PictureGroundhog Day returns to your screens at a theatrically correct 1.85:1 1080p, with the MPEG-4/AVC codec. Although this release is by far head and shoulders over any version of the film I have seen before all is not quite well in this repeat.
Encoding wise there is nothing to complain about, there is some slight enhancement in the town's buildings in front of the starker grey sky and this enhancement can also be seen around Bill Murray's nose as he cavorts with Andie MacDowell in the snow covered park in the middle act of the movie. Apart from that there is some noise in the darker scenes but overall these two downturns don't really affect the enjoyment you still receive from watching Groundhog Day.
Darker scenes are better than they have ever been, in the park later during the snowball fight and later dancing in the gazebo, in the bars and nightclubs. There are excellent shadows on display and detail bursts forth in these scenes like never before. That detail is more than apparent in the lighter scenes as well, the slow steady walk to Gobbler's Knob, offering forth better detail in the streets, the cars, the slush on the ground and the people who are all milling around waiting on the prediction from the towns favourite weather forecasting ground squirrel.
The colours are bolder and stronger than they have ever been before and this is the one issue I continually had a problem with, skin tones especially. In the chilly, grey wintery outdoors these tones are muted somewhat; this is definitely an artistic choice and not to be faulted, however move inside and some of these skin tones are completely unnatural and not consistent in any way. In some scenes, specifically the ones at breakfast in Phil's hotel both Phil and his landlady do look rather red, the colours here certainly oversaturated.
As I say this is by far the best I have seen Groundhog Day and bar some minor niggles is a good enough presentation let down somewhat in some scenes by a strong red push in the skin tones.
SoundThere are three full TrueHD tracks to take advantage of here and the continuing use of these codecs to other languages is always a welcome one. For this review, as always, though I choose the English version.
From the outset you realise that this is the best you have heard the film. The opening Ramis co-written Weatherman track is wide, deep and detailed. Expanding the frontal stage, perfectly balanced between the left and right channels with good separation. The track is loud, yet detailed and some dialogue spoken during this opening sequence is never lost in the mix.
Dialogue itself is good, predominantly centred, and you'll never wonder what was said in that last sentence. Low tones get a good boost over the DVD counterpart and again it rests with the backing score to provide this. There is one explosion of course and this adds some thump to the mix but apart from that it's not a bells and whistles affair.
Surround use is sparse however it does kick in when the crowds are gathered at Gobbler's Knob, the music emanating from hotels, the diner scenes and the end of day party in the final act. During these moments this additional surround use is welcome and does add some ambiance however at times it does feel a little forced and is no reflection of what is actually on screen at the time. For example no matter how the camera moves or pans the surround use is exactly the same, there's no steerage there at all. Similarly a band up front on your screen, viewable and in frame still has the audio coming from the surrounds, this lack of decent audio placement can become a little distracting. It's not the best surround mix by any stretch of the imagination.
- Commentary With Director Harold Ramis.
Ramis going solo on this quieter than usual track. He discusses shooting locations, not Punxsutawney he hastens to add but Woodstock, the cast and crew, the characters and the themes contained within the film. It's a good enough track but there are quieter moments where you just sit back and watch the film again. You get the impression that he's just going through the motions really and not overly comfortable with doing these voice over commentaries.
- A Different Day: An Interview with Harold Ramis. - 0:09:58 - MPEG-2/1080p
Predominantly Ramis on camera, with some cut scenes of the film, discussing the nature and themes he was trying to get across. He mentions the messages he received from therapists, religious characters and the general public congratulating him on the underlying message in the movie. He indicates that too many people thought he was trying to convert the audience to some viewpoint or other when he was just trying to make a fun movie. There's some repetition from the earlier commentary but this is still a good enough watch in its own right.
- The Weight of Time. - 0:24:44 - MPEG-2/480i
Writer, Producer and Director discussing their own views on this film. How Ramis got his hands on the film and how Rubin wanted to get stuck into the repetition straight away without getting bogged down in explaining the whys and wherefores. How Ramis and Rubin really believed that Murray was the ideal choice to play this mischievous role. They also discuss the other main actors, MacDowell and Tobolowsky. As well as this short EPK having some brief out-takes we also get an insight into how long Phil actually spent reliving that one fateful day.
- The Study of Groundhogs: A Real Life look at Marmots. - 0:06:24 - MPEG-2/1080p
Wanted to know about Marmots, Groundhogs, Wood Chucks then this is the one for you. A number of experts have their say on the conservation of these animals and studies they are currently investigating. In all honesty this is not as bad as you might immediately think.
- Needle Nose Ned's Picture in Picture Track.
The film played again with Needle Nose Ned popping up every now and again on what is essentially a pop up trivia track. It's nothing new and there are some nice titbits in there, but on the whole I felt this was throw away affair. Occasionally though Ned will ask a question with a timer counting down and you have to guess the answer. If you've relived Groundhog Day as much as Phil then most of these will roll off your tongue.
- Deleted Scenes. - 0:05:53 - MPEG-2/480i
6 Deleted scenes with a Play All feature. I quite liked the Pool Hall scene as it was more of Phil being arrogant Phil, and the destruction of his own ice sculptures brought a smile to my face so I would rather they had been kept in. The rest deserve their place on the cutting room floor I feel.
Trailers for The Pink Panther (don't get too excited it's the Steve Martin version) and The Adventures of Baron Münchhausen.
More of the same from Sony, spotlights and previews and even though my player connected there was no actual content up on the site.
A good enough set of extras but a set that somehow leaves you wanting, I really just needed something more from this. I found the commentary enjoyable and insightful if not a little quiet and I felt thse could have been a little better if they revealed more about the film itself. A commentary by Murray would have been ideal and hopefully at some future point I'll see that.
VerdictGroundhog Day is an absolute gem of a story from the early Nineties when without a doubt both Murray and Ramis were at their absolute best. MacDowell I've always taken or left and usually the latter but she's more than acceptable in this film, not being overly too sugary sweet. The relationship she and Murray develop throughout is a good enough watch and one which doesn't strain credibility.
The story gets me every time, on face value you would think how can you watch, and re-watch multiple times, a story which is in fact a constant repeat of itself, but there are avenues within that storyline that Phil travels down which become compelling viewing time and time again. This Blu-ray release is good on both the video and audio front, both do have some anomalies but still a step up from the standard DVD release. The extras are fair but because I enjoy the film so much I still want more from them.
I can only recommend a purchase for this I'm afraid, if you rent this then you'll never forgive yourself when you come to look at it again and that space on your shelf is bare. And just for the record the real Punxsutawney Phil this year, 2009, saw his shadow beside him!
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- Commentary With Director Harold Ramis.