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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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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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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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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West Of Memphis (2012) – A Quick Capsule Review (Revisited)

West Of Memphis (2012) – A Quick Capsule Review (Revisited)

Quick Review

Phil’s Quick Capsule Review
West Of Memphis is one of the most engaging, tense and fascinating films i have seen in 2012.  Not documentary.  Film.  An unbelievable story, about an unbelievable set of events, Memphis tacks this familiar case from origins up to date, leaving you in no uncertain terms where the filmmakers and their many supporters lay their suspicions.  Emotionally charged and simply brilliant.

Best Bit: That was nearly 3 hours?  Flies past.

Rent, Borrow, Buy, Stream: Buy

If you liked this try: Into The Abyss, Inside Job, Catfish, Paradise Lost: The Child Murders at Robin Hood Hill

 

Rating:

 


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Kick Ass 2 – A (Not So) Quick Capsule Review (Revisited)

Kick Ass 2 – A (Not So) Quick Capsule Review (Revisited)

Quick Review

The Review: First let me say this. I wasn’t a massive fan of Kick Ass. I didn’t hate it but much like Scott Pilgrim, Sin City & Watchman I found it to be more style than substance. Too aware of it’s own geek cool and not afraid to point it out at every moment.

Yes Mortez was great, no I didn’t care she said ‘Cunt’ at the tender age of 11 and yes the action was brutal, but nothing I hadn’t seen a million times before. I liked the central idea of an everybody becoming a superhero but overall I walked out think “that was okay” and haven’t revisited the film since.\

With this in mind I pretty much stayed away from the hype and promotion for KickAss 2, fully aware that I’d probably see the film but didn’t need that geek cool to be rammed down my throat once again.

With graduation looming and uncertain what to do, Dave decides to start the world’s first superhero team with Mindy but when Mindy is busted for sneaking out as Hit Girl, she’s forced to retire. With no one left to turn to, Dave joins forces with Justice Forever, run by a born-again ex-mobster named Colonel Stars and Stripes. Just as they start to make a real difference on the streets, the world’s first super villain assembles his own evil league and puts a plan in motion to make Kick-Ass and Hit Girl pay for what they did to his dad.

Looking at the review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes this morning I was shock to see this film sitting at a paltry 28%. That’s less than the critically mauled Lone Ranger. Especially surprising as I thought, overall, this was a much more enjoyable film that the original Kick Ass, less concerned about looking cool, shocking for shock’s sake and shouting ‘I Was Based on a Really Cool Comic Book Don’t You Know’ and more about just interesting characters in even more interesting situations.

In fact, as much as I loved Iron Man 3, for me Kick Ass 2 is the best superhero film of 2013. Cool in it’s own way, with people I actually cared about. Okay so apparently it’s toned down from the comic (I’m not sure we really needed the gang rape of a main character) but as I’m not a fan of the source material that doesn’t really bother me. In fact more over the fact that it doesn’t just set out to shock is for me what stands out about it’s predecessor.

Kick Ass 2 also has some strong action sequences, not least a Good Guys Vs Bad Guys battle that looses the now standard CGI monsters vs Monsters stick of the studio Marvel films and goes with something a little… different. And is FAR more entertaining because of it. Hit Girl vs Mother Russia is for sure the fight of the year to date.

On the subject of Hit Girl, Props go to Chloe Grace Mortez who once again shines and shows that, as long as she doesn’t go all Lohan, she has an amazing and probably award winning career in front of her. Also a massive shout out for Jim Carey who delivers the best performance of his twilight career, even if he was too much of an arse to promote the film (even though his winging actually created even more publicity of the movie… ). Mintz-Plasse is also great as the self titled Mother Fucker, even if he does just deliver the TradeMarked Mintz-Plasse performance.

With assured but not overly showy direction, some social commentary about what it is to fit in, a host of solid action sequences and characters you actually care for, Kick Ass 2 is that rare beast of both a sequel that ends up being more enjoyable that the original and a superhero film that didn’t feel the need to collapse into a CGI want fest.

In short: Fuck the critics, fuck the source material. Just go make up your own mind. You may be pleasantly surprised.

 

Rating:

 


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Beast Of The Southern Wild (2012) – A Quick Capsule Review (Revisited)

Beast Of The Southern Wild (2012) – A Quick Capsule Review (Revisited)

Quick Review

Phil’s Quick Capsule Review
Beast Of The Southern Wild is truly one of the best debut films I have ever seen.  Stunning, poetic & beautiful this almost impossible to describe coming of age fantasy drama shows a true talent in the making both behind the camera and in front (Quvenzhane Wallis is truly amazing).  This is a film that deserves to be seen… if not always understood.

Best Bit: Quvenzhane Wallis

Rent, Borrow, Buy, Stream: Buy

If you liked this try: Moonrise Kingdom, Pans Labyrinth,  Life Of Pi

Rating:

 


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Universal Soldier Day Of Reckoning – A Quick Capsule Review (Revisited)

Universal Soldier Day Of Reckoning – A Quick Capsule Review (Revisited)

Quick Review
Phil’s Quick Capsule Review:
Wow. Who would have thought it… this Universal Soldier sequel turns out to be not only the best film in the franchise but probably one of the top 10 films of the year.   No really.  Action packed, making the most of it’s probable modest budget, it finally gives star Adkins a role to get his teeth into whilst trading punches with two other members of the Expendables 2 cast.  Watch this if you like you action 90’s style.
Best Bit: One shot shoot out
Rent, Borrow, Buy: Buy
If you Liked this try: Universal Soldier, Universal Soldier: The Return,  Universal Soldier 2

Rating:

 


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