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Empire Records

review by Eric Dahl

Rated PG-13

Studio: Warner

Running Time: 91 minutes

Starring Anthony LaPaglia, Maxwell Caulfield, Liv Tyler, Renee Zellweger, Rory Cochrane, Ethan Embry

Written by Carol Heikkinen

Directed by Allan Moyle

Retail Price: $19.98

Features: Theatrical Trailer, Cast and Crew

Specs: 2.35:1 Anamorphic Widescreen, English Dolby Digital 5.1, French Dolby Digital 5.1, English Subtitles, French Subtitles, Spanish Subtitles, Portuguese Subtitles, Chapter Search (28 Chapters)

I'll have to admit that I had never heard of "Empire Records" until about six months ago when a friend of mine shoved an old 2nd generation video in my hand and told me to watch it. Well, having nothing better to do that night, I put the movie on. I wasn't expecting anything great going in, but after the movie was all over, I had a huge grin on my face. It's certainly not one of the best movies ever made, by any means, but from time to time, this movie is hilarious. It's just your typical, "oh, no, the corporate bloodsuckers are trying to convert our little [insert type of store here: sporting goods, books, whatever] into a chain store, let's get everyone together and try to stop them" kind of movie, a formula that's been retreaded and retreaded over and over again in Hollywood's history, but it works well here.

"Empire Records" is the story of, um, well, Empire Records: a little music store in an unnamed town, and one fateful day in the life of it's employees. Speaking of its employees, well, let's see, there's Lucas (Rory Cochrane), the guy who was supposed to close up the store and count up the money the night before, but after discovering that Empire Records was going to become one of the numerous national "Music Town" chain stores, goes to Atlantic City and wagers all of the money on craps. Well, things didn't work out as planned, and the money is doomed to "recirculation". The next morning, the store's manager, Joe (Anthony LaPaglia), finds out about Lucas's escapades and just doesn't take the news too well. It seems that the money that Lucas lost the night before was to keep Empire from being sold to "Music Town", and now everyone is pretty much screwed. The rest of the movie deals with how they plan to raise the money back again so they can save the store, how they deal with a middle aged, past-his-prime, "Top 40, teeny-bopper" singer named Rex Manning (Maxwell Caulfield), who's making a guest appearance singing his albums, and a shoplifter named "Warren" (Brendan Sexton III), who steals the scenes that he's in, and is absolutely hilarious.

Yeah, the characters are cliched: there's the smart girl (Liv Tyler), the slut (Renee Zellweger), the goofball (Ethan Embry), the guy who's in love, but doesn't know how to break the news to her (Johnny Whitworth), the depressed suicidal (Robin Tunney), and the band member (Coyote Shivers), but it doesn't matter, the movie's still great fun anyway.

If you want to see a movie that's a cut above the usual teenage dreck that's released, go pick yourself up "Empire Records": it's funny, it has a great soundtrack, and it's a perfect Friday night movie to watch with your buddies.


The anamorphic widescreen transfer for "Empire Records is overall very nice. The colors are good, nothing too oversaturated or washed out. You get a nice sharp picture for the most part, but I noticed a little softness in a couple of scenes. Nothing reference quality here, but good nonetheless. The DVD restores the picture to it's original 2.35:1 aspect ratio, so you can finally see the entire "Empire Records" sign at the climax with Liv Tyler and her boyfriend dancing on top of the building, other than "ire Rec", which I remember seeing on my old VHS copy.

Due to this being primarily a dialogue centered comedy, I didn't expect much from the 5.1 mix on this DVD for the most part. The sounds are mostly front centered, but the practically non-stop soundtrack (well, it is a music store, isn't it?) sometimes bleeds into rears as well as ambient sounds (a megaphone's squeal and the like). From the center, we get clear dialogue with no noticable distortion, and the .1 bass channel is used primarily for the music heard throughout the movie. Overall a good, but not noteworthy 5.1 mix.

Nothing but Cast and Crew Biographies and a Theatrical Trailer (in Dolby Digital 2.0, 2.35:1 Widescreen). Barebones, you might say, as the two features we get are pretty much mandatory on any disc.

Warner Brothers has released a pretty much barebones disc with (in my opinion) a great movie. Although I wish they could've added something, anything, to the disc, I can't complain because the price is great. I picked mine up for $15.00, and I've seen it for cheaper than that. If you like the movie, definitely pick this one up, you won't be disappointed. If you haven't seen it yet, give it a rent, you might just like it enough to pay the small price for the DVD.

(4/5 - NOT included in final score)




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