Thursday, February 8, 2018

TWO-FER WAC REVIEW: SUBURBIA (1996) & JUDGMENT NIGHT (1993)


It's time for a two-fer review, two slices of 90's cinema just received the Warner Archive MOD DVD treatment, we have Richard Linklatter's SuBurbia (1996) debuting on digital home media and Stephen Hopkins' Judgment Night (1993) getting a release on DVD following it being out-of-print for some time.  Both of these films feature a night out on the town for a group of friends, in Suburbia we have a group of Gen-Xers contemplating all the ways that life can suck on the night a kid-done-good arrives back in town. In Judgement Night we have a group yuppie friends heading into Chicago for a boxing match, but when they drive their RV into the wrong side of the tracks they find themselves on the run from a vicious drug dealer after witnessing a murder, and the pressure of each stort unleashes bickering among the groups. 

Something else the films have in common are uncommonly cool soundtracks, with Judgement Night we have an assortment of rock/rap hybrids from Teenage Fanclub and De La Soul, Living Colour and Run DMC, Faith No More and Boo-Yaa T.R.I.B.E., Helmet and House of Pain, Mudhoney and Sir-Mix-A-Lot and Sonic Youth and Cypress Hill among others. Following the success of Faith No More with The Real Thing  (1990) the fusion of rock and rap enjoyed quite a wellspring of popularity, and this soundtrack came at just the right time to capitalize on it. 



The soundtrack for SubUrbia came later in the 90's, alterna-rock and indie was enjoying renewed popularity on rock radio across the nation, alternative tribute albums and indie rock compilations were pouring into the record stores, and this one in my opinion was one of the best soundtrack albums of the era, featuring alternative rock darlings like Sonic Youth, Beck, Elastica, Gilrs Agsinst Boys, The Flaming Lips and Butthole Surfers, and as was popular at the time featured some choice covers, with Elastica (joined by Stephen Malkmus of Pavement) covering L.A. punkers X's "The Unheard Music" and Boss Hog covering the Kinks classic "I'm not Like Everybody Else" 

SUBURBIA (1996)
Label: Warner Archive
Region Code: Region-FREE
Rating: R
Duration: 121 Minutes
Audio: English Dolby Digital
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 
Director; Richard Linklatter
Cast: Jayce Bartok, Amie Carey, Nicky Katt, Ajay Naidu, Parker Posey, Giovanni Ribisi, Samia Shoaib, Dina Spybey, Steve Zahn, Kitt Brophy, Jonn Cherico, Keith Preusse, Erica Parker, William Martin Hayes 

SuBurbia (1996) is based on a play by Eric Bogosian (Special Effects) and directed by Richard Linklater (Slacker) and concerns a night in the life of a group of early-20's friends, typical 90's loser-ish types who hang around outside of a convenience store in Burnfield, TX, much to the chagrin of the store's Pakistani owner Nazeer (Ajay Naidu) and his wife who are regularly ridiculed and racistly taunted by the disaffected group. I do find it rather tasty that the man who inspired Kevin Smith to make c-store classic Clerks (1994) ended up making a movie about a group of friends who hang about a convenience store, similarly the two have great 90's alt rock soundtracks to accompany them.

The friends are made up of pizza-slinger Buff (Steve Zahn), slackerish Jeff (Giovanni Ribisi), ill-tempered Air Force dropout Tim (Nicky Katt), aspiring riot grrrl artist Sooze (Amie Carey) and her bestie Bee-Bee (Dina Spybey), a recovering addict. The group regularly make a night of hanging out behind the c-store drinking and talking out of their asses about nothing in particular. What makes this night so special is that they are waiting on the rerun of a local kid made good, rocker Pony (Jayce Bartok) went to Hollywood and made it big with his band Dreamgirl who are on a national tour and have stopped into town for a gig, with the singer arranging to meet-up with his former chums to catch-up on all things. 

The rockers return dredges up feeling of envy, inadequacy and petty jealousy among the group, managing to fracture relationships and friendships, as the drinking and shit-talking continues the tension mounts, particularly between Pony and Tim, and the group and the store owner. I must say that at the time in '97 the dialogue rang true to me when I saw it in my early twenties, I could relate to the angst of the age, although I must say that nothing in my life has come close to the River's Edge-esque slant of the story.

The film is dark and nihilistic in a Gen-Xer sort of way, more so than most of Linklatter's work before or since, that would seem to be the Bogosian writing coming through, it sort of drowns out the Linklatter-ness of it all, which is too bad in my opinion. The movie maybe doesn't hold-up the way I remembered it, and if I'm honest it has a lot to do with the phenomenal alt-rock soundtrack, which has been in regular rotation in my car since about '97, it's garnered the movie more love in my mind than in reality it might rightfully deserve, watching it now this is actually kind of a bad Gen-Xer movie, but it has it's moments, it's not S.F.W. (1994) bad (another 90's movie with a disproportionately cool soundtrack) and Parker Posy as the approval seeking record company exec is fun as always, and the soundtrack is still tops.  


JUDGMENT NIGHT (1993) (MOD)

Label: Warner Archive

Region Code: Region-Free

Rating: R

Duration: 109 Minutes
Audio: English Dolby Digital 

Video: Anamorphic Widescreen (2.35:1) 
Director: Stephen Hopkins  
Cast: Emilio Estevez, Cuba Gooding Jr., Denis Leary, Stephen Dorff, Jeremy Piven, Peter Greene, Michael Wiseman, Michael DeLorenzo 

Onto Judgment Night we have another night in the life of story, they're not Gen-Xers but are instead four men in their thirties  - we have family man Frank (Emilio Estevez), his wilder younger brother John (Stephen Dorff), trouble-making friend Mike (Cuba Gooding Jr.) and slimy car salesman-type Ray  (Jeremy Piven), who get together and drive into Chicago in a luxury RV to watch a big fight, but bad traffic and poor planning waylay them into lateness, inspiring Ray to take an ill-advised detour off the freeway and into the seedier part of town looking for a shortcut, but of course they end up hopelessly lost in the inner city. 

Driving through the darkened and mostly vacant streets they end up hitting a young man and get caught up in the dealing of a local drug dealer named Fallon, played by comedian Denis Leary, witnessing him murder a low-level pusher they become witnesses, and Fallon's not too keen about having witness to his crimes, so he marks the group for death. The four make a run for it though the nightmarish urban setting, with the RV going up in flames and Fallon and his crew close behind them. 

The guys run for cover into a rail yard where they have to contend with the locals railway hobos, then they seek shelter in a tenement building where Ray makes a uncharacteristic self-sacrifice to save his buddies, who then head into the sewers where they begin to make a proper stand against Fallon and his crew, eventually ending up at an indoor flea market where the final confrontation takes place, the whole thing has a whiff of The Warriors about to a certain extent. 

This one ended up being a lot of fun, an urban action film with some loads of atmosphere, the urban landscapes nicely lit up like Dario Argento  film, bathed in swaths of colored lighting, and what a cast, we have Emilio Estevez who makes for a surprisingly good lead/hero in the piece, and more surprisingly is that Dennis Leary is a delightfully demented as the baddie, and Cuba Gooding Jr. didn't even annoy me, which is very rare.

Both of these films arrive on DVD from the Warner Archive as part of the MOD (Manufactured On Demand) releases, meaning it's a burned (not pressed) disc and is bare bones, with only trailers. However, the anamorphic widescreen transfers and Dolby Digital audio looks and sounds great. I wouldn't say that either of these are the Best of the 90's, but they both interesting films deserving of proper Blu-ray releases with cool extras, but for now I am pleased to have these MOD titles in my hands. 



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