The Thing (1982) – A ’31 Films Of Halloween’ Quick Capsule Review

The Thing (1982) – A ’31 Films Of Halloween’ Quick Capsule Review

Quick Review

Phil’s Quick Capsule Review:
The Thing is the template for how to make a (relatively) low budget tense, character driven sci-fi horror.  The remake is the template for how NOT to and that’s why it should be avoided at all costs.  Carpenter’s The Thing is lightning in a bottle, it could never be bettered. In fact it cemented Russell as a leading man for generations to come and Carpenter as a true icon of horror.   Critics hated it but even today it holds up as a true cult classic. Nearly perfect.

Best Bit: The ending.

Buy, Stream, Avoid: Buy

If You Liked this Try: Escape From New York, Halloween, Alien 

 

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Serenity (2005) – A Hall of Fame Quick Capsule Review

Serenity (2005) – A Hall of Fame Quick Capsule Review

Hall of Fame Quick Review

Phil’s Quick Capsule Review:
One of the best sci-fi films in recent memory, Serenity (based on the superb but brief TV show Firefly) is an action packed, superbly crafted ride that delivers you so much more than blockbusters with 3 times the budget. It’s also not afraid to throw in a few surprises… not least killing one of the casts most loved characters. Almost 15 years on it holds up surprisingly well.  In short I adore this world and we are all worse off that we’ve never been back.   As Mal would say… Shiny!

Best Bit: The Bar

Buy, Stream, Avoid: Buy

If You Liked this Try: Firefly, Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Pitch Black

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Lock, Stock And Two Smoking Barrels (1998) – A Quick Capsule Review

Lock, Stock And Two Smoking Barrels (1998) – A Quick Capsule Review

Quick Review

Phil’s Quick Capsule Review:
Simply put I consider Lock, Stock And Two Smoking Barrels to be one of the best British films of all time and for sure one of the best films by a debut director.  The script sparkles, the music so perfectly placed and the performances are committed, genuine and believable.  Beyond all that the editing & direction scream out at you in the best way possible.  It’s exciting, funny, endlessly quotable and stands up to multiple repeat viewings.

Best Bit: The poker game

Buy, Stream, Avoid: Buy

If You Liked this Try: Snatch, Reservoir Dogs, Layer Cake

 


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Children Of Men (2006) – A Hall of Fame Quick Capsule Review

Children Of Men (2006) – A Hall of Fame Quick Capsule Review

Quick Review

Phil’s Quick Capsule Review:
Children Of Men was one of the most original and thought provoking films of 2006 and rewatching it is still as brilliant and impactful as the day I first watched it. The dystopian world created by Cuarón is so real you can almost taste it.  This, backed up with some epic cinematography (not least one of the best ‘one take’ shots in cinema) and you have a real must own film.  In short Children Of Men is powerful, expertly made and once again shows that with the right script and director, Clive Owen is as good as anyone out there.

Best Bit: The one-take Bexhill sequence

Buy, Stream, Avoid: Buy

If You Liked this Try: The Road, Akira, World War Z

 

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Rex Manning Day: Empire Records (1995) – A (Not So) Quick Capsule Review

Rex Manning Day: Empire Records (1995) – A (Not So) Quick Capsule Review

Quick Review

Phil’s (Not So) Quick Capsule Review:  Empire Records was a massive bomb on it’s original release.  Critically and commercially.  Roger Ebert hated it (that said he hated The Usual Suspects…), Variety labelled it as “Soundtrack in search for a movie”  and it grossed under £300k on it’s theatrical release.   Yet as the years go on so the cult around Empire Records continues to grow and grow.  From regular midnight screenings to the annual Rex Manning Day celebrations (8th April) more and more people have come around to the fact that Empire Records is, actually, pretty damn good.

The story, as such, is about an independent record store on the brink of a take over by a nasty big multi national chain called Music Town stuck with a eclectic team of broken teens and an ego manic musician reluctantly there to plug his new album.  In reality it’s coming of age story that kind of ends up being a 90’s Breakfast Club set in a Record Store rather than a detention.  But, like many a cult hit, this film is less about the story and more about the feels & the characters.  And that is something this film has in spades.

Backtrack.  I discovered Empire Records in a video shop in my home town of Lewes (Lewes Videos take a much deserved bow) thanks mostly to it’s excellent owner who had an ability to find little heard of classics and fill his shelves with them.  From 80’s actioners Action Jackson, Never To Young To Die and my love of Jackie Chan – without that shop I’d probably not be writing this review here.   See before the internet, before Facebook and Instagram a cult hit became a cult hit often from a knowledgeable video clerk pointing you in the direction of something a little special.  Yes the Tarantino stories of video shop life weren’t all exaggerations!  Sadly those days have now passed but I do wonder if this film came out now and had similar reception if it’s fandom would grow as much as it has or would it’s 30 score on Metacritic or sub 30% on Rotten Tomatoes consign it to some little seen Sky Movies channel at 4am in the morning?  

It was a film that initially felt ahead of it times whilst being a launch pad for the careers of at least 3 big stars (Zellweger, Tyler and Tunney).  And this is the key Empire Records continued success.  The cast are brilliant.   Be it Liv Tyler’s innocent but broken Harvard student Corey or Rene Zellweger’s s–ty Gina, Maxwell Caulfield egotist singer Rex Manning or Anthony LaPaglia heart of gold store manager Joe… Empire’s characters resonate hard. For sure it’s not the best acted or directed film of the 90’s. But it’s cast gave it heart and soul, making it relatable.

Oh and the soundtrack.  I’ve seen empire Records well over twenty times. But the soundtrack I’ve listened to hundreds.  And much like the films cast it’s full of oddballs, strangeness, 2nd tier hits and one hit wonders it’s soundtrack delivers an eclectic mix from Coyote Shivers to Edwin Collins.  Look beyond the official soundtrack album to Spotify playlists that have been created with music that didn’t make it to the CD and you’ll find even more quirky tracks covering Gwar, Dire Straights and many more.

I have to admit part of the original appeal for me was Liv Tyler.  Empire was Tyler’s third film (after the very good Heavy and the little seen Silent Fall) but I’m pretty sure I caught it after seeing her in Stealing beauty (a wonderful film in itself). I had a major crush so anything with Tyler in was a draw for me.  She still remains a very underrated actress, with film appearances fleeting after the early successes.

No commentary for this film could pass without reference to the wonderful creation that is Rex Manning.  Part Hoff part every one hit wonder clinging to his heyday singer that’s ever been, former teen star Maxwell Caulfield who himself has something of a high and low filled career (see the critically hated Grease 2) delivers a note perfect slimeball performance backed up by the so bad it’s brilliant ‘Say No More Mon Amour’ track.

Don’t get me wrong the film has flaws.  It’s random to the point of being totally undisciplined, certain characters (Mark) seem like they are in a different film and it’s no surprise that few of the male cast broke big down the line.  BUT no work of art, no movie is perfect and it’s flaws just make it that bit more real.

Even thought Empire Records flopped on it’s release, in the 20 plus years that have followed it’s cult has grown enough for it to get some much needed love back from the rights holders. A ‘Fan Edit’ a few years back was released  (I’m not a massive fan as it kills the pacing and makes certain sections drag longer than they should) and a US Region A BluRay Release.  Outside the official stuff, there’s Etsy shops galore with pins, name badges and posters and Rex Manning Day has become a thing.  No really.

Empire Records was of it’s time.  And like many films I hold dear from my formative years, it’s one that stuck with me.  I’ve never shown it to anyone that didn’t love it.  I embrace it’s flaws.  I love it’s quirkiness and like Warren I too deep down just wanted Joe to give me a job.

Damn the man, Save The Empire! 

 


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Happy 2019 Rex Manning Day!

Happy 2019 Rex Manning Day!

A Blog

“We mustn’t dwell. No, not today. We can’t. Not on Rex Manning day!” -Mark (Ethan Embry)

April 8th is a big day for Empire Records enthusiasts as it’s been deemed Rex Manning Day.  And thus we celebrate that day every year at Phil’s Quick capsule Review.

From TIME magazine:
“Rex Manning was the fictional pop star in the 1995 movie Empire Records. On April 8, “Oh Rexy, you’re so sexy” Manning has a scheduled appearance at a struggling independent record store that the staff (which includes Renee Zellweger and Liv Tyler) is desperately trying to save from turning into corporate chain.

While the film flopped, making a mere quarter million dollars during its two-week theatrical run, it quickly became a cult classic — and the fake-tanned Rex Manning became an icon.”

“Who knows where thoughts come from. They just appear.”Joe

 

Check out the soundtrack on SPOTIFY

 

 

 


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The Rock (1996) – A Hall of Fame Quick Capsule Review

The Rock (1996) – A Hall of Fame Quick Capsule Review

Hall of Fame Quick Review

Phil’s Quick Capsule Review:
Oddly I wasn’t a fan of The Rock when I first saw it. But twenty years later (yes really) I’m truly amazing just how much this film blew me away.  It’s by far the best Michael Bay film (with Bad Boys a close second) with a killer performance by both Connery and Cage and for sure it’s one of the best action films of the 90’s… which is some praise if you look at a decade full of great action films.  From the car chase to the initial arrival on Alcatraz, from the Indiana Jones styled mine cart escape to Cage’s OTT venting it’s just a joy.  The Rock is essential and a welcome addition to the Hall of Fame.

Best Bit: Car Chase

Buy, Stream, Avoid: Buy

If You Liked this Try: Bad Boys, Armageddon, Transformers 

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RoboCop (1987) – A Hall of Fame Quick Capsule Review

RoboCop (1987) – A Hall of Fame Quick Capsule Review

Hall of Fame Quick Review

Phil’s Quick Capsule Review:
Entering the SciFi wing of the Hall Of fame comes RoboCop – the 1987 Paul Verhoeven directed part action part satire that tackles crime, media and violence with a sardonic tone and a dark sense of humour.  Over 30 years later it’s surprising just how well RoboCop holds up (and conversely just how forgettable the recent remake is).  And even scarier… it feels very much like this could be modern day Trump America.  Weller does a great job with the obvious and considerable restrictions that the RoboCop role put upon him but he nails it.  However it’s the film villains that shine the most – from Ronny Cox as corporate bully Dick Jones to Kurtwood Smith as the psychotic Clarence Boddicker they chew up the scenery and give the film some really hateful villains.  But beyond that it’s a film full of iconic moments – Ed-209, the suit itself, the uber-violence and the infinitely quotable one liners.   In short – A must watch.

Best Bit: ED 209 goes rogue.

Buy, Stream, Avoid: Buy

If You Liked this Try: RoboCop 2, The Terminator, Total Recall 

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Gremlins (1984) – A Hall of Fame Quick Capsule Review

Gremlins (1984) – A Hall of Fame Quick Capsule Review

Hall of Fame Quick Review

Phil’s Quick Capsule Review:
Gremlins is a stone cold classic for sure but unlike a lot of beloved 80’s films it truly holds up today.  Okay so the technology has moved on and its setting is about as 80’s as you can get BUT it’s themes, hi-jinx and boldness helps this film still feel pretty timeless.  The thing that makes gremlins really work is underneath its cute exterior hides a brilliantly dark mean street.  Fathers trapped down chimneys, deadly stair lifts and lethal snow plows… it’s everything a Christmas movie should be and more.  And your kids WILL like it.  Essential.

Best Bit: The Bar

Buy, Stream, Avoid: Buy

If You Liked this Try: Gremlins 2: The New Batch, Small Soldiers, Critters 

 

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2: Top Gun (1986) – Phil’s Top 10 Films

2: Top Gun (1986) – Phil’s Top 10 Films

Hall of Fame Quick Review

Phil’s Quick Capsule Review:
Top Gun is everything you want in a film.  It’s quotable, it’s funny, it has the best aerial action sequences ever shot in a film and has a soundtrack that still get’s played almost weekly in my house.  It’s also, in it’s own way, pretty ground breaking.  Yes it’s become a film of much discussion over the years (think Tarantino Top Gun Gay rant)  but none of this matters when you have a film that’s so full of iconic moments. Top Gun is of it’s day for sure but this is the film that launched careers (director Tony Scott, Cruise, Kilmer), helped Bruckheimer establish himself as an action producer de jour and made a bucket load of money to boot.  I adore this movie and wont hear a bad thing about it… so walk away now.  Go on.  You’ve obviously lost that love and feeling…

Best Bit: The final battle

Buy, Stream, Avoid: Buy

If You Liked this Try: The Rock, Man On fire, Iron Eagle

 

 

 

 

 

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