TV – Justified: Season 3: A-

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It begins with a great stand-alone episode whose final scene reminded me why I liked Timothy Olyphant’s character, and the show in general. When you cultivate such strong characters, as Justified does, including those only used in a single episode, it’s a simple thing to keep the viewer interested. It introduced several entertaining new characters and improved many of the existing ones. My only minor complaint remains that the Boyd character and his mini-arcs remain mostly a lull in the main, more compelling plot-lines.

Movie – Guardians of the Galaxy: A+

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I’ve always convinced myself I was a fan of Marvel’s cosmic series, but to be honest, I would classify very few as “good”. But now, finally, I am rewarded for my vigilant fandom. Guardians of the Galaxy threw more cosmic comic references than I could’ve dreamed, and topped it with nostalgia for things non-comic-bookers love too, most notably the music. But even the space adventure structure felt warmly familiar. The humor exceeded expectations (which were already high) and the action flowed gorgeously. And for a movie overflowing with characters, each was granted enough time to find a purpose.

Movie – Pompeii: D

Pompeii felt like a Roland Emmerich disaster film but with plots from Titanic and Gladiator. It spewed more terrible, lazy dialog at me than the titular volcano spewed fireballs. Every plot point felt forced, it was riddled with anachronisms, and the sets looked fake and/or obvious CG. Kit Harrington perpetually wore his signature befuddled look, and Kiefer Sutherland hammed up his performance so much I think he thought it was a comedy. And the actual volcanic disaster part of the plot was hidden behind boring sword-and-sandal cliches until I could no longer be bothered to care.

TV – Luther: Season 3: A

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I must not have been the only one whining about the second season, since they corrected most of my complaints. Elba continued to please, but his co-stars finally stood out on their own too. And Alice was back, and though she shone brightly in season 1, her return lit things up quite nicely. I enjoyed the new serial killer cases, but some of the plotlines could’ve used a few more episodes to properly explore.

TV – Space Dandy: Season 1: A

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It took me a few episodes to get on board, but once I did, I thouroughly enjoyed the ride. After I resolved myself to its chaotic narrative style and just let it flow, it was much easier to enjoy the whimsy. I believe the fourth episode was the first to showcase how subverting the expected story structure can pay off so well. The animation is top notch with certain episodes notably standing out, especially the first. The action flows gorgeously and the character/alien designs are creative and unique. Once you abandon searching for things like continuity or making sense and just embrace the insanity, Space Dandy is quite enjoyable.

Movie – Room 237: B+

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This documentary points out some really interesting details and quirks about The Shining, but that’s not really what it’s about. It more of a study on how people can take a piece of art and find whatever message or symbolism they want, intended or otherwise. The movie does a great job at just letting it’s various narrators explain their (mostly) ridiculous theories on Kubrick’s intended purpose lurking behind the film without commenting on them. Sometimes the evidence is quite interesting, but usually you have to squint and make few logical leaps. It reminded me of freshman lit classes.

Comic – Lazarus, book1: Family: B

Post-apocalyptic stories seem to dominate comics outside of Marvel and DC lately. They each try their own take, this time being less fantasy/sci-fi and more mafia-esque political drama (though still with immortal supersoldiers to provide the sci-fi element). Perhaps Lazarus would’ve been fine without my weariness toward the subject. While it provided plenty of attempts at tension, I never felt the suspense it seemed to searched for, nor was I wowed by the occasional martial arts or gunfights. Everything was competently crafted, but not outstandingly so.

TV – Orphan Black: Season 1: A-

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It’s a fantastic premise, one which facilitates all kinds of great drama and symbolism. And for the most part it lives up to that promise. At times it leans on “because the plot requires it” reasoning a bit much, but there’s usually an acceptable amount of intrigue created by such leanings. Tatiana Maslany does an excellent job juggling several roles, (mostly achieved through differing accents and wigs), but it’s especially impressive when she’s doing a scene where one clone has to pretend to be another. It uses several fun “not who/what you think” moments, and has a near-endless potential for plenty more.

Movie – Dawn of the Planet of the Apes: A+

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Somehow the thing I disliked most about Rise of the Planet of the Apes, the trite, simple plot and characters, felt correct this time around. Perhaps it kept what could’ve been convoluted and silly from becoming so. It also helped that it was full of small, smart details constantly reinforcing the symbolism and easing the audience’s understanding. And the efforts of Serkis and his fellow mo-cap actors delivered fantastic results. Finally, some great camera work solidified its place as one of the many reasons the summer of 2014 has been such a good one.

Book – The Heroes: B+

Abercrombie is a master of battle narration. He presents fantasy combat uniquely, vividly, and with enthralling intensity. But the characters were nowhere near as strong as his first law trilogy. Nor was the story unfortunately. It felt more like lightly-decorated hallways between a few gorgeous gardens. Gardens filled with blood and chaos and jaded weariness.