Empire Records

January 28, 2012 7 Min Read

Review by: Fusion3600

Plot: What’s it about?

Lucas (Rory Cochrane) has just discovered that Empire Records, the indie record store he works for is selling out to Musictown, so he takes matters into his own hands. He takes the profits from the day and ventures to Atlantic City, where he hopes to win enough cash to save the store, but of course, he ends up losing it all. The next day starts off as usual, but when the boss, Joe (Anthony LaPaglia) finds out the money is gone, he informs the workers that he had a plan to purchase Empire Records, but now he is forced to sell out to Musictown. But the store’s worries aren’t all that happens, as aging pop star Rex Manning (Maxwell Caulfield) is in the store for promotional work and Corey (Liv Tyler) plans to tell him how she feels. At the same time, A.J. (Johnny Whitworth) wants to tell Corey that he loves her, while Gina (Renee Zellweger) thinks about who to sleep with next and Mark (Ethan Embry) ponders what to name his band, should he be able to start one. While Lucas is confined to the couch, Debra (Robin Tunney) shaves her head and a young man named Warren (Brendan Sexton) swears revenge after being caught shoplifting in the store. All this and more happens inside Empire Records, which could be on the verge of extinction.

This is one of those movies I always used to watch on cable, but never owned, so I was pleased to see it released on this format. The movie isn’t much in terms of depth, but it has a solid cast, a rockin’ soundtrack, and a high level of fun, which can sometimes be enough. I know Empire Records is not a modern classic, but it is a lot of fun to watch and that alone is reason enough for me to recommend it to a certain extent. Although some serious topics are covered, the movie remains light in tone and never dwells, which keeps the pace brisk and laughs at a steady rate. Again, not the funniest movie I’ve seen, but a very humorous film and worth a look for comedy fans. The cast is young and hip, with such names as Liv Tyler, Rory Cochrane, Renee Zellweger, Debi Mazar, Anthony LaPaglia, and Ethan Embry. The acting is not classical by any means, but the youthful performers do well enough, given the light nature of the material here. Just as light is this disc, which offers solid audio and video, but little else. Even so, the low price and fun flick make this worth a look, so if you need a brisk comedy, check into Empire Records.

This is an ensemble piece to be sure, but I think Liv Tyler shines here and this role won her a lot of attention. She had been a couple movies beforehand, but this role was her breakout performance, though not because of her pure ability. Tyler plays her character as the material needs, which means she looks good and cries a little, but not much else can be said. I won’t be too critical however, as she is just right for the role and does what the material asks of her, so I think she manages well enough in the end. She uses her massive, innocent eyes to get her point across and in a role like this, that can sometimes be enough. Other films with Tyler include Silent Fall, Inventing The Abbotts, Cookie’s Fortune, Dr. T & The Woman, and Armageddon. The cast here also includes Anthony LaPaglia (Innocent Blood, Trees Lounge), Rory Cochrane (Dazed and Confused, Love & A .45), Robin Tunney (End of Days, The Craft), Ethan Embry (Vegas Vacation, Can’t Hardly Wait), Debi Mazar (Meet Wally Sparks, The Insider), Renee Zelwegger (Jerry Maguire, Nurse Betty), and Brendan Sexton (Boys Don’t Cry, Welcome To The Doll House).

Video: How does it look?

Empire Records is presented in a 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer. This is a colorful, visually charged film, so this new widescreen transfer is the only way you should view this picture. The laserdisc was soft and lacked color depth, but this disc cures those ailments and never falters in the least. The colors look vivid and rich, but never overly so and flesh tones seem normal, no distortion at all here. The black levels are dead on also, which allows for sharp detail presence and no murkiness in the least is evident. In addition, the source print looks clean and free from grain, which leaves me to score this one very well, excellent work all around here.

Audio: How does it sound?

This is a music driven picture and as such, the included Dolby Digital 5.1 is active and ready for action. Although the film is heavy on dialogue, the surrounds are used a lot for the musical soundtrack, so you’ll feel like you’re really inside Empire Records here. I am pleased such an immersive track is tacked on here, as this film uses music to advance the themes, so of course, the impact of the music is very important. Not much to discuss in terms of sound effects, but the ones present sound good, which is all you can ask for in this case. No errors from the dialogue, which sounds clean and sharp at all times, no problems in the least that I could detect. This disc also houses a French language track, as well as subtitles in English, French, Spanish, and Portuguese.

Supplements: What are the extras?

This disc includes some talent files, as well as the film’s theatrical trailer. The laserdisc featured a couple of music videos, but those were not tacked onto this release.

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