Well it's finally here, the day we all anticipate throughout the year. It is a day of holy reverence and deep introspection. It is also a day of rodents and farcical meteorological fortune telling. Ladies and gentleman, Groundhog Day has finally arrived. OK, so it's not as big a deal as Halloween or Christmas, but it still shows up on the calendar and, more importantly, was immortalized in a Bill Murray comedy -- so attention must be paid! Sorry to go all Arthur Miller for a moment, but it was during a recent viewing of Harold Ramis' fantastic 1993 film that I began to ponder what it would be like to be stuck in the same day forever. More to the point, what would it be like to be trapped in one cinematic day for all eternity?
Here is a list of days in moviedom we’d rather not relive.
Day of the Dead
There are few things on this planet that terrify me more than zombies. While I have mostly satisfied myself that there is probably no way the bodies of the recently deceased would ever suddenly spring to life and begin feasting on the flesh of the living, it still gives me the heebies as well as the jeebies to think about. But honestly, that wouldn't be the worst part in being stuck in this the final chapter of Romero's 'Dead Trilogy' -- Day of the Dead. I think I'd much rather deal with the ravenous undead horde than live under the thumb a psychotic military asshole. The only plus side would be having loads of time to spend with Bub.
The Day the Earth Stood Still
The feeling of being completely powerless is not one anyone enjoys. But imagine feeling the most powerless any Earthling can feel every day for the rest of time. In the 1951 sci-fi classic The Day the Earth Stood Still, a visitor from another planet basically tells all of humanity to either stop fighting or it will be destroyed by his robo-henchman Gort. So not only are we being told what to do, but also this mysterious threat has so terrified the planet that everything grinds to a halt. On top of all that, we’d have to experience a thinly veiled metaphor for the Cold War ad nauseum.
Terminator 2: Judgment Day
Every time my iPhone manages to track my exact location, anticipate what song I want to listen to, or choose a restaurant for me, I fear the eminent rise of Skynet and the fall of the human race in the fiery holocaust known as Judgment Day. Sure, Arnold and Linda Hamilton were able to stop the agent of the machines before he managed to kill the future leader of the resistance as a child, but if they had to repeat that process every day, how long before they would slip up and the machines would win? But really, my ultimate fear is being stuck hanging out with Edward Furlong for eternity. Given that alternative, maybe I would root for the machines.
Day of the Animals
Everybody loves hiking, right? We love to get out and reconnect with nature, see all the fuzzy little woodland critters. Well, what if those fuzzy little woodland critters were conspiring to kill you? William Girdler’s 1977 B movie brings into serious contention the structure of our established food pyramid. While it would be great to be able to hang out with the late, great Leslie Nielsen, the fact that he is a total d-bag in the film is a major drawback. But at least we would be perpetually experiencing a time in which bears are the ultimate rape-deterrent. Seriously, you have to watch this film.
In one 24-hour period, aliens wipe out New York, L.A. and Washington, D.C. While this does offer the advantage of eliminating Congress, Friedberg and Seltzer, and the New York Yankees, I suppose there would be negative aspects as well. I can’t really imagine constantly reliving a time when Bill Pullman was president, Jeff Goldblum was a cable repairman, and Randy Quaid was allowed to operate aircraft. And while that “Today ... we celebrate our Independence Day!" speech is inspiring the first 20 times you hear it on cable, it would surely lose its pomp and circumstance after 365 continuous days.
Perhaps Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows should have been a trilogy. Splitting the sprawling finale to author J.K. Rowling’s boy wizard saga into three parts — as opposed to its chosen two-part incarnation — might have come across as shameless profiteering (admittedly a not-uncommon practice in this town) but it wouldn’t have been without merit. At 759 pages Rowling’s source novel is said to be a rather dense work plot-wise; surely it could have easily warranted another installment?
I only say this because Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1 though certainly a decent film clearly strains from the effort required to fit the book’s proceedings into a two-act structure. While Part 2 slated to open approximately six months from now is alotted the story's meaty parts — namely the spectacular Battle of Hogwarts and its emotional denouement — Part 1 must bear the burden of setting the stage for the grand confrontation between the forces of Light and Dark magic and framing the predicament of its three protagonists teen wizards Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe) Hermione Granger (Emma Watson) and Ron Weasley (Rupert Grint) in suitably dire terms. And it's quite a heavy burden indeed.
As the film opens the evil Lord Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes) having assumed control over Hogwarts since the events of the preceding film Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince has wasted no time in initiating his reign of terror. As far as historical evil-dictator analogues are concerned Voldemort appears partial to the blueprint laid by Stalin as opposed to that of his genocidal pact-pal Hitler. Enemies of the Dark Lord's regime are prosecuted in dramatic show trials presided over by the Grand Inquisitor Dolores Umbridge (Imelda Staunton) while muggles (non-magic folk) and half-bloods are denounced as "undesirables" and “mudbloods” in Soviet-style propaganda posters and forced to register with the authorities.
As the only viable threat to Voldemort’s dominion Harry and his allies are hunted vigorously by Bellatrix LeStrange (Helena Bonham Carter) and her goon squad of Death Eaters. The Boy Who Lived now fully grown and in more or less complete command of his powers is still no match England's nasally scourge. Labeled "Undesirable No. 1" by the Gestapo-like Ministry of Magic he's is forced to go on the lam where he labors along with Ron and Hermione to solve the riddle of Voldemort’s immortality.
For those not well-versed in Rowling’s source material the film’s opening act is a frustrating blur: After an all-too-brisk update on the bleak state of affairs in Hogwarts we are hastily introduced (or re-introduced) to a dozen or so characters the majority of whom are never seen again. A few even perish off-screen. Had we gotten a chance to get to know them we might be able to mourn them as our heroes do; instead we’re left racking our brains trying to recall who they were and how they figured in the plot.
Rowling's flaws as a storyteller — the over-reliance on deus ex machina devices (in this case we get both a doe ex machina and a Dobby ex machina) the ponderous downloads of information (not unlike those of that other uber-anticipated and somewhat overrated 2010 tentpole Inception) the annoying ability of characters to simply teleport (or "disapparate") away from danger etc. — are more evident in this film than in previous chapters. And rather than obscure these flaws director David Yates and screenwriter Steve Kloves both franchise veterans arguably amplify them.
What saves the film are Rowling's three greatest achievements: Harry Ron and Hermione who along with the actors who play them have evolved beyond the material. The film's narrative gains its emotional footing during the heroic threesome's exile ostensibly a series of camping trips — with tents and everything — during which they reflect on their journey together the challenge that awaits them and the sacrifices it will require. Though they occasionally verge on tedious these excursions into Gethsemane allow us precious quality time with these characters that we've grown to adore over the course of seven films even if the plaintive air is spoiled a bit by some rather puzzling attempts at product placement. In their rush to flee the Dementors and Death Eaters it seems that they at least took care to pack the latest in fall fashion:
As devout readers of Rowling's novels know all too well the only foolproof shield against Voldemort's minions is the Bananicus Republicum charm.
Move over cupid; it’s time for the angel of death to play matchmaker in Life As We Know It a rom-com from director Greg Berlanti and first-time screenwriters Ian Deitchman and Kristin Rusk Robinson which proves the old adage that there’s no better catalyst for love — and comic hijinks — than the sudden tragic demise of loved ones.
Holly Berenson (Katherine Heigl) and Eric Messer (Josh Duhamel) could not be more different. He’s an aspiring television sports director and an unrepentant cad whose casual seat-of-your pants approach to life is best symbolized in the ratty baseball hat that perpetually adorns his dome (always worn backwards — classic movie shorthand for “slob”). She’s a successful caterer with a five-year plan and a strict intolerance for disorder of any kind. He has a penis; she a vagina. We’re talking Israel and Palestine here folks.
The mutual disdain between Holly and Messer is palpable and intense but the two are always able to put their differences aside when in the presence of their goddaughter Sophie the unbearably adorable spawn of his best friend Peter (Hayes MacArthur) and her best friend Alison (Christina Hendricks). When the youthful parents perish suddenly in a car accident (the tragedy of which is compounded by the loss of Mad Men star Hendricks on-screen for all of a few minutes and annoyingly clothed throughout that span) there’s little time to mourn before hilarity comes calling in the form of an estate lawyer who reveals that Peter and Alison mischievous rascals that they were mandated in their will that Sophie be raised by Holly and Messer in the event that the child is abruptly orphaned.
One’s heart really goes out to Duhamel’s character here: Not only does he lose his best friend but he’s saddled with both a helpless one-year-old and Katherine Heigl. What sort of mass-murdering past life is this guy being forced to atone for? Put this material in the hands of Clint Eastwood and it’s got Oscar potential. And yet not only does Messer not strangle Holly in her sleep he falls in love with her! And she for him! Their romantic bond flowers unexpectedly as they devote themselves to the task of caring for Sophie within whose many noxious emissions it seems is housed some sort of powerful aphrodisiac that renders even the most unappealing people somehow irresistible.
The effect spreads to the audience as Duhamel and Heigl conspire to win our affections establishing a keen romantic chemistry that almost makes Life As We Know It’s far-fetched (and occasionally bizarrely macabre) plot palpable. Duhamel hits that sweet spot between eye candy and everydude as well as any actor working today and his easy charm rubs off on Heigl whose trademark busybody antics aren't nearly as cloying as in the previous seven chapters of her “Men Are Pigs” rom-com decalogy. In fact she’s downright likable in this film. Maybe there's some truth to all that nonsense about babies being little miracles after all.