When Punxsutawney Phil saw his shadow this morning, it was like Chekhov in a long winter. Yet we know that winter is just another step in the cycle of life. Previously SpoilerFreeReviews wrote about the warmth of Christmas movies. Now we are collaborating and basking in the heat of some of the greatest GROUNDHOG DAY-inspired content. 

I couldn’t imagine a better fate than to experience these seven titles over a long and lustrous winter.

Lucy (Drew Barrymore) lives in the “now.” There is no past or hope of a future. Henry (Adam Sandler) plays a womanizer who willingly gets stuck in this unique timetable.

50 FIRST DATES 😊

Esta Rosevear

50 FIRST DATES is not your typical Groundhog Day film, but it does contain the repetitive cycle of the same day played over and over again. Lucy (Drew Barrymore) lives in the “now.” There is no past or hope of a future. Henry (Adam Sandler) plays a womanizer who willingly gets stuck in this unique timetable. At its core, 50 FIRST DATES is a rom-com delight. It gives couples everywhere hope of overcoming any obstacle in their way. The movie repeatedly shares universal themes such as “true love can conquer all” and “people can change.” Is it realistic? Of course not, but who cares if we can get our “happily ever after” moment. I have always smiled and daydreamed while watching. It was a gift for all couples going through seemingly impossible seconds in their relationships. Adam Sandler was not the hunk that women dream of. Still, he represented Everyman trying to find solutions to an extraordinary romantic situation, which, to me, is “passion worthy” and raises the bar for all men. 

50 FIRST DATES does pay homage to time in an “Over the Rainbow” montage. Lucy and Henry are meant for each other. They are sweet, lost souls who, by chance, find love. The film is a “chick flick.” Even though released in 2004, it is still “timely” today. Women will still “aww” over Drew and Adam. Men will roll their eyes but sit through it. Women may watch and long for a “Henry” who is brave, creative, resourceful, and completely accepting of Lucy as she is. Men will crave more action. It is what it is, and 50 FIRST DATES shows us anything is possible in this crazy world of love stuck in a time warp. 

50 FIRST DATES is available on TNT and TBS.  

DEATHLOOP feels like you’re in one of the many movies my colleagues are discussing, where you know exactly where to step, who to talk to, and what to say, but at the expense of rigorous trial and error.

DEATHLOOP 🤩

Tarush Mohanti

You might be thinking – aren’t all video games pretty much time loop games? You’d be correct, but only a handful of games out there lean into this and incorporate a GROUNDHOG DAY-esque story.

DEATHLOOP takes place on a BOND-villain-inspired island in the mid-1960s. You play as Colt, who doesn’t remember anything before the loop. The game plays out like a puzzle, with Colt being a classic combination of detective-assassin. There are four locations in the game that you become intimately familiar with, playing through the same maps at various points of the day. The main antagonist is the vengeful Julianna, the only person aside from Colt to know they’re looping (think J.K. Simmons’ character from PALM SPRINGS). A neat part of DEATHLOOP is that you can choose to play as Julianna instead of Colt and disrupt other global players’ games.

I love playing DEATHLOOP. The time loop is an integral part of the story, and discovering clues unlocks progress. It feels like you’re in one of the many movies my colleagues are discussing, where you know exactly where to step, who to talk to, and what to say, but at the expense of rigorous (DEATHLOOP isn’t easy) trial and error. The story is strong and keeps you engaged as you play through, but the world is open enough for you to spend loops just exploring. The game’s art style is mid-century modern and takes place almost entirely during the day, designed to feel like an endless party.

If you’re looking for a stylish, engaging, unique first-person shooter, DEATHLOOP should jump to the top of your list. DEATHLOOP is available on PS5 and PC.

In PALM SPRINGS, we have a slightly nonsensical ‘MacGuffin’ that you either buy or don’t, making the character arc and ending less satisfying but entertaining nonetheless.

PALM SPRINGS 🤩

David Freedman

In the original GROUNDHOG DAY movie, there is no explanation for Bill Murray’s character of Phil (pun intended) having to relive Groundhog Day repeatedly. Of course, he is a jerk, and we accept this premise and proceed with the plot. In the 2020 movie PALM SPRINGS, while attending a wedding, Nyles (Andy Samberg) gets sucked into a mysterious vortex with a drinking buddy, Roy (J.K. Simmons), forced to relive that same wedding day over and over. And then Sarah (Christin Milioti), another wedding guest, gets pulled in, too.

Having three main characters stuck in the hopeless loop, especially when they all hate each other (for most of the story), makes for a unique twist on a very worn-out premise. But it is the sheer force of the three actors’ characterizations that keeps us interested in the plot.

In GROUNDHOG DAY, Phil finally ends his time loop simply by getting that day right and becoming a nice guy, though it took him thousands of tries. In PALM SPRINGS, we have a slightly nonsensical ‘MacGuffin’ that you either buy or don’t, making the character arc and ending less satisfying but entertaining nonetheless.

PALM SPRINGS is available on Hulu.

THE ENDLESS isn’t your average time-loop movie. You’re not going to see our main characters, brothers Aaron and Justin, repeating the same activities over and over again.

THE ENDLESS 🤩

Jami Losurdo

GROUNDHOG DAY has inspired countless time-loop films, and I think I’ve seen most of them. However, with this collaboration, I thought it was the perfect time to catch one I had not seen. THE ENDLESS is a bizarre indie-flick that toured the international film festival circuit in 2017-2018, garnering many awards and positive word-of-mouth reviews. 

THE ENDLESS isn’t your average time-loop movie. You’re not going to see our main characters, brothers Aaron and Justin, repeating the same activities over and over again. It’s almost a spoiler in and of itself to tell you this is even a time-loop movie. Instead, THE ENDLESS is quite a straightforward tale of how Aaron and Justin revisit a cult/commune they had been members of when they were kids. It’s been a decade since they departed, yet everything there seems to be almost the same as they left it, our first clue that maybe this isn’t just a bunch of easy-going hippie-types who live off the land and export homebrewed beer. As the brothers reconnect with those they knew in their younger years and make some new friends, the film’s tension builds as each interaction becomes a little more strange than the last. Justin worries that this might be a death cult, while Aaron seems happy to see his old friends.

There’s a seemingly malevolent force driving Justin to want to leave as quickly as possible while attracting Aaron to stay. Have you ever reunited with friends you had not seen in a long time? Often times it can be downright awkward, and THE ENDLESS plays these moments perfectly. It also plays both sides of one of life’s greatest ponderances. What’s the point of repeating the days of our life over and over again? Wake up, go to work or school, eat, socialize, sleep, repeat, worry about money, relationships, stability, mental health. And then the other side of that equation quite literally: What if every day was the same day, but you had all the money, relationships, stability, and a great quality of life? Does one kind of time loop trump the other? And what happens when we’re stuck, literally and metaphorically, between these two ideas? 

THE ENDLESS is written and directed by duo Justin Benson and Aaron Morehead, who have also directed recent episodes of ARCHIVE 81 and Marvel’s upcoming MOON NIGHT. THE ENDLESS is streaming on Shudder, AMC+, Plex, Vudu, and IMDBTV. 

A hero that beats the villain, not by punching and kicking and blasting, but by trapping him and outwitting him in an infinite time loop.

DOCTOR STRANGE 🤩

Mike Manalo

DOCTOR STRANGE is an underrated MCU film for me. Yes, it doesn’t necessarily push the horror angle as much as it should with a villain like Dormamu. And yes, many of the beats in this film regarding Stephen Strange’s arc and origins are retreads of Tony Stark’s from the first IRON MAN film. But for my money, it is one of the most visually arresting MCU films to date and arguably the best acted. Scenes where Shakespearean actors like Cumberbatch and Ejiofor are arguing eloquently and passionately about how and what the roles and responsibilities of a sorcerer should be are incredibly intriguing. Mads Mikkelson’s performance brought three-dimensional layers to a villain written to be two-dimensional. And Tilda Swinton and Cumberbatch’s scene on the balcony in their astral forms, watching the snowfall in slow motion on a gloomy New York skyline, is one of the best, most touching, and tragic scenes in the 14 year run of the MCU. I mean, when your weakest actor in the film is Academy Award nominee Rachel McAdams, who’s also fantastic in it as Christine Palmer, I might add, you know there’s no comparison from an ensemble standpoint. 

That being said, and finally getting to the “Time-Loop” of it all, to this day, DOCTOR STRANGE features the most inventive climax in any MCU film: A hero that beats the villain, not by punching and kicking and blasting, but by trapping him and outwitting him in an infinite time loop. It’s a tremendously funny and visually stunning sequence that has since become iconic for the phrase “Dormammu, I’ve come to bargain with you!” Additionally, the typical comic book movie trope of major battles occurring as cities are being destroyed is even subverted, showing a city being put back together in reverse as a battle progresses in forward time. Thus, proving that as much as the film may have visually borrowed from INCEPTION, four years later, TENET would heavily borrow visually from DOCTOR STRANGE. Overall, an underrated classic and a terrific superhero time loop film!

DOCTOR STRANGE is available on Disney+.

It is surprising how well the time loop gimmick works for HAPPY DEATH DAY. It’s also shocking that no horror film has tried it since.

HAPPY DEATH DAY 🤩

Eli Brumfield

THE GOOD STUFF

JESSICA ROTHE – I don’t want to go as far as to say that this is a towering, commanding performance or anything like that, but she nails the exact things that she is supposed to. Her comic timing is impressive, she’s charismatic, and she does an outstanding job portraying her character to be unlikeable at the beginning, only to be very much worth rooting for. All that, plus she has pretty good chemistry with co-star Israel Broussard. 

This movie made a lot of money, and one would think she would have been a lot more things other than the 2019 sequel, but sadly that hasn’t been the case. I have been looking forward to seeing Rothe in more, and she’s always the name that I used to bring up whenever it came to the most underrated actresses in the game, because of this movie. She’s destined for bigger things that sadly may not come to fruition.

THE TIME-LOOP GIMMICK USAGE – It is surprising how well the time loop gimmick works for a horror film. It’s also shocking that no horror film has tried it since. Given that multiple studios tend to copy and paste narrative gimmicks onto horror franchises over and over again (i.e., “torture porn” or the “found footage” gimmick), it is indeed a testament that HAPPY DEATH DAY was able to pull off the time loop gimmick SO effectively.

And they don’t really use the gimmick in any inventive way. In fact, the entire character development of Tree (the main character of the story played by Rothe) shapes the time loop gimmick. And with that, more character development is given to THIS character than damn near any female protagonist put in front of a horror movie in quite some time.

THE BAD STUFF

If I had one complaint, it would be the reveal of who the final villain is. The movie could have used a more epic showdown than the one given at the film’s end.

THE UGLY STUFF

Nothing. Seriously. Don’t get me wrong; I only moderately liked this movie when it came out in 2017. But over the past five years since the release of this movie… boy, oh boy, have I seen some hot garbage when it comes to mainstream American horror. It’s gotten to a point where if an American horror film makes sense and is just okay…. then it’s worthy of mention in a positive review.

2017 was when Warner Bros released the remake of IT (PART ONE). There was a cool little horror movie called IT COMES AT NIGHT. There were also good horror thrillers like KILLING OF A SACRED DEER and MOTHER!. Oh, and it was also the year of the most critically acclaimed horror film of the entire decade, GET OUT.

My point in bringing this up is that when I saw HAPPY DEATH DAY, I didn’t know what I was there to appreciate. Something that was not only very good but well-told and acted. It was something that didn’t take itself too seriously, unlike most horror films. And something that left me feeling nourished when I left the theater. I felt that many times in 2017, and I didn’t know how much I would appreciate it five years later.

This is fun. This goes down easy with popcorn or a beer. This does not insult your intelligence. And by all intents and purposes, it should have been the breakthrough of a huge superstar. 

Watch it again, and enjoy. 

HAPPY DEATH DAY is available on Amazon Prime Video.

GROUNDHOG DAY: THE MUSICAL does the impossible. It adapts a timeless classic into a relatable musical that pays homage to the movie while also adding a unique spin.

GROUNDHOG DAY: THE MUSICAL 🤩

Aaron Goldstein

Sadly, the musical based on the hit movie, GROUNDHOG DAY, didn’t last very long on the stage in London or New York. However, I was lucky enough to see it on a whirlwind New York trip where I saw six shows in five days. 

The theme of GROUNDHOG DAY is “you gotta love life,” and choose kindness. If you do, you will be rewarded. Yet, what sang the most in the Broadway show was the message of loss. Despite his best efforts to help, Phil Connors cannot save a homeless man in both the movie and the play. In the musical, it’s beautifully captured in the melancholy, THE NIGHT WILL COME. While the song is performed, the stage rotates in a circle, and audiences see Phil trying to save the homeless man on countless occasions. But, no matter what he tries, it ends with the man dying. Cue me sobbing in the theatre in one of the most beautiful moments I’ve seen on the stage. 

Outside of that rewarding moment, the musical does the impossible. It adapts a timeless classic into a relatable musical that pays homage to the movie while also adding a unique spin. If only we could do a GROUNDHOG DAY redo so more people could’ve seen this easy-to-love show. 


Final Thoughts

When Punxsutawney Phil saw his shadow this morning, it was like Chekhov in a long winter. Yet we know that winter is just another step in the cycle of life. Previously SpoilerFreeReviews wrote about the warmth of Christmas movies. Now we are collaborating and basking in the heat of some of the greatest GROUNDHOG DAY-inspired content. 

I couldn’t imagine a better fate than to experience these seven titles over a long and lustrous winter.

Tarush Mohanti

Tarush Mohant is a playlist curator and music explorer, the creator of illussongs (illustrations of songs), and has a fitness plan motivated by action movies (running, climbing, swimming, hiking).

Aaron "Dobler" Goldstein

Aaron Goldstein is a Product Manager by day, ludicrous speed content consumer by night. He’s a LA Film School Alumni and TV Academy / Producers Guild of America member. Aaron is a proud stepparent and dad joke enthusiast.

Mike Manalo

Born a Slytherin. Baptized into Marvel. Bitten by a Radioactive DC fan. And raised a Jedi, Mike Manalo is a silent guardian, a watchful protector… a Dark Nerd!

Jami Losurdo

When not writing film and tv reviews, Jami is expanding her collection of colorful sunglasses, lifting weights, and working her day job as a Digital Advertising Director. An alumnus of NYU Tisch for Film/TV, Jami made Los Angeles her home in the early 2000s and continues her quest to find the very BEST tacos of all time.

Esta Rosevear

Esta Rosevear has been a Theatre Arts teacher and director for 35+ years, published Children’s author of the Rebecca series, and is passionate about playing her violin, walking, gardening, and reading murder mysteries.

David Freedman - Just Seen It

David Freedman is the producer of all four Critics Choice Awards, a founding member of Moviefone, and a Platform and Springboard Diver

Eli Brumfield

Eli Brumfield in an actor/screenwriter from Seattle Washington, living in Los Angeles.

He is the host of the RV8 Podcast.

He hates the word cinefile, but considering how many films he consumes in a week...and how many films he goes out of his way to see, no matter the genre...he kinda seems to be one.

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