Tag Archives: Harold Ramis

The Set of 400: #16 – My Favorite Toast to World Peace

Today! Because we’d better get going if we’re going to stay ahead of the weather –

Groundhog Day (1993)

Directed by Harold Ramis (x3)

Starring Bill Murray (x13), Andie MacDowell (x4), Chris Elliott (x2), Stephen Tobolowsky (x5), Brian Doyle-Murray (x6), Robin Duke (x2), David Pasquesi, Rick Ducommun (x5), Marita Geraghty, Michael Shannon, Harold Ramis (x4), Rick Overton (x2), Willie Garson (x6), Angela Paton, Ken Hudson Campbell (x2)

The greatest pure comedy screenplay ever written, Groundhog Day is an unabashed masterpiece, forever imitated across genres and styles but never topped. I like Happy Death Day and Edge of Tomorrow as much as anybody, but the sheer brilliance of Ramis’s handling of this material (and extensive rewriting of the original script) coupled with Murray’s best performance will always give this movie the nod over the knock-offs.

Tough luck, weird baby mask killer!

What has certainly helped this movie stick around – besides its obvious greatness – is that it finally gave the rest of the country something to do on February 2nd. Punxsutawney is in the middle of nowhere in Pennsylvania, and appears wholly incapable of supporting any manner of major celebration. Once upon a time we happened to be driving across PA on 2/2, and would’ve needed to stay over somewhere in the western portion of the state anyway, and hotels were jammed literally everywhere around Punxsutawney. Who the hell actually goes to Gobbler’s Knob anyway? Lots of folks, apparently! Is this due to Groundhog Day? It wasn’t even filmed there, probably for the same reason you can’t just pop in on the holiday! Continue reading

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The Set of 400: #19 – My Favorite Mass Hysteria

Today! Because that was the whole plan, “Get her!” –

Ghostbusters (1984)

Directed by Ivan Reitman (x2)

Starring Bill Murray (x12), Dan Aykroyd (x7), Sigourney Weaver (x7), Harold Ramis (x3), Ernie Hudson, Rick Moranis (x4), Annie Potts (x3), William Atherton (x2), David Margulies (x2), Alice Drummond, Larry King (x2), Slavitza Jovan, Jordan Charney (x3), Jennifer Runyon, Casey Kasem, Joe Franklin (x2), Jean Kasem, Reginald VelJohnson (x2)

Show of hands – who hasn’t seen Ghostbusters a thousand times? Even if you didn’t grow up with it, that movie airs on television what, every week? Every few days? I solidly feel like this was the gateway to film comedy for virtually everyone around my age. I don’t distinctly remember when it first came out – as I was just pushing five at the time – but once it was on video, it was a solid household staple from that point forward. I can’t even guess how many times I watched Ghostbusters, but I’d say it’s probably among my top five or six films, along with the Star Wars movies, Indiana Jones, Young Frankenstein, and Monday’s film. Stay tuned!

Because what is there not to like about Ghostbusters? It’s just scary enough, just cool enough, and just funny enough to appeal to a wide variety of audience members. You don’t like horror? The scary ghost stuff is pretty fleeting. You don’t like ’80s action flicks? This doesn’t have all that much derring do! You don’t like comedies? What are you, a monster? Everybody likes comedies! Plus, while this movie is funny, has a lot of funny lines, has a lot of funny characters, it isn’t swinging for home run laughs on every beat. It is the quintessential action comedy from an era loaded with them, and the added bonus is that there happen to be ghosts. Fun!

And some of those ghosts are only around for prurient thrills!

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The Set of 400: #41 – My Favorite Free Bowl of Soup

Today! Because I got that going for me, which is nice –

Caddyshack (1980)

Directed by Harold Ramis (x2)

Starring Chevy Chase (x4), Rodney Dangerfield, Michael O’Keefe, Bill Murray (x9), Ted Knight, Cindy Morgan, Sarah Holcomb (x2), Scott Colomby, Brian Doyle-Murray (x5), Ann Ryerson, Albert Salmi, Elaine Aiken, Henry Wilcoxon, John F. Barmon Jr.

I’m guessing the main reason I didn’t see Caddyshack for long time was that I’d seen Caddyshack II first. And while to a ten year old II’s nonsense retread antics aren’t all that bad – oh, that funny gopher! Dan Aykroyd! Jackie Mason! Kenny Loggins’ “Noboby’s Fool”! – it obviously isn’t a movie that would inspire you to seek out others in the series (plus it thankfully murdered any concept of this becoming a franchise). So while I certainly caught heavily edited glimpses of the original, it was probably high school before I finally watched the whole bawdy golf masterpiece in all its glory.

I’ll admit, Caddyshack is a bizarre conglomeration of stuff that only barely holds together as a movie. The original concept just centered on the caddies, easily the weakest and most forgettable part of the final film, and probably recognizing this they enhanced the roles and importance of all the high caliber comedians brought in (you’d assume) to bolster this plot. Thus you end up with the disparate stylings of Rodney Dangerfield – never better than as boorish new club member Al Czervik, Ted Knight’s permanently outraged Judge Smails, Chevy Chase’s best non-Griswold creation of slick golf whiz Ty Webb, and the king himself, Bill Murray in the basically unscripted groundskeeper/gopher antagonist role of Carl, whose every line has probably found its way onto a t-shirt by now.

Lord knows I’ve got my share

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The Set of 400: #185 – My Favorite Boot Hat

Today! Because so much for rule #1 –

Multiplicity (1996)

Directed by Harold Ramis

Starring Michael Keaton (x4), Andie MacDowell (x3), Harris Yulin, Eugene Levy (x2), Richard Masur, Brian Doyle-Murray (x3), John de Lancie, Ann Cusack, Julie Bowen, Robin Duke, Robert Ridgely (x3), Glenn Shadix (x2)

While it still might be a better idea for a movie than how it actually turned out, Multiplicity is nonetheless a very funny, solidly entertaining film. After a lengthy sojourn into superhero costumery and relatively effective dramas, Michael Keaton got back to his all out comedic roots portraying Doug Kinney (named for legendary National Lampoon writer Doug Kenney) and his clones. It’s a pan-and-scan nightmare of a film, so find it in widescreen or get ready for the whiplash! They want you to see all the clones, it’s understandable, but man, the camera sliding all over the goddamn place.

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The Set of 400: #287 – My Favorite Do Wah Diddy Diddy Dum Diddy Do

Today! Because our forefathers were kicked out of every decent country in the world –

Stripes (1981)

Directed by Ivan Reitman

Starring Bill Murray (x3), Harold Ramis (x2), John Candy (x5), Warren Oates (x2), Sean Young, John Larroquette (x3), P.J. Soles, Judge Reinhold, Joe Flaherty (x2), Dave Thomas, Timothy Busfield (x2), Donald Gibb (x3), Bill Paxton (x3), Robert J. Wilke, William Lucking, Conrad Dunn, Antone Pagan

Stripes gathered up half the cast of SCTV, added Bill Murray, had them join the Army, and the whole thing worked. Okay, the first half of the movie is the more memorable one – the second half has them steal a tank and invade Czechoslovakia, sort of, so yeah, if you mostly just recall the basic training sequences, you’re excused. And that part of the movie is terrific, Murray’s John Winger butting heads with Warren Oates’ Sgt. Hulka, the misfit group getting in trouble and rebounding to pull it together, that great graduation drill. Also, as the only movie where Murray and Candy share any significant screen time, Stripes would’ve been significant no matter what. But thankfully it still holds up, for the most part, as these comedians in this era made rare missteps.

Great, messy times!

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The Set of 400: #372 – My Favorite Temptations

Today! Because I done a bad thing/cut my brother in half –

Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story (2007)

Directed by Jake Kasdan

Starring John C. Reilly, Kristen Wiig, Jenna Fischer, Craig Robinson, Harold Ramis, Ed Helms, Jack White, Raymond J. Barry, Margo Martindale, Tim Meadows, Honeyboy Edwards, Jack Black, Jonah Hill (x2), Justin Long, Paul Rudd (x2), Jason Schwartzman, Martin Starr, Rance Howard, Chris Parnell, Matt Besser, Jack McBrayer, Frankie Muniz, Ian Roberts, David Krumholtz, Jane Lynch, Simon Helberg, Jackson Browne, Jewel, Lyle Lovett, Ghostface Killah, Eddie Vedder

This totally wacky send-up of mid ’00s musical biopics really hit the spot for me in ’07. It borders on Airplane! style lunacy at times, hurling jokes as fast as it can, and many manage to stick thanks to the all-in performance the great John C. Reilly gives at all ages of Dewey’s life from 14 onward. He’s supported by an utterly astounding number of comedians willing to throw a few minutes into the film. Sure, it rambles all over the place in search of jokes – while I enjoy the Jack White Elvis and the Black/Rudd/Long/Schwartzman Beatles, they do feel a bit like overkill. I particularly love Tim Meadows bits as Dewey’s drummer, continually trying to dissuade him from whatever vice currently being enjoyed. But I think the thief of the film is X-Files great Raymond J. Barry as Dewey’s father, constantly bemoaning “Wrong kid died!” It’s silly madness, replete with equally goofy original songs, and was still almost completely ignored in its day at the box office. Totally deserving of an audience! Continue reading

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