Thunderbirds are GO (1966):
No wonder this thing bombed hard, it's like a stillborn Tales from the Thunderbirds Universe anthology film that abuses the three-act structure in pretty bold ways. The music video dream sequence is rad as hell though, and it demonstrates beautifully what Supermarionation could have been capable of had Gerry Anderson not been so driven by his boner for realism. And bonus points for making a children's movie that has an entire B-plot (D-plot?) about young Alan being blueballed by his brothers.
Air Strike (2004):
It's probably a safe bet to assume there's no such thing as a mockbuster that's better than the brand-name film it's exploiting, but this cheeky little number, directed by the Kickboxer helmer David Worth, comes pretty close to that unthinkable notion. Granted, it's not a mockbuster in the modern sense since it wasn't rushed out to exploit a concurrent big studio release; rather, it's a loving rip-off of a film over a decade older, David Green's 1990 Nic Cage / Tommy Lee Jones vehicle Fire Birds, which itself could be classified as a Top Gun rip-off. That film is not without its charms (how could it be with those leading men?), but it is badly aged trash where great actors get to mouth off lines like "Boy, you're gonna be busier than a three-peckered goat." Worth's film is trash remade as trash, so the playing field is surprisingly level. It obviously doesn't have the original's opulent budget and access to actual Apache helicopters, so it smartly leans on the stupid dialogue and cigar-chomping macho bullshit instead. And do I dare say it, in terms of scriptwriting it features some marked improvements over Fire Birds. For example, the original film did the Dunkirk thing where the main antagonist is this totally wordless, inhuman threat more reminiscent of a force of nature, which is perhaps artistic but really clashes with the loud and obnoxious overall tone of the movie. In Air Strike the big villain Ivan (a cartoonish version of the real-life war criminal Arkan) is a real character with some wondrously hammy villain moments with his bro named Chicago. Yes, the setting is changed from a made-up South American country to a made-up Eastern European country because it's cheap to film in Bulgaria, but the drug war plot is kept otherwise intact, which is just monstrously hilarious. Even after 9/11, it's the cocaine that's still the biggest danger to mom and apple pie.
Another thing I count as an improvement is the unambiguous centering of Robert Rusler's old dude character as the protagonist. Nic Cage is awesome, and Fire Birds was one of his earliest films where he really got to go shouty action Cage ("I am the greatest!"), but he seems like the wrong focal character when it's Jones who carries all of the pathos of the story. He's too old for this shit, the crack epidemic is a new and bewildering thing to him, and now he has to send young pilots to die against a threat that seems, as said, like a force of nature. Rusler's old badass is introduced late (and he's not even that old, really), but he's undoubtedly the biggest alpha of the bunch, and near the end he goes almost South Indian action hero on Ivan's men, dual-wielding AKs and lodging knives into people's foreheads before climbing back into the cockpit for a final aerial fight, which is just wholesale stock footage from Fire Birds. (An aside: how does one even get to use another movie as a source of stock footage when it's a different studio and/or production company? Is it just a matter of who's willing to sell their back catalog and their dignity?)
Any fans of Ayer's Suicide Squad will also be delighted to know that at one point Rusler gets saved by subversive continuity editing just like Captain Boomerang, and even some of the same items are involved!
It's also worth noting that while Air Strike is a very low-budget film, it's not cheap the same way The Asylum's films are. Sure, the flight scenes are recycled footage, with a sprinkling of not great CG choppers, but at ground level there are real gasoline explosions and squibs going off, and the real MVP effect of the film is the life-sized Apache mock-up used in the hangar scenes. The undercarriage is a bit of a giveaway that you're probably looking at a fiberglass shell on a pipe frame, but hey, an honest effort was made. And it has to be said that compared to its big-budget counterpart, Air Strike is the superior film in how it uses its filming location to its advantage. The nation of Petrovia is fleshed out through two brief but memorable scenes with members of the US-aligned government forces, and some news reports that carry big Soviet Strike FMV cut-scene energy. Fire Birds on the other hand is so uninterested about its big military conflict that it makes no effort to hide that the production never visited any place outside of Arizona.
Considering how terrible these bargain bin straight-to-video genre films can be, Air Strike is an upper echelon product. It's not boring like The Asylum's films or depressingly gringy like fat Seagal films. In its wilder moments it almost feels like a fan film that has escaped from some parallel universe wherein Fire Birds was this massive, generation-defining hit.