July 24, 2017

Red Sky

I hope you enjoyed the spittle-flecked ranting about movies fucking up the military in my last review, because you'll be getting it cranked up to 11 here. Yep, I'm reviewing the finest US-Russian co-produced low-budget airplane porn that sports both godawful CGI and President Lone Starr ever made.

Red Sky is a shitty mash-up of Top Gun (sure) and Iron Eagle II (Jesus, why?) starring New Jack City, Twilight Douchebag, and Jaesa Willsaam. Sadly it's Light Side Jaesa, so those of us (and we know who we are) hoping to see her forget exactly whether she slept with, murdered, or slept with and then murdered a guy she picked up in a bar will have to look elsewhere.

Ditto those of us hoping to see a good movie.

I'm not sure why the filmmakers bothered to hire actual actors who probably ate up budget dollars that should've gone toward making the terrible CGI airplanes slightly less terrible. Okay, New Jack City directed the thing (and so had the clout to give himself the best role), but why hire Jaesa? Why get somebody who can act and then give her an entirely superfluous role where the only time she seems to understand her function in the scene is when she's fawning over the lead actor or having sex with him--wait, objection withdrawn. Fortunately for fans of terrible acting we've got Twilight Douchebag to perform a fucking master class in it, demonstrating every possible way not to give a performance. He overacts, he's wooden, he appears confused and without direction, he portrays the wrong emotion, he portrays no emotion, he projects zero charisma or screen presence--whatever the scene doesn't call for, he provides in spades. Lone Starr looks like he'd rather be anywhere else, and by God I wanted to send him there. The rest of the cast merely exist, playing their one-dimensional roles with all the passion and skill they honed in community theater.

We open on scary, suspenseful music as a group of musclebound knuckleheads move through the darkness and then draw a cat nose and whiskers on a sleeping guy. The k-heads are constantly yammering and shining their flashlights in Guy's face, so he must be passed out drunk not to wake up immediately. Then I cringe as the camera reveals Guy is wearing a flight suit. These guys are the movie's ace pilots? Somebody get Cthulhu on the line so It can go ahead and devour humanity now. Cthulhu fhtagn. And looks like I was right about Guy being passed out drunk. I mean, why else would he be sleeping in bed with his flight suit on? None of the other k-heads is wearing one, so it ain't like they're on alert or anything. Guy suddenly wakes up and yells terrible dialogue at his "friends", but it's okay, they finished drawing the whiskers already. Whew! That was...too close.

Cut to a briefing the next morning, with all the k-heads in attendance, including Guy...with the cat whiskers still on his face! Oh boy, here we go with the ranting. So if you didn't know, guys in the military shave. Every day. At least, every day they have to show up for work. It's the law. Seriously, it's military law that you have to shave. So there's no way Guy wouldn't see the shit on his face. Even if he didn't think he needed to shave that day, he'd check. He'd check his uniform in the mirror to make sure all the doodads were on right and it wasn't wrinkled or stained, especially since officers (which pilots are) are extra scrupulous about their appearance. But I don't know why I'm harping on this so much, since everybody in the briefing room--including the guy in charge, a major(!)--has hair so far out of regs Mr. Strickland would give them all detention. If your budget doesn't extend to getting the actors haircuts, you should probably reconsider making your film.

We're next introduced to all of our characters through the tried-and-true bad movie technique of putting their names up on the screen. Yeah, fuck introducing characters through dialogue. Just digitally flash their names in front of us while they're wearing helmets and strapping oxygen masks over the lower half of their faces, and we'll know them all like our own fathers. Hilariously, the two pilots played by "name" actors (Twilight Douchebag and somebody called "Shane West") get full names; the community theater troupe members only get last names. Wow, way to connect me to these people, movie. (Future Carl: Everybody's full name is listed in the end credits. So they bothered to come up with first names for the other characters but never told the audience? What gives?)

The movie betrays its love for Iron Eagle by calling its lead character Butch "Cobra" Masters(!!). Really? Iron Eagle? A film series even recovering airplane porn addict Carl Eusebius recognizes as a steaming pile of ass? "Cobra" is a lame call sign that's still too dignified for Twilight Douchebag. I hereby dub him "D-Bag".

D-Bag and Shane West (call sign: "Rodeo"), along with their WSOs, get into their really fucking obviously phony cockpits while stock footage of an aircraft carrier shows us actual F/A-18 Hornets preparing for launch. Then really bad CGI Hornets take off, ripping off the iconic "aileron roll with the carrier in the background" shot from Top Gun, if that shot were hilariously cheap CGI instead of a real aircraft taking off from a real carrier.

And then...oh, the stupid. The stupid, it hurts. The boys get a call from New Jack City on the ground, identifying himself as "Warlord 2". NJC orders them to destroy a building...somewhere. They demand the authorization code (the what now?), which they receive. D-Bag protests that the mission was simply to patrol. Rodeo counters that the code is good, so he tries to shoot the building. His missiles don't work(?), so D-Bag has to do it. He does. It turns out it's an American building, or Americans are there, or something, and a single "soldier" (remember that) is killed. The superweapon (come on, you knew there had to be a superweapon) is gone. Or destroyed? Or maybe it was never there? Who knows? (Well, the audience knows, since we see NJC order his people to go to the ruins and steal it.)

This authorization code business is some shit the writers made up to hide that fact that in the real world their stupid plot would never work. Unless you're under immediate attack, you don't just run over to a fighter plane and take it up in the air. You meet with your superiors, in which they carefully and in excruciating detail explain everything anyone could possibly need to know about the mission, and more besides. This is done in something called a "briefing". You know, that thing we just saw in the previous scene? In which the pilots were presumably told that their mission was to patrol? So there's no way in hell they'd then be told, in the air, in the middle of their mission, to go perform a totally different mission. I mean, they probably wouldn't even have the appropriate weapons to carry it out. Then there's fuel considerations....Look, the target isn't another jet, or a missile, or even a fucking truck, you know, something that moves. It's a building. Last time I checked, buildings don't drive away while you prep and launch a strike using pilots who have been told what the fuck they're supposed to do before they take a pair of $30 million planes in the air.

And remember my chain of command rant? I mean, come on. Fucking nobody, and certainly not elite Navy pilots flying planes carrying actual live weapons, takes orders from some asshole they've never heard of. Orders that contradict the instructions they were given by, you know, their actual commanders. Orders that require them to use their weapons. Against a target, they don't even know what it is. From a guy, they don't even know who he is. No way. Pilots, like everybody else in the military, take orders from their commanders. The ones on, you know, their carrier. The carrier they're in constant radio contact with (if not directly, then through an electronic warfare aircraft that would be coordinating this stuff). Which would allow them to perhaps question these strange orders, by saying something like "Who the fuck is Warlord 2, and where he'd get the cajones to radio me up and change my mission?"

But Tweedledum and Tweedledumber don't think of any of that, and they're all "Sure New Jack City, we'll go blow it up real gud for ya there, eh?" They're court-martialed. And let me make this very clear: They absolutely should be. And they should be found guilty. The movie acts like there being a real Warlord 2 exonerates them, but it doesn't. At all. Whoever Warlord 2 was, he wasn't in their chain of command. So any order from him carries no weight. That means they did violate their orders, they did fire their weapons without authorization, and these actions did result in a friendly fire incident.

In another hilarious bit, the knuckleheads' lawyer objects to a question asked to Rodeo, only for Rodeo to tell the judge that he will answer it(!), which he then proceeds to do(!!). Goddamn it, movie, there's an objection on the floor. The judge has to rule on it before anything else can happen. The witness can't just decide to answer a question that's been objected to. Good grief, forget Law & Order, you could watch an episode of fucking Matlock and know that! And not that it matters--since the knuckleheads are absolutely guilty of the crime they've been accused of--but Lawyer never once raises the question of motive. Why, exactly, would 'Dum and 'Dumber want to blow up an American installation, and why would they come up with such a ridiculous cover story? I know they have the IQ of a brick between the two of them, else they wouldn't be in this situation in the first place, but at least ask why they didn't come up with something more reasonable than "a guy we didn't know told us to".

It doesn't matter though, because it turns out the prosecutor (Lone Starr) doesn't have the "HUD tapes" that contain all the information from their instruments, including radio communications of Warlord 2 giving them the order. Lone Starr remarks that this is convenient for 'Dum and 'Dumber. Err...it is? Isn't it equally convenient for the plot Warlord 2? No one knows what's on the tapes, so how does Lone Starr know they won't corroborate what the knuckleheads said? Anyway, the judge--the worst actor in the movie, which is saying something--says that without the tapes there's no case, and so 'Dum and 'Dumber, and their WSOs, should resign, and if Lone Starr is feeling nice, they'll get general discharges.

....the hell?!

You just said you don't have the evidence to convict them, you asshat! So why would they get general discharges? They can only get those if they did something wrong, and you've just admitted you have no case. You didn't say, "We've got good evidence, just not enough to convict you in a court-martial." You said no case. And what's Lone Starr got to do with it? He's just a lawyer. He doesn't have any say in how their discharge from the Navy would be characterized. Even the judge doesn't have that authority. Only the knuckleheads' commander does. Plus, what's with resigning? The point of resigning is to get somebody out without having to throw her out. But a general discharge is how you throw someone out. You don't need them to resign to do that. So why wouldn't they fight rather than resign, when the result of fighting couldn't be worse? And really, I can't see how they wouldn't win that fight, since it would look like exactly what it is: their commander punishing them even though the court-martial failed to convict.

But the Plot-o-Matic will not be denied, so the knuckleheads all resign and get general discharges. Rodeo acts like a total ass to everybody and breaks off his engagement with Jaesa because she's too close to D-Bag (though West's and Douchebag's acting gives the distinct impression that Rodeo's jealous of her, if you know what I mean). Then we see a TV news report of the American 'Dum and 'Dumber killed, and he's clearly wearing a Marine uniform and so was not a soldier goddamn it you could read the Wikipedia article on the Marine Corps and know that. Now, journalists may not care much about the difference between a soldier and a Marine, but earlier it was Lone Starr who called the dead guy a soldier, and the military does care about that shit. So Lone Starr would definitely know Dead Guy should not be referred to as a "soldier", since Lone Starr is a pretty high-ranking officer and a lawyer and oh yeah he's in the fucking Navy which the Marines are sorta part of. (They're also sorta independent. It's weird.)

Anyway, flash forward seven years, and the knuckleheads now work together in the private sector, except D-Bag, who lives in a broken-down old plane that's decorated entirely in pictures and drawings and models of planes. Do you get that D-Bag likes airplanes? Because it's really important to the filmmakers that you do. In case the movie is too subtle for you in how it limns this rich characterization, D-Bag likes flying planes and he's sad now that he doesn't fly planes. I really hope that message is coming through. Rodeo disappears suddenly, and D-Bag refuses to help his friends look for him. Then he goes to Russia since a Russian company helped finance this turkey, and he just happens in that tiny city known as Moscow to randomly bump into Jaesa, who sadly doesn't run him through with a double-bladed lightsaber. (Now I'm really missing Dark Side Jaesa.) And yes, despite being young, smart, professionally successful, and adept in the Force, Jaesa even after seven years still carries a torch for D-Bag and isn't married or even involved with anyone. Sure. Forget the airplane stuff, this is the least believable thing in the movie. Then D-Bag goes back to his plane-house, and Lone Starr re-enters the movie to get the plot going. He wants D-Bag to lead the other two knuckleheads, plus some, uh, other guys, to blow up the superweapon in a black ops "we disavow any knowledge of this mission" mission. Their reward? Honorable discharges. No, not money or reinstatement into the Navy or retirement benefits. Just a "you done gud kid" from the Navy. Pretty weak tea to risk your life for, but if D-Bag says no there's no movie, so he agrees. Jaesa does some digging to find out just how super the superweapon is so that she can magically appear in Syria to tell the k-heads how totally dangerous and super it is when it's time to ramp up the tension before the climactic dogfight.

Lone Starr's plan gets cocked up immediately because it turns out NJC is a CIA agent and even after seven years nobody's figured out he works for the bad guys. (I wish I could call bullshit on that, but considering the CIA's track record of discovering double agents.....) Of course in the end it all comes down to a dogfight between the k-heads and their bro Rodeo, who's also been working for the bad guys the whole time. Rodeo is apparently better than anybody else at the whole fighter pilot thing, since not only can he consistently hit with his plane's cannon, he always manages to shoot holes in the other plane's canopy without killing the guys in the cockpit. Yes, on purpose. That's some fucking accurate gunfire right there. But then D-Bag reveals that the superweapon will kill lotsa people, and Rodeo immediately does a face-turn and reveals the location of the superweapon before crashing his own plane to stop the terrorist guy in his back seat from launching it, I guess. D-Bag flies to the location, but it turns out it's not the real location but a trap. NJC's waiting for him with a portable surface-to-air missile launcher, and he shoots the plane down with it. The end.

Then D-Bag appears and shoots NJC. Wait, what? Okay, so I guess D-Bag and his boy bailed out of the plane even though we clearly saw that they didn't, but how the fuck did they get to where NJC is? They'd have been floating back to the ground on parachutes for miles! And since NJC lied to Rodeo about where the superweapon was, where is it? The movie just cuts to Rodeo's funeral, where we're told D-Bag destroyed the superweapon. Uh, how? With what, his pistol? How did he figure out its actual location? NJC sure didn't tell him. Ah well, whatever, let's just end this stupid movie. Blah blah unfunny comic relief, the surviving k-heads get their honorable discharges from Lone Starr, roll credits.

And at no point does anything about a red sky even come up. They should've called this movie Generic Airplane-Related Title.