Film Review: Empire Records (1995)

Also known as: Rock & Fun, Empire (working titles)
Release Date: September 22nd, 1995 (limited)
Directed by: Allan Moyle
Written by: Carol Heikkinen
Music by: various artists
Cast: Anthony LaPaglia, Maxwell Caulfield, Debi Mazar, Rory Cochrane, Johnny Whitworth, Robin Tunney, Renée Zellweger, Liv Tyler, Ethan Embry, Coyote Shivers, James ‘Kimo’ Willis, Brendan Sexton III, Ben Bode

Regency Enterprises, Warner Bros., 90 Minutes, 107 Minutes (Special Extended Edition)

Review:

“We mustn’t dwell… no, not today. We can’t. Not on Rex Manning Day.” – Mark

Empire Records was not a hit when it came out in theaters but it had a pretty limited release and when it did expand into more theaters, it still didn’t get into a lot of them. In fact, I never even heard of the movie until it came out on VHS in 1996 while I was working at a video store. I checked it out and liked it but I never imagined that it was something that many people would see or that would gain a pretty good cult following.

I think that it resonated with me because I was the same age as the characters, I worked in a video store and a music store and it felt a bit more like an ’80s teen comedy, which were movies I grew up on and had an impact on me as a kid.

Sure, the film is pretty hokey and very goofy but with that it has a lot of charm and an innocence about it, even if it delves into some more serious subject matter. At it’s core, it just follows a day in the life of an indie record store but it is a well crafted coming of age movie.

It is almost fantasy in how it is presented and in that way, it kind of reminds me of Clerks. They’re not even close from a tonal sense but both movies cram a bunch of crazy stuff into a single work day in a way that isn’t realistic but works for these type of films because all of these things could actually happen, just not on a single day.

The acting isn’t great but this does feature some people that would go on to have pretty good careers. It also stars Anthony LaPaglia as the only real adult in the film and the glue that keeps things together and a bit more grounded than the film would be without him.

I can’t say that this has aged well and maybe I still like it because of the power of nostalgia but it’s just a great film to throw on, once in awhile, when you need to be taken back to a simpler time and a simpler life before being buried in adult problems and worries.

I also love how musical it is and how fun it is. You actually do care about these characters and you want a happy ending for all of them. Because they’re all just kids and most of us have been where they are.

Plus, without this film, we never would’ve had Rex Manning Day.

Rating: 7.75/10
Pairs well with: other teen comedies of the ’90s.

Film Review: The Tao of Steve (2000)

Release Date: January 26th, 2000 (Sundance)
Directed by: Jenniphr Goodman
Written by: Duncan North, Greer Goodman, Jenniphr Goodman
Music by: Joe Delia
Cast: Donal Logue, Greer Goodman, James ‘Kimo’ Willis, David Aaron Baker

Good Machine, Sony Pictures Classics, 87 Minutes

Review:

“Both men and women want to have sex. It’s natural, except we’re on different timetables. Women want to have sex, like, y’know, fifteen minutes after us, so alright, if you hold out for twenty she’ll be chasing you for five.” – Dex

I never saw the Tao of Steve until now. However, throughout the years since it came out, I heard many people talk about it with enthusiasm. Leonard Maltin even devotes a chapter to it in his book 151 Best Movies You’ve Never Seen. Plus, I have always been a fan of Donal Logue.

Unfortunately, this movie didn’t resonate with me like it did with other people. Maybe it’s because I watched it now, seventeen years after its release. So it doesn’t tap into nostalgia but instead feels like a film full of some of the worst 1990s romantic comedy cliches.

It is enjoyable in the fact that Logue is as charismatic as ever but even then his presence is bogged down by less talented actors and a script that feels like it was written by philosophy majors that were only one semester deep but thought they had reached some sort of twenty-something enlightenment.

Additionally, the music is dated in a bad way. Yes, there are great tunes from the late 90s but The Tao of Steve uses some lowest common denominator safe pop rock dreck that needs to just stay in the 90s and not venture out into the year 2000 (or beyond), when this film was released.

I don’t know if it’s a Santa Fe thing but the fashion in the film feels incredibly dated, even for 2000. In fact, the guys all look slobbish and the girls all look like tomboys at a Smash Mouth concert.

The Tao of Steve is not as interesting as you would think. His zen philosophy on picking up women has more holes in it than Swiss cheese but then again, that is part of the plot. Still, you can see the holes from a mile away but this film tries to play it up a lot more than it should.

It feels like this film tried to use Donal Logue in a way to create their own version of The Dude from The Big Lebowski. However, despite Logue’s strong performance, the script isn’t even a tenth as brilliant as the Coen’s Lebowski script.

I don’t want to hate on this film, I went into it expecting to like it. For me, it just failed in all the parts that aren’t Donal Logue.