialist suites.

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Hotel guests can expect the usual range of services from a 5-star hotel, including a laundry services, complimentary newspapers to your room every day, continental power sockets, and extremely plush bathrobes and slippers.

Restaurant and bars

The Winter Garden restaurant is the main restaurant at the Landmark London, situated in the breathtaking central courtyard. Particularly magnificent under spotlights at night, the restaurant serves a modern British menu. The food is excellent and we sampled the Seared Scallops and Cauliflower to start – the scallops cooked to complete perfection – and the excellent Rack of Lamb and Seabass dishes for main. The knowledgable waiting staff and sommelier will help you pick a wine or cocktail to compliment your meal and be sure to have a desert too, the Sticky Toffee Pudding is sumptuous to finish.

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The Winter Garden is also home to the Landmark London’s amazing breakfast buffet, the best we’ve experienced in London. With everything from freshly squeezed juices, pastries, hot dishes, fruit, sourdough breads and more, it’s a glorious feast not to be missed. Every Sunday, the Landmark London offer a famous Champagne Brunch with unlimited champagne and an equally impressive buffet for £90-a-head, while the Winter Garden is known for an excellent afternoon tea too.

Guests can find a more traditional dining experience in the twentytwentytwo restaurant and bar, or intimate cocktails at the Mirror Bar.

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The Landmark London’s relaxed and subtly luxurious atmosphere makes the hotel a wonderfully warm and approachable stay. The unique courtyard space and excellent Winter Garden restaurant are the hotel’s trump card but the spacious rooms and supremely comfortable beds don’t come far behind either. The Landmark London is for people looking for a more classical hotel in the capital, steeped in history with great access to attractions nearby. Long may it continue.

For reservations and more, please visit:
The Landmark London Hotel, 222 Marylebone Road, London, NW1 6JQ

Film Review: The Tale of The Princess KaguyaFan The Fire Recommends

Posted in Film, Recommended, Reviews
By Mary Clare Waireri on 20 Mar 2015

Oscar-nominated The Tale of Princess Kaguya is the latest offering from cult Japanese animators Studio Gibli (Spirited Away, The Wind Rises). The story is based on a Japanese folktale about an old, poor bamboo cutter and his wife who discover a magical being in the form of a small girl (Princess Kaguya) and raise her as their daughter. Show the rest of this post…

In exchange, the bamboo cutter is magically gifted with piles of gold and decides to move the family to a life of opulence in the city befitting a celestial being. When news of the Princess Kaguya’s mysterious beauty spreads, grasping suitors scramble to win her hand in marriage but her true desire is to return to a simpler life with her childhood friends in the bamboo cutter’s cottage.

The film’s charm lies in the way it navigates familiar fairy tale motifs – coming of age, the corruption of riches, the unworthy suitor, the quest for true love – with a genuinely subversive eye. Some have described Princess Kaguya as a feminist tale, and indeed the exquisitely drawn relationship between Princess Kaguya and her mother, as well as the centrality of her character in driving the narrative, support that sentiment. But this is also a film that asks ambitious questions about the clash of the temporal and spiritual worlds, the nature of life, death, loss and longing. The central struggle is not for a straightforward ‘happy ending’ but for a sense of meaning as the world-weary Princess Kaguya grapples with the harsh realities of human life.

It’s hard to put a finger on exactly why, but Princess Kaguya strikes a deeply melancholic note with a hypnotic, meditative tone that somehow occupies the space between real and unreal, earthly and heavenly. Crucially Princess Kaguya showcases the emotional depth and texture that only hand-drawn animation can truly deliver. The visual style is moody and evocative, moving from a light, luminous almost water-colour quality to charcoal-black shadows and raw, impressionistic scrawls. This – com bined with an ethereal score – results in a hauntingly mesmeric masterpiece that creeps beneath the skin and truly transports the viewer into an enchanting world of myth and magic.


Film Review: It FollowsFan The Fire Recommends

Posted in Film, Recommended, Reviews
By Martin Roberts on 19 Mar 2015

The problem with so many modern horror films face is that they don’t have any ideas deeper than ‘and this is how the next person gets killed’. They’re exercises in shallow repetition (particularly in the case of reboots of 70s and 80s franchises), and audiences are wise to them. They pay to see them because they’re hoping the next one will be better, but it rarely is. Show the rest of this post…

It Follows is a good, creepy horror film. It’s rooted very much in the canon of horror cinema – from the delicious John Carpenter-esque soundtrack to the removed, ‘teens on their own on the streets of America’ setting – but David Robert Mitchell’s (The Myth of the American Sleepover) film is its own beast, rich with invention.

The basic premise – a demonic presence is transmitted between teens via sex – is not entirely original (many horror films deal in their own ways with sexual behaviour) but It Follows has the smarts to come at the issue from a number of different angles. After a brief intro, we are introduced to Jay (Maika Monroe) whose boyfriend reveals to her (after having slept with her) that he’s given her the demon: a presence that follows the ‘carrier’ at walking pace, taking on the appearance of any number of different people, and which can only be seen by the carrier and the person who gave it to them, until the chain moves on as a result of the next sexual act. Mitchell surrounds Jay with a likeable group of friends who have their own personalities and who, thankfully, don’t by default reject their friend’s fears (so often a misplaced horror trope) and instead rally round to help her.

The film is ingenious in the way it generates fear out of everyday situations, and Mitchell has fun with the premise by allowing walking figures to flit in and out of his frame. Any film that can conjure fear out of somebody walking slowly towards you is doing something right.

It Follows also has interesting things to say about Detroit (where it’s set) and, by extension, American society. In the tradition of the best horror pictures, the ideas are fleetingly presented but linger in the mind. The young cast do a great job of conveying a group of friends looking out for themselves – again in the tradition of so many horror flicks, adults are conspicuous by their absence, although Mitchell does offer a couple of brief, suggestive glimpses in this department that say more than any amount of exposition could’ve managed.

Mitchell allows the film to filter out on a nervy, ambiguous note, which works brilliantly in the context of the story. Ambiguity is often introduced at the end of films in this genre to paper over the cracks of a flimsy or unfinished screenplay, but here it works in tandem with the premise. I didn’t find the film to be hugely scary, but it does create tension and the idea is deliciously creepy, even if you can pick one or two holes in the logic. Mitchell and his cas t really make it work, and the soundtrack coats the whole thing in a sort of beautiful dread. It Follows will surely turn out to be one of 2015’s strongest horror offerings.


Paulin’s C200 Chronograph watches blend function with a gorgeous modern industrial look

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



Available in five colourways, Paulin’s C200 Chronograph watch features a Japanese Miyota Quartz movement and Italian calfskin leather straps with embossing on the underside, all designed and assembled in the UK. Paulin’s sharp yet classic look on the C200 features a domed mineral glass crystal, with a 24h dial, 30 minute and 60 second stopwatch powered by the chronograph. The C200 is available from the Paulin online store for £195:

Mystery Skulls step into a world dipped in gold in the video for new single ‘Magic’

Posted in Music, Music Videos
By Sam Bathe on 2 Mar 2015




Teaming up with Nile Rodgers and Brandy for disco-influenced track, Magic, Luis Dubuc – better known as Mystery Skulls – has gone golden for the video. Off his Forever LP which was released late last year, the video for Magic is about “luxury in space” as a gold-dipped community come across a mysterious spaceship, and it’s silver. The video was directed by Double Ninja and produced by French company Cumulus.

Film Review: The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

Posted in Film, Reviews
By Sam Bathe on 27 Feb 2015

Following the runaway success of The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (2011), director John Madden (Shakespeare In Love) and screenwriter Ol Parker bring us second helpings in the form of The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. Show the rest of this post…

The sequel picks up more or less where the first left off: a group of British retirees (played by an ensemble cast including Judi Dench, Maggie Smith, Bill Nighy and Ronald Pickup) jaded by life in old Blighty seek refuge at a charming hotel for the elderly in Jaipur, India. This time around, we see the guests have settled into life in India, acclimatising to the ex-pat dating scene and even finding jobs.

Ostensibly, the plot is that Muriel (Maggie Smith) has joined forces with the hotel’s over-zealous proprietor Sonny (Dev Patel) to seek American investment for the hotel’s expansion: Step in new guest and suspected hotel inspector Guy (Richard Gere). Meanwhile, Sonny’s wedding plans are almost scuppered by rivalry and jealousy.

Is the plot all over the place? Yes. Does the plot really matter? No – because it is mere set dressing. The real pleasures of this film are to be found in simply sitting back, switching off and enjoying being in the presence of a charming ensemble cast, who have all done better elsewhere and are not being particularly taxed here. Between the lush locations (L.A., Mumbai and Jaipur) sumptuous costumes and Bollywood-style dance-offs (Sonny’s wedding), the cast of The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel must have had a blast making this film, which is probably why it feels much like browsing a travel brochure.

It’s true that The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel – like its precursor – is full of wall-to-wall clichés, characterisation that seems to go nowhere and flimsy, recycled plotlines. But, it is harmless and there are a still a few chuckles to be found in this light, bubbly confection of a film – perfect for lazy Sunday afternoon viewing.

Film Review: Focus

Posted in Film, Reviews
By Martin Roberts on 25 Feb 2015

Focus is the frothiest of Hollywood confections: a melange of costumes, glitzy locales and beautiful people which, if it doesn’t add up to much more than that, at least has a playful and catching sense of fun. Show the rest of this post…

Will Smith stars as master con man and thief Nicky Spurgeon – a role suited to a star of his charisma, and not something we’ve seen him do for a while. He bumps into Jess (Margot Robbie) in the opening scene, and it soon transpires that they share a penchant for Hollywood crime; that is, crime stripped of any moral consideration whatsoever, but it’s ok because they’re beautiful and charming. Nicky takes Jess under his wing, schooling her in the tricks of the thievery trade, until at the mid-way point the film leaps forward three years and throws them back together in new circumstances. Needless to say, Nicky has a big job underway, and Jess proves to be a wild card in its execution.

Smith and Robbie make for a charismatic pairing, working hard to make two pretty unlikeable characters worth rooting for. After watching them loot and pilfer the bags and wallets of countless innocent civilians, it’s to the actors’ credit that by the mid point we’re, sort of, on their side. Incidentally that mid point is worth mentioning: a lovely sequence in which Nicky faces off in an increasingly high stakes gambling confrontation with BD Wong’s giggling Liyuan.

Focus’ structure is slightly odd, but it works because it drives a wedge into a number of factors that will be brought up later. Never mind that the ending is a little lazy – there’s just enough foreshadowing, and it’s well played enough, that we can forgive it.

Elsewhere the film is enjoyable, but resolutely flimsy. Adrian Martinez, as Nicky’s partner Farhad, shows up now and again for comic relief (his stock in trade is sex jokes) and Rodrigo Santoro appears as a wealthy Formula 1 team owner, around whom the final act revolves. The film is dedicated enough to its light tone that it’s willing to make jokes about Australians (amusingly directed at Robbie, who is Australian) and set up intrigue at the same time.

Luckily Smith and Robbie (who will be reunited in next year’s DC Comics mash-up Suicide Squad) make the whole thing more fun that it probably aught to be. It’s nice to see Smith having fun in a role again, and Robbie, who made her name in The Wolf of Wall Street, makes for a go od partner in crime. The film won’t linger long in the memory, but for the duration of its runtime it’s pleasant enough company, primarily thanks to the double act at its centre.


Shawna X goes neon for new illustrated series ‘Need/Desire’

Posted in Art, Illustration
By Sam Bathe on 24 Feb 2015



From Portland, Oregon, but now based in New York City, designer/illustrator Shawna X goes neon for new series ‘Need/Desire’. Combining geographic shapes, some human hands, and a technicolour rainbow, her illustrations feel like they’re been plucked from a seedy, neon backstreet. Show the rest of this post…

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Check out more of Shawna X’s work on her site:

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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