Monday, 14 April 2014

"Groundhog Day" on BLU RAY – A Review Of The 1993 Harold Ramis Movie…

Here is a link to Amazon UK to get this BLU RAY issue at the best price:

"…Chance Of Departure Today – 100%!" – Groundhog Day on BLU RAY

Phil Connors is the Weatherman for Channel 9 out of Pittsburgh (WPBH). Under serious duress - he’s been farmed out for four years in a row to the small town of Punxsutawney in Western Pennsylvania (Weather Capitol of the World Since 1877). He’s there to see another namesake predict the snow front coming in over the mountains even better than he can. Because every February 2nd 'Punxsutawney Phil The Groundhog' pops out of his tree trunk - and in front of the gathered townspeople and American media - tells The Mayor whether or not there will be 6 more weeks of Winter or an early Spring. And legendarily - the furry little Beaver-like creature is never wrong. Phil Connors (as you can imagine) couldn’t be more pleased about this prestigious career gig.

And this year deadpan Phil has a crew of two in tow – both believing him to be a shallow, self-centred, wisecracking smartass who doesn’t care about the town, its people or even the fun they’re having – and they’d be right. Assistant Rita (Andie McDowell) and cameraman Larry (Chris Elliott) think Phil is a prick - and with every cynical jab and jibe he proves them correct – over and over again.

So on arrival Phil discounts Rita’s obvious interest in him – and stays in The Pennsylvania Hotel in town instead. He rises at six a.m. the following morning to the sound of two local DJ’s doing a Groundhog Day comedy routine to the music of "I Got You Babe" by Sonny and Cher. Phil does the tedious gig with the varmit and the microphone and the camera – meets a man from the past he can’t stand (a stunning turn by Stephen Tobolowsky as Ned Ryerson) – gets locked into the town by a freak snow storm - and goes back to his hotel hoping to forget about the whole godawful schmaltzy thing.

But the next morning Phil wakes up at six a.m. to the same song and the same DJs corny puns. He looks out the window and it’s not snowing – Phil is reliving the same day – all over again. At first Phil is freaked - but of course no one believes him. Then as each day goes by and exactly the same things happen – he begins to twig he can predict the reactions of everyone – including the lovely Rita - who needs to be won over with gallantry, humanity and a liberal reading of Romantic French Poetry. Phil also begins to realize that if he makes a mistake talking to Rita in the town’s Tip Top Café – he can come back the next day and say the right thing. That will impress. Or better still – plug the local babes for info in the morning – then come back the following afternoon and use it to his dating advantage. Soon he’s doing this with everyone in town.

But as time goes by – he also learns the other positive of living in a modern day setting for "It's A Wonderful Life" – he can do good. So every new day Phil saves a child who falls from a tree – jacks the tyre of a group of old ladies who break down in a car – saves a man who chokes on a piece of steak in a restaurant – gives an old timer who is freezing to death outside bowls of soup… He even learns to ice-sculpt and play the piano really well. But unfortunately despite his best bedroom lines – his efforts to get his lovely assistant into the sack end up with him getting his face slapped by Rita – a lot. But of course as the days become weeks then months even years – he learns depression and loss - and that even suicide/killing himself in various interesting ways won’t get him off the hook or out of the endless repetitive cycle. But perhaps love might…

The part of Phil the Weatherman had initially been offered to Tom Hanks who rightly turned it down and Danny Rubin’s story began in the middle of the cycle (co-writes with Ramis changed all that). But what makes ‘Groundhog Day’ work is the witty and clever time warp moments and the casting of the one-and-only Bill Murray in the lead role - machine-gunning out those great one-liners like only he can (title of this review). Murray’s face is also a secret weapon unto itself – as is the gorgeous luminescence of Andie McDowell who seemed to spark amazing chemistry with her leading men (Gerard Depardieu in "Green Card" and Hugh Grant in "Four Weddings And A Funeral" are just two). But it’s Murray who nails it - slapstick cruel one moment – sweat as a Pumpkin Pie the next. Other actors could say, "Who can describe the television excitement of a large squirrel predicting the weather…" but would it be as funny?

The BLU RAY picture is TRULY GORGEOUS – defaulted to 1.85:1 Full Aspect – it looks incredible almost all of the time. Dancing on the podium to Ray Charles as the snow falls – talking to Andie McDowell as they eat cream cakes – drinks at the bar as he tries not to be a twat and say something crass… Apart from the occasional grain in the credits (as the George Clinton song plays) and during the blizzard – it’s beautifully restored and enhances every scene.

Audio is English 5.1 True HD, Czech 5.1, Hungarian 5.1, Italian 5.1 True HD, Polish 5.1 VO and Russian 5.1 VO. Subtitles are Bulgarian, Croatian, Czech, Danish, English UK, Finnish, Greek, Hindi, Hungarian, Icelandic, Italian, Norwegian, Polish Romanian, Slovene, Swedish, Turkish and English SDH.

Extras include – Audio Commentary With Director Harold Ramis, A Different Day Featurette (A discussion with Harold Ramis on the movie and its legacy), The Weight Of Time (a discussion with writer Danny Rubin), The Story Of Groundhogs, A Real Life Look At Marmots, Deleted Scenes, and Needle Nose Ned’s Picture In Picture Track (BLU RAY exclusive).

I suppose in the hands of another Director this material could have been more cynically portrayed – darker even – but Ramis likes people too much for that to happen. There’s now even a plaque on Main Street Woodstock in Illinois (where they filmed the town sequences) dedicated to “Ned’s Corner” where Phil Collins meets Ned Ryerson every day and reacts differently to him. Residents brought out heaters to warm the freezing cast – Bill Murray bought and distributed 500 Danish Pastries to the onlookers. Sometimes a movie is like that – it’s just good – and makes you feel all warm and fuzzy inside…even becomes a cult…

So remember – if a talking American marmot tells you what Sunday’s weather is going to be like for that crucial date with the lady of your dreams – I’d listen - lest you want sore cheek bones and no sex for the rest of eternity...

PS: Although it doesn’t say so on anywhere on the outer artwork – this ‘UK’ BLU RAY release is part of the “Sony Collectors Series”. Here are the other titles – all of which are numbered on the spine - and come in generic ‘slipcases’ with a blue band on top and a gold stripe set against a white card sleeve:

1. Taxi Driver (35th Anniversary Edition) (1976)
2. The Bridge On The River Kwai (Collectors Edition) (1957)
3. Stand By Me (25th Anniversary Edition) (1986)
4. Gandhi (2 Disc Special Edition) (1982)
5. Easy Rider (Special Edition) (1969)
6. Midnight Express  (Special Edition) (1978)
7. Boyz N The Hood (20th Anniversary Edition) (1991)
8. Das Boot (2 Disc Director’s Cut) (1981)
9. The Guns Of Navarone (50th Anniversary Edition) (1961)
10. Close Encounters Of The Third Kind (2 Disc Special Edition) (1977)
11. Dr. Strangelove Or: How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love The Bomb (Special Edition) (1964)
12. Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon (Special Edition) (2000)
13. The Caine Mutiny (Special Edition) (1954)
14. Lawrence Of Arabia (50th Anniversary Edition) (1962)
15. Bram Stoker’s Dracula (Special Edition) (1993)
16. Groundhog Day (Special Edition) (1993)
17. Glory (Special Edition) (1990) [see REVIEW for "Mastered In 4K" release]
18. From Here To Eternity (Anniversary Edition) (1953)

19. The Remains Of The Day (Anniversary Edition) (1993) [see REVIEW]

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