Greetings! I never put out my post for May because I’m a lazy bum. So I decided I’d combine May and June. We’re halfway through the year folks. Enjoy!
Best of: Music
I’ve been waiting for this moment since the beginning of the year. After a few disappointing months, May saw an explosion of great music. Chromeo’s White Women features a few of the year’s best summer; nothing like a little disco-pop/dance fusion right? Lykke Li’s beautiful I Never Learn is tragic, a personal look at heartbreak that’s bracing, but relatable. And Ben Frost’s A U R O R A hits like a freight train, an industrial and heavy piece of work to counter the overdose of sugary pop we often see during the summer. However, the true “Best of” distinction goes to Sharon Van Etten’s Are We There, a delicate, yet poignant, record. Perfect for a rainy day or a summer night, Van Etten’s latest is devastating, but in the best possible way.
I’ve yet to make my way through much of June’s music (I’ve heard that Strands of Oak and How To Dress Well’s newest albums are excellent), but June did have a few early standouts. Parquet Courts’ Sunbathing Animal plays as 2014’s version of Speedy Ortiz, a quick and raw take on modern punk that’s impossible to not start your toes tapping. And Jack White, one of my personal favorites, released Lazaretto, a supremely confident sophomore record that’s as solid as anything he’s done since the end of The White Stripes. Many aren’t as keen on the darker side of White’s music, but it’s rewarding for diehards and can even connect if you approach it from the right standpoint. If you’re a vinyl lover, pick up the Lazaretto Ultra LP. It’s worth the $25.
Best of: Film
Summer is often known for its bountiful heap of blockbusters. And May provided a few gems. The Amazing Spiderman 2 and Godzilla weren’t classics, but both featured entertaining action and solid acting performances. Edge of Tomorrow was a step better. The Groundhog Day meets War of the Worlds sci-fi flick works in a variety of ways, starting with great performances from Emily Blunt and Tom Cruise, who is right in his element. The ending left a little to be desired, but it didn’t take away from what will surely be one of the most fun movies of 2014. But May’s best blockbuster (and film) goes to X-Men: Days of Future Past. The second installment of the Fassbender-McAvoy-Lawrence take on the Marvel super-group sees Bryan Singer return to the helm, and he picks up right where he left off. Days of Future Past is the best X-Men movie since X2. This time, the old and new generations of X-Men meet to form a funny, smart and thrilling film. Hugh Jackman is delightful as ever as the series constant. Color me excited for Apocalypse.
I didn’t see any of June’s movies this year. It’s been a slow summer for film so far. All the good blockbusters came out in May. Looks like we might have to hunker down until Oscar season starts.
Best of: Television
Hurray for character-driven dramas, am I right?
Before I get to my actual highlight for the month, I want to single out Game of Thrones for continuing to be incredible. In the vast landscape that is television, there always seems to be an anchor or two to which you can always turn. Game of Thrones has long been one of those anchors (along with the likes of Breaking Bad and Mad Men), but it’s getting better each and every week, and it’s safe to say it is the anchor nowadays. Peter Dinklage’s monologue at the end of “The Laws of God and Men” was good enough to help me forget the loss of Community (maybe…hopefully not. #sixseasonsandamovie.)
The real highlight of May is Hannibal. I know I just gushed about GoT for a solid paragraph, but I’d be seriously remiss if I didn’t say that after its second season, the NBC crime-thriller may very well be the best series on TV. Horror television is coming to the limelight (see: American Horror Story), but no show I’ve seen does it quite as well as Hannibal does. Bryan Fuller has created an elegant and visceral drama unlike anything currently on television. Mads Mikkelsen and Hugh Dancy are a delightfully creepy 1-2 punch as Hannibal Lector and Will Graham. The set pieces and cinematography are gorgeous, and the story is about as tense as any (quality) horror movie I’ve ever seen. The Season 2 finale will undoubtedly be on my EOTY TV episodes list. When it comes back, hopefully it gets the ratings it deserves. Catch up on it while it’s gone.
There wasn’t much TV to talk about in the month of June. Game of Thrones ended its fourth season on a strong note, and it’ll be interesting to see where the fantasy epic goes next year. Damon Lindelof’s The Leftovers started Sunday night, and the pilot was very good. According to this article from The A.V. Club, Season 1 will be quite a treat. But it’ll take more than an episode for me to form an opinion. Stay tuned.
UPDATE**: Community is saved! Thanks, Yahoo! Excelsior!