On December 7, 1941, America’s neutral position in World War II ended with a bang. The Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, devastating America’s navy and shaking the nation’s confidence. 

       Smarting from the deaths of their brothers and the military loss, the Navy vowed to beat the Japanese and take over the Pacific. It wouldn’t be easy. The Japanese had better planes and greater numbers in the Pacific theater. Plus, they’d been busy invading new territory. 

     When a planned Japanese attack on Midway is discovered, the Americans have their chance. Can they turn the tide of the war?

      Midway was a pivotal battle that helped establish U.S. dominance in the Pacific. That’s why it’s a shame we spend so little time at Midway in this two-hour-and-18-minute movie. Director Roland Emmerich (Independence Day: Resurgence) gives his audiences a Cliff’s Notes of the Pacific theater that relies on spectacle instead of story. 

      Emmerich seems a man without a battle plan. He can’t decide where to strike. Instead of Midway’s many dramas, he involves us with Pearl Harbor and Doolittle’s Raid, which have very little to do with Midway the battle. The battle sequences he gives us show the scope but not the emotional weight of the war.

      On the human front, the movie is packed with historical figures, from Jimmy Doolittle (Aaron Eckhart) to Chester Nimitz (Woody Harrelson). So little time is spent with each that emotional stakes are low. Nobody steps up as the much-needed focus.

     The problems deepen with the lead performance. Playing real-life hero Dick Best, Ed Skrein is obnoxious and emotionless. The British actor owes an apology to Best’s family and the entire state of New Jersey for his horrendous accent.

     Eckhart and Nick Jonas step in to offer us surprisingly deep and interesting character work in their few scant minutes of screen time. Emmerich also throws in a funny shout-out to one of the great American filmmakers, John Ford, who took shrapnel while filming The Battle of Midway.  

      My screening was packed with veterans who cheered and applauded. But they deserved a better film, as did the brave men who appeared on the screen. 

Fair Action Movie • PG-13 • 138 mins.


~~~ New this Week ~~~


Doctor Sleep

      Danny Torrance (Ewan McGregor) escaped the Overlook Hotel 40 years ago, but he is still a prisoner of it. He seeks a quiet, unremarkable life unburdened by the psychic gifts he believes lead to the slaughter of his family.

      A young girl named Abra (Kyliegh Curran) seeks out Danny because she shares his “shine.” Unlike him, Abra embraces her abilities — making her the target of a group that chases immortality by feeding off the life force of psychics. 

     Can Danny embrace his powers and save Abra?

     The long-awaited sequel to Stephen King’s The Shining, Doctor Sleep has huge shoes to fill. The film adaptation of The Shining is a horror classic (though King hated it as distorting the themes of his book). Director Mike Flanagan walks a thin line between evoking the memories of the film and honoring King’s vision.

Prospects: Flickering • R • 151 mins. 

Last Christmas

       Kate (Emilia Clarke) isn’t a festive person. That’s unfortunate, because she works as an elf in a Christmas shop. 

      When Tom (Henry Golding) bumps into her, she thinks he’s just another annoyance. However, she warms to the relationship, and she and Tom begin a holiday-themed romance.

      Director Paul Feig could save this movie from the fate of most holiday rom-coms. With his style of vulgar hilarity and crowd-pleasing comedy, he can turn a seemingly hackneyed concept on its head.

Prospects: Bright • PG-13 • 102 mins. 

Playing with Fire

      Fire superintendent Jake Carson (John Cena) doesn’t scare easily. He and his team of firefighters live to run into harm’s way to help others. They’re less skilled at caring for others in non-life-threatening situations.

     The team rescues three children from a wildfire and must keep them until their family is located. It should be an easy assignment, but the men find their roles as surrogate fathers daunting. 

      An engaging comic actor, Cena should lead an easygoing, family-friendly film despite all the usual story beats and hackneyed jokes. 

Prospects: Flickering • PG • 96 mins.