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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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.

Book – The Heroes: B+

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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.

Movie – Snowpiercer: A

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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.

Comic – All-New X-Men vol1: Yesterday’s X-Men: A-

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The premise, (that Beast brought the original X-Men to the present so that adult Cyclops can feel bad about his current situation) certainly seems to be a thinly-veiled commentary on the sad state of the modern X-Men timeline. Bendis handles the original X-Teens reacting to their future selves quite well and their interactions feel genuine, especially the Beasts. I did find it odd that Angel was basically ignored, but perhaps that’s a seed for future events. As someone who hasn’t read any current X-Men in quite some time, it was easy to jump into, despite all their convoluted recent history. I always enjoy Immonen’s art and he continued to deliver.

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-

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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.