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Movie Review: End of Summer Blowout

by Bob Garver

Sept. 8, 2014. With no major new releases this week, I thought I’d take a look back at some of the movies from the summer season that I saw but never reviewed. Most of these were bombs, but a few were actually decent hits that just never quite made it to the top of the charts. In chronological order, starting in May…

“A Million Ways to Die in the West”

Seth MacFarlane writes, directs and stars in this interminable comedy about how miserable life is in the Old West. It’s like he’s arguing against a conception that Old West life was somehow glamorous, but I don’t know anybody who thinks that, so what’s the point of arguing against it? It doesn’t help that MacFarlane’s character is one of the whiniest protagonists ever put on film. One star out of five.

“Edge of Tomorrow” 

Tom Cruise lends his fading star power to this sci-fi action movie about an unwilling solider who discovers a way to kill invading alients. The twist is that he gets stuck in a “Groundhog Day”-style time loop, getting killed over and over presumably until he can destroy them once and for all. The concept is executed fairly well with some good comedy spots, but the character’s seemingly unlimited chances do detract from the suspense. Two stars out of five.

“How to Train Your Dragon 2”

I’ll be honest, the main reason for the retroactive theme this week is so I finally have an excuse to review this movie. The continued story of a Viking teenager making the world a safer place for dragons is heartfelt and visually impressive. Cate Blanchett is terrific as the boy’s long-lost mother, her broad acting style lending itself extremely well to animation. Though some of the side characters and B-plots make for some dead weight, this was still one of the best kids’ films of the year. Two and a half stars out of five.


The good ideas for this movie begin and end with casting Dwayne Johnson as the mythical strongman. The characters and plot are threadbare, the special effects are pathetic and the overall look of the film is dirty and ugly. A rare bit of creative violence does not save this film from being a downright mess. I’m disappointed in Johnson, who I thought was trying to distance himself from these useless action movies. One and a half stars out of five.

“The Expendables 3”

Speaking of useless action movies, Sylvester Stallone and his “all-star” cast are back to prove that they can still fire guns and knock people out. The “turn off your brain, it’s mindless violence” excuse does not justify this movie’s dullness. Maybe an occasional one-liner will land, but really the funniest thing about this movie was the board silence of my crowded theater every time something happened that they were supposed to cheer. One and a half stars out of five.

“Sin City: A Dame to Kill For”

Yes, Robert Rodriguez and Frank Miller waited too long to release a sequel to their hyper-stylized, hyper-violent 2005 masterwork. That doesn’t stop this follow up from being a worthy companion piece. The noir atmosphere and visceral action scenes are as welcome as ever. Everything about these movies is the epitome of cool. Three stars out of five.

“The November Man”

Much like with “Hercules” the appeal of this movie is in the very casting of former Bond Pierce Brosnan and former Bond Girl Olga Kurylenko in a spy thriller. The “super competent older agent who runs circles around brash rookies” angle has been done to death lately and this installment adds nothing new. I can actually tell that the cast and crew of this movie are putting their backs into it, but the script is so idiotic that they don’t stand a chance. One and a half stars out of five.