#52 Fire Birds


#52 Fire Birds
Year: 1990
Director: David Green
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Epic Co-stars: Tommy Lee Jones, 
Running Time: 85 mins
Cage Time: 100%
Cage Kills/Deaths: 0
Cage Flip-outs: 3
James' Review:  Let's just clear up a few things before we get started here.  Nic Cage is a much better actor than Tom Cruise, Tommy Lee Jones is a much better actor than James Tolkan, and tricked out helicopters (if presented properly) can be just as cool as fighter jets.  Despite all these facts, Fire Birds is a much worse movie than Top Gun.  Maybe  it's the fact that all my memories of Top Gun were formed before I was ten years of age, or that Nic Cage could only really be taken seriously in about 1/3 of the scenes in which he appeared in this movie, or possibly that Nic Cage (the anit-Tom Cruise) didn't ride a totally tricked out crotch rocket.  We may never know.  All we do know is that Fire Birds was released four years after Top Gun (giving every person on earth a chance to see it and love it) and that it desperately wanted to be Top Gun (made clear by an almost exact copy of the story line) and that it did not have any scenes with Val Kilmer (probably the only thing I would still like about Top Gun if I were to see it now).


The best of the best.  Helicopter Pilot.  Actor.  Human.  Whatever.
Jake Preston (Cage) is a hot young stud and rising star in the US Apache Combat training program.  He is the best of the best and he knows it.  The school has recently been chartered by the US Government to train their pilots for combat against South American drug cartels who will be flying a smaller, more nimble, Scorpion attack helicopter.  That's right, drug cartels in a different hemisphere have a single helicopter and a crack pilot that will single-handedly wage war on the US military.   Preston has finally met his match.  But before he can solve America's drug problems, he's got some authority to challenge and some ass to chase at home...

Siskel and Ebert have already said everything there is to say (and in a vastly superior fashion) about the film itself so I'll try to say a few things they haven't.  First off, all of the acting in this movie is terrible.  Cage actually pulls this "terrible acting" off due to his irreverence and on-screen charm, while everyone else just ends up looking like a typical asshole failing at a never ending game of Charades.  Both his irreverence and charm are perfectly summed up in an excellent scene where he takes to the flight simulator for some realistic (ie. mid level PlayStation 1 graphics) action against the best AI 1990 has to offer.  But Seriously.  Fire Birds deserves some respect for drawing attention to a problem so often overlooked by the US public today:  Eye Dominance.  People suffering from this condition often have to spend several minutes behind the wheel of a jeep equipped with a home made para scope to be cured forever.


Eye dominance:  An ailment that effects one out of  every one person in this country today.  

I've presented here only a few of the reasons why every person on earth should eventually see this movie.  While each individual part may be either laughable, stupid, embarrassing  or really stupid, they all sum together to provide an experience that is but a fond memory in 2013.  Fire Birds shows us a time when multiple A-list actors could be in a totally stupid movie and it didn't even matter or effect their careers.  A time when someone would actually put up millions of dollars because "theoretically Top Gun with helicopters and Nic Cage should be amazing."  A time when  a quote from anyone with the name George Bush at the beginning of a movie would be somewhat respectable.  And most importantly, a time that the whole world was stupid and nothing didn't not not matter at all.  Nothing mattered at all because bad guys were exploding and Nic Cage was securing a nice piece of ass in the end.  And I think we all know deep down, that is all that really matters.


A time.  The time.  The only time.  Transcending Time.

Movie quotability:
  • "Sir, that was totally cool!"
  • "Good, because I have a pocket full of quarters."
  • "I AM THE GREATEST"
  • "Shoot 'em, blast 'em, nab 'em, grab 'em, shake 'em, bake 'em, cook 'em, clean 'em, hold 'em, broil 'em, kick 'em, nab 'em, twist 'em, ALL GONE BYE BYE!!!!"
  • "I'd say that I'm doing piss-perfect"
  • "Why'd you change?"  "Less to take off."  "Lets skip dinner."
  • "You're not touching her you filthy piece of shit."
  • "Snort that sucker."  (Kills cocaine jet with shoulder fired rocket.)

Plot Holes:
  • Drug cartels like fighting the US military via a single helicopter.
  • The drug cartel seems to have one helicopter and one helicopter pilot.
  • Their helicopter pilot was trained in North Korea.
  • People in 1990 thought that "Billie" looked good in that loose sports bra.
  • Tommy Lee Jones it taller than the top shelf in the supermarket.
  • Old couple has 3 toddler aged kids and no toys in their house.
  • Arizona and "South America" look exactly the same.
CAGEamatic
Cinamatic
Skyler
Outstanding
Poor
Shauna
James
3.19/5
1.80/5
Martine
!Read, wrote, and watched in the Cage!

1 comment:

Steve M said...

Oh where to begin?

As was pointed out, this came along 4 years after Top Gun because the Apache had just come out and someone thought helicopters deserved their time in the spotlight too. The Apache really is an amazing piece of technology, but it is nothing compared to an F-14 blasting past at super-sonic speeds with twin jets of blue flame from its engines. Compare and contrast this, landing on a pitching aircraft carrier deck while trying to catch a wire across its deck and punching full throttle in case you miss it, and gently touching down on patch of dusty Arizona soil. Blasting past your opponent at hundreds of MPH and zig-zagging through canyons at less than 100 MPH. Excuse me while I stifle a yawn. Even if the Apache could compare to a Tomcat we spend the movie in training rooms, simulators, and watching the commander video-conferencing with some general which is a really low budget video game mechanism to present the plot to the viewer. Top Gun was very mano-a-mano both against the enemy and trying to become the best of the best. Fire Birds tried to do this but failed miserably.

The other thing that bugs me is that you can just picture how this film came into being. Some schmuck sees Top Gun and is jealous because he thinks he can do better. He can't just make another F-14 movie so while watching the Army-Navy football game that year he has the bright idea to showcase the new Apache. He approaches the army who is excited to get the good publicity so they agree to support making the movie, but it must stay on base in TX so the entire movie is filmed in Arizona and Texas which makes for zero change of scenery. Also consider this, the drugs are grown and produced not the the arid deserts, but up in the lush jungle and mountainous regions. We're supposed to believe that the drug lords prefer to expose their operation by transporting all of the goods out into the desert rather than operating in the dense jungles where it is produced? This is the point when the movie should have been majorly revised or canned. Know when to pull the plug and have the brass to do it.

Other plot holes and stupidity:
- A single man in a fictitious helicopter with a Sean Connery beard is supposed to strike fear into our hearts. Oh no, bad man just put down his tinted visor, Mommy!
- The drug lords have a pair of Swedish made jets that belong in northern Europe for air-to-air defense, but because the Army training base this was being filmed at had a couple the director thought it would be a smashing idea to have them be a surprise addition to the combat and use them for ground strafing while the helicopter that would have been ideally suited for that job was out doing air-to-air fighting. Nuts.
- Their temporary base in S. America has no defenses and when attacked by some unknown force (that seems determined to destroy tents instead of helicopters) they don't seem concerned about stopping the attack, just in launching their own attack with zero element of surprise.
- No one goes into the laundromat to wash a half a dozen items, you don't visit that sucker till you have enough to keep a couple machines running at the same time.
- At the beginning when bad guy first attacks everyone goes unnaturally wide-eyed in an amateurish attempt to convey terror and astonishment. It didn't look good in films from 1930 and it still isn't convincing 60 years later on.
- The sound track had its moments, but was mostly uninspiring. Who doesn't know at least two songs from the Top Gun sound tracks?
- The leading lady should be attractive.

If Cage measures success by the amount of his spittle on the camera lens then he did great. There were several flip-out, plenty of ego, and enough creepy passes on Billie to ruin the average appetite. I can't help but wonder what kind of movie this could have been if the director wasn't a baboon.

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