Jacobsen Arquitetura’s RT Residence hides a second floor within its stylish, minimalist exterior

Posted in Architecture
By Sam Bathe on 22 Jan 2015

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Though it’s built over two levels, Jacobsen Arquitetura have designed the RT Residence in Laranjeiras, Brazil, to appear like a compact and stylish bungalow. Using an optical illusion in the front of the house and warm natural materials so it blends in with the surrounding garden, the lower level is half-buried underground. With the back opening onto big open green space and the coast, light floods through the open plan living space. Show the rest of this post…

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Check out more of Jacobsen Arquitetura’s work on their site: www.jacobsenarquitetura.com

Lattes find love in the adorable stop-motion short ‘Coffee Couple’

Posted in Film, Short Films
By Sam Bathe on 20 Jan 2015

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Featuring over 1,000 cups of latte art, Japanese coffee makers Maxim Stick’s extraordinary and adorable short Coffee Couple tells the story of boy-meet-girl, falling in love and growing old together. With an espresso cup playing their child and other funny jokes in the story, the short has a supreme attention to detail and super stop motion animation, effortlessly turning cocoa-dusted coffees into living, breathing characters. Check out some behind the scenes shots and a making-of video on Latte Vacation’s website: http://latte-vacation.agf.jp/lattemotion/

Jack Black talks about growing up in Hermosa Beach for the ‘California Inspires Me’ project

By Sam Bathe on 19 Jan 2015

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A collaboration between California Sunday Magazine and Google Play, the California Inspires Me project speaks to famous faces about their life in the Golden State. In a gorgeous animated short by illustrator Nicolas Ménard, in this month’s edition actor and musician Jack Black looks back at what it was like to grow up in Hermosa Beach, how he fit into the laid back Cali way of life, and how the energy of Hollywood and his love of prog rock inspired him to seek a career in the entertainment industry. Check out more of Nicolas Ménard’s work on his site: www.nicolasmenard.com

The London List Abroad Review: Hotel Praktik Vinoteca, BarcelonaThe London List

By Dan Harding on 18 Jan 2015

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Endless tapas and vermouth joints, a thriving music scene that’s birthed two of the finest music festivals the 21st century has to offer, achingly beautiful Gaudi architecture at every corner, a beach that’s primed for lounging more than 80% of the year; Barcelona really isn’t a bad shout if you’re planning a weekend away, because no matter how you much plan on doing, there’ll still be more to accomplish. Show the rest of this post…

The Praktik Vinoteca was our elegant outpost for the weekend, the latest endeavour in a series of minimal and modernist hotels from the Praktik Group. Their boutique presence in the Catalan capital is more than healthy, in addition to the Vinoteca, they have two centrally located hotels (Rambla and Garden), with another housed in a nearby bakery. The Praktik Vinoteca, as you may have guessed, is a hotel designed and defined by an obsession for wine.

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Location

Tucked away on Carrer Balmes in the Eixemple district, the hotel is well situated just a ten minute amble from Placa de Catalunya, a main drop-off point for coaches and shuttle buses, as well as being in close proximity to metro stations Passeig de Gracia and Universitat, and just a 20-minute cab ride from the airport. The area is positively brimming with character, with the Modernist touchstones of La Segrada Familia, Casa Battlo and Casa Calvet, alongside a whole host of designer shops and supreme fine-dining experiences.

Rooms

The hotel’s interior was designed by Lazaro Rosa-Violan (of Contemporain Studio), while we stayed in an Exterior Double facing the hustle and bustle of the Carrer Balmes. The rooms aren’t huge but every drop of space was used to great effect, resulting in a perfectly snug home away from home. The large double bed and soft pillows made for a wonderful night’s sleep after a long day traipsing the streets.

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The WiFi was superb too, perfect for planning excursions and visits to the local Gaudi hotspots, while perching out on the small balcony is a great way to soak up the local atmosphere.

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Bathroom

The bathroom at the Praktik Vinoteca is a practical masterpiece, stylishly squeezing the most out of close quarters. As you enter the room, you are greeted by a pair of cubicles on either side, decorated with sleek black squares. A roomy shower space fills one, with a powerful overhead/hand shower and products sourced from seaweed.  A toilet/basin completes the other, with the welcome bonus of a hairdryer. The corridor acts a dressing area with a partition between the main area for privacy, there’s a large mirror on the back of the door too.

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Amenities

As the hotel was still in its infancy breakfast wasn’t on offer, but we were informed this will be incorporated in the future. The nearby Il Caffe Di Francisco more than served our needs in pepping us up for the day, with cafe con leches and heavenly lemon cake. For the gourmets amongst you, the magnificent Cinc Sentits is a five-minute stroll away, a place for unforgettable dining experience from the Michelin starred chef, Jordi Alba. Tapas at the nearby Comtal was brilliant too, hearty and good-value fare after travelling from the airport.

Hotel staff are extremely helpful, more than happy to organise various wine-welated excursions, offer tips on local hotspots and book a taxi for you. The hotel is also fully accessible, with a ramp at the entrance and lifts to every floor.

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Wine

What Praktik Vinoteca lacks in breakfast and room service, it makes up in unrivalled oenological expertise. In addition to the complimentary glass of Catalan fizz shortly after our arrival, the in-house sommelier Tomas holds regular free wine tastings; they’re an enlightening experience for the palate, regardless of whether you know your rioja from your ribiera. A word about the surroundings, the main reception/lounge area where all this takes place is a truly gorgeous room. Wine bottles adorning every wall, majestic floral lampshades and lightbulbs inside a lightbulb makes for decadent people-watching while you’re sitting at the window gazing out at the street.

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We were treated to a sumptuous white, the Pere Punyetes Blanc, a blend of Muscat and Xarelo, a grape local to the region and a luscious melange of fruity textures flecked with a rewarding crispness, whilst also being led through the merits and intricacies of numerous reds, borne from regional grapes and those further afield. It’s also possible to buy wine to take home with you (they provide bubble-wrap to prevent any luggage mishaps) or have it delivered to your door, courtesy of their link up with wine distributors, Most.

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Verdict

Focusing on something close to their heart is always going to make for an endearing experience, and the Praktik Vinoteca certainly doesn’t disappoint in that respect. The way the hotel is designed, drinking wine feels like the most natural activity in gorgeous understated surroundings, which is a worthy achievement because the appeal will extend beyond wine-lovers. That said, the chance to take a bottle or two upstairs would have been welcome.

For reservations and more, please visit: www.hotelpraktikvinoteca.com
Hotel Praktik Vinoteca, Carrer de Balmes 51, 08006 Barcelona

A dying man enters a strange purgatory in the video for Flying Lotus’ new single ‘Coronus, The Terminator’

Posted in Music, Music Videos
By Sam Bathe on 15 Jan 2015

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One of the standout tracks from Flylo’s latest album, You’re Dead!, the video for Coronus, The Terminator follows a dying man into a strange and eerie purgatory-like world. Meeting three mysterious, dusty characters as he leaves the physical world, the artist explains “Coronus is one of the most important moments on You’re Dead! and holds ideas I’m planning to explore in my future work. I’m happy that the visual encapsulates the meaning of the record and this ambition.” The video was directed by Young Replicant and album You’re Dead! is out now on Warp.

AMC step back into the wild world of Saul Goodman with ‘Breaking Bad’ spin-off ‘Better Call Saul’

Posted in TV
By Sam Bathe on 14 Jan 2015

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A spin-off of AMC’s groundbreaking show, Breaking Bad, Better Call Saul follows lawyer James McGill (soon to be known as Saul Goodman) as his crooked firm fights cases for drug lords and criminals. Though Walt and Jesse aren’t expected to be involved with the first season, some familiar faces like fixer Mike Ehrmantraut will make a return with executive producer Peter Gould wanting Better Call Saul to stand on its own. The show takes place before the events of Breaking Bad, with creator Vince Gilligan involved here again. Better Call Saul premieres in two parts on February 8th and 9th on AMC.

Film Review: WildFan The Fire Recommends

Posted in Film, Recommended, Reviews
By Martin Roberts on 13 Jan 2015

Jean-Marc Valleé’s film, Wild, is based on the memoir Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail, by Cheryl Strayed, which documents the story of a young woman whose life deteriorates after the death of her mother, and who chooses to set out on a 1,100-mile hike as a way of healing her soul. Show the rest of this post…

Stories about ‘self discovery’ can feel derivative, but Valleé tells this story with enough hallucinatory style that Wild mostly avoids that trap. It helps that Cheryl embarks on her journey as a conscious choice to try to rediscover herself – thus removing the sense of didacticism that can plague this kind of film – and that Reese Witherspoon is terrific in the role. The best she’s been in a long time, in fact – probably since Walk the Line.

Valleé weaves Cheryl’s memories in and out of the travails of her hike, creating a believable and affecting impression of a wandering mind. But the film itself is tightly constructed, dropping in bits of information where needed, and at other times sitting back and allowing the hike to progress. The journey itself is not filled with great physical dramas, but the film feels dramatic because it works as a portrayal of a healing mind. It’s far from a one-person show – Cheryl interacts with others both in flashback and on the trail – but the film is resolutely Witherspoon’s, as it should be. Pleasingly, most of the encounters on her journey are fleeting; the most meaningful supporting roles are generally the ghosts of the past, in particular her mother (Laura Dern). The mother character is portrayed a little simplistically, and with dashes of cheese here and there, but Dern makes it work.

Ultimately it’s down to Witherspoon to convey Cheryl’s journey, and she hits pretty much all the marks, from an amusing early scene in which she struggles to stand up with all her gear – a lovely dash of physical humour – to the more emotional notes of the final third. She also has to carry most of the flashbacks, and does so with aplomb. It’s only really the abrupt ending when the film falters – wrapping things up a little too quickly and easily with an on-the-nose voiceover.

The real life photographs of the Cheryl’s journey, which accompany the end credits, are a nice touch, even if there are a lot more smiles there than in Valleé’s adaptation. Wild is tough  when it needs to be, but understands that the real weight of Cheryl’s journey is internal, rather than physical. It makes for an engaging, emotionally resonant piece of filmmaking.

4/5

Film Review: American SniperFan The Fire Recommends

Posted in Film, Recommended, Reviews
By Martin Roberts on 12 Jan 2015

Into the canon of films dealing with the Iraq War comes American Sniper, Clint Eastwood’s adaptation of the memoir by former US Navy SEAL Chris Kyle (played by Bradley Cooper). Watching Hollywood, and indeed world cinema, reacting to the events of September 11, 2001, has been fascinating. This film fits into the better end of the quality spectrum in that sub-genre, and overcomes its modest flaws to offer a convincing and involving perspective of the Iraq War. Show the rest of this post…

Kyle’s is a well known name, particularly in the US, because he accumulated 160 confirmed kills during the conflict, and became known (partially as a result of his own memoir) as one of the most lethal snipers in US military history. We see the war from his perspective; the film does not attempt to portray a balanced account of proceedings, but that doesn’t mean that is it jingoistic or narrow-minded.

It depicts Kyle’s transformation from Texas cowboy to grizzled soldier – a transition inspired by a reaction to the 9/11 attacks, which were the catalyst for many citizens to sign up to the armed forces – and then into war veteran, proud of but scarred by his actions in Iraq. In early scenes, which are only partially successful, we see Chris being schooled by his aggressive father in the art of shooting. These scenes are efficiently done, but I’m not sure the film needed to depict the genesis of Chris’ skills and mindset so blatantly. We also follow Chris as he is trained as a SEAL, and marries his sweetheart Taya (Sienna Miller), who he charms in a bar in an early scene, before being sent to war.

What follows is a series of chapters, each a tour of Iraq, bookended by shorter sequences in which Kyle spends brief periods on leave with his family. It took me a while to warm to Kyle as a character, but Bradley Cooper’s performance has depths that it does not initially appear to have. We see him changed by the war, clinging onto the values of patriotism and, frankly, revenge, which saw him sent to Iraq in the first place. Kyle seems determined to continue to view the war simplistically, even after it begins to take its toll on him, and there is a sadness in that, as well as a quiet musing on the role of the soldier. The other soldiers around Kyle are two-dimensional characters, but are well played, and there is a sense of camaraderie established over time.

Eastwood is a veteran director and has previous in the genre, so we should expect him to be at home in the action sequences, which for the most part are relatively small in scale (with the exception of one late sequence) and shot in a gritty, believable style. This is war filmmaking in the more traditional mould, but no less effective for it. Scriptwriter Jason Deal Hall’s decision to flip-flop between the war sequences and Kyle’s home life is, generally, a good one. Sienna Miller gives a heartfelt performance in a difficult role – the kind of role often sidelined by films in this genre. Her performance gives gravitas to some of the film’s least subtle dialogue, and she and Cooper have a convincing chemistry.

The role of director was originally due to go to Steven Spielberg, and we’ll never know what kind of film he would’ve produced, but Eastwood has done a good job here of blending the action and the emotion. The film is subtly effective in portraying the ways in which Kyle’s experiences in the war are slipping through into his everyday life, which sits well with a couple of tense action scenes, in particular a climactic shootout which escalates as a sandstorm hits.

I have not read Kyle’s memoir, but reports suggest the film has left a lot of material out – some of which might not have fitted so snugly into the story painted here. But the fact that this is a Hollywood-ised version of a story doesn’t by default strip it of interest or worth. American Sniper depicts even ts that saw Kyle revered as a hero among his military colleagues, but the film, and Cooper’s performance, challenge what that word may mean. There is something to be said for that.

4/5

‘Mayday! Deep Space’ rethinks the survival horror genre with voice-controlled gameplay

Posted in Games, iPad, iPhone
By Sam Bathe on 9 Jan 2015

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From best-selling author Daniel Wilson (Robopocalypse), Mayday! Deep Space reinvents the survival horror for a unique and chilling game on iOS. Rather than fighting bloody creatures yourself, instead you’re on the other end of a radio, answering a distress signal from the lone survivor on a derelict spaceship. Giving instructions based on a rudimentary radar, you control the game via your voice and quickfire instructions like “turn left” or “run forward”. It’s an unusual experience but adds an extra layer of claustrophobia and tension as don’t feel completely in control. Not even close. And it makes the game just as scary as anything from Resident Evil or Silent Hill.

The are five levels of “increasing mayhem”, with waypoints on the radar to get to, each a daunting distance across the map, with monsters dotted everywhere in-between. Four unique endings based on your decisions during the game make for real replay value too. Mayday! Deep Space is available now in the App Store for iPhone and iPad: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/mayday!-deep-space/id695138358?mt=8&ign-mpt=uo%3D4

Aaron Draplin takes you through his design process by designing a logo in 15 minutes

Posted in Design
By Sam Bathe on 7 Jan 2015

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Legendary designer Aaron Draplin took on Lynda’s Logo Design Challenge; to design a logo for fictional ‘All Base’ cement company in just 15 minutes. Walking through his process, Draplin is a big advocate of putting pen to paper – or pen to his co-founded Field Notes notebooks – and it’s fascinating to watch as he goes from initial ideas to honing in on a concept. The video will make you think you can design 100 logos a day, and while it’s not quite this easy for 99.9% of designers, it helps to instil a thought process that you can implement on whatever type of project you’re working on. Check out more of Draplin’s design work on his never-ending portfolio: www.draplin.com

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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