Just like books and video games, DVDs can be sneaky. They’ll do just about anything to associate themselves with a more popular movie or genre. If you go to the video store right this second, you can probably find a copy of Bachelor Party with at least one vampire on the cover.

Or whatever’s going on here.

Well, if you’ve put off your gift-grabbing until now and there’s a Top Gun fan on your list, I’m here to help. You might be buzzing the Action section or fisting a $5 DVD bin in desperation, but take it from a guy who’s watched Top Gun 50 times this year… do not just buy the first thing with jets on the cover.


Why It Seems Like a Good Gift: A couple beefy hotshot pilots, jets flying past your face, and the bold claim that the film contained within is “Top Gun for a new generation.”

Why It’s the Wrong Gift for a Top Gun Fan: It’s French.

Okay, next movie.

FIRE BIR– Alright, fine, let’s get into it.

Sky Fighters, originally titled Les chevaliers du ciel, is a 2005 French film based on a 1988 French TV series that was a continuation of a 1967 French TV series that was based on a 1959 Franco-Belgian comics series. None of that merde is on the cover, though, so since they’re running with the Top Gun angle, so will I.

I’m assuming the average Top Gun fan would run screaming from any subtitles that weren’t translating Klingon, so this movie’s out, but if you still care to chance it, here’s the whole twisty plot. (Alerte des aérofreins!)

So there’s an air show, but one of the jets is stolen by a terrorist. Our heroes, Walk’n and Fahrenheit, chase him down and blow his ass up. BUT WAIT! They were ordered not to fire on him, and now they’re in trouble. BUT WAIT! First, let’s have a press conference declaring them heroes. BUT WAIT! It turns out that there’s a secret government unit that intentionally sends agents in to steal planes so they can look for weak spots in security… so Walk’n just needlessly killed a pilot! BUT WAIT! Walk’n remembers seeing the fake terrorist try to fire on Fahrenheit, so he must have been a real terrorist masquerading as a fake terrorist masquerading as a real terrorist! BUT WAIT! The video record doesn’t show the terrorist firing, so they must have doctored the tape! This conspiracy goes all the way to the top! BUT WAAAIIIT…

For comparison, the plot of Top Gun is “Bad guys! Kill ‘em!”

A tale worth $176,786,701 domestically.

On top of the unnecessarily complicated story (I didn’t even get to the part where the government orders them to demo two experimental planes on a cannonball run over enemy fucking territoryand nobody sees this as sketchy), Top Gun fans may get pretty pissed off at how blatant the rip-offs are. Here are just some of them…

We’ve got two pilot buddies, a macho hotshot and his goofy sidekick…

In France, the mustachioed one is the sexy lead character.

…under orders from a female authority figure…

…who sleeps with the macho hotshot.

Plus, there’s a pilot always listening to music like Slider.

His call sign is Ipod. He even listens to music while he flies.
Yes, they worked in an Iron Eagle rip-off, too.

And in a bit of a twist on a classic, the enemy pilot flips the hero the bird.

I’d mark which plane is the bad guy, but you know the movie color wheel.

Hey, did you notice the lady pilot up there? Pretty progressive movie, right? Well, there are actually two female pilots, and here’s the second one in her biggest scene, a striptease for all the flyboys.

Le féminisme!

Don’t worry, the other woman is a strong, competent pilot, which makes sense because she’s an undercover terrorist, YES, THERE’S ANOTHER GODDAMN PLOT TWIST. In Sky Fighters, women are sex or evil. No exceptions.

Pictured: the color evil.

I think the only part of this movie that improves on Top Gun is a thrilling aerial conflict over the skies of Paris. A terrorist attack is planned to go down in the middle of a Bastille Day parade, and not only do Walk’n and Fahrenheit have to take out the bad guys, but they have to do it in a way that won’t bring tons of flaming steel crashing down on civilians. That is a pretty awesome way to up the stakes.

Look out for the Space Needle!

Overall, while there are a couple action sequences that are a little more exciting than Top Gun, the reasons for them are overly complicated and very, very stupid; anything else of interest in the movie is pure theft. When it comes to making fighter pilot movies, sorry, France… leave it to the red, white, and blue.

Oh, wait…

Must-See Screencap: Fahrenheit, having just quit the military, takes up a job flying a plane advertising condoms.


Why It Seems Like a Good Gift: It stars Anthony “Goose” Edwards, but instead of playing lovable second fiddle to Tom Cruise, he’s front and center as our hero. The back of the box labels it as a comic thriller and promises “every turn brings a brand new and often hilarious twist.” So like a funny Bond movie, maybe?

Why It’s the Wrong Gift for a Top Gun Fan: It is sooo boring. Not funny, not exciting.

Here, take a look at the trailer.

This advertisement is a compilation of every single bit of somewhat rapid movement that happens in the movie. Half of it isn’t even from an action scene. Any shot of Anthony Edwards firing a gun? It’s him playing a campus paintball game. Linda Fiorentino swinging on a rope? That’s her on a date at a playground. That one scene where Edwards drops to the floor? No grenades or gunfire, the local jocks just tossed a football through his window.

Oh, wait, they did leave out one moment that’s both tragically exhilarating and boner-crushingly hilarious: a veterinary professor demonstrating how to tranquilize a sick tiger.

You’re probably thinking he has a funny voice or something. No. He is a sad man.

You’ve seen this movie many times. It combines the “I have a dumb skill that saves the day” and “wait, this tape isn’t mine, somebody must have planted it on me” genres and just fails at both of them.

Let me fill in any holes in that trailer, because I think there are, like, three, maybe? Jonathan Moore plays a campus paintball game called Gotcha. They can’t tell you that in the trailer because they want you to think the guns are real. If you take a shot of whiskey every time you hear a movie say its own title, DON’T BUY THIS DVD. The opening is a montage of Anthony Edwards paintballing a bunch of students and saying, “Gotcha!” while a song called “Gotcha!” plays, the first word of every line being “Gotcha!” All the while, targets and assassins are looking at their Gotcha assignment cards. It’s at this point your “funny” friend will ask, “What’s this movie called?” That’s your cue to stab him in the foot and say, “Lucky Number Slevin.” Because that is how comedy works.

Something else they hide in the trailer… this is romance overload. Jonathan goes on vacation in France and meets Sasha, a Czech woman with a thick accent who gives a long speech about how much she loves boyish virgin men. Then they go on cute dates, then they bone, then another date, then another bone… it is so much of the movie. And these aren’t interesting dates. Here’s Jonathan describing what a root beer float is to Sasha, in a burst of pure poetry inexplicably left off of IMDb’s extensive page of Gotcha! quotes:

The boning is kind of interesting, if you’re a fan of PG-13 side boob. I’m not going to post any pictures because I need to take some small comfort in seeking out and watching all these terrible movies, and I’m down to not sharing the jiggly parts of actresses. So slurp it, Internet. Get your boobs everywhere else.

It is possible that the person you’re shopping for is a big fan of the romantic parts of Top Gun. If they are, they don’t know what chemistry is, so they’ll have no idea what that weird spark is between Anthony Edwards and Linda Fiorentino, so better not to confuse them than have to explain why they need to give OKCupid a rest.

The comedy in this comedy thriller is pretty terrible. There’s a cuh-razy cab driver who recklessly speeds up the film when he drives through Parisian traffic, probably because the director didn’t get any stunts cleared that day. After being chased by bad guys, Jonathan hitches a ride with a heavily-accented band called Kul Kult, and they all really love American pop music! (Why a movie with a theme song as bad as the one in the trailer has any right to comment on music, I have no idea.) Also, every time Jonathan calls home, he gets the stupid Hispanic maid! Get this (please, really, get it): Whenever he says, “It’s Jonathan,” she thinks he’s asking to speak to Jonathan! It’s just as funny the second and third time as it is the first time.

You’re such a butthole, Rosario!

I legitimately laughed exactly once during this entire movie. The fact that I have that statistic on file means it doesn’t matter what the scene was. You’re not going to watch this movie for that one laugh. I’ve got it right here in my notebook. I could tell you. But no. I’m keeping it stored away in my side boob bunker. If you’re planning on watching Gotcha! by now, you hate yourself as much as I hate the both of us.

Must-See Screencap: I almost picked the shot of Anthony Edwards hiding in the trash can, but you can see that in the trailer.

C’mon, your phone needs new wallpaper.

I’ve decided to go with the baffling final shot of the film. In the beginning, a woman treats Jonathan like a shithead because he spilled Diet Pepsi on her while running through campus with a paintball gun like a shithead. To get his revenge on her (like a shithead would feel he deserves), he shoots her in the ass with a tranquilizer dart. Again, this is the closing shot of the entire movie… and it’s a freeze-frame.

It’s probably for the best that we don’t see what happens after this…


Why It Seems Like a Good Gift: As you can see on the cover, “if you enjoyed Top Gun, you’ll have a great time!” Also, helicopters! Maybe you can turn that Top Gun fan into an Airwolf fan. (Much easier to shop for.)

Why It’s the Wrong Gift for a Top Gun Fan: It’s not. Gotcha!

Here’s what caught me off guard: Leonard Maltin gave Gotcha! two-and-a-half stars. I thought it was a boring piece of shit. Leonard gave Fire Birds a rating of BOMB. I assumed that meant it’s so awful that it jumps out of the TV Poltergeist-style and removes the memory of three movies you love.

The shit is this? Is he late for everything because his car’s on fire?

Well, I’m stunned to announce: I really enjoyed Fire Birds.

Let’s not get carried away, it’s definitely a bad movie. But it’s a bad movie starring Nicolas Cage, Tommy Lee Jones, and Sean Young. I’d watch the three of them install sheet rock for two hours. Actually, um, copyrighted. That’s mine. Bill Gray. Cinema 52. TM. However that works.

Nic Cage is delightfully Nic Cagey as Jake “Stinger” Preston, a call sign James Tolkan totally called dibs on. He’s a hotshot helicopter pilot, so not Top Gun. Here’s why I really liked his character: Nic plays him as insane as Maverick should be played in Top Gun. Mav is ultimately presented as charming on top of all the tower-buzzing and bathroom-stalking; Jake Preston straight up doesn’t give a fuck. He’s a goddamned psycho, and he doesn’t try to hide it. Here’s a scene of him in a simulator screaming, “I AM THE GREATEST!” over and over for a solid minute.

Yes. Get this man in a real helicopter. Now.

Tommy Lee Jones is, as always, the most watchable exposition delivery service you will ever see. His character is Brad “Rattler” Little, and it’s his job to teach you how to fly a “heel-a-copter.” He combines the reserved fatherly tone of Top Gun‘s Viper with the over-the-top chicken-fried aphorisms of the original (and still the best) Stinger. See if you can pick out which one of these quotes I made up…

A: Get the fuck off of IMDb and watch the movie.

Sean Young is also a pilot, so you’re probably thinking love interest, right? Well, you called it, but she’s Preston’s ex-wife, Billie Lee “Rebel” Guthrie, and he tries to win her back over the course of the movie, as only Nic Cage can. This is a far more interesting dynamic than any of the love stories I’ve suffered through this year. (Slurp it, An Officer and a Gentleman.) No, it’s not played much classier than the others, but at least they have a better reason for all the cat-and-mouse than Top Gun. Oh, I almost forgot about the scene where Nic and Sean trade a bunch of aviation-based sexual innuendos as they fly. It’s tasteless as fuck… and I love it.

The maximum amount anyone should grin after Nic Cage refers to his dong.

Leonard Maltin has completely misjudged this film. Sure, the story isn’t very original, the writers don’t seem to understand how helicopters work, the editing is frantic to cover up the mediocre flight choreography, the music is a computer pretending to be trumpets and Phil Collins, and they honestly try to make “totally cool” the hit catchphrase of the movie, but in the end, Nic Cage drives a jeep wearing panties on his head.

Because this is the ONLY way to train a weak eye.

We’ve got the epitome of so-bad-it’s-good right here. My recommendation: buy this for your Top Gun fan, and either way, you can’t lose. If they hate it, take it from them, play it at parties, and drown in all the sex. If they love it, congratulations, you win at gifts and you can get them a Nic Cage movie every year for the rest of their lives, because they’re a Fire Birds fan now.

Must-See Screencap: In the middle of an argument with his ex-wife, Nic Cage calls upon his thespian anger spirits and they conjure up the only logical acting solution: the High-Kick of Frustration.

The Short Version of This Article: Fire Birds does not contain France.