Patrick sips his mai tai and looks lazily around the bar in Party Town, USA. He and Kyle could no longer say how long they had been trapped in this never ending stream of party fun. For a while he kept reassuring Kyle that it was all a simulation, but his long bushy beard was now snow white and he had given up. They’d probably die here. Just like how the Vice President (who they rescued the day they arrived) had grown old and died peacefully a few years back. “Come on out here and party, dude,” Kyle yells to him, all the while dancing with one of the numerous bodacious bades that populated the city. Patrick waves him away with a sigh and gets back to his mai tai. Kyle plops down on the stool next to him. “Bro, I can always tell when you’re ready to poop on a party. You get that sad, party-pooper look in your eyes. You feeling blue?” Patrick nods. “Is it because we’ve been trapped in this party bar for 30-50 years?” Patrick nods again and sighs, “Yeah, sorry, man. I hate to rain on your parade.” Kyle shrugs and pats him on the shoulder, “You could never rain on my parade, bro. In fact, it never rains here at all. That’s what makes Party Town so great, right?” Suddenly Patrick looks around… that’s true. In 30-50 years it has never rained. Rain… water… mainframe. My god! He suddenly leaps up and looks around frantically before he sees it. The alarm. He looks up and sees the sprinklers Kyle had installed when he took over ownership of the bar. Just practical business sense he said… or a stroke of genius! “Fire,” Patrick whispers and Kyle just looks at him quizzically. “FIRE!” He screams. That’s right! We’re watching the Nic Cage/Tommy Lee Jones/Sean Young classic that we all remember, Fire Birds. It’s the helicopter knock-off of Top Gun that we were all clamouring for at the time and I can only assume it delivered on those points. Let’s go!
“Fire.” Jamie hears the whisper and pulls away from his steamy make out session with Lindsey. Was that Patrick he heard? Fire.. water… mainframe. “Where does that pipe lead?” He asks Lindsey, pointing at their steamy water pipe. “Uh,” she thinks, “up, I guess.” That’s right! We are starting in on our Bring a Friend cycle (the best cycle) with a little Guttenberg special, the 1998 film Airborne which is about a plane… or maybe a virus… I don’t know, but it def got the Gutes. Let’s go!
Fire Birds (1990) – BMeTric: 45.8; Notability: 25
StreetCreditReport.com – BMeTric: top 4.4%; Notability: top 21.2%; Rotten Tomatoes: top 4.6%; Higher BMeT: Captain America, Look Who’s Talking Too, Rocky V, Ghost Dad, Graveyard Shift, Leatherface: Texas Chainsaw Massacre III, Repossessed, Soultaker, Problem Child, Delta Force 2: The Colombian Connection Higher Notability: RoboCop 2, The Bonfire of the Vanities, Predator 2, Days of Thunder, Jetsons: The Movie, The Adventures of Ford Fairlane, Air America, Captain America, Young Guns II: Blaze of Glory, Marked for Death, The Rookie, Rocky V, 3 Men and a Little Lady, Stella, Teenage Mutant Hero Turtles, Revenge, Bird on a Wire, Ghost Dad, Another 48 Hrs., Mr. Destiny, and 33 more; Lower RT: Problem Child, Death Warrant, Graveyard Shift, Repossessed, Coupe de Ville, Loose Cannons, Madhouse, Funny About Love, Soultaker, Ghost Dad, Spaced Invaders; Notes: The BMeTric is a lot higher than I would have expected since it only have around 6K ratings which is amazing low. We have obviously left a lot on the table as far as 1990 films are concerned. Very interesting that Soultaker gets a shoutout.
Leonard Maltin – BOMB – High-tech Apache helicopters (with an assist from their pilots) take on South American drug cartels from the air. Standard military issue with a ruptured-duck script and no romantic chemistry between professional rivals Cage and Young. Jones doesn’t evoke memories of Gregory Peck in Twelve O’Clock High when he pep-talks Cage into a “full-tilt boogie for freedom and justice.”
(I’m having a hard time pinning down a definition for “ruptured-duck”. It has to do with a pin given to those honorably discharged in WWII, that much is for sure. So I guess he’s saying the film is ho-hum (standard issue) and the script is either old-school or maybe just bad (i.e. discharged)? Fascinating turn of phrase, Leonard.)
(Yeah that is Top Gun for helicopters. All it is missing is Nic Cage buzzing the tower. Also as insane as it sounds that shows the entire climax of the film which is pretty nuts.)
Directors – David Green – (Known For: Buster; Car Trouble; BMT: Fire Birds; Notes: British, he directed a load of Emmerdale Farm episodes (a British Soap). IMDb claims he has two new directorial efforts in production, but somehow I doubt that.)
Writers – Step Tyner – (BMT: Fire Birds; Notes: Yeah so if you look around and search his name with Belvoir (Swensson’s production company) you can find that they were West Point classmates and Tyner wrote the original script, and Swensson marketed it. So that is how they are associated.)
Dale Dye – (Known For: Occupation: Rainfall; BMT: Fire Birds; Notes: Apparently a military advisor on a number of films which he often gets bit parts in. This is no different, he plays A.K. McNeil in the film.)
Nick Thiel – (Known For: White Fang; Shipwrecked; The Experts; Future BMT: V.I. Warshawski; The Associate; BMT: Fire Birds; Notes: A producer for a ton of television which he also writes for. From 1987 to 1996 he wrote feature films. Nominated for an Emmy for Magnum P.I.)
Paul F. Edwards – (Known For: Trackdown; High-Ballin’; BMT: Fire Birds; Notes: Wrote a bunch of television including the show Wizards and Warriors.)
Actors – Nicolas Cage – (Known For: Pig; Prisoners of the Ghostland; Willy’s Wonderland; The Rock; The Croods: A New Age; Fast Times at Ridgemont High; World Trade Center; Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse; Kick-Ass; Mandy; Color Out of Space; Leaving Las Vegas; National Treasure; Raising Arizona; Face/Off; Snowden; Con Air; Jiu Jitsu; Adaptation.; The Croods; Future BMT: Knowing; National Treasure: Book of Secrets; Next; 8MM; Windtalkers; G-Force; Trapped in Paradise; Amos & Andrew; BMT: Gone in Sixty Seconds; Ghost Rider; Drive Angry; Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance; Left Behind; The Wicker Man; Season of the Witch; Trespass; Captain Corelli’s Mandolin; Justice; Bangkok Dangerous; Fire Birds; Razzie Notes: Nominee for Worst Actor in 2007 for The Wicker Man; in 2008 for Ghost Rider, National Treasure: Book of Secrets, and Next; in 2012 for Drive Angry, Season of the Witch, and Trespass; in 2013 for Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance, and Seeking Justice; and in 2015 for Left Behind; Nominee for Worst Supporting Actor for Snowden in 2017; and Nominee for Worst Screen Couple in 2007 for The Wicker Man; and in 2012 for Drive Angry, Season of the Witch, and Trespass; Notes: Won an Oscar of Leaving Las Vegas and was nominated for Adaptation. You know Nic Cage, he is apparently going to play Joe Exotic in a tv show about Tiger King, but somehow I doubt that will ever actually be produced.)
Tommy Lee Jones – (Known For: Captain America: The First Avenger; The Client; No Country for Old Men; Space Cowboys; Ad Astra; Wander; Jason Bourne; Men in Black; The Fugitive; Natural Born Killers; The Comeback Trail; Lincoln; JFK; Men in Black 3; Under Siege; Small Soldiers; The Missing; Love Story; The Homesman; Shock and Awe; Future BMT: Criminal; Men in Black II; Double Jeopardy; The Family; U.S. Marshals; The Hunted; Blown Away; Man of the House; Rules of Engagement; Just Getting Started; Savage Islands; BMT: Batman Forever; Mechanic: Resurrection; Fire Birds; Notes: Won and Oscar for The Fugitive and was nominated for three more. One of his first roles was 21 episodes of One Life to Live in the 1975.)
Sean Young – (Known For: Dune; Blade Runner 2049; Blade Runner; Bone Tomahawk; Ace Ventura: Pet Detective; Wall Street; Stripes; No Way Out; Cousins; Attack of the 50 Foot Cheerleader; Escape Room; Mockingbird Don’t Sing; Even Cowgirls Get the Blues; The Pit; A Random Encounter; Dr. Jekyll and Ms. Hyde; Poor White Trash; Darling; The Boost; Parasomnia; Future BMT: Sugar & Spice; Once Upon a Crime…; Baby: Secret of the Lost Legend; A Kiss Before Dying; Young Doctors in Love; Love Crimes; BMT: Fatal Instinct; Fire Birds; Razzie Notes: Winner for Worst Actress, and Worst Supporting Actress for A Kiss Before Dying in 1992; Nominee for Worst Actress, and Worst Screen Couple for Dr. Jekyll and Ms. Hyde in 1996; Nominee for Worst Actress for Love Crimes in 1993; and Nominee for Worst Supporting Actress in 1993 for Once Upon a Crime…; and in 1995 for Even Cowgirls Get the Blues; Notes: I kind of wish they had tossed a cameo into the new Dune for her. Instead she is making a film called Planet Dune in which is basically just a horror version of Dune? You can’t make this stuff up.)
Budget/Gross – $22 million / Domestic: $14,760,451 (Worldwide: $14,760,451)
(Ooooooof that is brutal. They thought they were getting Top Gun 2?! They were getting like … a straight-to-video Seagal war film.)
Rotten Tomatoes – 10% (2/21): Despite the talent on board, Fire Birds is little more than a subpar military adventure sporting video game-like action, outdated philosophy, and uneven acting.
(Yup, yup, and yup. Much like Tackleberry’s “I can’t believe they won’t let me murder innocent people anymore” speech from Police Academy: Mission to Moscow, the gung-ho jingoism of the military films of yesteryear was never going to play well in the 90s.)
Reviewer Highlight: The action here is more like something you’d expect to pop a quarter in a machine for. – Owen Gleiberman, Entertainment Weekly
Poster – Rage Cage and Tommy Lee Bones
(That poster cannot be denied. Man, that’s fire (birds). Nice orange color, dope helicopters, fading those face sooooo sweet. Hooo weeee. If only they really leaned into some font work. Then we’d really have something. B.)
Tagline(s) – The best just got better. (A+ x 10)
(Ha. Yeah, I mean. Yes. I like that because it sounds like words but in fact is meaningless. You heard about the best? Yeah… well, guess what? They just got better. It gets funnier the more I think about it.)
Keyword(s) – helicopter-pilot
Top 10: The Wolf of Wall Street (2013), Army of the Dead (2021), Fifty Shades of Grey (2015), Fast & Furious 7 (2015), Mission: Impossible – Fallout (2018), Jurassic World (2015), Kong: Skull Island (2017), Extraction (2020), Spectre (2015), American Sniper (2014)
Future BMT: 44.3 Home Fries (1998), 35.9 Air America (1990), 29.2 Memoirs of an Invisible Man (1992), 27.6 Resident Evil: Apocalypse (2004), 27.3 The Thing (2011), 26.7 American Assassin (2017), 19.4 Terminator Salvation (2009), 18.4 Crazy People (1990), 14.8 Angels & Demons (2009)
BMT: Fifty Shades of Grey (2015), The Predator (2018), Fifty Shades Darker (2017), CHIPS (2017), Mechanic: Resurrection (2016), Johnny Mnemonic (1995), The Darkest Minds (2018), Cradle 2 the Grave (2003), Fire Birds (1990)
Matches: Fire Birds (1990), Dance of the Dwarfs (1983), Avalanche (1999)
(Cooool plot. The little lines tell you how many films (and how big they were) basically. Not sure why helicopters were a huge thing in the 10s, I guess it is most likely that just big films got keywords around then. I am very excited to continue the helicopter 1990s train rolling with Air America some day.)
Welcome to Earf (HoE Number 8) – The shortest path through The Movie Database cast lists using only BMT films is: Nicolas Cage is No. 1 billed in Fire Birds and No. 1 billed in The Wicker Man, which also stars Leelee Sobieski (No. 5 billed) who is in Here on Earth (No. 1 billed) => (1 + 1) + (5 + 1) = 8. There is no shorter path at the moment.
Notes – K. Monty Jordan, one of the stunt team, was a real U.S. Army helicopter pilot in Vietnam, and retired as a Colonel after Operation: Desert Storm.
The enemy jet fighter is portrayed by a Swedish SAAB J 35F ‘Draken’ (Dragon).
Some of the exterior shots of “Fort Mitchell” were filmed at Pima Community College in Tucson, Arizona, and the inn, where Billie and Preston go, is actually The Tack Room, also in Tucson which was, at the time, a 5-star restaurant.
The “Scorpion” attack helicopters are actually Hughes MD-500D Defenders.
The bar scene was filmed at VIP Showclub located at 5120 E Speedway in Tucson, which was a topless bar at the time. The club was made to look like a regular nightclub with a live band, as seen in the movie. Filming took place over three days. Location is currently Ten’s Showclub.
The music that plays during the first half of the film’s original theatrical trailer is 80s classic “Nowhere Fast” composed for and made famous by the movie Streets of Fire (1984).
Some of the scenes were built on a set inside the Tucson Convention Center.
The flight simulator motion base is actually a AH1 flight weapons simulator (cobra helicopter) located at the Western Army Aviation Training Site in Arizona.
The original title of the film was “Night of the Apache”
The Catamarca Desert is specifically located in Argentina.
Infamously known among critics as Top Gun (1986) with helicopters.