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  Directed by
  Starring
  Specs
  • Widescreen 1.85:1
  • 16:9 Enhanced
  Languages
  • English: Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround
  • English: Dolby Digital Surround
  Subtitles
  • None
  Extras
  • 1 Theatrical trailer
  • Animated menus - Nicely designed menus with audio
  • 4 Interviews - Cast and crew

Turbulence 2

Universal/Universal . R4 . COLOR . 97 mins . MA15+ . PAL

  Feature
Contract

Apparently originally known solely by its “other” title "Fear Of Flying", "Turbulence 2" is billed as a sequel to the 1997 action thriller "Turbulence", a film that paired a truly unbelievable script with some visceral action sequences that literally saved the movie. But if you were a fan of that film, be warned – "Turbulence 2" is a sequel in premise alone, featuring none of the cast or crew that brought you the original film. Made for theatrical release, this one’s gone straight to cable TV and video in most territories, including Australia. It’s not hard to see why.

A group of people taking a “fear of flying” course run by a mythical airline (to help them conquer their phobia and allow them to travel by air like, err, normal people) are heading off on their first real flight at the completion of the course, a flight that will take them to Honolulu via Los Angeles. We’re introduced to the key passengers both before the flight and after take-off in a pair of character-development sequences that subscribe to the “lay out the rules of the game for the audience” mentality also beloved of schlock-horror screenwriters, and then things get properly under way. It soon becomes clear that our main friends for the duration are going to be aircraft engineer Martin (Craig Scheffer), the permanently worried-looking Jessica (Jennifer Beals, who has spent much of her career since "Flashdance" in low-budget independent films to some acclaim) and the very plummy cliché-Brit Elliot Stephenson (Jeffrey Nordling). Also on the plane – aside from a bunch of neurotic fellow passengers whose characters are barely explored – is a bunch of mysterious Eastern Europeans with their mystery briefcase, freshly transferred from an Aeroflot flight. Darn, they look suspicious. And so, for that matter, does the male steward, added at the last second to the flight. Will everyone get to their destination in one happy piece? Hell no.

Although most thrillers of this type come loaded with plot contrivances and often leave reality behind, "Turbulence 2" could well be the genre’s new cheese champion. Everything about the film is stilted – from the script and acting to the low-budget “special” effects. The US Navy is represented by old stock footage that the producers haven’t even bothered to colour-match to the rest of the film, and the same goes for what appears to be leftover material (or mimicked FX) from the film’s predecessor. Plot twists abound, sure, and that should keep the audience amused for a while. But these are not characters you’ll care about, and that’s a fatal error for a character-driven action film.

Those of you who’ve seen the legendary comedy "Flying High" (or "Airplane" if you’re in the US) will know what to expect here – because believe it or not, this is "Flying High" without the comedy. Without the intentional comedy, anyway. Can a scared passenger land a 747 without the pilots? Can the air traffic controller (a cardboard Tom Berenger) talk him down safely? Will the city below be saved from certain devastation? If you’re a seasoned disaster-movie fan, you’ll know the answer to those questions.

Special mention must go to Captain Reynolds (Daryl Shuttleworth) for a bravura unintentional comedy performance that’s the rival of any air-disaster spoof. Gasp as he makes a bravura effort to lift the plane off the ground, grimacing with effort as he wrestles the throttle back with the expression of a man pushing a semi-trailer up a mountain (15.52)! Be amazed as he drives the plane with the concentration and determination of an old lady heading to church on Sunday (16.13)! Thrill as he pulls the plane out of a dive with a grimace that has to be seen to be believed (24.50)! And marvel at his defiantly heroic speech, complete with defiantly heroic background music (37.00)! After a Heston-calibre performance like this, it’s not surprising at all to find yourself shouting “shoot him, please shoot him” at the screen when the man’s in the inevitable dire peril.

There’s technical inaccuracy (since when could you shoot guns with abandon on a plane without making deadly holes in its fuselage?), clichés (“You’re gonna LAND this baby!”) and even some thinly disguised generic cigarette product placement (“Thank God for the tobacco companies – this is one day our habits could save our lives!”). This, folks, is a truly awful movie – though its relentless pace combined with B-movie amusement means it’s perfectly watchable without taxing a single brain cell.

How this scored an MA rating, by the way, is a mystery – the violence here is visceral, but – aside from a little blood – not anything worse than you’d see in the average Bond movie. And the “medium level coarse language” amounts to a mere handful of F-words. Could the censors have slept through this one…?

  Video
Contract

This is the first DVD that I’ve seen to be authored by Melbourne company IML Digital Media, and they’ve done a sterling job with the materials at hand. The main feature looks terrific – warmly saturated colour, a crisp but film-like image and MPEG encoding that’s only marred by a very occasional bit of artifacting during scenes with complex backgrounds (these are almost entirely control-tower scenes). The film is kept to a single-layer disc, but the full capacity of the disc has been used, and it shows. The feature is 16:9 enhanced – unlike the region 1 DVD, which is not.

The aspect ratio of the feature gives some cause for concern. Immediately after the opening credits, the ratio shifts from a kind of “compromise scope” ratio of about 2.2:1 to the main feature aspect of 1.85:1, and this is very noticeable – it happens right at the end of a scene rather than on a scene change. It’s very possible that this film was shot on Super 35 with the intention of ‘scope presentation in cinemas, but then reworked for video to a more acceptable “home” aspect ratio. There doesn’t seem to be any online info available on the film’s intended ratio, but rest assured that there’s no evidence of obnoxious cropping of the image throughout the feature.

The disc starts with IML’s very tasteful “trailer”, which is stylish, short and sound-free. It would have been greatly preferable, though, for this to have been placed at the end of the main feature, as Sony Pictures’ DVD Center have finally done with their titles. IML’s trailer cannot be skipped – not even with the “title” button – and neither can the opening Universal trailer, copyright notice or the Dolby Digital “City” trailer before the main feature itself. This is a disappointing restriction on the user, especially since there’s literally no way to avoid all of it. The Dolby trailer, incidentally, is presented at an aspect ratio of around 2.35:1, visibly horizontally stretched from what was obviously a 1.85:1 original. Dolby does provide their trailers in various aspect ratios, and this should never happen.

  Audio
Contract

The audio is workable for the material it’s soundtracking; both the 2.0 and 5.1 mixes are vibrant and very active, with crisp, clear dialogue and plenty of surround activity, most of it thanks to the continual thunderstorm sound effects that pop in whenever someone says something ominous! (We are, of course, expected to believe that a thunderstorm heard in a 747 would sound just like one on the ground!).

The film’s music score is another unintentional hilarity – composed by Don Davis (who did the score for "The Matrix" and its upcoming sequel), it bears a striking similarity to Brad Fiedel’s score for "Terminator 2". We’re sure the fact that this film is also a “T2” has nothing to do with this…!

  Extras
Contract

The very basic set of extras – the same as those on the region 1 DVD minus an audio commentary that no-one will miss – include a full-frame trailer for the film and a set of four “interview compilations” with the cast and crew talking about various aspects of the film’s production. The people being interviewed are not credited in any way, and once we get to the crew it’s impossible to tell who’s actually doing the talking. Also worth noting are the comments made by Jennifer Beals and Tom Berenger, both of who are quite clearly trying to hide their embarrassment about being part of the whole thing in the first place.

The full-motion menus on this disc are excellent, incidentally – presentation-wise, this one’s very slick.

  Overall  
Contract

Make no mistake; the film’s a turkey. But if you’re in the mood for some dumb entertainment that doesn’t require the use of your actual brain, this could well be the disc for you. Whether you’d want to buy the thing will depend on just how big a fan of air-disaster-action-thriller movies you are; most will only want to rent this and watch it once. This has, of course, all been done before – in dozens of movies, from the original "Airport" to "Air Force One" – and "Turbulence 2" is essentially a low-budget, unskilled cross between those two films, either of which would be a far better bet for the demanding air-opera fan.


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