Tuesday, April 27, 2021

THE GREAT AMERICAN TRAFFIC JAM (1980)

THE GREAT AMERICAN TRAFFIC JAM (or TGATJ as it’s called in the ‘hood) is a great title for a movie. It conjures up all kinds of awesome images of thousands of cars wrecking and people dying. Freezing or burning to death in their whips. Donk rims dripping with blood and intestines. Human drama all over the place! Unfortunately, the reality of THE GREAT AMERICAN TRAFFIC JAM is more like watching an orange 1986 Ford Escort sliding, at 2 mph on an ice covered road, into a tree and then the passenger door falling off.

Originally broadcast on October 2, 1980 (according to IMDb), TGATJ tells the stories of various people in Los Angeles whose lives are affected by a gigantic traffic jam. There are two main stories that everything else kinda revolves around.  One is about a guy (Desi Arnaz Jr.) who needs to get to his pregnant wife.  The other is about a separated guy (John Beck) who is trying to get back in good with his family, but his job as a highway traffic controller takes up all his time. There’s a bunch of other characters (Charles Napier as a truck driver, Ed McMahon and Rue McClanahan as a bickering married couple, Paul Wilson as a biker, etc.), but they're all just tossed together like in an episode of The Love Boat, which was popular at the time.

As entertainment, THE GREAT AMERICAN TRAFFIC JAM is pretty weak, but the curiosity factor for the whole thing (at least for movie nerds) is there because I couldn’t help but be amused at how the cast could have so many recognizable faces, but still be made up completely of C-List (or lower) celebrities. There isn’t any big names at all. Ed McMahon and Noah Beery Jr. would probably(?) be the two biggest names here, but I can’t imagine them drawing a big audience on their own. So, I guess, the selling point to the film was supposed to be the traffic jam itself or the wrecks that caused it. If so, audiences were probably disappointed as fuck, because the wrecks sucked and the traffic jam itself sucked. And the humor was completely dead on arrival.  Unless, of course, shit like people selling traffic jam t-shirts or seeing Al from Happy Days at a drive thru ordering "6,000" hamburgers cracks you up.  And I'm sure that Butterfly McQueen reference had home audiences dying with laughter.

It sucks that there's so little information about this film online, because I would like to know more about it.  But at the time of this writing (04/27/2021), I can't really find fuck about it. I did enjoy seeing Paul from Cheers riding on a motorcycle with Ed McMahon. That's something you don't see everyday.

Sunday, April 18, 2021

FRONTIER(S) (2007)

When this delightful film opens, our young heroes are running with a bag full of stolen money, shooting into a group of innocent people and then pistol whipping a random dude. How nice. After escaping Paris, they drive out to the countryside and then pull over to spend a peaceful night at a hostel that anybody with even 1% of self-preservation would avoid like the plague. Somehow failing to notice that their hosts are literally murderous Nazi psychopaths, they not only rent a room but eat dinner with them and even have sex with two of the women…I think. The entire scene was shot so vaguely that I’m not really sure what happened.

Eventually we get to the violence and…it’s okay. With douchebag criminals on one side and Nazi's on the other, there’s nobody to root for, so you just hope for as much the old ultraviolence as possible. Skull bashing, throat ripping, hatchet chopping, Achilles tendon trauma, meat hook hanging, cooked alive, table saw body slam. The amount of mayhem was passable, but the gun play towards the end seemed out of place. I would have much rather seen somebody getting butchered in gnarly and crazy ways than simply being shot to death.

As it is though, FRONTIER(S) is still a mildly good time. Annoying shaky cam, muted colours, meh lighting, boring casting choices, only one memorable character (Goetz), uneven pace, okay special effects, interesting bad guy lair that could have been better utilized in the story, average acting, a few good kills, disappointing ending, distracting overacting by the Final Girl. FRONTIER(S) is nothing life changing, but worth checking out for horror fans.

I remember this film being kinda popular when it originally came out. Curious as to why there was never a sequel? The elements are all there for an improved continuation of the story…or even a remake at this point.