Film Review: Avengers: Age of UltronFan The Fire Recommends

Posted in Film, Recommended, Reviews
By Martin Roberts on 22 Apr 2015

With Joss Whedon’s Avengers: Age of Ultron, cinema’s most exclusive blockbuster club has its latest entry, and it’s the biggest yet. The Marvel Cinematic Universe has ballooned to the point where this film essentially has 10 prequels. Luckily, Age of Ultron is a thoroughly enjoyable romp, even if franchise newcomers may be left slightly baffled. Show the rest of this post…

For a film which reportedly cost a quarter of a billion dollars to produce, you’d expect Age of Ultron to be spectacular, and it is. Whedon opens with the Avengers (Captain America, Iron Man, Thor, Black Widow, Hulk, Hawkeye – do we even need to go over the members now?) attacking a stronghold in a snowy forest, and almost immediately gives us a nod to ‘that’ tracking shot from Avengers Assemble. It’s a thrill ride from the off, immediately putting us back in familiar territory.

The Avengers recover Loki’s staff from the stronghold, and Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr) and Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo) set about using its alien powers to supercharge an AI programme Stark has been working on – Ultron. Unfortunately, things go spectacularly wrong, and they end up inadvertently creating a machine (voiced by James Spader as an insane twist on Stark’s own persona) hell-bent on wiping humanity from the face of the planet.

There’s a great deal of plot in the film, but Whedon again demonstrates his knack for being able to hold story strands together, all while serving up the explosions that blockbusters now demand, but also, more crucially, the character moments and comic flourishes that made Avengers Assemble such good company. The amount of plates Whedon has to keep spinning inevitably means the film peaks and troughs in places, but in general he has such a tight grip on proceedings that the film rarely flags.

Ultimately, a massive ensemble piece like this will succeed or fail based on the strength of the cast and the script – action alone won’t do the job – and Marvel’s films benefit from having been extremely well cast in the early stages. There are a tremendous amount of charismatic actors in this series, and seeing them all together just works. That cast, combined with Whedon’s ability to flesh all the characters out in minimal time (while simultaneously giving them interesting things to do), is the series’ great strength.

Considering that Whedon has to introduce Ultron, as well as his super-powered allies Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver (Elizabeth Olsen and Aaron Taylor-Johnson, respectively), while at the same time giving all his heroes screen time, the film hangs together well. Ultron is a fun bad guy, although the film’s need to get him established early does diminish his impact a little. What works is the fact that his presence, as a direct result of Stark’s meddling, creates a reason for the team to in-fight again. Even better is Scarlet Witch’s ability to force our heroes into debilitating visions, designed to leave them emotionally vulnerable. These scenes really work, and allow Whedon to add some more unexpected flavours to the mix, as well as offering glimpses of character development. In Thor’s case, his dream leads to an odd little scene involving Stellan Skarsgard, which comes across as a confusing and slightly lazy way of unravelling the plot strand to come in the two-part conclusion to this series in a few years’ time. Thankfully, it’s a small point.

Amidst all of this, there are some over-extended action sequences, and occasionally the abundance of plot bogs things down a little. To give the film some credit, though, it does at least do some new things with its heroes, and tries to conjure up some more diverse action set pieces, which the series needed. It also feels like things have moved on by the end – another bonus.

Whedon even squeezes in cameos for series veterans, and his brand of humour runs through the film, even when the stakes are high. It’s to his great credit that the film, for all its grandeur and ever-expanding cast of characters,  feels like a Joss Whedon film. In other words, it has a character of its own, and after 11 films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, that’s something to enjoy and appreciate.

4/5

Doctor Doom makes his entrance in the new trailer for Josh Trank’s superhero reboot ‘Fantastic Four’

Posted in Film, Previews, Trailers
By Sam Bathe on 21 Apr 2015

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Miles Teller’s continued rise to leading man status continues with ensemble superhero reboot, Fantastic Four. Made all the more interesting by sitting Chronicle director Josh Trank at the helm, Fantastic Four will again tell the origin story of Marvel’s superhero team, with Teller, Michael B. Jordan, Kate Mara and Jamie Bell in the lead roles, and Toby Kebbell starring as villain Victor Domashev/Doctor Doom. His next step before tackling a standalone Star Wars movie, Josh Trank’s Fantastic Four hits theatres August 7th.

The world starts to turn on Superman in first full teaser for Zach Snyder’s ‘Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice’

Posted in Film, Previews, Trailers
By Sam Bathe on 20 Apr 2015

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As the world starts to act out in the post-Superman world, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice stars Gal Gadot, Amy Adams, Laurence Fishburne, Jesse Eisenberg, Jeremy Irons and Holly Hunter alongside our two titular heroes. The first full length teaser is a welcome sigh of relief, as after the somewhat flat Man of Steel in 2013 and the outcry when Ben Affleck was cast as Batman in this follow up, Zack Snyder’s coming together of the two DC powerhouses looks wonderfully dark and an interesting play on the concept. Stay tuned for a full trailer later in the summer with Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice hitting theatres next year on 25th March 2016.

Old friends return in the new teaser for J.J. Abrams’ eagerly anticipated ‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens’

Posted in Film, Previews, Trailers
By Sam Bathe on 17 Apr 2015

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Easily the most-anticipated movie of the year, with every passing minute, even non-franchise fans are getting more and more excited about Star Wars: The Force Awakens. A match made in heaven for director/writer/producer J.J. Abrams, The Force Awakens will be the first in a very welcome new cluster of films for the Star Wars canon. Set approximately 30 years on from the events of Return of the Jedi, the three new leads certainly don’t look out of place alongside a few old favourites set to reprise their roles. Details on plot are still light so for now this new 110-second teaser will have to do, with plenty of Easter eggs and callbacks for fans to pour over. Star Wars: The Force Awakens is due for release on December 18th.

Thisispaper launch their stylish and summery S/S15 linen, sailcloth and denim bag collection

Posted in Products, Style
By Sam Bathe on 16 Apr 2015

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Magazine-turned-online lifestyle store, Thisispaper, get ready for summer with their new collection of linen, sailcloth and denim bags. Including the Handle Backpack – a hybrid between a tote bag and a backpack – plus a slew of other backpacks, the Top Roll roll top rucksack, a larger gym bag and the smaller Pocket Bags, all of Thisispaper’s bags are handmade in their Warsaw studio from the finest Polish materials. Varying from two natural linens to cotton denim and cotton sailcloth, all with vegetable-tanned leather details, the collection is available in five colourways and starts at €80 from the Thisispaper online store: www.thisispapershop.com

Todd Terje sets illustrators Bendik Kaltenborn and Espen Friberg loose for the video for new single ‘Alfonso Muskedunder’

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

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Off fantastic LP, It’s Album Time, and released as a single alongside four great remixes, the video for Alfonso Muskedunder is a joyous trip inside the mind of illustrators Bendik Kaltenborn and Espen Friberg. Featuring surreal and wacky characters inspired by Terje’s It’s Album Time artwork, getting stung by a bee sets off a whimsical, morphing journey of colour and shape. Like everything Todd Terje has been involved in in recent months, this is another mesmerising success.

Teenage Engineering’s Game & Watch-inspired Pocket Operators cram a synth into your palm

Posted in Music, Technology
By Sam Bathe on 14 Apr 2015

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Lauded in the music world for their innovative products, Teenage Engineering are back with the Game & Watch-inspired Pocket Operator series. Collaborating with fellow Swedes, Cheap Monday, the Pocket Operators are available in three different versions, the PO-16 Factory melody unit, PO-14 Sub bass synth and PO-12 Rhythm drum machine. Each with 16-step sequencing, 16 sounds to choose from and 16 additional effects, the tiny music-makers can turn out some pretty serious beats, despite being powered by just two AAA batteries. The stripped back synths come with a low-tech speaker though outpout is high quality through the audiojack, and are available from the Teenage Engineering online store for €69 each: www.teenageengineering.com

Film Review: The Salvation

Posted in Film, Reviews
By Martin Roberts on 13 Apr 2015

The idea of a Danish western starring Mads Mikkelsen was an intriguing one – perhaps a little more intriguing than The Salvation, Kristian Levring’s homage to the well-trodden genre, actually turns out to be. But that’s ok, because while The Salvation ultimately takes more from than the western canon than it adds to it, it is nevertheless a well made, enjoyable film. Show the rest of this post…

We begin in the American Frontier, where Danish immigrants Jon and Peter (Mads Mikkelsen and Mikael Persbrandt, respectively) have been living for some time. Jon is anxiously awaiting the arrival of his wife and son, whom he hasn’t seen for years. Their arrival unfortunately coincides with the release from prison of a gang leader’s brother, who, after a disagreement, ends up killing John’s wife and son. What then happens is a spiral of revenge, in which John and gang leader Delarue (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) are intent on ending each other’s lives.

The film is very solidly put together, its South African landscapes standing in admirably for the American West. It borrows heavily from its predecessors in the genre, as almost all westerns do, but does so in a loving way. So much in here – from the framing to the soundtrack – is reminiscent of classic films. There’s even a dark joke about a coffin I particularly enjoyed, which reminded me of a great Clint Eastwood line in A Fistful of Dollars.

What the film doesn’t do is give us a fresh perspective on the genre, or anything particularly radical. The fact that our protagonist is Danish actually factors very little into the plot. He could be from anywhere really, and Levring and his screenwriters don’t seem overly interested in exploring the immigration angle, even though it’s hinted at in the opening scenes. So what we get is a tried and tested revenge narrative which, while efficiently presented, doesn’t establish any set pieces or, crucially, characters, worth remembering.

Mads Mikkelsen is a very good actor, but the role of Jon isn’t one for the western canon to really savour, and similarly Jeffrey Dean Morgan, while suitably nefarious as Delarue, isn’t a memorable villain. Eva Green, thanks to the nature of her character, really doesn’t get much chance to show what she can do, and the presence of Eric Cantona in a tiny role feels like stunt casting.

Most things about The Salvation are solid, workmanlike and safe. There’s little to really complain about, save a couple of instances of iffy scripting, but the overall  sense of familiarity leaves the whole thing feeling not much more than efficiently done. That doesn’t make The Salvation a bad film by any means, but I wanted more from it.

3/5

Prada releases ‘The Postman Dreams’ series of shorts to celebrate their iconic Galleria bag

Posted in Film, Short Films, Style
By Sam Bathe on 10 Apr 2015

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Inspired by the style and tone of past collaborator, Wes Anderson, Prada have released a series of new shorts about a daydreaming postman. Starring Prada’s iconic Galleria bag, the five The Postman Dreams shorts are directed by Autumn De Wilde, with a quirky, almost slapstick, approach to their comedy. With two more yet to be release, the first short in the series sleep through half of his shift, dreaming about the Galleria, while another sees him avoid a passionate embrace on the stairs and the last about a young boy using the bag as the battlefield for his toys. Stay tuned to The Postman Dreams microsite for the final two shorts: www.thepostmandreams.prada.com

Art&Graft go on hike in the Lake District in ethereal short ‘The Walk’

Posted in Film, Short Films
By Sam Bathe on 9 Apr 2015

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Inspired by the picturesque scenery of the Lake District, studio Art&Graft‘s in-house project, The Walk is a beautiful short film about the simple and steady pleasure of putting one foot in front of the other. With sound from Brains & Hunch, the short is calm and measured, about leaving it all behind and taking a walk through nature. The animation is stunning, bringing hand-drawn illustrations to life with calmness and maturity, and a colour palette that makes you want to get out there and smell the moss.

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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