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Glory Daze DVD Review (2011 Echo Bridge Edition)

Glory Daze video poster Glory Daze

Theatrical Release: September 27, 1996 / Running Time: 100 Minutes / Rating: R / Songs List

Writer/Director: Rich Wilkes

Cast: Ben Affleck (Jack Freeman), Sam Rockwell (Rob), Megan Ward (Joanie), French Stewart (Dennis), Vien Hong (Slosh), Vinnie DeRamus (Mickey), Kristin Bauer (Dina), Alyssa Milano (Chelsea), John Rhys-Davies (Luther), Lance Wilson-White (Stew), Mary Woronov (Vicki Crump - Joanie's Mom), Tegan West (Doc), Matthew McConaughey (Rental Truck Guy), Sean Whalen (Flunky), Christine Klotz (Graduation Woman), Christopher Slater (Crazy), Elizabeth Ruscio (Jack's Mom), Spalding Gray (Jack's Dad), Brendan Fraser (Doug), Leah Remini (Theresa), Jay Lacopo (The Bus Driver), Matt Damon (Edgar Pudwhacker), Meredith Salinger (The Comic Strip Groupie)

Buy Glory Daze on DVD from Amazon.com

Many film buffs and historians consider 1939 Hollywood's greatest year of output. 1962 seems to be the leading runner-up. Beyond those, I think enough time has passed for several years in the 1990s to seriously enter the discussion.
The decade holds special meaning to me, being the one in which my like of film developed into full-blown love. But I felt back then that '90s cinema was as good as any other era's and there is now some perspective to back up that view.

While any one of the decade's last four odd years stands up to scrutiny, lately I've been thinking that 1995 is the strongest candidate in recent history to join that greatest film year debate. I'm probably shaped by the magic of the age I was, but there was a remarkable amount of enduring cinema released in those twelve months. Toy Story would change animation as we know it. David Fincher and Bryan Singer made splashes with their respective mysteries, Seven and The Usual Suspects. Martin Scorsese and Michael Mann each directed one of their stronger movies in the epic crime dramas Casino and Heat. Ron Howard's Apollo 13 is a great example of a gripping, meticulously researched dramatization of recent history.

I don't think that Braveheart, 1995's Best Picture Oscar winner, is a great indicator of the year's strength. But that shortcoming is countered by the entertainment value of films way off Oscar's radar. For instance, Tommy Boy is Chris Farley's best comedy and Billy Madison, Adam Sandler's breakout film, remains one of his most enjoyable. As far as second sequels go, Die Hard with a Vengeance and Batman Forever deserve far more credit than they get. The year also included strong sci-fi from the trippy 12 Monkeys to the preposterous but effective Outbreak, romantic comedies that both genders and a wide array of ages could confess to liking with clear conscience (Clueless, While You Were Sleeping, Sense and Sensibility), and one of the best foreign films I've ever seen in Italy's Il Postino / The Postman, which reached the US that summer. Even some of the year's family movies, a genre regularly dumped upon, seem quite a bit better than past and future fare, though I'll chalk some of that up to experiential memories.

This rampant admiration for 1995, which I could (but won't) extend to other areas of pop culture, like music, television, and pro sports, leads me to Glory Daze, a movie I requested to review in large part because it was made in 1995. It debuted that year as well at the Independent Feature Film Market and Hamptons International Film Festival, although it wouldn't reach the general public until the following fall, receiving very limited theatrical release on September 27, 1996.

Ben Affleck sports an interesting hairdo, a Van Dyck beard, and a Hate t-shirt in "Glory Daze", the first movie to utilize him as star. Rob (a young Sam Rockwell) fronts the guys' obligatory band.

That timing put the movie on the cusp of the fame of its leading man Ben Affleck, who in the coming months would star in Kevin Smith's Chasing Amy and Good Will Hunting, the big breakout hit that would earn him and Matt Damon screenwriting Oscars, while propelling them to B and A-list status they haven't let go of (though Affleck came close).

I didn't expect great things from Glory Daze, whose most prominent cover subject is a frothy glass of ale and whose cover quote proclaims it an "Animal House-Style Beer-Blast!", whatever that means. But among the latest wave of Echo Bridge Home Entertainment's releases of the lesser-known Miramax films whose distribution rights they recently required, Glory Daze was as likely as anything to win me over.

The film centers on Jack Freeman (Ben Affleck), its narrator, who is just days away from graduating art college in Santa Cruz, California. Higher education has been pretty good to Jack and he is reluctant to let it go. "El Rancho Grande", the house he shares with four other friends, is hallowed ground, a shrine to his favorite things (with posters of John Belushi movies) and a record of their many acts of revelry. Jack's housemates are as follows: Dennis (French Stewart), who lives in the attic, is going for his third degree (that's how you justify why the squinty 30-year-old in college), this one for photography; dropout Slosh (Vien Hong) has video game design aspirations, though no one will play his bunny-blasting creation; Mickey (Vinnie DeRamus) is somewhat of a campus celebrity for the cartoon he draws for the local paper; and then there's Rob (Sam Rockwell), who is having trouble getting more serious with his girlfriend of eighteen months (Megan Ward).

Jack's parents (Elizabeth Ruscio and Spalding Gray) are less than understanding of their son's feelings. Fellowship-extending art professor Luther (John Rhys-Davies) has Dennis (French Stewart) laughing now, but he'll soon be crying.

These guys are classic undergrad types, who drink a lot, throw darts at the walls, and have a rock band. They're closer to each other than any of them is to their families. They're like a frat, only without organization, funding, or any interest in expanding their ranks.

Goateed Jack, who's still hurting from getting dumped by his lover Dina (Kristin Bauer, "True Blood"), decides he'll stick around for another year, delaying the real world and responsibility while further enjoying his beloved home and, he hopes, the company of his friends. They are all open to the idea, putting their assorted post-graduation plans on ice. It seems unrealistic that they all could and would entertain the notion at the last minute, but this is a movie and not one too concerned with reality.

And yet, this independent production is much more thoughtful and enlightened than you expect of an "Animal House-Style Beer-Blast!" The fourth screenplay and only directorial outing of Rich Wilkes (who had previously scripted Airheads and would later write the Vin Diesel vehicle xXx), Glory Daze has ideas and sentiments of substance. They're not entirely original and films dealing with similar subject matter, from The Graduate to Noah Baumbach's 1995 debut Kicking and Screaming, have displayed more tact and wisdom. But the theme of uncertainty on the brink of life change is universal enough for Glory Daze to earn our sympathy and mild appreciation. At 100 minutes with credits, the film belabors a bit and its writing is often amateurish. Its anti-establishment airs are especially contrived, with the handful of fully grown adults being either callous (the late Spalding Gray, playing Affleck's dad) or opportunistic (John Rhys Davies as Jack and Dennis' art professor). At least the movie acknowledges that Jack, raised in white suburban affluence, doesn't have anything to rebel against or with (his curious knowledge of poets, notwithstanding).

As the film mopes and devises a love interest for its protagonist in Alyssa Milano, whose casual boyfriend Mickey is dealing with even less understandable malaise (as if he was going to be written as a closeted gay, but then Wilkes reconsidered that), you are certain to marvel at just how strange and different this feels just fifteen years after theatrical release. Glory Daze (which runs little risk of being mistaken for the short-lived recent TBS comedy of the same name) is extraordinarily dated, its colorful grunge fashions (layers, berets, denim, and plaid) and corded house phones ("I got it. Hang up!") sure to amuse in different ways those of youthful, conscious age in the mid-1990s and those predated by it. Those who went to college back then are sure to get a nostalgic kick out of this, having probably not seen it already. Today's teenagers can only view this as a relic of a different generation, the MTV/Generation X, of which quite possibly their parents are members. This must rank as one of the last college movies where cell phones and computers are not ubiquitous.

Amidst NOFX posters, Jack (Ben Affleck) deters the advances of Chelsea (Alyssa Milano) in deference to his friend Mickey. Brendan Fraser (already a movie star) and Leah Remini (not yet a big TV star) play Doug and Theresa, a couple whose bus talk about PDA rubs Jack the wrong way.

If the '90s stylings don't do it for you (and how could they not?!), then perhaps you'll be intrigued by seeing some famous actors in their younger days. Several of the leads have faded to obscurity, whether they've stopped acting (Vinnie DeRamus, Vien Hong) or not (Megan Ward). French Stewart was about to be famous for "3rd Rock from the Sun", but he's come full circle and would now likely relish a film role of this size.
Sam Rockwell had about eight years of experience prior to this, but he's far more famous today and probably not far from an Oscar nomination and win.

Affleck, of course, is the lead here, for the first time of his career. From this, you have no reason to see a major movie star in him, but he became one and sustained it by picking the right projects after Good Will Hunting, ensuring visibility, if not necessarily acclaim. By 2003, audience good will had run out, with the combination of Daredevil (profitable but weak and loathed), Gigli, and Paycheck. The following year's flops (Jersey Girl, Surviving Christmas) confirmed the public's changed tide. And yet, Affleck seems to have weathered that storm, winning respectability back as the director of Gone Baby Gone and director/star of The Town. His next movie is for esteemed, eccentrically private Terrence Malick, something any actor would be proud to report.

Affleck seems to have reached out to his friends and past co-stars, for they also make brief appearances here. Matthew McConaughey, Affleck's Dazed and Confused castmate, turns up as a truck rental agent who represents what the graduating friends do not want to become. Matt Damon makes a brief, nonverbal cameo as a former resident the gang does not at all like. School Ties' Brendan Fraser turns up on a bus, his overheard debate on public displays of affections with his girlfriend ("The King of Queens"' Leah Remini), raising Affleck's wrath. Also, Sean Whalen, someone you have no reason to know by name, plays a cap and gown distributing "Flunky" whose corny time-wasting jokes also tick Affleck off. If you watched TV in the '90s, you might remember Whalen as the Buscemian guy whose peanut butter mouth hindered his ability to correctly answer "Aaron Burr" in the radio contest call-in of the first and most memorable "Got milk?" commercial. And if you remember that, you'll feel old to learn that Whalen is approaching 50.

Glory Daze was distributed to theaters by Seventh Art Releasing, a small studio that has largely specialized in documentaries in its twenty years of existence. On home video, the movie was handled by Sony, debuting on VHS in 1997 from Columbia TriStar Home Video and DVD on the week that Daredevil opened in February 2003 (then called Columbia TriStar Home Entertainment). When and how the film entered the Miramax library, I don't know, but Echo Bridge reissues the film this week like any other Miramax title whose rights they've acquired, with the low list price of $6.99. On this new DVD, the movie is now preceded by a silent version of Miramax's current title logo.

Glory Daze (1996) Echo Bridge DVD cover art -- click to buy DVD from Amazon.com DVD Details

1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Dolby Stereo 2.0 (English)
Subtitles: None
Not Closed Captioned
Release Date: June 28, 2011
Single-sided, single-layered disc (DVD-5)
Suggested Retail Price: $6.99
Black Keepcase
Previously released on DVD by Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

VIDEO and AUDIO

On Echo Bridge's DVD, Glory Daze is presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen and Dolby 2.0 audio that sounded like plain stereo to me. Both picture and sound are lacking some, though more fault goes to the original low-budget production than this DVD. The video is clean but blurry. Certain parts early on felt as if they're played in slightly slow motion (creating some odd pacing). The soundtrack is limited, much of it clumsily looped and certain actions seem to be missing sound effects. Obviously, Echo Bridge didn't go in any tinker with the recordings, so Glory Daze probably didn't look and sound very good to begin with. Sony's DVD promised a Dolby Digital 5.1 mix, but it apparently only provided 2.0 audio. Still, I would guess that is as good as if not better than this. It's also worth noting that whereas Sony's DVD offered closed captions and English and French subtitles, Echo Bridge offers none of the above.

Glory Daze's original trailer touted the punk music it featured by acts mostly forgotten today, like NOFX, Bad Religion, Bouncing Souls, The Mr. T Experience, and score-providing The Vandals. Although the film barely went to theaters, the profane songs speaking to Jack's angst did get released in an unlikely official soundtrack on Kung Fu Records in 1999. Even more remarkable, the CD is still in print and even available as a digital download.

The main menu for Echo Bridge's "Glory Daze" DVD supplies two options and three screens of clips.

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS and PACKAGING

Glory Daze is joined by no bonus features here. The only extras on Sony's DVD were trailers for Adaptation, Punch-Drunk Love, and Stealing Harvard, so no great loss there. You can find Glory Daze's dated trailer online pretty easily on search engines like Yahoo! and Bing, but it certainly would have been welcome in better quality here, since it's unreasonable to assume that anyone other than maybe Rich Wilkes would care to reflect on this movie (or ever be asked to).

The DVD's main menu is what I'm discovering is Echo Bridge's Miramax standard, a 30-second loop that attaches a score excerpt to three screens of silent clips. Without extras or language options, the only other screen is Chapters, which displays static images against the same backdrop and score.

If you don't already love the '90s, "Glory Daze" won't change your mind, but it will show you a variety of the decade's fashions.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

If you attended college in the mid-1990s, some of Glory Daze may resonate for you. For everyone else, the film's greatest appeal lies in the early appearances made by numerous future movie stars led by Ben Affleck
and in the general '90s nostalgia its late-pre-Internet stylings supply.

I'm doubtful that Echo Bridge's unremarkable DVD is better than Sony's release in terms of feature presentation, but this low-priced disc beats it in two ways: it's in-print (as Sony's is not) and it's cheap (three dollars cheaper than Sony's disc ever got down to).

Glory Daze doesn't add anything to my case for 1995 being an outstanding year for cinema (I'd classify it as a 1996 release, anyway). The movie is more sloppy and angry than funny or smart and yet I kind of liked it anyway.

More on the DVD / Buy from Amazon.com

Buy from Amazon.com

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Sam Rockwell: Galaxy Quest The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy Everybody's Fine
French Stewart: Inspector Gadget 2 Beverly Hills Chihuahua 2 | Alyssa Milano: Hall Pass
'90s Movies: Bottle Rocket The Usual Suspects Toy Story Braveheart The Big Green
The Graduate Back to School Mama's Boy The Roommate Step Brothers Gone Baby Gone

Glory Daze Songs List: The Vandals - "It's a Fact", NOFX - "Kill All the White Man", The Mr. T Experience - "I Just Wanna Do It With You", The Bouncing Souls - "Here We Go", The Mr. T Experience - "Even Hitler Had a Girlfriend", NOFX - "Fucking My Mom", Vinnie DeRamus - "Sports-Pack", Assorted Jelly Beans - "Braindead", Tilt - "Crying Jag", Hepcat - "Country Time", John Connor, Daniel Rey, Sam Rockwell, Roger Murdock - "Dudes of Steel Theme", Ednaswap - "Clown Show", The Billy Nayer Show - "Baby", Daniel Rey, Vien Hong, Vinnie DeRamus, John Conner, Roger Murdock - "Now We Are 21", Chappie Chap - "She Ballin'", The New Bomb Turks - "Runnin' on Go", NOFX - "The Moron Brothers", Tilt - "Berkeley Pier", Mudhoney - "Acetone", Bad Religion - "We're Only Gonna Die"

Glory Daze: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack:
Download MP3s from Amazon.com Buy CD from Amazon.com

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Reviewed June 27, 2011.



Text copyright 2011 DVDizzy.com. Images copyright 1996 Fusion Studios, Weiny Bro Productions, Woodward Productions, Seventh Art and
2011 Miramax and Echo Bridge Home Entertainment. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.