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Movie Spotlight

October 11, 1998|Kevin Thomas

The 1993 fairy tale Groundhog Day (ABC Monday at 9 p.m.) is easily the most endearing film of both Bill Murray and director Harold Ramis. Murray stars as a Pittsburgh TV weatherman who is so self-involved that he's convinced he doesn't just report the weather, he creates it. He hates nothing more than having to journey to rural Punxsutawney once a year to participate in the unsophisticated shenanigans centering on whether a groundhog does or does not see his shadow. First-time writer Danny Rubin, who wrote the script with Ramis, wonders what would happen if this guy discovered he would be forced to relive Groundhog Day, not just once a year, but day after day, ad infinitum. With Andie MacDowell as his pleasant foil, Murray turns the film into a funny little Valentine.

The 1994 TV movie Take Me Home Again (NBC Wednesday at 9 p.m.), in spirit, might be the heartiest Christmas story you'll see on TV this season, although it's not about Christmas. The casting is hard to resist. Kirk Douglas and Craig T. Nelson play a father and son who embark on a pilgrimage, fleeing the old man's stodgy family environment and trekking across the country to fulfill the elder's wish to die in the same house and bed in which he was born. They have not agreed on much since the son left behind his own wife (Bess Armstrong), went AWOL in the Vietnam War and disappeared. But now, 20 years later, the son is the old man's lifeline--the only one in an oppressive, extended family with enough courage to help his ailing father.

The 1995 Assassins (ABC Thursday at 9 p.m.) is a contemporary, high-tech western, with two gunslingers for hire (Sylvester Stallone, Antonio Banderas)--one with a conscience, one without--heading for the inevitable showdown. Some surprisingly effective chemistry between its two male stars make it a better show than most in the action genre.

For a movie that plans to scare the kapok out of us, Arachnophobia (KTLA Friday at 8 p.m.), Frank Marshall's 1990 funny-scary primal scream of a comedy is a friendly and nicely witty affair; technically, it's a wonder. It is the classic form, done on a grander scale: the blob/Martian/spider from far, far away that very nearly wipes out the perfect American small town. On the other hand, we have a very contemporary hero (a dryly humorous Jeff Daniels), unmacho enough to yell to his kids, "We need Mom in here to kill a spider."

KCET's Saturday double feature: the 1965 A Patch of Blue (at 9 p.m.) and the 1951 version of Cry, the Beloved Country (10:30 p.m.).

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