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GROUNDHOG DAY: SPECIAL 15TH ANNIVERSARY EDITION (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

January 11, 2009 by  



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“15 years later and ‘Groundhog Day’ still remains imaginative, enchanting, funny and entertaining!”

Images courtesy of © 1993 Columbia Pictures Industries, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: GROUNDHOG DAY: SPECIAL 15TH ANNIVERSARY EDITION

DURATION: 101 minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: Color, 1080p High Definition (1:85:1), English, French, Portuguese Dolby (TrueHD) 5.1, Arabic, Chinese (Mandarin Simplified), Chinese (Mandarin Traditional), Dutch, English (US), French (Parisian), Indonesian / Bahasa, Korean, Portuguese (Brazil), Spanish (Latin Am), Thai

COMPANY:  Columbia Pictures/Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

RATED: PG

Release Date: January 27, 2009

Screenplay by Danny Rubin and Harold Ramis

Directed by Harold Ramis

Story by Danny Rubin

Produced by Trevor Albert and Harold Ramis

Executive Producer: C.O. Erickson

Music by George Fenton

Starring:

Bill Murray (as Phil Connors)

Andie MacDowell (as Rita)

Chris Elliott (as Larry)

Stephen Tobolowsky (as Ned Ryerson)

Bill Murray is at his wry, wisecracking best in this riotous romantic comedy about a weatherman caught in a personal time warp on the worst day of his life. Teamed with a relentlessly cheerful producer (Andie MacDowell) and a smart-aleck cameraman (Chris Elliott), TV weatherman Phil Connors (Bill Murray) is sent to Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, to cover the annual Groundhog Day festivities. But on his way out of town, Phil is caught in a giant blizzard, which he failed to predict, and finds himself stuck in small-town hell. Just when things couldn’t get any worse, they do. Phil wakes the next morning to find it’s Groundhog Day all over again… and again… and again.

It has been 15 years since the release of the popular film “GROUNDHOG DAY”.  It remains one of the highest rated films of all time (on rottentomatoes.com) and it remains to this day a fan favorite for many film fans (including religious groups).  Not only has it spawned many copycat stories on film and television but on Blu-ray, this film stands the test of time as an innovative and hilarious film for all time.

“GROUNDHOG DAY” centers around the life of weatherman Phil Connors (Bill Murray).  A cynical, cold and somewhat egotistical man who tends to think about himself.  He has to head to Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania for his yearly coverage of the annual Groundhog Day festivities, which he could care less for.  He just wants to do his job and go back home.

So, he goes to Punxsutawney accompanied by his new producer Rita (Andie MacDowell) and his cameraman Larry (Chris Elliott).  His routine of waking up at 6:00 a.m., meeting with the Inn’s employees, meeting a homeless man and seeing an old acquaintance (which he does not remember or care for) and driven insurance salesperson Ned Ryerson, stepping in a pothole full of cold water and covering the groundhog festivities.  He covers the story and immediately wants to leave the town and go back home.  Unfortunately, a blizzard comes to town, which he predicted incorrectly and is stuck in Punxsutawney and decides to sleep the whole day and go back home.

But something weird is going on.  As Phil Connors wakes up at 6:00 a.m., he is reliving his life on Groundhog’s Day over and over again.  He is conscious that he is reliving it but he doesn’t know why.  At first, reliving the day a few times over, Phil thinks he’s going mad but then he realizes that he can have fun with it.  Being the type of guy he is, he gets into mischief by trial and error, he manages to date a few women (and have one night stands), he gets into theft and goes crazy.  But then he starts to see if he can get closer with his producer Rita and see if he can have a one night stand with her.

With each day he relives, he tries to use it to his advantage and it would work on other people but for Rita, she keeps dumping and slapping him.  Phil continues to relive the same day over and over and over again.  But through the course of reliving that day for who knows how many times, Phil starts to realize what kind of person he is and that he needs change his life for the better.

VIDEO & AUDIO:

“GROUNDHOG DAY” is featured in 1080p High Definition/1:85:1.  This probably the best we are ever going to see this film considering the film stock and its source at the time.  The picture quality looks very good for a 1080p transfer of a film made 15 years ago and looks way better on Blu-ray than DVD.  The film was shot a lot during the Winter time and during the dark but didn’t notice any dust, scratches or any major artifacting especially in the black areas.

The audio is featured in TrueHD 5.1 (English, French and Portuguese) and although primarily a dialogue film that shines when the music is played, there is actually good use of surround sound in this film in terms of ambient noise.  May it be at the park, at a restaurant, etc.   That ambiance is nicely captured in this TrueHD audio track.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“GROUNDHOG DAY” has several special features presented in HD and Standard Def. included on the Blu-ray disc:

  • Needle Nose Ned’s Picture-in-Picture Track – While watching this film, you will see Ned Ryerson pop up and give you some tidbits of the film.  It’s not text, his head actually pops up at the bottom of the screen and he starts talking.   Despite Stephen Tobolowsky doing a great job as the talkative insurance salesman, there was only so much I can take of Ned Ryerson in the film and would rather not watch him pop up while watching the film.
  • Audio Commentary with Director Harold Ramis – Interesting tidbits from Harold Ramis, especially on the talent and the improvisation and chemistry these talent had.  It was interesting to hear how many scenes that Bill Murray used his talent of improv and also to hear about how Murray was actually bitten by the groundhog during the driving scene.
  • A Different Day: An Interview with Harold Ramis – An interview with Harold Ramis today on how the film has stood the test of time.  How it was loved by so many people and how religious groups love the film.  It was a fun featurette and to watch Harold Ramis recall things of that time and how he feels about the film now.  Also, to find out that Tom Hanks was actually being considered for the main lead for the film and then Tom agreeing with Harold by selecting Bill Murray instead.
  • “The Weight of Time” Documentary – This featurette features Harold Ramis and Danny Rubin.  The two talk about how the writing of the film started from the middle and how they then worked on making sure the film would work.  It was interesting to find out that Danny Rubin wanted to start with the repeating days immediately and Harold wanted the pre-Groundhog day storyline of Phil Connor as a weatherman and establishing his character and to hear from Danny Rubin agreeing that Harold made the right choice.
  • “The Study of Groundhogs: A Real Life Look at the Marmots” – This featurette focuses on the western marmots and how these animals are sociable and how the males and females interact.  But the research that is being done on these animals and how ecology can be affecting these marmots.
  • “Deleted Scenes” – A few scenes that were deleted from the film.  Good decision by Harold Ramis in having these scenes cut!

Surprisingly, there is no commentary.  It would have been a blast to hear the director talk about the film since there was so much put into it.  I would have loved to hear Amanda Foreman who wrote the original book talk about Georgianna but unfortunately there is no commentary.

“GROUNDHOG DAY” is one of those films that can appeal to anyone and no matter how many years have past, it will still have its relevance.

The character of Phil Connors is not exactly a likable character in the beginning.  He doesn’t care about anyone but himself and when he repeats these days over and over, you could imagine how his character would get into mischief.  But it’s that self-realization while he tries and tries to get close to Rita and you never know how many times he has had to relive that day but he learns that there are differences he can make in his own life but also make a difference in others.

He goes from a person with many flaws and his mind in the gutter but as he starts to meet these people around him and because he relived that day probably hundreds or maybe even thousands of times, he has had a chance to realize his faults.  Helping the old homeless man on the street, being there for a boy who could have hurt himself severely after falling for a tree but being there to catch him when he falls.  But the things he didn’t like in life, things that Rita is interested in, Phil feels that he has all the time in the world to learn to enjoy now.  May it be reading poetry, learning how to do ice sculptures, learning to play the piano.  He may be reliving the day over and over again, but he still retains that consciousness of learning and so we see this progression of a man who didn’t care…now starting to care and becoming a changed man.

Harold Ramis makes an interesting point in the special features that although he doesn’t relive his day over and over like Phil, he does repeat that same way of living and wishing things that were said to be unsaid, wishing to do things differently and perhaps, there is something for everyone who has watched this film, to take in and probably learn about the life they live and what changes they could be doing.   The changes in life must be changes that are within.

“GROUNDHOG DAY” celebrates it’s 15th Year Anniversary and what better time than now when millions of Americans are reflecting about their lives and the changes they need to make.   The film features a lot of heart, a lot of humor and gives us some perspective and that is why this film worked as it did back then and can continue to work today.

A very good release on Blu-ray and it was great to see Harold Ramis and Dan Rubin revisit the film and give commentary for this special 15th Anniversary Edition.  It would have been great to hear from Bill Murray and Andie MacDowell together for their own commentary.

All in all, a fantastic release on Blu-ray and the definitive “GROUNDHOG DAY” release to own!

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