FIRE BIRDS (PG-13) --

With the help of the high-tech Apache helicopter gunship, Army pilots Nicholas Cage, Tommy Lee Jones and Sean Young battle South American drug cartels. Area theaters.

TIE ME UP! TIE ME DOWN! (Unrated) --

Spanish director Pedro Almodovar's love-at-first-bondage tale, with its soap-operatic overtones, has all the promising earmarks of, well, an Almodovar movie. But the ribald creator of "Law of Desire," "Matador" and "Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown" doesn't quite secure all the knots. A psychiatric ward inmate (Antonio Banderas) has become obsessed with a B-movie actress and recovering heroin addict (Victoria Abril), ever since he slipped out one night and enjoyed a one-night stand with her. When he's released, he decides they're destined to be with each other. But when she fails to recognize him, he decides that kidnaping her and keeping her bound and gagged is probably the best way to jog her memory (and win her heart). It's the mark of an Almodovar film that he does this normally criminal deed with childishly sweet, romantic fervor, and that she will learn to love the ties that bind. The picture has a certain lightweight sense of fun. There's a scene, for instance, in which a battery-operated deep-sea diver undertakes a risque underwater exploration when Abril takes a bath. But, for the most part, "Tie" (or its Spanish title, "Atame!") lacks the director's usual flamboyant fusing of melodramatic tackiness and heartfelt passion. He seems to be merely passing time.