Film Review: Guardians of the GalaxyFan The Fire Recommends

Posted in Film, Recommended, Reviews
By Martin Roberts on 31 Jul 2014

Understandably there were sceptics when Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy was announced. A massive budget sci-fi spectacle based on five – that’s five – new comic book characters, largely unknown to the masses, two of which were a walking tree and a talking raccoon with a weapon fetish. Show the rest of this post…

Whereas Joss Whedon, much-admired director of Avengers Assemble, had the backdrop of numerous individual character films to get his team together, James Gunn, helmer of Guardians, has to introduce all his characters and tell a ripping yarn in just two hours. For the most part, he’s done an admirable job.

After a brief earth-bound introduction to a young boy called Peter Quill, we are whisked off to space 26 years later, by which point he has transformed into a roguish space pilot dealing in the recovery and sale of rare goods. He goes by the nickname ‘Star Lord’, or at least he would like to, and is played by Chris Pratt, in what proves to be a charismatic performance. At the beginning we see Quill locating and pocketing an orb of as-yet unknown significance. It soon proves to be pretty important to a lot of people, however, and Quill is quickly thrust together with a ragtag bunch comprised of green-skinned killer Gamora (Zoe Saldana), buffed up vengeance-seeking brute Drax (mixed martial artist Dave Bautista), and the aforementioned anthropomorphised duo, Rocket and Groot (raccoon and tree respectively), voiced by Bradley Cooper and Vin Diesel.

There are obvious touchstones here in Star Wars and Indiana Jones, but Gunn allows his influences to inform rather than define the film. Both Quill and, amusingly, Rocket, compete for the ‘Han Solo’ role, and satisfyingly it comes out as a tie, while the whole thing has the feel of a Saturday morning ‘adventure show’ – the kind of thing George Lucas was aiming at when he originally conceived of the Star Wars films. Gunn and his co-writer Nicole Perlman have a job on their hands to get the team together and working in harmony before the obligatory action finale, and generally speaking they succeed.

The film adopts the comic, slightly tongue-in-cheek tone that has been sprinkled liberally over much of Marvel’s recent work, and this helps cover up the cracks in the script, which is genuinely funny at times (one prosthetic leg gag is inspired) but also lacks depth in key areas. There are hints of backstory for all five of our idiosyncratic heroes, but there’s very little time to go into detail. Luckily, they remain likeable thanks to sharp writing and good performances, but the villains (as is the case in so many comic book adaptations) just can’t get enough screen time in a clogged narrative. Chief villain Ronan the Accuser, a hammer-wielding face paint enthusiast, has his motivation outlined in literally one line of throwaway dialogue, so his quest to annihilate the population of a planet comes across as paper thin and uninteresting. By the end he’s reduced to the butt of a joke, diluting any remaining sense of threat. Even worse are the two manipulators behind the scenes. Benicio del Toro cameos again (as he did in the Thor: The Dark World end credits scene) as The Collector, and makes zero impression, while Thanos, the shady figure behind it all, appears briefly, decked out in silly golden armour, before disappearing having made no impact whatsoever. If he’s to be the ultimate bad guy in the Marvel universe, he may need reimagining. Karen Gillan, unrecognisable beneath some terrific makeup, fares better as Gamora’s sister, but their relationship, like so much of the villainous stuff, is terribly underwritten.

The plot itself suffers from similar issues. Sure, it’s funny when Quill jokes about the story’s central hook (the orb) being little more than a MacGuffin, even directly referencing Raiders of the Lost Ark, but it doesn’t change the fact that that’s what it is. Laughing about it allows for one witty line, but the film suffers for that joviality towards its own narrative, which for the audience isn’t quite so amusing.

It doesn’t suffer too much, though. At a sprightly two hours, Guardians does more than enough to warm us to this new Marvel super group. Yes, it’s another franchise waiting to happen, and yes the Marvel formula is starting to feel a bit, well, formulai c, but considering how much of a risk this looked when it was announced, it’s quite impressive that they’ve managed to turn it into a very bankable and broadly appealing picture.

4/5

The ‘Halo’ franchise makes its long-awaited small screen debut with digital series ‘Halo: Nightfall’

Posted in Games, TV
By Sam Bathe on 29 Jul 2014

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The sole survivor from Xbox’s recently scrapped video content initiative, Halo makes its long-awaited debut on the small screen with Ridley Scott-produced series, Nightfall. Introducing a new character, Jameson Locke, a legendary manhunter and agent with the Office of Naval Intelligence (ONI), Earth’s most powerful and secretive military branch, a trailer for the digital series premiered at San Diego’s Comic Con over the weekend. The series appears to follow Locke and his team as they are caught in the midst of a horrific biological attack, they unravel a plot that sees them delve deeper and deeper into Halo lore. Taking place between the events of Halo 4 and Halo 5: Guardians, Halo: Nightfall tell the origin story of Locke before his central role in the Halo title to be released next year. Halo: Nightfall will be released as part of The Master Chief Collection this Fall.

The crew fight their way to DC with a cure in the trailer for Season 5 of AMC’s ‘The Walking Dead’

Posted in TV
By Sam Bathe on 28 Jul 2014

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Starting off the season more battered and broken than ever, AMC have teased more of what’s to come when their breathing show, The Walking Dead, returns in the fall. Fighting their way to DC with an apparent cure, season five will chronicle the crew’s plight as they come up against some of their biggest challenges yet. Let the zombie killing commence on October 12th when The Walking Dead: Season 5 premieres on AMC.

Tom Hardy takes over the reigns from Mel Gibson in George Miller’s explosive return ‘Mad Max: Fury Road’

Posted in Film, Previews, Trailers
By Sam Bathe on 27 Jul 2014

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After Babe: Pig in the City, Happy Feet and Happy Feet Two over the last 16 years, for his next film, director George Miller is going back to the franchise that first made his name, Mad Max. Set against an apocalyptic backdrop, Mad Max: Fury Road sees Tom Hardy take over from Mel Gibson in the titular role, having to fight through a series of torturous situations. Miller has called the film “almost a continuous chase” so hopefully he hasn’t forgetten how it’s done after so long away from this type of film when Mad Max: Fury Road hits theatres May 15th, 2015.

Film Review: The Purge: Anarchy

Posted in Film, Reviews
By Sam Bathe on 25 Jul 2014

Carving out an enviable reputation in Hollywood for not only producing interesting and innovative horror movies, but turning micro-budget projects into astronomical successes at the box office, Jason Blum is easily one of the hottest properties in the business. Show the rest of this post…

Shot for just $3m but bringing home almost $90m worldwide, last year’s The Purge was one of those success stories. Exploring an interesting, if dark and twisted, concept, the film was in the near future when crime and unemployment rates in the US have reached unprecedented lows. With the country now governed by the New Founding Fathers of America, for one night only all crime is deemed legal, while the police and emergency services are suspended.

In the first film, Purge night saw a bunch of unruly neighbours attack their local home security expert, and now just over a year on, in sequel The Purge: Anarchy, we’re stuck out on the street.

Following four unsuspecting citizens who find themselves far away from home, they fortunately join up with a tooled-up citizen as they try to get to safety. However, it’s not before long when they find themselves in the middle of a cat and mouse game of capture, and odds seemingly against them getting through the night.

Exploring how the rich and poor spend Purge night, the core concept of The Purge: Anarchy is still interesting and writer/director James DeMonaco does a good job of bringing a new angle to the franchise. Being locked out on the street was a logical next step for the story, but it is done well, with our protagonists forever looking over their shoulders.

On the whole, however, the film is far less successful than its predecessor. The plot points are often telegraphed while some scenes feel very forced and stereotypical, but the biggest frustration is in apparently how much influence co-producer Michael Bay had over the production. This doesn’t feel like a Jason Blum film, it doesn’t even feel like a James DeMonaco film, The Purge: Anarchy feels like a Michael Bay film through and through, and it pays the price.

Seemingly borrowed from Bay’s Transformers franchise, the overbearing soundtrack ruins any sense of terror and excitement, while lens flares fill the screen any time the camera moves but an inch. The film feels without soul, its life sapped by the filmmaker̵ 7;s arduous style, and its a great disappointment because the is definitely still legs in the main idea. Hopefully the inevitable third outing is back to the glories of the original.

2/5

Zuzu and Peter shoot each other shooting each other in their amazing photo series ‘Lens Between Us’

Posted in Art, Photography
By Sam Bathe on 24 Jul 2014

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Traveling the world, Zuzu and Peter took a unique and adorable spin on their holiday snaps. Shooting each other shooting each other, their project Lens Between Us, sees them near of far, with a camera in each of their hands. Show the rest of this post…

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Check out the full project on their Tumblr: www.lensbetweenus.tumblr.com

Levi’s head to the hills for a sci-fi-inspired for their Fall/Winter 2014 Vintage Clothing collection

Posted in Shoots, Style
By Sam Bathe on 23 Jul 2014

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Featuring crop circles and UFOs, Levi’s Vintage Clothing shot their Fall/Winter 2014 collection in the barren desert, with classic Levi’s essentials including their 501 jeans, Trucker Jackets and stone-washed shirts. The collection is available now at Levi’s flagship stores and select online retailers. Show the rest of this post…

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Photographer Jane Stockdale went to Brazil to watch the people watching the World Cup

Posted in Art, Photography, Sport
By Sam Bathe on 22 Jul 2014

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After having her application to photograph the crowds at this summer’s Commonwealth Games in Glasgow town down, photographer Jane Stockdale jumped on a plane to Brazil to shoot the audiences at the World Cup instead. From homes on the hillsides of the favelas to a packed Copacabana Beach, for 32 days, Brazil was more football-obsessed than ever, and delighted to have 32 other nations enjoying it with them. Show the rest of this post…

Check out the rest of the series online: www.watchingtheworldcup.com

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Check out more of Jane’s photography on her site: www.janestockdale.co.uk

Jenny Harmsen’s landscapes show the vast expanse of nature

Posted in Art, Photography, Travel
By Sam Bathe on 19 Jul 2014

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Photographer Jenny Harmsen shows off just how impressive in scale nature can really be with her series of landscapes. Show the rest of this post…

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Check out more of Jenny’s work on her Flickr account: www.flickr.com/photos/jennyharmsen

Aubrey Plaza comes back from the dead in Jeff Baena’s ‘Life After Beth’

Posted in Film, Previews, Trailers
By Sam Bathe on 18 Jul 2014

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Devastated by the unexpected death of his girlfriend, Zach (DeHaan) can’t believe is when she miraculously comes back to life. But hoping to take full advantage of their new opportunity of life together, not before long, Zach realises that Beth (Plaza) isn’t quite how he remembered her. The directorial debut from Jeff Baena (co-writer on I Heart Huckerbees), Life After Beth hits theatres August 15th in the US, October 3rd in the UK.

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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