Director: Tony Bill. With James Franco, Jean Reno, Jennifer Decker. (139 min.)
Answering the lure of adventure in 1916, several Americans join Lafayette Escadrille, the elite French flying corps. Enlistees include a rich kid trying to impress his industrialist dad, a bankrupt rancher, and an African-American prizefighter. The film's subject has been depicted on screen before, notably in William Wellman's 1927 film, "Wings," and 1958's "Lafayette Escadrille," based on Wellman's own World War I flying career. "Flyboys" concentrates less on earthbound camaraderie and romance than it does on flying. Excellent use of the latest special effects makes for a real thrill ride that demands to be viewed on a big screen. Grade: B
– M.K. Terrell
Sex/Nudity: 2 innuendos; 1 scene of implied sex in a brothel. Violence: 18 instances of warfare. Profanity: 10 mild expressions. Drugs/Alcohol/Tobacco: 3 scenes of drinking, 3 scenes with smoking.
Director: Jeff Tremaine. With Johnny Knoxville, Bam Margera, Steve-O. (95 min.)
Here's a way to spend 90 minutes completely devoid of social benefit. The gang returns with another compendium of stupid and dangerous stunts, acting out obsessions with excrement, genitalia, and rocketry, but more explicitly than in MTV's series. If one can overlook mistreating snakes, sharks, bees, cattle, and even a yak, not to mention pervasive obscenity, there are a few amusing moments. Some of the foolishness is obviously faked, but often the guys are truly putting life and limb at risk, making some bits more scary than funny. It's nearly miraculous that they walk away from their exploits. Grade: D
Sex/Nudity: 27 instances, including full nudity and innuendo. Violence: 23 instances of grotesque violence and stunts. Profanity: 235 harsh expressions. Drugs/Alcohol/Tobacco: 5 scenes.
Director: Ronny Yu. With Jet Li, Betty Sun, Nathan Jones. (103 min.)
After losing his family, master Huo Yuanjia (Jet Li) leaves Tianjin Province, working as a farmhand till he learns that wushu (Chinese martial arts) is a spiritual discipline and not all about winning and revenge. Returning to society in the early 1900s, Huo defends China's honor in bouts with a British boxer, a Belgian spear fighter, a Spanish swordsman, and a Japanese karate champ. The historical Huo also started the Jingwu Sports Federation, which today fosters wushu ideals in 50 countries. This painterly film is a fitting finale to Li's long career in film and as a real-life wushu expert. Grade: B+
Sex/Nudity: None. Violence: 14 instances of martial-arts fighting. Profanity: 2 mild expressions. Drugs/Alcohol/Tobacco: 4 scenes of drinking, 3 scenes with smoking.
Director: Brian De Palma. With Hilary Swank, Josh Hartnett. (121 min.)
Based on the James Ellroy novel about the unsolved L.A. murder of aspiring actress Betty Short, "The Black Dahlia" mainlines De Palma's career-long obsession with sex and violence. But perhaps he's been down this road too many times. Too often in "The Black Dahlia" – which stars Aaron Eckhart and Josh Hartnett as two cops and Scarlett Johansson as the woman who comes between them – we seem to staring at noirish waxworks. Grade: B
– Peter Rainer