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EMPIRE RECORDS ($20) is a quirky youth comedy that has earned something of a cult following, thanks to its very cool pop/rock soundtrack; not to mention a couple of hot looking actresses, who have since become big stars. The plot of EMPIRE RECORDS occurs across a twenty-four hour period at the title record store. Empire Records is a popular independent record store that is staffed by a group of typical angst ridden teen slackers. On the evening that Lucas (Rory Cochrane) is finally given the awesome responsibility of closing up the store, he discovers the owner’s plan to sell out to Music Town chain. With the daily receipts in hand, Lucas takes a side trip to Atlantic City on a mission to buy Empire Records before the soulless corporation can get its hands on it. While the intention is good, Lady Luck isn’t on Lucas’ side and the entire bankroll is lost on a roll of the dice.

The next day at the store the manager Joe (Anthony LaPaglia) discovers Lucas’ folly and is forced to use his own money to replace the missing funds. This is ironic, since Joe was planning to use that money to buy Empire Records for himself, before Music Town could take it over. The rest of the day at the store finds the staff trying to find a way of saving Empire Records, in addition to the arrival of pop star Rex Manning (hilariously played by Maxwell Caulfield), as well as having to deal with their own personal calamities. The cast of EMPIRE RECORDS also features Liv Tyler, Renée Zellweger, Robin Tunney, Debi Mazar, Johnny Whitworth, Ethan Randall, Coyote Shivers and Brendan Sexton III.

Warner Home Video has made EMPIRE RECORDS available on DVD in a wide screen presentation that restores the film’s 2.35:1 aspect ratio, as well as being enhanced for playback on 16:9 displays. While EMPIRE RECORDS will never be considered demonstration material, the transfer itself is very nice. In general, the image is crisp and provides a good level of detail. Some shots are softer looking than others, but this would seem to be inherent in the original photography and not a flaw in the transfer. Colors are strongly saturated and the flesh tones always look appealing. The most vibrant hues are completely stable, without a hint of distortion or smearing. Blacks are deep and shadow detail is quite respectable. Additionally, the film element displays a few errant blemishes and very little perceivable grain. With few exceptions, digital compression artifacts remain out of sight during the presentation.

EMPIRE RECORDS features a Dolby Digital 5.1 channel mix that highlights the film’s musical content. Popular music plays through most of the film and the songs are reproduced on the track with very good fidelity. Musically, the stereo image is well represented in the forward soundstage, with the rear channels adding some wrap around fill to the songs. Surround activity is nonexistent, whenever music is absent from the track. Directional sound effects are limited to the front channels- and there aren’t many of them in this dialogue driven film. Voices sound fairly natural and the dialogue is always fully intelligible. Whatever bass is present in the track is applied to the music. A French 5.1 channel soundtrack is also encoded onto the DVD, as are English, French, Spanish and Portuguese subtitles. The basic interactive menus provide access to the standard scene selection and set up features, as well as a theatrical trailer and cast biographies/filmographies.

EMPIRE RECORDS isn’t great cinema, but the film is humorous and definitely has a certain appeal. Warner’s DVD looks and sounds just fine, which will make fans of this particular flick happy.


Empire Records


DVD reviews are Copyright © 2001 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.



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