HK and Cult Film News's Fan Box

Monday, June 20, 2011

TURBULENT SKIES -- DVD review by porfle

When I saw Fred Olen Ray's name as director and co-writer of TURBULENT SKIES (2010), I knew just what I was in for--a low-budget film with, at best, modest entertainment value.  So I was able to enjoy it on that level, although those with higher expectations will be considerably less than thrilled.

The pre-titles sequence is possibly the best part, as Ray stages an exciting passenger-jet crash that, apart from some rinky-dink effects shots, looks like it might've come from a more high-profile movie.  After that, though, the film's limited scale is revealed as we see small groups of actors in cramped sets doing a lot of talking about what's going on.  (A scene in which an air force general is pressed by the usual group of insistent reporters boasts exactly four extras.)

Patrick Muldoon plays aircraft tycoon Charles "Chuck" Devain, who is unveiling his new unmanned piloting system to some potential investors and a dubious reporter.  The CB70, which looks kind of like a disco strobe light, is installed in the cockpit of a Boeing 747 which will carry this group of passengers on its first test run against the advice of its designer, Tom Woodard (Casper Van Dien).

Naturally, things go wrong and the computer system, which has been infected with a Trojan virus, heads the plane right into a major storm.  Attempts to deactivate it prove disastrous when its automatic defense system disables both pilot and co-pilot.  This leaves Woodard's wife Samantha (a now-milfy Nicole Eggert) in charge of flying the plane while he tries to get on board in order to short-circuit the CB70. 

Most of the acting is passable, and there's some amusing dialogue here and there.  (After sparring with a hostile reporter, Devain tells his secretary: "Take a note...I don't like her.")  It's fun watching Muldoon's preening, overconfident character disintegrate as everything falls apart all around him. 

Van Dien, the lantern-jawed hero, plays a role you might've seen John Agar in back in the 50s, and is even beginning to look a little like him.  (The film is a belated reunion for STARSHIP TROOPERS stars Van Dien and Muldoon.)  I enjoyed seeing Eggert for the first time since her "Two Corys" days.  As Devain's gazillionaire father, Brad Dourif is two gallons of acting talent in a one gallon role.  Christine Nguyen and Ron Harper also appear in bit parts.

Crisis upon crisis are presented at the same stately pace throughout the film, all confined to a number of tiny sets except for some really nice shots of the 747 and various military aircraft.  A few passages are generously padded, as when a general gives some fighter pilots a briefing that's basically a five-minute recap of the entire first half of the movie.  This is followed by lengthy shots of the military planes being readied for takeoff.

There's not much momentum until the final minutes when two of the passengers must try to land the disabled plane, which is approaching a heavily-populated area, before it's shot down by the fighter jets.  Fred Olen Ray's years of experience as a low-budget filmmaker enable him to do a competent enough job here with what he has to work with, and the film's semi-nailbiting climax isn't all that bad. 

The DVD from Anchor Bay Entertainment is in 1.78:1 widescreen with Dolby Digital 5.1 sound.  Subtitles are in English and Spanish.  A trailer is the sole extra.

With a bigger budget, TURBULENT SKIES might even have passed as the tawdry tail end of the AIRPORT series--it's certainly no dumber than the ridiculous THE CONCORDE...AIRPORT '79.  Still, this is a very small and undistinguished effort that only fans of the director and/or stars will truly see for more than it is.

Buy it at

No comments: