Back Add a Comment Share:
Facebook Button
In 1990 director Alan Moyle brought us in to the world of pirate radio in a film that would become a cult classic. Now he follows up 1990's Pump Up the Volume by taking the viewers into small town New Jersey and into a day of the life of the employees of Empire Records.

Empire Records
In 1995, a guy by the name of Brad introduced me to a cool little movie by the name of Empire Records which over the next few weeks and months would turn into one of my all time favourites. 

The story is simple, it's about a group of friends who work in one of those indie record stores located in small town USA. As the movie begins we are introduced to Lucas (Rory Cochrane) who has been trusted by store manager Joe to lock up and deposit the stores cash intake for the day at the bank. Gina pops into Joe's office and see Lucas and reminds him of the rules. Count the money twice and don't touch any of Joe's things. Soon Lucas is breaking the rules and stumbles upon a contract agreement and blueprints for turning Empire into one of those highly overpriced, chain stores Music Town. So he hops on his motorcycle and heads to Atlantic City where he gambles the $9000 purse on the Craps table. Somehow he wins and let's it ride only to lose it all on the next role of the dice.  Unsure of what to do he heads back to the store. The next morning we are introduced to more of the employees. Mark (Ethan Embry), the crazy grunge kid whose voice greats you when you call the store and AJ (Johnny Whitworth) a painter who has been working at Empire on and off for the past few years. They are waiting out front for Joe (Anthony Lapaguila) and they encounter Lucas. Whose acting all weird and zen like. Next up we meet Corey (Liv Tyler) a smart girl who wants to make love to an aging teen idol Rex Manning who will be signing his new CD today at the store. Her best friend is Gina played by a pre Jerry Maguire Renee Zellweger and who is the resident naughty girl. Also working at the store we have the suicidal Debra (Robin Tunney).
Empire Records is about the lives of a group of close knit record store employees as they make decisions about the future. Together they work out their differences and help each other with their problems. From the smutty girl who just wants to sing in a band but doesn't have the guts to audition to the dreamer to the brain and the shoplifter who just wants a job. Although their lives are heading in different directions but they will always have the time they spent together at Empire Records.

Empire Records has a terrific cast and gave us an early look at some of today's hottest young actors. Liv Tyler who can currently be seen in One Night at McCools and will be seen next in The Lord of The Rings trilogy plays Corey, the girl next door type and from this early performance it was clear that she'd be moving on to bigger and better roles. She exudes charm and sincerity. Renee Zellwegger who got her big break in director Cameron Crowe's 1996 hit Jerry Maguire gives a glimpse of what's to come as Gina, the misunderstood bad girl who sleeps around not because she wants to but because she's insecure. It's no wonder that Renee is currently capturing hearts in the #1 romantic comedy at the box office Bridget Jones's Diary. She's very talented and showed this even at a young age. Robin Tunney who has moved on to appear opposite Arnold Schwarznegger in End of Days and in the action blockbuster Vertical Limit plays Deb, a depressed individual who just needs to know she's loved. Rounding out the performances we have the guy who gave us Slater in Dazed and Confused Rory Cochrane, Johnny Whitworth and Anthony LaPaglia.

Empire Records isn't the world's greatest teen comedy, however it will always hold a special place in my heart. It explores many different types of relationships and while these kids have their problems, there's hope for all of them yet.

Empire Records
Warner brings us Empire Records in all it's original 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen glory. While not one of the best recent efforts I've seen Empire Records looks the best I've ever seen it look. For a film that takes place mostly inside a suburban New Jersey indie record store the colors are sharp, well defined and often eye popping. The subject matter and location of the movie doesn't seem like it would lend itself to a very unique visual experience but aside from the occasional spec of dust on the film, Empire Records looks great and far exceeded my expectations for one of my favourite teen movies of all time. Having only seen this movie on video before, I was excited to see it the way it was intended to be seen and I can finally say that I've SEEN it now.

When it was announced that Empire Records was coming to DVD, I got pretty excited.. I would finally be able to experience one of my favourite movies in Dolby Digital 5.1 sound. When the release specs came out however there was some confusion with most e-tailers listing the release as being Dolby Digital 2.0. Counting down the days to the discs arrival and with no reviews posted on the web my curiosity was peaked by one site that since the announcement had always claimed that it was going to be DD 5.1. Then the day came when the disc arrived at my door and I opened up the mailer and flipped the disc over to the back and saw the words "Dolby Digital Surround 5.1". I immediately headed down to the computer and posted my findings. Man was I a happier camper.

Empire Records indeed features a DD 5.1 soundtrack and while it's not one of the best I've heard on that morning it sure sounded like it. The track is front heavy with decent bass and little to no surround action. The surrounds are used occasionally for Pop soundtrack which is clearly the gem of this soundtrack. Dialogue is clear and easy to understand throughout though occasionally when a character yells it is a little hard to listen to. Having nothing to compare this track to other then a Dolby Prologic VHS tape, I can say the soundtrack beat that hands down. I was ready to accept a DD 2.0 track on the DVD but having the 5.1 did alot to the music to which much of the movie plays out.

Empire Records
While it's no secret that a lot of footage (including a whole character named Lily) was cut out from Empire Records back in 1995, none of that appears here on the disc. Instead we are given a pretty basic barebones disc from Warner. While Empire fans such as myself would kill to see some of the deleted scenes and alternate footage one has to admit that just having the title on DVD is good enough. Empire is more of a cult hit then anything and won't sell the same # of units as a big blockbuster would.
So what do we have?
We get a basic trailer in Dolby 2.0 and some Cast and Crew biographies While the laserdisc had 2 music videos those haven't been carried over to this DVD edition. 

If your a fan of the movie then you probably already own this disc. If your a fan of teen comedies then this one won't disappoint. If your a fan of anyone in the cast then you owe to yourself to check this out to see them before they famous. Empire Records is a fun ride and will always be one of my favourites of the genre. Recommended!