This 2010 made for TV movie probably looked like good fun on paper but somehow director Fred Olan Ray's man versus machine/passengers in peril/airplane disaster thriller flies way off course, and this is in spite of the presence of the generally awesome Brad Dourif and the always fun to look at Nicole Eggert.
The story follows a corporate big wig named Chuck Devain (Patrick Muldoon) who runs a company started by his father (Brad Dourif) that builds airplanes and who is ever so pleased to show off the debut of his company's latest creation, a plane that can fly on its own without the need for a pilot. See, they make this happen by installing some sort of light box into the cockpit of your typical 747 and then, voila, off you go into the wild blue yonder sans pilot and of course, in perfect safety. Despite the fact that the man who designed this thing, Tom Woodard (Casper Van Dien), says it's not ready, Devain insists it is and so they decide to give this thing its inaugural flight on a plane full of people.
What nobody seems to notice is that the computer system that controls the mysterious box that pilots the plane has been infected with a pesky computer virus which somehow manages to direct the plane right into the head of a nasty storm that is sure to tear it apart and kill everyone on board (that's where the title comes from, see - it's sending the plane into turbulent skies!). Though the powers that be try to deactivate things from the ground, the device has some built in defenses that they just aren't to override - thankfully, or maybe not so thankfully, Mrs. Woodard (Nicole Eggart) is on board and she just might be able to buy the plane and its passengers enough time to let Tom make his way up and onto the plane to save the day.
The best way to describe this turkey is predictable. There's so little suspense here that it's almost remarkable in just how easily the film telegraphs to the audience exactly what is going to happen. This takes pretty much all the fun out of the movie and while it gets off to a fun start with a well staged opening plane crash that is rather effective and fun despite the obviously low budget behind it, it's more or less all downhill from there.
The performances are moderately amusing, but offer now surprises. Muldoon plays the typical corporate bad guy in exactly the way you'd expect him to, periodically going slightly over the top for dramatic effect and scowling and yelling his way through the crisis, while his Starship Troopers co-star Van Dien is as noble and perfect a hero as you could ask for. Unfortunately he's also devoid of much semblance of a personality, so while he looks and acts the part, his character is so thin that he's completely disposable. Nicole Eggart still looks great and Brad Dourif is fun in his part but this isn't enough to save the movie, not even close.
The anamorphic 1.78.1 widescreen transfer is pretty standard looking in that colors are nicely defined and there are no problems with print damage, dirt or debris. Compression artifacts are never an issue though some shots look a bit softer than others and there are a few scenes where some minor edge enhancement is definitely noticeable. Overall though the picture is perfectly watchable.
The only audio option on this disc is an English language Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound mix, no alternate language options are supplied. Surround activity won't amaze you but the rear channels are used rather effectively in a few spots to spread out the effects and the score. Dialogue is easy enough to understand and there are no problems with any hiss or distortion. Things could have been more aggressive here and there but overall the track sounds fine.
We get a simple menu offering up chapter selection and.... that's it. There are no supplements on this disc.
Turbulent Skies is awful, and not in a so bad it's good way, just in a boring and incredibly predictable way. It's not exciting, it's not tense, it's not well acted nor is it particularly well shot - it's completely unimpressive and while the disc looks and sounds fine, the lack of any extras don't do it any favors. Skip it.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.