TV – Sherlock: Season 3: A+

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While my favorite episode remains season 2’s “A Scandal in Belgravia”, season 3 has some fantastic episodes, including the funniest of the series so far. It introduces Mary, who melds wonderfully into the cast, complimenting Sherlock and Watson’s relationship without disrupting it. Both of the main actors have found extensive work on some great films, but Sherlock continues to showcase their best performances.

Movie – The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug: B+

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Perhaps my love of the first Hobbit was excessive. Possibly, I overlooked its faults due to my love of The Lord of the Rings. But this time, I just couldn’t get past some things. It wasn’t about the titular Hobbit, but rather out-of-theme wizard duels, forced love triangles, and epic end-of-the-world stakes. While Bilbo proclaimed his famous, “I’m going on an adventure!” in Unexpected Journey, he now is forced to wade through a grimdark epic instead. That said, there were moments when the light adventure story I longed for came out, most notably during the river-riding scene, one of the best cinematic moments of the year. And Smaug’s scenes with Bilbo were stupendous, though Smaug’s video game boss fight with the dwarves was decidedly not. Everything padding the film so as to trilogy-ify the story did nothing but bog it down, but even more so than part one.

Movie – 12 Years a Slave: A

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This is easily the best depiction of a well-tread subject. Chiwetel Ejiofor and Michael Fassbender give performances that will surely earn nominations if not wins. Lupita Nyong’o’s debut will certainly also capture some attention. But I also loved the use of fantastic actors in extremely minor roles, including Paul Giamatti, Benedict Cumberbatch, Paul Dano, and Brad Pitt. I especially loved how contrastingly eloquent everyone was, particularly the slaves. It portrays slave-owners without resorting to cliche, with even the “good” ones having serious faults in their morality. At times, some of the more stylistic sections would drag a bit, and the opening time skip caused me some mild confusion, but overall I enjoyed the competent look of the film. The music and sound effects had some especially great moments of focus too.

Movie – Star Trek Into Darkness: A

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Like the first Trek reboot film, this one offered another great space adventure. It’s filled with action of varying types, but all highly entertaining. The humor remained fantastic, with Scotty and Bones stealing the show once again, but this time with even more screen time. Sulu didn’t get to shine in this one, but he got to sword fight last time so he can take a break. The plot was less solid this time around, and may have been a bit heavy on the homage to the source materials, but the strength of Abrams action sequences more than made up for it. In his Trek films, when things are frantic, things are fun. And things are often frantic.

TV – Sherlock: A+

A lot of thought went into this show. Details and nuances often delight and then disappear into the pull of the engaging plots. The introduction of Mycroft is perfect and Moriarty is re-imagined better than I could’ve hoped. Cumberbatch’s Sherlock is exactly right but Freeman’s Watson really makes the show for me. The first episode of the second season is a masterpiece.

Movie – War Horse: C+

It was like having to watch the boring openings of a half-dozen cliched war movies. Each story was coated in a layer of cheesiness and the attempt to unite them didn’t quite work. The protagonists changed so often you couldn’t care about them, and with no consistent antagonist there was no real sense of danger. What little it did show of WWI was mostly censored and non-committal. Trying to paint all sides of the war just distracted from the horrors it could’ve shown.

Movie – Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy: B-

Maybe I’ve been watching too many Ghost Protocols and Bourne Films, but this spy “thriller” needed a bit more confrontation. I’m ok without action, but I need some intense revelations or arguments to qualify a film as “thrilling.” This movie overflowed with great actors though, all of which did a superb job.