Movie – Guardians of the Galaxy: A+

guardians of the galaxyA+
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.

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Movie – Pompeii: D

pompeiiD
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.

Movie – Room 237: B+

room 237B+
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.

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

dawn planet apes
A+
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.

Movie – Snowpiercer: A

snowpiercerA
It’s a weird premise, one which doesn’t make much sense under scrutiny. But the film makes it easy to suspend your disbelief by using gorgeous visuals and a constant sense of simultaneous dread and anticipation. Each time they go to a new car, it’s like opening a present. The anxious wonder at what could come next is half the fun. There are some glorious and graphic fight scenes, plenty of wonderful, weird characters, and an intriguing twist followed by a spectacular finale.

Movie – Transformers: Age of Extinction: C+

transformers age of extinctionC+
Well it worked again. I was surely done with Transformers but the siren call of fire-breathing robot dinosaurs was too much to resist. The film opens with dinosaurs getting turned into metal, teasing the only reason I’m in the theater. Then I sat through almost three hours of non-sensical and repetitive action until they finally showed up. And then didn’t talk. Or have anything to do with the dinosaurs from the beginning. Or the rest of the “plot” for that matter. Then they left without ceremony. Don’t get me wrong, they were awesome, and other new autobots who did get the screen time were fine, but not worth the dozens of pointless characters, awful dialog, aimless plotting, convoluted set-pieces, and pure excess that must be endured to get there.

Movie – How to Train Your Dragon 2: A-

how to train your dragon 2A-
The animation was fantastic, the new dragons fun, and the story well-plotted, but none of it felt nearly as funny or clever as the first film. It also had some odd pacing, with the slower dramatic family moments clashing with the central conflict’s foreboding urgency. If I wasn’t so distracted with comparing it to its predecessor, I’m sure I would’ve been enthralled, especially by the dragon battles, but it just couldn’t surpass that strong precedent.