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Blu-ray Reviews

HTF BLU-RAY REVIEW: Groundhog Day



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#1 of 18 OFFLINE   Richard Gallagher

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Posted January 24 2009 - 07:23 PM

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Studio: Sony/Columbia

Year: 1993

Rated: PG

Length: 101 minutes

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 1080p

Languages: English, French, Portuguese Dolby TrueHD 5.1

Subtitles: English, English SDH, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Chinese (Traditional), Chinese (Simplified), Korean, Thai, Indonesian, Dutch, Arabic


The Program

What would you do if you were stuck in one place and every day was exactly the same, and nothing that you did mattered?

Phil Connors (Bill Murray) is a self-centered, egotistical weatherman for a television station in Pittsburgh. Every February the station dispatches him to the western Pennsylvania town of Punxsutawney to cover the annual Groundhog Day festivities, where “Punxsutawney Phil” emerges from hibernation on the 2nd of February. If the groundhog sees his shadow, the residents have another six weeks of winter to suffer through.

Phil makes it clear that he has grown weary of the ritual and he wants to get in and out of Punxsutawney as quickly as possible. He is accompanied by his new producer, Rita (Andie MacDowell), and his cameraman, Larry (Chris Elliott). Rita is unrelentingly cheerful about the assignment, and Larry can’t understand why Phil is complaining. “I don’t understand what’s wrong with the groundhog festival,” remarks Larry. “You know, when I worked in San Diego I covered the swallows returning to Capistrano six years in a row.”

After spending the night at a local bed and breakfast, Phil is awakened at 6:00 a.m. to the sound of Sonny & Cher singing “I Got You Babe” on the clock radio. During his walk to the town square, Phil runs into an old high school classmate he has completely forgotten about, Ned Ryerson (Stephen Tobolowsky), better known as “Needle Nose Ned.” Now an obnoxious insurance salesman, Ned has difficulty believing that Phil doesn’t remember him. “I dated your sister Mary Pat a couple of times,” says Ned, “’til you told me not to anymore.”

When “Punxsutawney Phil” sees his shadow, the weatherman can scarcely conceal his contempt for both the event and the local townspeople, whom he dismisses as “hicks.” Phil, Rita and Larry head back to Pittsburgh, only to be forced to return to Punxsutawney because of a blizzard and a closed freeway. Phil spends another night at the bed and breakfast, and when he wakes up the next morning – once again to the sound of Sonny & Cher – he discovers that it is still Groundhog Day, all over again. The weather is the same, the people are the same, the band in the town square playing "Pennsylvania Polka" is the same, and “Punxsutawney Phil” sees his shadow again. This scenario is repeated the next morning, and the morning after that. Phil Connors finds himself caught is some sort of time warp, one from which there appears to be no escape.

There are plenty of laughs in Groundhog Day, but it also conveys as serious message about maturing and redemption. Once Phil gets beyond his understandable bewilderment, he initially responds to the situation by seeing how much he can get away with. He discovers that nothing that he does has lasting consequences, because every day starts off as if the previous day never happened. He learns things which enable him to seduce a local woman, and then he tries to do the same with Rita. Ultimately, however, he has to come to grips with the idea that nothing that he does actually matters.

Groundhog Day is a wonderful film and it has not aged a bit since it was released in 1993. Bill Murray is terrific as Phil, and he and Andie MacDowell demonstrate some genuine on-screen chemistry. Stephen Tobolowsky is nothing short of hilarious as Ned, stealing every scene in which he appears. Director Harold Ramis keeps things moving along at a solid pace and the film never loses its momentum. Groundhog Day was a huge box office hit and garnered mostly rave reviews. If you haven’t seen it before, now is the time to enjoy it in glorious Blu-Ray. If you have seen it before, now is the time to see it again.

The Video

The 1.85:1 1080p transfer is very satisfying. The image is generally sharp and clear. A moderate and appropriate amount of film grain is evident, giving Groundhog Day a pleasing, film-like appearance. The color palette is deliberately subdued, as all of the action takes place on a gray day in February, but the colors and skin tones appear to be accurate. Black levels are good and shadow detail is excellent. I did not observe any edge enhancement or annoying digital artifacts. All in all, this is a first-rate Blu-ray disc, and it is the best that Groundhog Day has ever looked on home video.

The Audio

The Dolby TrueHD soundtrack is very good. This is essentially a romantic comedy, so there is not much here to tax your sound system, but music plays and important part in the film and the soundtrack has excellent separation. The score by George Fenton is very enjoyable and the film also includes songs by Ray Charles and Nat “King” Cole. The dialogue is clear and intelligible throughout.

The Supplements

The extras on this Blu-ray release include an interesting and informative commentary track by director Harold Ramis. He is obviously happy with all of the performances in the film, and he is quick to point out the many scenes in which Bill Murray used improvisation to enhance the film. Also included is a new, ten-minute interview with Ramis.

“The Weight of Time” is a standard definition “making of” featurette which has previously appeared on DVD. I had not previously thought about how carefully the film had to be choreographed in order to maintain the illusion that nothing in the background is changing from day to day.

Are you interested in groundhogs? Nature lovers will undoubtedly enjoy watching “The Study of Groundhogs: A Real Life Look at Marmots.”

Six standard-definition deleted scenes are included. With the exception of a poll hall scene, they are fairly brief, with a total running time of less than six minutes. The final product was not hurt by the deletions.

I am still scratching my head over a Blu-ray exclusive called “Needle Nose Ned’s Picture-in-Picture Track.” When engaged, this feature has Stephen Tobolowsky popping up on the screen, in character, apparently sharing tidbits about the film. While I had no trouble getting Ned to appear, I could not figure out how to hear Ned's audio track. The disc contains no specific instructions, and nothing I could do would allow me to hear him. If there is some trick to this which I have missed, please let me know. NOTE: The problem was in the setup of my BD player's audio and has now been corrected!

There will be some BD-Live features which will be available on the release date.

The Packaging

The disc is secured in a standard Blu-ray keepcase.

The Final Analysis

The reputation of Groundhog Day has only grown over the years, and with good reason. It is a terrific, original, wonderfully made film, featuring an excellent cast. It is one of those films which demands repeat viewing, so this Blu-ray disc is an investment which you will gladly make.

Equipment used for this review:

Panasonic DMP-BD50 Blu-ray player
Sharp LC-42D62U LCD display
Yamaha HTR-5890 THX Surround Receiver
BIC Acoustech speakers
Interconnects: Monster Cable

Release Date: January 27, 2009
Rich Gallagher

#2 of 18 OFFLINE   Thomas Agermose

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Posted January 24 2009 - 10:40 PM

In case you haven't tried this already:
On my Panasonic BD-55 you need to press the secondary audio button on the remote to enable the audio associated with the PiP video.

#3 of 18 OFFLINE   Scott Merryfield

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Posted January 24 2009 - 11:18 PM

Thanks for the review, Richard. It sounds like this transfer will be a welcome upgrade for me -- I only own the original SD-DVD, released in 1998.

#4 of 18 OFFLINE   Scott_J

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Posted January 25 2009 - 02:40 AM

Waiting for shipping notice for my Amazon pre-order. Great movie, glad to hear it seems to be a great transfer too.

#5 of 18 OFFLINE   Richard Gallagher

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Posted January 25 2009 - 05:42 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Thomas Agermose
In case you haven't tried this already:
On my Panasonic BD-55 you need to press the secondary audio button on the remote to enable the audio associated with the PiP video.

I just tried that again, still no audio from Ned. It could be a glitch with the screener that I received.
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#6 of 18 OFFLINE   Mike Frezon

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Posted January 25 2009 - 04:09 PM

Thanks, Richard. Your review is all the push I needed for this triple-dip.

This, for me, is one of the great comedies. Without getting too deep, there is a lot more going on with this movie than meets the eye at surface level. Murray is great...in possibly the role of his lifetime. Chris Elliot and Andie MacDowell are perfectly cast...and Stephen Tobolowsky is dead-on perfect as Ned Ryerson.

There's Jessie the yodeling cowgirl. Bullseye, he's Woody's horse. Pete the old prospector. And, Woody, the man himself.Of course, it's time for Woody's RoundUp. He's the very best! He's the rootinest, tootinest cowboy in the wild, wild west!


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#7 of 18 OFFLINE   Derek Miner

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Posted January 26 2009 - 06:28 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Mike Frezon
Thanks, Richard. Your review is all the push I needed for this triple-dip.
I managed to not upgrade to the previous edition, so I'll be glad to make the trade-up here.
= Derek Miner =
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#8 of 18 OFFLINE   Ric Easton

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Posted January 26 2009 - 07:50 AM

Somehow my last purchase of this movie was on Laserdisc, so I'll be gladly picking it up as well!

#9 of 18 OFFLINE   Richard Gallagher

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Posted January 26 2009 - 10:02 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Mike Frezon
This, for me, is one of the great comedies. Without getting too deep, there is a lot more going on with this movie than meets the eye at surface level. Murray is great...in possibly the role of his lifetime. Chris Elliot and Andie MacDowell are perfectly cast...and Stephen Tobolowsky is dead-on perfect as Ned Ryerson.

Mike,

I agree with everything you say. I hadn't watched this in many years, and I had forgotten how hilarious Tobolowsky's performance is. It's one of those rare times when you can say that "over the top" is dead on! Ramis says that Tobolowsky was so funny during his audition that they signed him for the part immediately.
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#10 of 18 OFFLINE   Tim Glover

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Posted January 26 2009 - 02:54 PM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Mike Frezon
Thanks, Richard. Your review is all the push I needed for this triple-dip.

This, for me, is one of the great comedies. Without getting too deep, there is a lot more going on with this movie than meets the eye at surface level. Murray is great...in possibly the role of his lifetime. Chris Elliot and Andie MacDowell are perfectly cast...and Stephen Tobolowsky is dead-on perfect as Ned Ryerson.

Double Ditto! Very well said Mike and I agree wholeheartedly. I also think you are dead on when you say this is Murray's role of a lifetime. He nailed every moment.

Wonderful film & I eagerly await my friendly man in brown (ups) on Wednesday when he delivers this masterpiece. Posted Image

#11 of 18 OFFLINE   Mike Frezon

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Posted January 26 2009 - 03:46 PM

Bing! Posted Image

There's Jessie the yodeling cowgirl. Bullseye, he's Woody's horse. Pete the old prospector. And, Woody, the man himself.Of course, it's time for Woody's RoundUp. He's the very best! He's the rootinest, tootinest cowboy in the wild, wild west!


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#12 of 18 OFFLINE   Scott_J

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Posted January 27 2009 - 11:48 AM

Bing again!

Ned is a great supporting character. Looking forward to his PiP track (hopefully I won't have trouble with it on my PS3). I'm behind the curve on this one, I guess - it's only a double dip for me (I never got the original, non-SE, release or the most recent re-release).

#13 of 18 OFFLINE   Richard Gallagher

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Posted January 27 2009 - 01:49 PM

I'm happy to report that the problem with the P-I-P audio was in the setup of my BD player. It turns out that the default setting for secondary audio is "off." I turned it on and BING! -- it is working just fine.

Thanks to all for your suggestions.
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#14 of 18 OFFLINE   Mike Frezon

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Posted February 02 2009 - 07:03 AM

Happy Groundhog Day, everyone! Phil saw his shadow this morning...meaning six more weeks of winter. Posted Image

Quote:
Hear Ye Hear Ye

On Gobbler's Knob this glorious Groundhog Day, February 2nd, 2009

Punxsutawney Phil, Seer of Seers, Prognosticator of all Prognosticators

Awoke to the call of President Bill Cooper

And greeted his handlers, Ben Hughes and John Griffiths

After casting a joyful eye towards thousands of his faithful followers,

Phil proclaimed that his beloved Pittsburgh Steelers were World Champions one more time

And a bright sky above me

Showed my shadow beside me.

So 6 more weeks of winter it will be.

=====================================

I had my annual showing of Groundhog Day yesterday (just before the Steelers won the Super bowl) and am pleased to report that I was blown away by how good this film looked and sounded.

As I constantly report, I do not have a huge HT set-up...but my modest display and speaker set-up certainly afforded me the possibility of clearly seeing the sharpness of the video presentation (or, should I more accurately say, the clarity of the film presentation? Posted Image ). It just looks GREAT! And the film has certainly also never sounded better! I know Richard talked about how good the music in the soundtrack sounded but I thought there was also a nice use of the surrounds in some of the more dynamic scenes of the movie--including each time Phil showed up at Gobbler's Knob for the Groundhog ceremony.

I've seen this film several times and I just couldn't get over how terrific the film looked/sounded when I watched it this time. I suspect it's not so much that I'm not used to seeing HD presentations as much as I'm just very used to what this film is "supposed to look like" having watched the VHS and subsequent DVD so many times. This Blu-ray disc turned one of my all-time favorite films into a real "wow" experience for me.

Note to Scott_J: The Pennsylvania Polka never sounded better than it does in Dolby TrueHD! Posted Image

There's Jessie the yodeling cowgirl. Bullseye, he's Woody's horse. Pete the old prospector. And, Woody, the man himself.Of course, it's time for Woody's RoundUp. He's the very best! He's the rootinest, tootinest cowboy in the wild, wild west!


HTF Rules | HTF Mission Statement | Father of the Bride

Dieting with my Dog & Heart to Heart/Hand in Paw by Peggy Frezon


#15 of 18 OFFLINE   Scott_J

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Posted February 02 2009 - 11:31 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Mike Frezon
Note to Scott_J: The Pennsylvania Polka never sounded better than it does in Dolby TrueHD! Posted Image
Having watched the disc on Friday, I concur. With the quality of this release, I am glad I upgraded from the DVD.

#16 of 18 OFFLINE   Carlo Medina

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Posted February 03 2009 - 04:34 AM

The sound is fantastic, but was anyone else taken aback by the volume of the "I am your weatherman" song at the beginning? To hear the dialogue in the studio I had the volume up to a certain amount, and then when the van heads out from Pittsburgh to Punxsutawney suddenly that song comes blaring out at a way louder volume and startled me!

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#17 of 18 OFFLINE   Mike Frezon

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Posted February 03 2009 - 05:28 AM

Carlo: That's a phenomenon I have always noticed with this film. Not to say that I remember when I saw it in the theater...but certainly on the DVD presentation it always seemed liked Weatherman Says came in rather boldly. I didn't notice it on the BD viewing any more than with the DVD mix.

I DID, however, think the music (including Weatherman Says) sounded incredible. Great fidelity, separation, etc.

The audio track really did make me sit up and take notice. That was cool.

I didn't think a 1993 comedy would greatly show the merits of the HD experience...but I was really proven wrong. And, for that, I am extremely happy.

There's Jessie the yodeling cowgirl. Bullseye, he's Woody's horse. Pete the old prospector. And, Woody, the man himself.Of course, it's time for Woody's RoundUp. He's the very best! He's the rootinest, tootinest cowboy in the wild, wild west!


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Dieting with my Dog & Heart to Heart/Hand in Paw by Peggy Frezon


#18 of 18 OFFLINE   Randy_M

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Posted February 03 2009 - 08:01 AM

I watch this every February 2nd.....I also think the Bluray was a good upgrade
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