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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Straight Outta Compton (2015) –  A Quick Capsule Review (Revisited)

Straight Outta Compton (2015) – A Quick Capsule Review (Revisited)

Quick Review

Phil’s Quick Capsule Review:
Biopics are hard to pull off, especially when the subject (s) are both well known and still living.  But give a good director a good story and an oscar nominated script (criminally the only nominations or this film) and you end up with Straight Outta Compton – a quality look at the rise of N.W.A and rap music in America in the late 80’s and early 90’s.  Dre, Cube, E and Snoop are all represented here and whilst the film has taken some flack for leaving some of the rougher edges out, it’s still pretty hard hitting at times. Racism, AIDS, betrayal, drugs and money – it’s all on display alongside some of the best music of the decade.  A must see.

Best Bit: F–k The Police

Buy, Stream, Avoid: Buy

If You Liked this Try: 8 Mile; Boyz In The Hood

 


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Killer Klowns From Outta Space (1988) – A Quick Capsule Review (Revisited)

Killer Klowns From Outta Space (1988) – A Quick Capsule Review (Revisited)

Quick Review

Phil’s Quick Capsule Review:
Killer Klowns may sound like a cheap 80’s low budget horror film (which to be fair it is) BUT it offers far more invention and creativity than you would expect from a film made for peanuts and directed by a trio of brothers who have done little of note since.   The basic premise of Alien clowns killing people in a small town is silly enough but the charm in which is does it and the creative use of clown tropes makes this far more enable that it has any right to have and oddly stands up well over 30 years later.  One to stream for sure (now on Netflix UK).

Best Bit: Shadow Puppets

Buy, Stream, Avoid: Stream

If You Liked this Try: Ticks, The Blob, Critters

 


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Sorry to Bother You (2018)- A Quick Capsule Review

Sorry to Bother You (2018)- A Quick Capsule Review

Quick Review

Phil’s Quick Capsule Review:
Okay so to explain Sorry to Bother You would be pretty hard without some pretty big spoilers. That said if you think along the lines of Get Out then you are not a million miles off.  And much like Get Out, Sorry to Bother You arrives with great hype.  Also like Get Out, Sorry to Bother You probably doesn’t quite warrant it.  A pitch black social commentary without any subtly, it’s a good ride but ultimately it asks more than it answers.

Best Bit: The toilet

Buy, Stream, Avoid: Stream

If You Liked this Try: Get Out, Idiocracy, Blindspotting

 


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Black Panther (2018) – A Rewatched Quick Capsule Review

Black Panther (2018) – A Rewatched Quick Capsule Review

Quick Review

Phil’s Quick Capsule Review:
Black Panther is still a good film.  And it’s still not quite as good as the reviews and Academy Award nominations make it out.   Black Panther add’s new depth to the ever expanding Marvel universe and remains one of Marvel’s more intimate stories but as usual it throws in the standard amount of things blowing for good measure.   The films issues still bug me (the Korean action sequence needed better FX and the final battle gets a bit meh!) but yet again Marvel delivers a film that will made a lot of money alongside considerable positive fan, award nominations and media notes. So what do I know…

Best Bit: Rhinos!

Worth A Rewatch: Just

If You Liked this Try: Thor: Ragnarok, Thor, Spiderman: Homecoming 

 


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Worst Film of 2018: The Cloverfield Paradox

Worst Film of 2018: The Cloverfield Paradox

Best & Worst Quick Review

Phil’s Quick Capsule Review:
Yawn.  There’s nothing crushingly bad about Netflix’s The Cloverfield Paradox but the fact Paramount chose to dump it to the streaming service should tell you all you need to know about how much faith they had in the finished film.  And they were right.  This second Cloverfield sequel (nominal sequel at least) isn’t a patch on 10 Cloverfield Lane and is a hot mess of a film that has no idea what it is or wants to be.  It drags, things happen, then it ends.  Watch for curiosity but little else.

Best Bit: The FX are good

Buy, Stream, Avoid: Stream

If You Liked this Try: CloverField, 10 CloverField Lane, Bright

IMDB Rating: 

 

 


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Best Film of 2018: Coco

Best Film of 2018: Coco

Best & Worst Quick Review

Phil’s Quick Capsule Review:
Coco is Pixar back firing on all cylinders – It’s funny, charming and endearing without being preachy or over the top.  In fact I’d say that Coco happily sits towards the top end of Pixar’s considerable cannon.  Visually stunning and with top draw voice acting, it’s day of the dead theme (whilst treading similar ground to  also very good The Book of Life) provides a rich tapestry for the animators to work with.  For my money this should be sitting amongst the crowd of best Motion Picture nominees at this years academy awards.

Best Bit: So THAT”S why it’s called Coco

Cinema, Stream, Avoid: Cinema

If You Liked this Try: The Book Of Life, Inside Out, Ferdinand, Up

IMDB Rating: 

 

 


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The Guest (2014) – A Quick Capsule Review (Revisited)

The Guest (2014) – A Quick Capsule Review (Revisited)

Quick Review

Phil’s Quick Capsule Review:
The Guest is rather good.  Actually it’s excellent.  Which is a good thing because at times you’re not quite sure whether this film will end up being as bold as it sets out.  With a winning central performance by Dan Stevens, some top notch directing from Wingard and enough bat shit mental moments to reference for a long time to come, The Guard is truly one of the most unique films of the year.

Best Bit: Stevens central performance.

Buy, Rent, Stream, Borrow: Rent

If You Liked this Try: Drive, You’re Next, The Purge

 

Rating:


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World’s Greatest Dad (2009) – A Quick Capsule Review (Revisited)

World’s Greatest Dad (2009) – A Quick Capsule Review (Revisited)

Quick Review

Phil’s Quick Capsule Review:
Damn. There’s nothing like watching a career best performance to make you REALLY realise how you are going to miss someone.  It’s hard to watch a Robin Williams film now with no degree of post death hyperbole or cushioned, romantic, teary eyes critical love.  The sadness of his passing make sit almost impossible.  Yet beyond all this, his performance here is nothing short of excellent. Touching, heart breaking and fragile, Williams gives a more nuanced performance that his more audience friendly roles he will be remembered for. Which is a shame as World’s Greatest Dad could well be his most intimate look into himself, into Robin Williams the flawed genius.  Watch for Williams but stay for the really rather exellant film he’s part of.

Best Bit: Robin Williams

Buy, Rent, Stream, Borrow: Buy

If You Liked this Try: God Bless America, Good Will Hunting, One Hour Photo

 

Rating:

 


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The Boxtrolls (2014) – A Quick Capsule Review (Revisited)

The Boxtrolls (2014) – A Quick Capsule Review (Revisited)

Quick Review

Phil’s Quick Capsule Review:
In this day and ace of CGI animation all looking the same, it’s easy to forget how much effort goes into making a film like The Boxtrolls. That effort doesn’t make it a good film however,.  For that you need top quality voice acting, a good director, innovative and exciting set pieces, a dark humour and a cracking script.  Which is lucky because The Boxtrolls has all this in spades. Okay so it’s not as good as Coraline for me but that’s only because that film was so good.  The Boxtrolls is a joy – just be weary at times it was far too much for my 5 year old daughter to take.

Best Bit: Kingsley is superb

Buy, Rent, Stream, Borrow: Buy

If You Liked this Try:  Coraline, The Nightmare Before Christmas, Wallace & Gromit Curse Of The Warerabbit

 

Rating:


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