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I always said the only way you'd get me to sit through Top Gun again is if a paycheck was involved. For the past two summers it's been my pleasure to team with CommCinema outdoor movies to show films free of charge throughout San Diego county. This year's season kicked off with last night's 25th anniversary screening of the sophomoric Tom Cruise recruitment film.


Friends and colleagues rest easy when I'm in the multiplex. The second something goes awry on-screen, I'm the first one rushing towards the exit door in search of an usher. I am the original stickler when it comes to image quality -- there are two kinds of focus: in and out -- and when it comes to projection, Comm Cinema is strictly top shelf. This isn’t some low-quality board room LCD projector and a sheet nailed to a wall. We’re talking true high-definition, widescreen DLP® digital cinema projected on a 32-foot inflatable screen. It’s the same projection technology found in the finest indoor movie theaters, only better: I’m the one turning the focus knob and adjusting the aspect ratio.

Enough shameless self-promotion. According to David Robb's Operation Hollywood: How the Pentagon Shapes and Censors the Movies, after the release of Top Gun, the number of young men who enlisted in the Navy increased by 500%! You will never catch me saying anything kind about a movie that reduces lethal combat to the level of a video game. Not since The Duke went toe-to-toe with Tojo has the act of killing in the name of peace had this big a WOW factor.

The movie, with its hyper music video pacing, silhouetted dialog scenes, and wafer thin characterizations was as bad as remembered. While it's nowhere near the experience of watching Citizen Kane on the locations where it was filmed in Balboa Park, there is still a lot to be said about experiencing Top Gun with a hometown crowd.


Only in San Diego would a ramshackle lean-to used as a location for a hokey Tom Cruise movie be deemed worthy of historical status. The 1,000-plus in attendance cheered on each appearance of the 124-year-old Queen-Anne cottage perched at 102 Pacific St. overlooking the amphitheater. The crowd afforded the cottage that doubled as Kelly McGillis' lodging the same royal response they did the cast.

The foot-stomping, roof-raising din that went up each time Tom and his fly-boys shot down a flock of enemy planes during the film's "killing-is-cool" climax failed to impress. And speaking of climaxes, didn't the character played by Tom Cruise look more comfortable in the arms of Anthony Edwards rather than love interest Kelly McGillis?


Before the show, we were treated to a half-hour patriotic set performed by the First Marine Division Marine Corps Band. Their rousing finale rendition of The Star-Spangled Banner was topped by a perfectly-timed flyover by a F-18 jet.


The Memorial Day Weekend celebration continues today with more free events including another open-air screening of Top Gun, this time without the pre-show entertainment and flyover. Here's the day-long schedule:

11:00-2:00 – Professional, Celebrity and Military Volleyball Tournament and the Top Gun house located at Mission and Pacific Streets.

2:00-4:30 – Children’s Volleyball Clinic.

6:00-8:30 - Donations collected for the Wounded Warriors Battalion at Camp Pendleton.

7:40 p.m. – Top Gun screening.

Photo of the "Top Gun" house courtesty [email protected]

  • Big Screen alerts


Colonna May 28, 2011 @ 8:10 p.m.

For directions to the screening, take the Highway to the Danger Zone...


Fred Williams May 29, 2011 @ 5:06 a.m.

I arrived at NAS Miramar in time to see some of the filming of Top Gun. Our planes are in some of the scenes, and the petty officer who carries the tray of coffee that ends up in the officer's lap is no other than Wayne Gates, a yeoman in my squadron (VF-211).

We got back from deployment aboard the Kitty Hawk, and were told to go to Horton Plaza in uniform to see the film free.

It was okay...as long as you didn't know anything about aircraft carriers, fighter squadrons, or NAS Miramar.

Riding a motorcycle without a helmet on base? No way!

"Buzzing" the tower. Only in the movies.

The helicopters landing before the fighter planes? Uh, explain how the chopper goes faster than an F-14, or how you can land planes with a hilo blocking the arresting gear...

Worst of all...when the enlisted guys on the flightdeck mob their returning pilot heroes we all started snorting out loud. I remember one squadron-mate, a plane captain, saying "Oh yeah! Happens all the time. Enlisted pukes ain't got nothing better to do on the flight deck than worship the pilots, huh? The jerks who break our planes and then expect us to fix them so they can break them again. I hate them."

A few weeks later, I was introduced to a LCDR who had been assigned as a "technical advisor" to the film after he had ejected and hurt his back. He explained that all he did was hang out for months at a posh Los Vegas suite, and every so often he'd be asked a few questions. When I asked about the laughable falsehoods in the movie he only grinned.

"There's flying tomcats, and there's making movies. Ain't the same thing, son."


(Formerly PN3) Williams


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