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Flyboys in Malibu:

On February 11, there will be a benefit screening of the recently released motion picture feature, Flyboys. It will be held at 4 p.m. at Pepperdine University’s Smothers Theatre in support of the newly-formed “American Stories Project.” The undertaking’s focus is, according to a press release, “Bringing together WW II flying veterans, their families and their local communities in the collection of wartime stories focusing on the unending spirit of freedom and hope brought by American jazz during the time of the Allied liberation of Europe and the Pacific.”

The film presented in support of the project is Flyboys, directed by Venice resident Tony Bill and features famed French actor Jean Reno. (The Professional, Ronin, The Da Vinci Code, Steve Martin’s The Pink Panther, as well as countless others over his long and internationally successful career.) Also appearing, perhaps not as well-known, are James Franco, Phillip Winchester, Martin Henderson, Abdul Salis, Tyler Labine, Jennifer Decker and David Ellison, all of the younger acting generation. The film itself is NOT concerned with WW II, rather it is about combat flying in WW I.

The project itself is an admirable undertaking and in its own way, appears to mirror-image philosophically Steven Spielberg’s efforts to locate, interview and reduce to film the memories and experiences of survivors of the Holocaust. Needless to say, time is a weighty consideration here as many of the WW II airmen are presently well into their 80s. This project is an invaluable effort and deserves the support, assistance and concern of all Americans, because the stories are essential to the historical fabric of this country.

In support of the film and the project, Flyboys is available on DVD in two formats: a Widescreen Edition and a Two-Disc Collector’s Edition, the latter containing Bonus Features. This two-CD set is as handsome as they come. It is a first rate production, with the first disc devoted to the motion picture and the second to a plethora of special features. More about the latter anon.

The film is the story of the famed Lafayette Escadrille; Americans who volunteered to join the fight against the Germans in WW I, some years prior to the entry of the United States into the conflict in 1917. They came from every walk of life and the film, based upon fact, has a predictable cast of characters: the bigoted rich kid, who when assigned to room with the sole black member of the group utters the monumental, “Sir, that would be like me sharing the same room with one of my servants!”

The characters include the black expatriate, the son of a slave, a boxer who had relocated to Paris many years before; the cowboy/rancher from Texas; the religious one; the angry leader of the squadron; the comic; the French Captain; a man with a heart and a humanist; the scoundrel; the weakling who finds courage in the air; the young, extraordinarily beautiful French girl and last but not least, the fearsome German pilot, an ace in the skies if there ever was one.

The real star of this film is the Special Effects Group and what they have done is truly awesome. The dogfights are breathtaking and the action sequences are as good as anything ever filmed in this genre. Which leads us to the second disc, one fraught with goodies. By far the most interesting is “Diary Of A Miniature Stunt Pilot,” which will undoubtedly come as a monumental revelation. Deftly handled with humor, it is a microcosm tutorial on how such effects as contained in the film are constructed and achieved. Absolutely fascinating and worth the price of the entire package in and of itself.

All of the above being said, this writer’s personal admiration for those involved with the “American Stories Project” is boundless. Nevertheless, I am very hard-put to accept the offered, unfathomable premise that jazz music played a vital, major role in the pursuit of success in WW II, as I see no validity to such pronouncement.

All in all a most worthwhile DVD set. An action-packed production.

Further information may be obtained at the first-class website devoted to the film: flyboysthemovie.com.

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