'Open 'til Midnight'

Sex, Drugs, and Rock and Roll. Director Allan Moyle, (Pump Up The Volume), and writer Carol Heikkinen created a real gem with Empire Records. Due to a distribution blunder, Empire was released straight to video by Warner Bros in 1995. Despite cinema goers missing out on this little gem, it is now available on vhs and dvd, and has a little something for everyone - whether it be the awesome soundtrack, intelligent script, or talented cast.


Lucas played by Rory Cochrane
Gina played by Renée Zellweger
A.J played by Johnny Whitworth
Mark played by Ethan Embry
Joe played by Anthony LaPaglia
Corey played by Liv Tyler
Debra played by Robin Tunney
Eddie played by James 'Kimo' Wills
Warren played by Brendan Sexton III
Rex Manning played by Maxwell Caulfield
Jane played by Debi Mazar
Berko played by Coyote Shivers

Upon discovering a franchise option agreement for Music Town in a desk drawer, night manager Lucas decides to take things into his own hands. A night trip to Atlantic City, in the hope of 'saving the place he works from being sold, and the jobs of his friends who work there, thus striking a blow at all that is evil and making the world a better place', is unsuccessful. And so the drama begins. What follows is an eventful day in the life of all the 'beautiful little tattooed, gum chewing freaks' that work in a small independent record store in New Jersey.

Lucas used to be normal, but has turned into the Chinese guy from the karate kid overnight. A.J, is an artist and madly in love with Corey. Corey is going to Harvard, is great at acting like she has it all together, and wants to lose her virginity to Rex Manning - a faded teeny-bopper impostor with a bad haircut. Jane works for Rex Manning. Gina is a slut, who has grander illusions. Debra is tired of being invisible, and is looking for a way out. Berko is Debra's boyfriend, and a musician. Mark is more than a little wacky and dreams of starting his own band. Warren is a shoplifting, wannabe employee. Eddie is the token stoner, and free pizza provider. And poor Joe is the manager of Empire Records, and is slowly going mad.

This film has been labelled as just another Kevin Smith wannabe, a remake of clerks, a rip off of John Hughes, or another try-hard flop filled with teenage angst, however that is far from true. Empire Records has its own unique charm, which has supported it into almost cult classic status, which often means it rarely remains on shelf at local video stores. It boasts actors such as Liv Tyler, Renée Zellweger, Ethan Embry, and Australian Anthony LaPaglia, and a soundtrack with songs from acts like The Gin Blossoms, The Cranberries, and Better Than Ezra. A touching, and extremely funny story of a bunch of friends and their search for love, life, reality, sanity, acceptance, and of course MUSIC - all in the space of approximately 87 minutes! Life isn't all sex, drugs, and rock and roll, but they sure can make things interesting.

'Damn The Man. Save The Empire'

*Empire Records is also known under the titles Empire, and Rock & Fun.

details double checked @ imdb.com

WARNING: this is a waverider37 review so as usual I take no prisoners in my pursuit of reviewing. Spoilers abound below.

This was a film I discovered last night as my friend loves it to bits and sat us all down to watch it. The 1995 flick shows us a day in the life of the eponymous Empire Records music store, and its assortment of employees. The ensemble cast - which includes very young versions of Renée Zellweger, Liv Tyler and Anthony LaPaglia (to name a few) - are all about keeping Empire Records an independent music store, and are hell bent on keeping it from turning into a branch of the Music Town chain. Things get more hectic when fading teeny-bopper idol Rex Manning (Maxwell Caulfield) visits for the day to launch his new album.

I went into this movie expecting exactly nothing. I've learned from experience that this is the best way to jump into a new film or game (except if it's a Blizzard game or a M. Night Shyamalan flick). So I had to laugh when Lucas (Rory Cochrane) lost the nine grand that kickstarted the main plot line, as I could see it coming but it still defied my expectation. I'll admit to being a little disappointed throughout some of the rest of the film, but quite enjoying other bits and pieces. Mind, the film was absolutely reeking of the kind of culture from the 1990s that I wasn't much of a part of (given that I was five years old when the film was released).

How to classify such a film? It ain't a comedy, it ain't a drama, yet it's both. It ain't a musical, but it's got music. It's the film equivalent of a "bottle episode" - filmed mostly in one location - so the budget was clearly fairly low, and it's played out sometimes like a serious character study; on the other hand, there are some funny moments and the parts that aren't character study are usually ridiculously irreverent and/or unrealistic. I'll just call it "the nineties in a nutshell".

I'll say it's unrealistic in a lot of places and I'll stick to it, but it's an unrealistic in a Caddyshack kind of way. I'll also say that, in complete contrast, if you treat the characters individually and not as a group, the individual stories can border on hyper-real. What to do! It sent me into a headspin just writing this paragraph. Empire Records - at least, the screenplay - is a film of contradictions that all somehow come together to form a coherent storyline. When you have a bunch of screwed-up people trying to achieve a common goal, I guess anything is possible.

If I try to focus on each of the actors, I'm going to be here all night. So I'll get it out of the way: in general, the acting was quite good. One exception I noted was Robin Tunney as Debra, swinging between believable deadpan snarker and unbelievable chick-with-issues. Fair enough that one is supposed to mask the other, but I saw no evidence apart from her wrist and the fact that it was bashed over my head that she had any issues. On the other hand, Renée Zellweger and Liv Tyler had a pretty amazing scrap-and-make-up about halfway through. You could tell that these two were going far in their acting careers.

OK. Screenplay: good. Acting: good (though not stellar). Direction: not bad. Sometimes it was a bit tricky keeping up, and in fact I lost count of the amount of characters several times simply because on-screen at any one time there was more often than not a glut of them. Set/setting: nineties overload, as I said. Everything else: not too shabby. Having said that, I don't think it'll ever be much more than a cult film (thanks largely to the straight-to-video releasing - apparently due to a clerical error). If cult films aren't your thing, then this is not for you.

It's not an amazing film by today's standards, nor even in 1995's standards. But it's decent. It gave me some chuckles, and it's cemented its place in my collection of "feel-good movies" and "movies to watch when you don't want one that takes itself too seriously". Expect everything, and you'll get nothing; expect nothing, and you'll get everything. 6/10

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