Empire Records (1995)

Listening to This Crap is Guaranteed to Make You Sterile.

I again found myself bored and out of ideas, and that’s a situation that can only be solved by my Netflix instant queue.  I don’t really remember putting today’s movie in the queue, but seeing me got me to thinking about it.  This is a movie I’ve felt like I should see for a while now, but never really had anything resembling interest in watching it beyond seeing a couple of hot actresses on the cover of the movie.  I feel like the movie was a popular one, but seeing a movie based strictly on attractive actresses has backfired on me more than once.  When looking at Rotten Tomatoes, I find that the legit critics say this movie sucks the balls, but the average Joe loves the thing.  It’s time yet again to see if I can count myself amongst the legitimate critics by reviewing Empire Records, written by Carol Heikkinen, directed by Allan Moyle, and starring Rory Cochrane, Anthony LaPaglia, Liv Tyler, Renée Zellweger, Johnny Whitworth, Robin Tunney, Ethan Embry, Maxwell Caulfield, Debi Mazar, Brendan Sexton III, Coyote Shivers, Ben Bodé, and James Wills.

Joe (Anthony LaPaglia), the owner of a small record store called Empire Records, has selected one of his employees, Lucas (Rory Cochrane), to close the store by himself for the first time.  In response to the trust instilled in him, Lucas takes $9,000 from the night’s deposit and takes it to Atlantic City, where he promptly loses it all.  Joe needs to figure out how to react to this.  Also going on, a famous pop star named Rex Manning (Maxwell Caulfield) is coming to sign autographs at the store, a cashier named Corey (Liv Tyler) has decided to give herself to him, A.J. (Johnny Whitworth) decides he’s in love with Corey, they catch a shoplifter that only identifies himself as Warren Beatty (Brendan Sexton III), another employee named Deb (Robin Tunney) has tried to kill herself, employee Mark (Ethan Embry) is an idiot, and employee Gina (Renée Zellweger) is a slut.

YAY!  I’m a real critic!  This movie sucks.  I’m pretty sure it’s intentions were towards comedy, but it failed all the way through.  All it really managed to be was a collection of stories that weren’t that interesting from various Gen-Xers that work in a record store.  It’s kind of like Clerks if Kevin Smith wasn’t funny.  None of the various stories were ever interesting, and most of them got on my nerves.  The main story was the story between Lucas and Joe about the $9,000.  I started off annoyed with it because, as someone who has worked for many years in a similar industry, it’s stupid to let someone in the store after it’s closed.  Yeah, maybe that weird lady would buy something for $20, or maybe she could fuck off and come back the next day.  I guarantee there’s nothing that you “need” in that store, and your “wants” can wait.  I don’t know if it’s a sign of my slowly advancing age, but I sided with Joe towards the beginning of the movie.  This little dipshit stole $9,000!  I would probably beat the shit out of him, get him arrested, and probably fire Gina for thinking it was funny enough to make jokes about it.  You can fight the man from in prison, where you’ll actually be fighting the man away from your butthole.  But this movie is trying to have some Gen-X vibe to it, so he instead changes into a cool guy by the end of the movie and everything works out miraculously in the last 5 minutes.  The next big story was the Corey/Gina/AJ/Rex Manning story.  Corey wanted to fuck Rex, but when he was about to whip it out she left to go cry on the roof.  Then Corey calls Gina a slut (because she was).  As a slut, her only reaction to anything in life is to go and fuck someone, and that’s just happens to be Rex.  Then Corey and Gina get mad at each other, but their relationship is fixed when later Corey has a big revelation that she idolizes the slutbag for her free spirit … and free pussy, I suppose.  That’s a great message, and I thank you for being the one brave enough to tell it.  I don’t even know how the situation came up in the first place.  Rex Manning was clearly gay as he looked like the lovechild of Liberace and Rick Astley.  Also, no one in a self-respecting, hipster record store would have time to do anything but hate someone like Rex Manning.  The other big story in the movie was the suicidal Deb.  That story also wouldn’t have worked out well if I were around.  Right after she randomly shaved her head while looking in the mirror like Jodie Foster in the Accused, and then someone pointed out her wrapped up wrist from where she tried to slice, her side of the movie would be over.  I would’ve instantly written her off as an attention starved twat and recommended she try again with a better blade.  Either she would shut up or she would succeed.  Either way, I win.  The music in the movie was one of its few saving graces, but I would expect that from this kind of movie.  Otherwise, the only thing about the movie I enjoyed was the nostalgia of seeing a Super Nintendo and a first gen Gameboy in the movie.

Even the performances in the movie were hit or miss for me.  The people were either irritating or hot.  Sometimes both.  Rory Chochrane’s character was either cocky or stupid.  Possibly both, but definitely annoying.  As was Ethan Embry, but he was definitely playing it stupid.  I really liked Renée Zellweger in this movie, but only because it’s the first time I can remember ever thinking she was attractive.  I found her so attractive that I didn’t even really know it was her.  I thought it was Joey Lauren Adams without the annoying voice.  But she was really hot in the movie, and generally just wearing a really short skirt, or even less.  I did get a little annoyed with her character near the end when she was singing backup with the band on the roof of the record store, but only because she got all scared when the singer told her to take the lead.  Bitch, you were just singing in front of a crowd like 20 seconds ago.  What’s the difference?  Debi Mazar’s character was a source of irritation for me.  She’s a seemingly successful manager for Rex Manning, but she gets all embarrassed when the minimum wage fucks at a record store are laughing at her because she works for a joke like Rex Manning.  I would’ve laughed right back at them because I make so much more money working for a joke than they do in the respectable job of record monkey.  They take a different path.  They go all “Fight the man” on us and have her quit and decide she wants to date the owner of a record store.

I side with the critics on this one.  Empire Records is not a good movie.  It’s a disjointed and uninteresting story peppered with failed attempts at comedy, and serves only to show us today that people in ’95 thought Gen-X people were so cool.  We call them hipsters now and proceed to ignore and/or mock them.  The only things I really liked in this movie was that it was the only time I’ve ever found Renée Zellweger attractive, Liv Tyler continues to be attractive, and Robin Tunney is attractive for 12 seconds and then cuts her hair like Jodie Foster in the Accused.  Skip this movie, or at least explain to me why I should have liked it.  Because I don’t get it.  Empire Records gets “I tried to kill myself with a Lady Bic” out of “You deserved that.  You know that?”

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Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance (2012)

You Were the Worst Fucking Deal I Ever Made!

I finally managed to get to a theater to see a movie followup of a movie I reviewed last month.  After how badly I felt they ruined one of the most compelling comic book characters last time, I went into today’s movie hoping for the best.  I mean, why wouldn’t it be a winning combination to take the stuff from the first movie and add two directors that I feel are completely overrated?  Who knows?  Maybe the different take on things will improve things.  We’ll find out right now in my review of Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance, written by David S. Goyer, directed by Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor (or Neveldine/Taylor as it was in the credits), and starring Nicolas Cage, Fergus Riordan, Ciaran Hinds, Violante Placido, Idris Elba, Johnny Whitworth, and Christopher Lambert.

Johnny Blaze (Nicolas Cage) is still under the curse of the Ghost Rider.  At night, or in the presence of evil, he turns into a badass with a fiery skull and prehensile chains.  All the rest of the time, it causes him to overact.  He’s now hanging out in Europe until he gets approached by Moreau (Idris Elba) and is asked to use his overacting powers to rescue a little boy named Danny (Fergus Riordan) who the Devil, or Roarke (Ciaran Hinds), wants to possess the body of.  At first, Johnny doesn’t want to get involved, but when Moreau promises him some sweet, sweet freedom from the curse of the Ghost Rider, Johnny jumps on board.  But he also does a pretty shitty job because he comes across Danny and his mother, Nadya (Violante Placido), gets his ass kicked by the Devil’s henchman, Ray Carrigan (Johnny Whitworth), and lets Danny get abducted.  The rest of the movie is the Ghost Rider playing tug of war with the Devil, with Danny as the rope.

This movie sucked out loud.  Though the story is much improved from the original movie, the way it’s told is stupid, annoying, and lackluster.  For some reason, people seem to enjoy the work of these two shitty directors, Neveldine/Taylor.  Yes, it is interesting that they film while riding on Rollerblades to make us feel like we’re closer to the action.  What it isn’t is enjoyable to watch.  The camera is constantly shaking, whipping back and forth for no reason, and doing whatever it can to make me give my popcorn back to the nice people at the movie theater in a slightly more digested form.  If I wanted to watch Crank again (and I don’t), I would go watch Crank.  Get a new trick, guys.  Your current one sucks.  Some of the visuals in this movie were really awesome.  Some of them were less than that.  The Ghost Rider looks so much more badass in this movie.  Something about the new way they did the skull is really awesome looking.  But the Ghost Rider is a worse actor than Nicolas Cage.  Instead of being a hardcore badass, his body movements are more like the little girl from the Ring.  He oddly darts around the field of battle and often chooses to try to win a staring contest with an enemy while the enemies around him are reloading.  And I don’t mean that he’s killing them with the Penance Stare.  They forgot about that for this movie.  He just runs up to guys, gets face to face with them, and stares.  Then gets hit by a grenade.  One new trick that he has is that whatever the Rider rides turns all firey and badass like his bike, and this is pretty cool.  He does it to some gigantic digging machine and a big truck.  At one point, Ghost Rider was knocked into the air where he stopped in midair and started spinning around in circles, parallel to the ground that he was about 5 feet off of.  What the fuck are you doing?!  The only logical assumption to be made is that the directors were riding their Rollerblades behind a truck when it stopped abruptly, causing them to smash their faces into the vehicle causing them brain damage.  And, though I still had to sit through the movie, at least they’re brain damaged now.

The basic story of Ghost Rider is good enough, but the dialogue and other ideas ruin that.  The basic premise of the movie is like End of Days, the Arnold Swasserhassermcgoo movie.  Something going to be inhabited by the Devil, there’s a good cult and a bad cult, and there’s only one person that can stop them.  Well, three people, but only one is really effective at it.  The dialogue, however, is generally pretty awful.  The entire opening narration by Cage is really blase about the whole situation.  Like “Yeah, that’s me.  I sold my soul to the Devil.  Whatev’s, bro.”  Part of that is Cage’s delivery, but I assume it was written, and written poorly.  As a plus though, in the recap of his past in the narration, Blaze actually intentionally puts his blood on the contract so that it’s not complete bullshit like the last movie.  But then I started wondering: Why would anyone WANT this “curse” lifted?  The only way it really affects you is by keeping people that are evil away from you, and part of your life you get to be a badass.  There’s also a part when one of the bad guys turns into a creature that can cause things to decay with a mere touch, but they also decided this would be a good point to have him digging through a guy’s lunch for something to eat.  He grabs a sandwich; it turns moldy.  He picks up an apple, but it also decays.  Then he picks up a Twinkie, and that stays fresh.  OH, I get it!  You’re retarded!  Thanks for wasting 5 minutes of my life for that gem.  The worst part in the movie for me was when Cage was talking with the little kid, and the kid asks what he has to do if he has to pee when he’s the Ghost Rider.  Blaze responds “Oh, it’s great.  It’s like a flamethrower.”  This joke wouldn’t be particularly funny, but it was just something throw out there … until Cage jumps up and starts mimicking a flamethrower with his wang, and the kid visualizes the Ghost Rider doing it.  Personally, I think it would’ve been more appropriate if the kid imagined the writer of the movie standing over the Ghost Rider, peeing on him.  It’s pretty much what you’re doing anyway.

Some of the performances in this movie were fine, but not too many.  Nick Cage … I suppose I don’t really need to say it, do I?  For the first 20 minutes of the movie, I was thinking he toned it down and was not annoyingly overacting the entire time, but then he started doing it again.  Idris Elba did a good enough job with the performance, but his French accent made him go over the top on occasion.  He’s not really French, he’s English.  But he literally kills two guys by throwing a bottle of wine at them, shooting them, and then berating them for wasting good wine.  It’s a shame they cut out the part where he choked someone with cheese and snails.  Ciaran Hinds and Violante Placido do solid jobs in the movie, and Johnny Whitworth and Fergus Riordan made no impact whatsoever.  I was really happy to see Christopher Lambert in the movie, but he didn’t have a very big role.

I must say, easily the best part of this movie is the trailer for the new Spider-Man that preceded it.  As for this movie, they somehow managed to made a movie worse than the original Ghost Rider.  And we thought it couldn’t be done…  There were a couple of parts in the action scenes that were bona fide badasslery, but the rest of it was crap.  Neveldine/Taylor continue to beat the shit out of the dead horse that is their Rollerblade riding style of directing, making most of the scenes shaky and nauseating.  If you wanted to see what Crank would look like if Chev Chelios’ head was on fire, this might be the movie for you.  Also, you might enjoy this box of Crayons and a padded room, but you can always keep drawing with your own feces.  The Ghost Rider himself looks better, but acts worse.  And so does Nick Cage.  I can’t recommend you watch this movie in the theaters.  It’s too expensive and I’m pretty sure they won’t give me my money back if I call and complain.  If you REALLY want to see this, it’ll probably be on RedBox in no time.  I’m looking out for you.  Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance gets “Roadkill” out of “I will eat your stinking soul!”

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