Groundhog Day


Looking over the big movie titles of 2014, there aren’t a whole bunch of trends to be found. The most noticeable has to be privacy/surveillance in the digital age, which is the subject of a major documentary (Citizenfour), one of the top-grossing hits of the year (Captain America: The Winter Soldier) and one of the worst box office duds (Men, Women & Children). Also, there are other ties related to great scientific minds, such as with the oft-acknowledged pair The Imitation Game and The Theory of Everything, plus how those relate to films as different as The Internet’s Own Boy: The Story of Aaron Swartz, Transcendence, Particle Fever and Interstellar. And there was the surprising trend in truly good vampire movies, namely Only Lovers Left Alive, A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night and What We Do in the Shadows, although that last one hasn’t officially been released yet. One way to spot trends or at least connections between the year’s movies is to consider their influences, some of which are shared among various titles. We look at essentials of the past each week in this manner with our “Movies to See After…” lists, and occasionally the same oldies show up for multiple new releases. Those and other significant precursors relevant to this year’s noteworthy titles are now on the following list of movies to watch after you’ve seen the movies of 2014. Just as was the case last year, a lot of them are well-regarded and familiar classics that you probably should already have seen. But those are the kinds that most clearly inform […]


Bill Murray and Harold Ramis in GROUNDHOG DAY

I made plans late last week to feature Groundhog Day as my next Commentary Commentary title, and immediately discovered that I didn’t own a copy of the film. A quick trip to a nearby video store graced me with a used Blu-ray which I brought home, watched, and fell in love with all over again. It’s that rare, near-perfect movie where everything seems to fall beautifully in place, a film that never weakens on repeat viewings, and one that says more about humanity than many examples of far more serious cinema. Harold Ramis died this past Monday, and while it’s a tragedy for his wife, children, and friends, it also leaves a void for the millions of fans who’ve loved much of his work over the years. Meatballs, Caddyshack, Stripes, National Lampoon’s Vacation, Ghostbusters, Back to School, Groundhog Day, The Ice Harvest… all fantastically fun films that wouldn’t have been the same without his involvement as writer and/or director. Keep reading to see what I heard on Harold Ramis’ commentary for Groundhog Day.


Harold Ramis

Of course it happened in February. Yesterday, Harold Ramis passed away from complications resulting from autoimmune inflammatory vasculitis, a rare blood disease. He is survived by his spouse, Erica Mann, as well as his three children and two grandchildren. He is also survived, for those of us who knew the man’s work but never met him personally, by some of the most influential and game-changing comedies of the past forty years. It’s difficult to know what the careers of Bill Murray, Chevy Chase, and John Belushi would look like without him. If there had been no Harold Ramis, there would be no Caddyshack, no Vacation, no Groundhog Day. If Ghostbusters could ever have existed sans Ramis in some other form, it’s impossible to imagine quite what that would be. He was, by all measures, a consequential figure in American comedy.



For some of us, it’s a yearly tradition to re-watch Groundhog Day on Groundhog Day. But this year could be the chance to get out of that loop. Not just because it’s also Super Bowl Sunday but because it might be time to check out any number of movies that have tried to repeat the magic of that 1993 Bill Murray comedy. Most failed miserably and aren’t really worth viewing except in order to see what some of these descendants look like. Groundhog Day has a decent legacy for the most part, including the importance put on its preservation by the Library of Congress and the National Film Registry. It also regularly places high on lists of the best comedies ever made. Its affect on other movies, though, has been pretty hit or miss. Some of the titles below are exact remakes, while others were likely not influenced at all by it and merely have similar ideas or situations. Groundhog Day, which was written by Danny Rubin with later script contribution from director Harold Ramis, isn’t based on anything directly, either, but there are likeminded stories and films that came before it, including a certain Oscar-nominated short from 1990, which was based on a sci-fi story from a magazine, from which the makers of Groundhog Day were accused of stealing. And maybe that’s where we should kick things off:



Earlier this week, Variety chief film critic Justin Chang wrote about time travel romance films in response to the new Richard Curtis movie, About Time. It’s a fair reading of the genre, focusing narrowly on Somewhere In Time, The Lake House and The Time Traveler’s Wife (which like About Time stars Rachel McAdams). These are all cinematic equivalents of the time travel romance novel (two are actually adaptations), of which there are hundreds of examples, and they’re all pretty sappy, whether they have sad or happy endings. Of course, they’re concentrated on not only love stories, but ones putting the ideas of destiny and its obstacles to the extreme of temporal distance. So either concluding in a final parting (death) or union (finally getting together forever), there’s going to be a great sentimental power breaking through the tension at the end, a power that probably leaves its audience in need of a tissue. But those four movies, including the latest, hardly represent the full extent of time travel romance in the movies. It’s just that most of the others are concentrated on the time travel narratives over the romantic. Still, they feel the need for those love interests, and the love story elements are always very interesting given the plots. See some notable examples below.



Sometimes you just have to punch a wall, or perhaps a car door, or a ceramic cat – really, it’s whatever is closest. Whether it is rage, retribution, or legitimate hatred, sometimes an inanimate object just has to go down. In the moving pictures this is especially fun to watch. Much like a movie death is often more dramatic than reality, a little inanimate destruction goes a long way.


joe carnahan

Joe Carnahan’s Liam Neeson vs. wolves thriller The Grey isn’t just one of the most well-regarded releases of this year so far, it’s also a grizzled, badass guy’s film the likes of which we haven’t seen in a while. So you would think Hollywood should be lining up to help Carnahan slip into his next tough guy-themed project as soon as possible. And thankfully, they are. Twitch has word that Carnahan has been given the go-ahead by 20th Century Fox to start work on a passion project he’s been trying to develop for a while called Continue. It’s an action-centric take on the story trope of a protagonist having to re-live the same events over and over again; kind of like a Groundhog Day with guns, or that episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation where the same attack keeps happening, but not in space. Carnahan’s story is about a former soldier who has to keep reliving the day where assassins came to kill him for unknown reasons. Days like that are the worst.


Hogwarts Express

Hunger is the reason mankind first decided to kill – one imagines. Surely, the first time someone domed a boar with a stick they didn’t do it just to be a dick about it. This is why when a movie does food right the result is extremely powerful; you can close your eyes and try to forget a sad or scary scene in a film, but if a scene makes you hungry there’s no going back from that. Here are some scenes that you’ll no doubt wish you didn’t watch – scenes that make you hungry, no matter your preference, because sometimes food just looks good.


Blazing Saddles Horse Punch

So I was watching the film The Descendants, and I couldn’t help but to laugh my ass off when the grandfather points to Nick Krause’s dumb-ass character and says “I’m going to hit you.” – Then, without any room for discussion he proves to be a man of his word. It got me thinking about some of the other great comedic punches out there, and soon enough I was assigning my wonder into list form. Violence and comedy together at last!



There should be a rule somewhere that Groundhog Day be committed to the vaults as one of the prime comedies of all time, such is the film’s importance to the world of cinema. It is at once a simple romantic comedy with a high-concept, easily digestible and entertaining, and yet it is also a theoretical wonder, inspiring philosophical and specifically metaphysical debate at the same time as featuring a groundhog driving a pick-up truck. That is some kind of achievement. It is also a film that inspires fierce fandom: last year, I had the temerity to calculate how many days Bill Murray spends reliving Groundhog Day. People actually queued up to pull my theories (which were supposed to be humorous) to pieces and I was left a broken, quivvering husk of a man. So this year, I’m being far more safe, and simply looking at some of the best ever Groundhog Day merchandise. I could be hilarious, and simply post the same bit of merchandise three times in a row, but that would probably only be funny to me, so I won’t.



A story has been making the rounds today that Tom Cruise is more than likely set to star in director Doug Liman’s next venture, a sci-fi film called All You Need is Kill. Variety says that the star has been courted for the role for a while and seems to be poised to take it, while Inside Movies claims that the deed has already been done and the papers are all signed up, so no matter who you believe, it’s looking like this will be a project coming, at least eventually, to a theater near you. All You Need is Kill is set to be adapted from a graphic novel of the same name by Hiroshi Sakurazaka, and the story sees Cruise’s character caught in a Groundhog Day-type time loop where he lives the same day over and over again, but with a slight twist. Okay, maybe not so slight, the twist is that the day he’s living over and over again is one where he’s battling space aliens for the very survival of the planet. Every day he goes to battle, every day he dies, and every morning he wakes up anew. Until the 158th time he gives it a go, and he meets a character called (at least in the comic) The Bitch of War, who changes everything. Sounds crazy.



What is Movie News After Dark? It ain’t messin’ with you, bub. You should know that up front. It’s only bringing you the best of the weekend’s news, tidbits and otherwise noteworthy items. It believes that you shouldn’t mess around either. That’s why it recommends reading it every single night before you go to bed. Today begins with a project that I know many of you are excited about, 20th Century Fox’s Deadpool. A perfect fit is Ryan Reynolds in the titular role, as are Zombieland writers Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick on scripting duties. This week the project got a director, effects artist Tim Miller, whose credits include X-Men, X2 and Scott Pilgrim vs. the World. He has also served as the Inferno Supervisor (read: Guy Who is In Charge of Digital Explosions) on several other projects. That’s a pretty wicked line of work.


Moon Source Code

This editorial contains spoilers for Source Code and Moon. If you haven’t seen the movies yet, go check it out first before diving in. When I watched Duncan Jones’s sophomore effort Source Code, I couldn’t help but think about how much it resembles, nearly beat for beat in its structure, his first film Moon. This is not necessarily a criticism of Source Code or Jones, as repeated thematic occupations and narrative revisitation can be the sign of the auteur, and I’ve enjoyed both his films. But the films are, admittedly, structurally identical in several ways. Both involve a lone protagonist who discovers something unexpected about their identity that changes their relationship to their given tasks (Sam Bell realizing he is a clone in Moon, Captain Colter Stevens’s “near-death” state in Source Code), and combat some form of repression against a bureaucratic organizational body (a private corporation in Moon, military scientists in Source Code) while being assisted by an empathetic, benevolent subordinate of that organization (GERTY the robot in Moon, Vera Famiga’s Captain Goodwin in Source Code). But it is rather appropriate that both of Jones’s films be so structurally similar, for the major themes connecting them, and the narratives by which those themes are exercised, are enveloped in the topic of the repetitive structures of everyday life.


Matt Patches

You’ve stumbled upon Circle of Jerks, our sporadically published, weekly feature in which we ask the questions that really matter to our writers and readers. It’s a time to take a break from our busy lives and revel in the one thing that we all share: a deep, passionate love of movies. If you have a question you’d like answered by the FSR readers and staff, send us an email at What movie universe would actually want to live in? Susan C.



What is Movie News After Dark? This is a question that I am almost never asked, but I will answer it for you anyway. Movie News After Dark is FSR’s newest late-night secretion, a column dedicated to all of the news stories that slip past our daytime editorial staff and make it into my curiously chubby RSS ‘flagged’ box. It will (but is not guaranteed to) include relevant movie news, links to insightful commentary and other film-related shenanigans. I may also throw in a link to something TV-related here or there. It will also serve as my place of record for being both charming and sharp-witted, but most likely I will be neither of the two. I write this stuff late at night, what do you expect?


Circle of Jerks

You’ve stumbled upon Circle of Jerks, our sporadically published, weekly feature in which we ask the questions that really matter to our writers and readers. It’s a time to take a break from our busy lives and revel in the one thing that we all share: a deep, passionate love of movies. If you have a question you’d like answered by the FSR readers and staff, send us an email at You guys were probably too busy watching “The Dark Knight” again to notice we had an election, but it was a pretty huge night that led my roommates and I into a discussion social change and movies. Question time: What movie actually changed your mind about a social or cultural issue? Thanks. – Ted F.


Reject Radio

This week, on a very special episode of Reject Radio, the editor of The New Ledger and podcast host of Coffee and Markets Ben Domenech brings his velvety voice to the show to suggest that John Lithgow play a werewolf-hunting FDR, question the Spider-Man casting, and create a list of movie characters that should run for office (we’d totally vote for Judy Dench’s M). Plus, we find time to review Megamind, Due Date, and implore you to see Four Lions. Listen Here: Download This Episode


Best Bathtub Death Scenes

When I lived in DC, I took at least two showers a day because of the swamp heat and humidity. Even then, after reaching what could technically, numerically be called adulthood, I would find myself checking cautiously behind the curtain (from time to time) for psychotic serial killers. The bathroom, and the bathtub in particular, is an incredibly vulnerable place. After all, we are (usually) alone. We are cornered. We are naked. Many films have exploited this vulnerability, but not all of them do it for fear. In fact, it turns out that where we spend .6% of our lives can also be an incredibly poignant space. It can also be hilarious. Many films have killed characters in the bathtub, but only a few could float to the soap-covered top as the best of the best.



Fall in love with Groundhog Day all over again and again and again and again and again.

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published: 01.31.2015
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published: 01.30.2015
published: 01.29.2015

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