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Johnny LaRue's Crane Shot
Sunday, October 2, 2005
There's No One Left To Fly The Plane!
Now Playing: MAYDAY
Kudos to CBS for being virtually the only television network to continue producing crappy movies for its Sunday night lineup. Following in the lowbrow footsteps of last season's SPRING BREAK SHARK ATTACK and LOCUSTS comes MAYDAY, which aired tonight.

It's based on a novel co-written by Nelson DeMille. I have read most of DeMille's work, including THE GENERAL'S DAUGHTER, CATHEDRAL and WORD OF HONOR, but somehow missed this one. If director TJ Scott adapted it accurately, then it doesn't seem as though it was worth reading.

MAYDAY is a movie you've already seen a zillion times, from big-budget studio affairs like AIRPORT 1975 and SKYJACKED (hmmm, both with Charlton Heston) to low-budget DTV schlock like GROUND CONTROL and TURBULENCE 3: HEAVY METAL. It's the 1,583,433rd movie about a novice pilot who takes over the cockpit of a passenger jet and manages to land it with help from the control tower and a stiff-upper-lipped stew. MAYDAY does throw in an interesting twist that I don't think I've seen before, in that the people on the ground don't particularly want the disabled plane to land and try to sabotage it.

Aidan Quinn (BLINK) stars as a "weekend pilot" taking a flight from San Francisco to Tokyo. After the U.S. Navy fires a test missile that accidentally smashes into the passenger jet, ripping a hole in one side of the fuselage and exiting through another on the other side, most of the passengers and crew are either sucked out 65,000 feet above the Earth or in an oxygen-deprivation coma. Only a handful of able-bodied passengers remain, including Quinn and stewardess Kelly Hu (X-MEN 2).

The radio is out, so Quinn can only communicate with the authorities in San Fran via a datalink that involves text messaging. Unfortunately, an icy insurance executive (Gail O'Grady of AMERICAN DREAMS) convinces an oily airline executive (Sasha Roiz) that it would be better off for their companies--and certainly cheaper--if the airplane were to crash, so they IM false instructions to Quinn.

Meanwhile, the dumbass Naval commander (Dean Cain, the 21st-century Dack Rambo) that fired the missile also wants to cover up his mishap, so he orders his fighter pilots to blow the jet out of the sky. His superior officer (Charles S. "Roc" Dutton, currently starring in CBS' THRESHOLD) seems opposed to it, but he doesn't exactly exert himself to stop Cain.

All the cliches are here, and it says something about the cast that they almost make you believe what's going on, even though director Scott provides zero suspense and the story is ludicrous (I mean, really, how did the airline think it was going to cover up its instructions to Quinn to turn off his engines?). The crummy CGI effects would have been laughable in a LAND OF THE LOST episode thirty years ago and make one long for a return to three-dimensional miniature effects.

CBS is back at it next week with THE HUNT FOR THE BTK KILLER, a "ripped from the headlines" docudrama in the mode of THE ATLANTA CHILD MURDERS with Martin Sheen and THE CASE OF THE HILLSIDE STRANGLERS with Richard Crenna. Few famous serial killers haven't been the focus of a made-for-television movie. With Gregg Henry (BODY DOUBLE) playing the notorious Kansas killer "BTK" and Robert Forster (JACKIE BROWN) as a detective, this film should at least offer some solid acting chops, even though the true-life story doesn't seem to offer much in the way of TV-style dramatics. After all, the cops more or less accidentally caught the guy when he was dumb enough to leave evidence on a computer he was using at his church.

Posted by Marty at 10:48 PM CDT
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