Movie Copycats # 11: You’ve lost that loving feeling

Victims: Anyone who joined the military in the 80’s.

Perpetrators:

Iron Eagle - TriStar Pictures (1986) Directed by Sidney J. Furie Written By Kevin Elders and Sidney J. Furie

Top Gun - Paramount Pictures (1986) Directed by Tony Scott, Written by Jim Cash, Jack Epps Jr., and Ehud Yonay

Similarities: Both films feature a main character who is a gung-ho pilot with a chip on his shoulder and daddy issues.

Jason Gedrick - Iron Eagle (1986)

Differences: In Iron Eagle Doug Masters, sets out to save his father after his fighter jet is shot down in Middle Eastern Air Space.  Despite the efforts of one of the richest militaries in the world, he is unable to be rescued by American forces.  Doug teams up with Col. Charles ‘Chappy’ Sinclair and together they hatch a plan to “borrow” fighter jets from the U.S Airforce and fly to the middle east to save Doug’s father.  Most likely playing off the success of Red Dawn which came out two years earlier, with the whole teenage over-night military hero storyline.

Tom Cruise - Top Gun (1986)

Top Gun comes across less as a teenage military fairy tale.  It was inspired by the article “Top Guns” written by Ehud Yonay and published in California Magazine in May 1983.  The article detailed the TOPGUN pilots at the  Miramar Naval Air Station in San Diego.

Maverick (Cruise) is a renegade pilot living in the shadow of his father’s legacy.  This film is based more around character development than Iron Eagle and is also centered more in reality.  You can’t just hijack two American Fighter Jets and go on a rescue mission to the Middle East, you kind of need to learn how to fly in combat situations first.

Verdict: Usually I would go into some detail about the cast of characters in each film but I somehow find it unnecessary for these two films.  Top Gun is my favorite of the two by far.  While I’m not much for the romantic story lines I do feel it is the more solid film because it deals with real issues facing real pilots.  Somewhat out dated now of course but still made for an interesting film.

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Movie Copycats # 10: Ten Things I Hate about Teen Comedies

Victims: Overly hormonal teenagers.

Perpetrators:

She's all That - January (1999) Miramax Films

Ten Things I Hate About You - March (1999) Touchstone Pictures

Similarities: Both movies are based on William Shakespeare’s play Taming of the Shrew.  Despite Ten Things I Hate About You being the more direct adaptation of the Shakespearean tale they are both about turning an unpopular “ugly duckling” into a more desirable person.  The motives are what make them different.  And then there’s also the whole “Everything has to be done by Prom” time-line, which seems to be standard procedure in most high school comedies.

Julia Stiles and Larisa Oleynik - Ten Things I Hate about You

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Differences: In She’s All That, Zach Siler (Freddie Prinze Jr.) makes a bet with his jock buddy Dean (Paul Walker) that he can turn any girl into a prom queen and make his ex-girlfriend jealous in order to win her back.  In Ten Things I Hate About You Bianca (Larisa Oleynik) gets Cameron (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), the boy who is completely in love with her, to find a date for her sister Kat (Julia Stiles) so she can have permision to date the popular Joey (Andrew Keegan).

Paul Walker and Freddy Prinze Jr. - She's All That

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Stand-Out Supporters:

Miss Perky in 10 Things I Hate About You – Allison Janney

Allison Janney - Ten Things I Hate About You

Despite having barely any screen time she is one of my favorite characters in the movie.  Janney is one of those actors who makes you feel like you could go out and grab a couple brewskies with.  She completely owns the role of the horny guidance counselor and  I can’t think of any actress who could have pulled it off better than she did.

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Brock Hudson in She’s All That – Mathew Lillard

Freddy Prinze Jr. and Mathew Lillard - She's All That. *Note the blatant tightey whitey's over Lillards muscle shirt.

In a film full of flat acting Mathew Lillard does an amazing job bringing to life Brock Hudson, the satirical embodiment of a reality TV star douche bag.  My favorite scene of his is when his character gets kicked out of the Real World house and becomes a icon just for being an ass.  Check it out at 05:10 in the clip below.

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Walter Stratford overprotective father in Ten Things I Hate About You – Larry Miller

Larry Miller - Ten Things I Hate About You

His character is adorable and extremely well developed for being an over-protective father.   Like Janney he is able to make a small role big due to excellence in comedic performance.

 

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Romantic Leads:

Rachel Leigh Cook and Freddie Prinze Jr. -She's All That

Rachel Leigh Cook and Freddy Prinze Jr. do make a cute couple but I didn’t think the chemistry was entirely there.  Prinze’s character isn’t even that interesting.  He’s a jock with a heart of gold . . . blah blah.  Cook’s character however, has a flare to her that most of  her fellow cast members lack.

Heath Ledger and Julia Stiles - Ten Things I Hate About You

Heath Ledger and Julia Styles are a genuine pair.  Both are extremely well rounded actors with a wide range.  They are able to play characters in a teen comedy and make them not seem typical and pretentious.  It’s much harder than it seems people.  Another awesome thing about their performances is that they didn’t get sucked into the teen comedy black hole.  Despite this being the movie that made Ledger popular in America he strayed away from teen heartthrob roles afterwords and I think that really shows class on his part.  Thank God he avoided typecasting.

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Verdict: Ten Things I Hate About You is the winner.  For me it didn’t come across as cheesey and She’s All That did.  Especially with the ridiculously choreographed prom dance sequence at the end.  Ten Things I Hate About You doesn’t take itself too seriously and that is always a good quality for this brand of comedy.  Every member of the cast is able to come into their own no matter how small the part.  She’s All That just seems more immature in comparison to Ten Things I Hate About You, that’s the best way I can describe it.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt and David Krumholtz - Ten Things I Hate About You

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Movie Copycats # 9: Overnight Debauchery

Victims: College bound teens.

Perpetrators:

Overnight Delivery - Motion Picture Corporation of America (1998)

Road Trip - Dreamworks (2000)

Similarities: Both of these movies are about a guy who gets drunk and sends proof of fake infidelity/actual infidelity to his girlfriend who is going to a different college than he is.  He teams up with a companion/companions and sets out on a somewhat noble quest of preventing the package from being delivered.

*SEMI-SPOILER ALERT*

Christine Taylor and Paul Rudd - Overnight Delivery (1998)

Differences: Overnight Delivery is centered around Wyatt Tripps (Paul Rudd), who is in a long distance relationship with Kim (Christine Taylor).  Before they go to their different colleges they pledge that they will not have sex with each other before they are married.  Tripps agrees but to his dismay he learns that Kim has been involved with someone named “The Ricker”, after placing a call to her dorm room and speaking to her ditsy roommate.

Reese Witherspoon - Overnight Delivery (1998)

After hearing the news his roommates decide to take him to a “gentlemen’s club” to help cure his woes.  It is there that he meets Ivy (Reese Witherspoon).  After striking up a repor they hatch a plan to send Kim an overnight letter with evidence of a fake tryst.  After waking up the next morning to discover that The Ricker was nothing more than a bird Kim was pet sitting Tripps and Ivy begin their journey to stop the package from being delivered.

Amy Smart - Road Trip (2000)

In Road Trip Josh Parker (Breckin Meyer) and his girlfriend Tiffany (Rachel Blanchard)  are also in the midst of a long distance relationship after beginning their college careers.  Josh becomes suspicious after Tiffany does not answer his numerous phone calls and gets talked into going to a party Beth Wagner (Amy Smart), the girl who likes him, will be attending.  After winning her in a

Road Trip (2000)

fraternity auction they go back to his dorm room and video tape themselves having sex.  The next day his roommate Barry Mannilow (Tom Green) sends the sex tape off to Tiffany instead of some sappy recording of a song he performed for her.  After learning this Josh and his buddies set out on a-you guessed it-road trip, in order to beat the package to Tiffany’s school.  Numerous shenanigans ensue that appeal to the taste of the overly hormonal pre-pubescent teenage male.   Providing them with a slightly humorous and greatly inaccurate idea of what their future college experience will be like.

Lost Performances:

Paul Rudd and Reese Witherspoon in Overnight Delivery

Reese Witherspoon and Paul Rudd - Overnight Delivery (1998)

Witherspoon and Rudd rock this movie.  But somehow it managed to fly under everyone’s radar.  I remember watching this every time it played on Comedy central and loving it.  They are both so damn adorable.  This is the movie that made me a fan of both of these actors, and to their credit, each of them have moved on to have respectable acting careers as opposed to the cast of Road Trip.

Tom Green in Road Trip

Probably the most interesting and least cliche’ character in the whole damn film.

Verdict: I am going to have to go with Overnight Delivery on this one.  I feel that while there are moments of crude humor the movie is based more around the comedic performances of Witherspoon and Rudd.  Road Trip is a little too riddled with juvenile sex humor that makes it a very tasteless movie.

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Movie Copycats # 8: Oh God! … The dog wet on the picnic basket.

Victims: Angsty teens or people who never stopped living in the 80’s.

Perpetrators:

Paramount Pictures (1986) - Directed by Howard Deutch and Written by John Hughes

Paramount Pictures/Hughes Entertainment (1987) - Directed by Howard Deutch and Written by John Hughes

Similarities: Both of these films deal with the exact same issue.  A teenage love triangle.  In each movie two close friends are put at odds when one of them realizes they are jealous of their friends new boyfriend/girlfriend.

Differences: The first movie has two guys trying to win the affection of one girl and the second movie has two girls going after one guy.  However, they do manage to bring somewhat different elements into each film.

*SPOILER ALERT*

Andrew McCarthy, Molly Ringwald, and Jon Cryer - Pretty in Pink (1986)

In Pretty in Pink Andie (Ringwald) isn’t a complete nobody but still is not a part of the “popular crowd”.  Duckie (Cryer) is her closest friend and conceals his feelings for Andie with awkward humor.  This only becomes more of a challenge after Andie meets the popular and rich Blane (McCarthy).  Blane pursues Andie and his friends treat her like crap because she isn’t as rich as they are.  Some conflict ensues and inevitable misunderstandings are made after Blane invites Andie to . . . you guessed it! . . . The Prom.

James Spader - Pretty in Pink (1986)

He gets second thoughts but after realizing that his friend Steff (Spader) was going after Andie he sees that the antagonizing was just a ploy to drive them apart.  Although Andie shows up alone to prove a point she ultimately ends up with Blane who realizes that he doesn’t need his yuppie friends to be happy.  By this point Duckie has also had an epiphany of his own and accepts his role as the best friend.

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Lea Thompson, Erik Stoltz, and Mary Stuart Masterson - Some Kind of Wonderful (1987)

Mary Stuart Masterson and Erik Stoltz - Some Kind of Wonderful (1987)

Some Kind of Wonderful is a more gritty portrayal of a teenage love triangle.  Keith (Stoltz) isn’t necessarily a bad boy but he’s an artist so that by default lumps him in with the loner crowd.  Watts (Masterson) is a tom-boy drum player who is great at showcasing one of the true lost treasures of the 80’s.  Blue jean sleeveless cut-off outfits and leather jackets.  Essentially in this film Hughes reverses the gender of all the characters in Pretty in Pink but he makes the two friends equal in their social standing as outcasts.  In this case Keith makes the first move by asking out Amanda Jones (Thompson), the most popular girl in school, after finding out that her boyfriend, Hardy Jenns (Sheffer) is cheating on her.  Like Pink there are the inevitable misunderstandings as the popular object of affection receives criticism from their inner circle.  But Some Kind of Wonderful doesn’tuse the typical “prom climax ploy”, which is refreshing.  Instead it’s just an invitation to a party thrown by Hardy, as a showing of good faith to Keith and Amanda.

Craig Sheffer - Some Kind of Wonderful (1987)

Keith gets advanced notice that Hardy plans to beat him up and believes Amanda has something to do with it.  It turns out she doesn’t and they go anyway.  Keith ends up turning the table on Hardy and his friends before they can rough him up and leaves the party with Amanda unscathed.  He then gives her a pair of earrings he blew all of his college money on but she refuses.  What!?  She has come to the realization that she needs to be on her own and that there is somebody else he wanted to really give the earrings too.  That’s right everybody in this movie the best friends end up together.

Stand Out Performances:

John Cryer as Duckie in Pretty in Pink

By far the best performance in Pretty in Pink.  Cryer does a great job of portraying that feeling we know we’ve all had at one point.  Knowing you’re in love with someone who has no romantic feelings for you at all.  Best to let his performance speak for itself.

Elias Koteas as Skinhead in Some Kind of Wonderful

That’s right everybody, he did such a great job his character doesn’t even have a name.  He really brings to life that stereotype of the rebellious hoodlum who is just to bad to be good.  Or is he?

Mary Stuart Masterson as Watts in Some Kind of Wonderful

Mary Stuart Masterson takes the role of a simple drum playing tom boy to the next level by adding depth and really delivering on the sarcastic edginess of her character.

Conclusion:

Some Kind of Wonderful  is my favorite of the two movies.  An interesting thing to note is that Pretty in Pink was originally written so that Duckie ends up with Andie at the end.  They decided to change it because it didn’t test well with audiences.  It seems that Some Kind of Wonderful was a way of Hughes getting to make the film he originally wanted to make.  Probably helped that he was one of the producers this time.  One major reason I prefer Some Kind of Wonderful over Pretty in Pink is because ALL of the characters are interesting.  I mean if you’ve seen one Molly Ringwald movie from the 80’s you have seen them all and Duckie was the only character I could connect with.  Some Kind of Wonderful doesn’t come across as corny as Pretty in Pink  does and the ending isn’t as cliche’.

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Movie Copycats # 7: I’ll be your huckleberry

Victims: Anyone interested in factual accounts of the Wild West.

Perpetrators:

Tombstone (1993) – Cinergi Pictures Entertainment

Wyatt Earp (1994) – Warner Bros. Pictures

Similarities:

Both of the films detail the life of Wyatt Earp, one of the most famous figures of the Old West.   Like Capote and Infamous, both films portray a historical figure during a pivotal time in their life/career.

Differences:

(From Left) Val Kilmner, Sam Elliot, Kurt Russel, and Bill Paxton

The biggest difference between these two films is how they choose to develop Wyatt Earp’s character.  Tombstone begins with Wyatt Earp’s arrival to Tombstone and the action picks up from there.  Wyatt Earp begins in the late teenage years of his life and turns it into more of a coming of age tale.  I feel that by doing that it really takes away the mystery and bad-assness that Tombstone is able to convey.  Sure it is interesting to see what he did as a teen, his tough-love relationship with his father, and his first wife who died of a sudden illness, but it wasn’t completely necessary.  We get it.  He didn’t have the easiest child hood, but who did in those days?  Parents were more strict, you had to work very hard to make a life for your family, and people died of things we can cure with a tablespoon of cough syrup today.  It’s a nice anecdote but it isn’t the most unique part of Earp’s life.  The shoot out at O.K Corral and the events surrounding it are.

Kevin Costner - Wyatt Earp

Cast Comparisons:

Virgil Earp

Kevin Costner (left), Some Guy (middle), and Michael Madsen (right) - Wyatt Earp

Oh Michael Madsen.  Don’t get me wrong the guy is amazing.  But being a dark brooding intimidating man doesn’t mean you stand a chance against the great Sam Elliot.  Madsen is a good actor but even in the authentic get up he still comes across as a Guido.  The guy just makes a better mobster.

Sam Elliot - Tombstone

 

Sam Elliot really was the best person for this role.  He is the ultimate cowboy.  It’s not like he had to grow out the mustache for the role.  I’m also guessing he provided his own wardrobe.  He’s like the live-action Yosemite Sam.

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Morgan Earp

Bill Paxton - Tombstone

Linden Ashby - Wyatt Earp

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bill Paxton is definitely the better of the two Morgan’s. He just comes across as such a genuinely likeable character that it suits the role of the more sensitive Earp brother.  Linden Ashby’s performance comes off more naive.  Paxton is able to find an even balance between being low-key with hints of kick-ass.

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Wyatt Earp

Kurt Russel - Tombstone

Kevin Costner - Wyatt Earp

Kurt Russel is the best Wyatt Earp.  I mean look at his cowboy face compared to Costner.  He could make rambo crap himself.

Costner’s version of the Western hero is just too bland for me.  His performance softens the character too much.  Kurt Russel creates a Wyatt Earp that is more up to par with his  legacy.

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Doc Holiday

Both Quaid and Kilmner portray the sickly Western Vigilante in very trans-formative ways.  However I did find that Kilmner’s portrayal was superior because he came off as a  menacing character with a grim reaper-like screen presence.  Quaid was just . . . grim.

Dennis Quaid - Wyatt Earp

Val Kilmner - Tombstone

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Final Thoughts:

Tombstone is the better Wyatt Earp movie.  If you want the extra, nearly full hours worth, back story about his younger days and moving off his daddy’s ranch by all means watch Wyatt Earp.  But in the end people want to see a movie about Wyatt Earp because they want to know about him being a bad ass in Tombstone, Arizona.  If I want to know about his child hood I’ll read a book.

Kurt Russell (left), and Val Kilmner (Right)

That’s right Warner Bros.  you just got beat out by a Production Company that helped produce Super Mario Bros.  Suck on that!

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Movie Copycats # 6: Mr Hand and Mr Book have some ‘Splaining to do, yes?

Victims: Fans of dark Sci-Fi Fantasy films.

Perpetrators:

Dark City - New Line Cinema February (1998) Co-Written/Directed by Alex Proyas

The Matrix - Warner Bros. March (1999) Written/Directed by the Wachowski Brothers

Similarities:

Both are about a non-human race attempting to use human beings as a means for their own survival.  Both have themes of a “chosen one” who gains special powers which enable him to rise against the opposing forces of Evil and liberate what is left of mankind.

Matrix 1999

Dark City 1998

Differences:

In The Matrix human beings are plugged into a computer system and essentially used as batteries for the robots that wiped out mankind.  The Earth itself has been decimated into a post-nuclear wasteland and any humans left outside the clutches of the robots have been driven underground.

Matrix - 1999

In the Dark City an alien race holds the human race captive within a city where the sun never shines . . . hence the name.  Clever.  They are known as the strangers and refer to themselves with very simple names like Mr. Hand or Mr. Foot. With the reluctant help of Dr. Shreber they interchange memories of the human beings they’ve captured trying to figure out the nature of the human condition.  Probably the eeriest thing about this movie is that there is no mention of Earth.  It’s almost as if the humans don’t even know what it is to be human anymore.

Dark City - 1998

The Matrix has the look and feel of a live-action anime film while Dark City has more of a Film Noir style to it. But . . . .

THE BIGGEST DIFFERENCE!!!!?

Story!  Upon researching this particular blog post I discovered that while Dark City was completely conceived by Proyas and two other screenwriters the Matrix was NOT completely conceived by the Wachowski brothers.  Allegedly of course.  There was a law-suit brought against them by a female sci-fi screenwriter Sophia Stewart in 1999.  She claims that the Matrix is based on a manuscript titled “The Third Eye” that she sent the Wachowski brothers in 1986 in response to an ad in a magazine.  It’s a pretty interesting case which I have chosen to detail in another blog post due to it’s complexities.

Check it out here.

Standout Performances:

Although Dark City wasn’t a mainstream success the film did garner a cult following.  Every time I have watched it this very ominous feeling comes over me and I love it.  One of the best performances in the film was that of Mr. Hand played by Richard O’Brien.

You might recognize him from . . .

Ever After - Where he played the skeevy pirate prince guy trying to get in Drew Barrymore's pants.

Here is a scene where Mr. Hand (O’Brien) confronts Dr. Schreber (Kiefer Southerland).

O’Brien creates a sinister character that adds to the unnerving nature of the film.  It’s like that feeling you get when someone scraps their fingernails across a chalk board.

The Verdict:

I am giving this one to Dark City not because The Matrix was a bad film, but because stylistically it is the more mature of the two films and severely underrated.  Dark City is also the more original of the two films.  I think we can all honestly say that there hasn’t been a film quite like this before or after, but I won’t spoil it for those of you who haven’t seen it.  Although The Matrix is well told it is still just a story about humans who have been enslaved or harmed by man-made artificial intelligence.

Terminator? I-Robot? It’s a commonly used plot device.  Mind you not on such a large action packed scale.  But common none the less.  If you are one of the many who tossed Dark City aside I STRONGLY recommend giving it a chance.  It is a very beautifully artistic film and a great example of masterful sci-fi storytelling.


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Movie Copycats # 5: A Joyus Celebration of Boob Tubery!

The Victims: Reality TV Fans.

The Perpetrators:

The Truman Show - Paramount Pictures (1998) Directed by Peter Weir

ED TV - Universal Entertainment (1999) Directed by Ron Howard

Plot:

As a part of the biggest endeavors in TV history a child is adopted by a television network and raised within a massive reality television set.  His life is filmed 24/7 without his knowledge . . . until he begins to realize something is amiss.

A man is chosen by a TV network to be followed around by camera crews 24/7.  The inevitable downfalls of the attention quickly prove to be an obstacle for Ed and those close to him.

Similarities:

Each film addresses the ever growing phenomenon of “reality television” which is now one of the most lucrative television mediums out there.  Although each has a different angle they are essentially about being exposed to the media 24/7 and the sensationalism that can arise from it.

Differences:

The Truman Show creates a fictional world where a show about a man living in an artificial 1950’s environment is on-air 24/7 but he doesn’t know about it.  The breakdown of the “American Dream” reality created by television tycoon Christof, played by Ed Harris, acts as a symbol of imperfection.  The whole “love conquers all” philosophy is what really begins the domino effect when Truman falls for someone other than who is cast as his romantic interest in the fake life provided for him by the network.  The romance between Truman and Sylvia, played by Natascha McElhone, is very well developed.  And for someone who hates sappy love stories I have to admit that I really liked this one.

Ed TV on the other hand is a mix of Romantic Dramedy, with a very even-handed level of comedy, romance, and drama.  Although it was not well received at the box office it is definitely one of my favorite movies.  This film really explores the moral dilemmas that come with seeking fame especially in a reality format and despite coming out over a decade ago these themes are very relevant today.  So many random people are famous now just because they appeared on some mundane reality TV show.  Apparently all you need is a gimmick and you can be famous.  But this film also delves into the privacy that you lose when you make such decisions and how it can affect your personal life in a negative way.

There were a lot of stand out comedic performances in Ed TV but my favorite by far was that of Cynthia Topping the neurotic television producer played by Ellen Degeneres.  Characters like that are the glue that really brings a comedy together.

The Verdict:

I have to say that this is a tough one for me.  Although The Truman Show is a very strong dramatic narrative it doesn’t have the comedic charm of Ed TV. To me it’s really a tie just because the genre range of both films is different. I am going to have to recommend them both if you haven’t already seen them.

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Movie Copycats #4: There she blows!!!

The Victims: Anyone interested in entirely fact-based geological films . . . they just don’t exist anymore.

The Perpetrators:

Dante’s Peak February 1997

007 meets Mother Nature!

Volcano April 1997

Similarities: Both are about cities/towns where mysterious geological events have been responsible for peoples deaths and the powers-that-be insist there is no reason to worry.  That kind of logic has been successful in many thriller style films but the first one that comes to mind for me is Jaws.  Therefore I shall call it Jaws-Logic and it shall be so. Muhahahaha.  Anyway the Volcano (shark) is out there.  The main characters know of the imminent threat but are forced to investigate the matter on their own until everything spirals out of control and everyone is in danger.  Through unimaginable odds they are able to escape the wrath of the Volcano and save the day. 

Differences: Dante’s Peak is kind of more traditional Hollywood in the sense that Harry Dalton (Brosnan) gets a chance at redemption.  He loses his girlfriend in the beginning of the film to a Volcano and then four years later happens to be in the position to warn an entire town about an imminent threat of a Volcano.  Along with that he is paired up with a no non-sense female Mayor of a small mountain town in Washington played by Linda Hamilton.  It’s a boy meets girl story with a very angry mountain trying to come between them.

 

Pierce getting all mama bear and stuff. - Dante's Peak

Volcano, is more of a trendy disaster movie.  The two main characters are very well-matched and neither of them ever seem to over power the other.  Tommy Lee Jones and Anne Heche (Pre-Crazy days) are actually a well suited match.  The film deals with all aspects of the disaster and has several interesting sub-plots that end up bolstering the films story.  You have a trauma surgeon struggling with her fiance’ who is thrust into doing emergency medical work, the Subway Engineer who is forced to help save a subway car full of people from an underground lava flow, and the troubled youth picked up by police who ends up helping them and other emergency workers build barricades to protect neighborhoods from lava in the streets.  I can hear the song  Come Together in my ears as I type.

Anne Heche and Tommy Lee Jones - Volcano

The Verdict: I like Volcano more.  I just think it has more guts to it’s story and is more enjoyable to watch overall.  Plus I like how they managed to hint at flirtation between the two main characters as opposed to shoving some cheesy love story into the mix.  Dante’s Peak should just have a movie poster modeled after those dime store trashy romance novels.

 

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Movie Copycats #3: A Tale of Two Capotes

The Victims: Any fans of Classic Literature . . . if they even exist anymore.

The Perpetrators:

A-Line/Cooper's Town Productions 2005 - Directed by Bennett Miller

 

Warner Independent Pictures 2006 - Directed/Adaptation by Douglas McGrath

Similarities:

These are literally the same film.  They both detail what happened to Truman Capote while researching his landmark novel “In Cold Blood”.  The novel details the murder of the Clutter’s, a farming family in Kansas, by Perry Smith and Dick Hickock in 1959.    It also became renowned for the amount of insight Capote was able to get into the mind of Perry Smith due to the special interest he took in him while working on the book.  Both films stress the intensity of the relationship between Capote and Smith, his friendship with Nell Harper Lee, and how writing the book affected him later in life.

Differences:

Clifton Collins Jr. and Philip Seymour Hoffman - Capote

The most significant differences in these two films is how they approach the relationship between Perry Smith and Capote.  In Capote they are seen as becoming nothing but dear friends and any attraction is implied solely on Capote’s side.  Treated as nothing more than rumored infatuation.  In Infamous the relationship between Capote and Smith is more intense.  The idea that Capote and Smith could have had a romantic relationship is explored, something no one  has ever gained any solid proof of.

Daniel Craig and Toby Jones - Infamous

Nevertheless, it does make for a more interesting dynamic than the relationship seen in Capote.  Especially since the film also addresses the fact that Perry Smith’s rage during the murders was fueled by Dick Hickock’s homophobic comments after he had stopped Dick from raping one of the young female victims.  A factor not explored fully in Capote.  All they do is mention that Smith stopped Hickock from raping the daughter, they do not try to explain why he did that.

Another difference is the way the stories are told.  Capote tells the tale in a linear narrative fashion while Infamous implements documentary-style interviews with key people in Capote’s life in order to provide the audience with a deeper insight into his character.  It is quite effective.

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Lost Performances:

Sandra Bullock as Nell Harper Lee, Truman Capote’s child hood friend.

Sandra Bullock as Nell Harper Lee - Infamous

It isn’t easy to portray a literary figure who has gone completely out of the spotlight and insists on her privacy but Sndra Bullock did it extremely well.  Going off what’s known of  Harper Lee she creates a character with Southern Charm and Sass.  Although Catherine Keener also played the role in Capote I felt her performance was slightly less interesting than Bullocks.

Infamous explores the tensions that began to arise in Harper Lee and Capote’s friendship during the course of the Kansas Murder Trial.  I felt that the portrayal was more true to what is known of their relationship and the way Bullock and Jones interact with each other creates more conflict than Keener and Hoffman do. Bullock and Jones’s renditions also show how both of their future works were affected after In Cold Blood was published. Neither of them were able to complete anything of great significance after the trial.  They had a falling out later in life as well, which both refused to speak of or explain to anyone.

*Fun Fact: Harper Lee based the character Dill in Too Kill a Mockingbird on Truman Capote.


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Daniel Craig as Perry Smith

Daniel Craig as Perry Smith - Infamous

I’m sure very few people remember the modern day 007’s darkly compassionate portrayal of convicted murderer Perry Smith.  I have to admit I haven’t watched any previous Daniel Craig films but my low-expectations for him were blown out of the water.  His version of the killer really shows depth and inner torment.  This of course is helped along by the fact that the film goes into detail about his troubled child hood and the fact that him and Capote shared similar feelings of abandonment.  Both having mothers who committed suicide and absent fathers.

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The Better Capote:

I honestly believe Toby Jones to be the better of the two performances.  Hoffman’s version of Capote was more muted and reserved while Toby Jones was much more flamboyant and showed a wider range.  However, I feel Toby Jones was able to accomplish this due to the fact that Infamous as a film, dealt with more issues surrounding Capote’s relationship to the murder case than Capote did.

Toby Jones - Infamous

Phillip Seymour Hoffman - Capote

The Verdict:

I am going to give this one to Infamous.  They are both great films but that’s the one I felt dug deeper into the psyche of Capote during that pivotal time in his career.  There was another thing that spoke to me more about this film.  It was a quote by Harper Lee that I feel is quite relevant to the nature of American cinema today.

“America is not a country where the small gesture goes noticed.  We’re not a country like France, where charm–something light and effervescent–can survive.  We want everything you have, and we want it as fast as you can turn it out.” – Nell Harper Lee

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Movie Copycats #2: Morgan Freeman will you marry me!?

VICTIMS: Anyone paranoid that a hurling rock from space will crash into the Earth and wipe us out at any moment. *gulp*

PERPETRATORS:

Plot Similarities

Aside from the impending doom of a comet/asteroid I find it very curious that both films implement the same solutions for dealing with the situation.  Drilling holes into the rock and blowing it up.  It’s like somebody took key elements of someone’s story and said “I’ve got a better idea.” But what came first?  The comet or the asteroid?

Differences

One film covers all aspects of a realistic end of the world scenario while the other creates a huge spectacle and focuses primarily on one group of people. Deep Impact may seem slow compared to Armageddon but that’s because it contains something we don’t see in movies anymore.  A well developed plot.  Deep Impact deals with what happens on Earth as well as what happens during the fight to save Earth.  Armageddon’s plot is basically, “There’s a really big friggin problem and we’re sending Bruce Willis and his buddies to fix it.  Go grab a beer and order a pizza. We got this!  America Rules!!!”.  I honestly believe there would be complete and utter chaos if something like that actually happened and leaving out that part of the equation always bothered me about Armageddon.

Believability and Inaccuracies

The biggest inaccuracy of Deep Impact was that it did not address all of the environmental impacts a comet would have if it did strike Earth.  The Tsunami was the only element they focused on.  If an impact like that occurred than there would be a significant shift in the tectonic plates around the impact area.  Events like that would cause additional cases of massive Earthquakes, and tsunami’s.

 

Deep Impact 1998

Armageddon, although the more successful film as far as entertainment value, has the higher amount of inaccurate details.  For starters the fact that three major cities like Paris, Shanghai, and New York would be demolished by random mini asteroids is highly unlikely because a majority of the world is covered in water, therefore the ocean is more likely to be hit first.  It has also been noted that the main Asteroid would be able to be seen from the Earth way before the 18 day limit set in the film do to it’s mythic proportions.  It’s a million times the size of any asteroid that’s ever come within a visible distance of our planet.  The largest mistake was how the crew functioned while in space.  The female astronaut and the Russian cosmonaut run around in the engine room free of any anti-gravity issues.  If anyone was not in a personal space suit with thrusters they would feel some sort of effects caused by zero gravity despite being inside a space ship.  The entire time they are inside some form of spaceship there is no inference that they are affected by zero gravity at all.

 

Armageddon 1998

(work cited: http://www.docshare.com/doc/12474/Armageddon-and-Deep-Impact-Movie-Response-Is-)

Redeeming Factors

Deep Impact = Story, Sophistication, and Substance.

This film seems to have main characters but to me it is a collection of interesting sub-plots that all come together and create a realistic story of what would happen in the event of a world wide disaster.  Tea Leoni’s plot line sticks out the most because you really see her characters growth the most.  From the tough as nails reporter, loving daughter to two estranged parents, National Icon during a time of crisis, and ultimately the martyr.  In my opinion she doesn’t do enough films and the fact that Vanessa Redgrave plays her mom is an added bonus.


I’d also like to recommend that Morgan Freeman be assigned Presidential duties in the event anything like this should ever happen.  His presence just on screen is enough to make me feel like I’m in some form of meditative state. Like a kitten purring for no reason.  And it definitely beats out the nameless president in Armageddon who spends the entire film shouting into an intercom system and doing voice over for inspirational movie montages.  Totally weak sauce.

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Armageddon = Bruce, Bay, Buscemi, Billy-Bob, Ben, 2 Tylers and a Russian.

This film is a typical Blockbuster.  A lot of big name stars, a director known for big budget action films, cutesy comedy relief, and a story more focused on a cliche’ daddy knows best romance, than the bigger picture.

However, I can’t say that the film was terrible because there were many memorable performances throughout the film.  Bruce Willis, Ben Affleck, and Liv Tyler really do a great job of creating that disapproving father, son-in-law, rebellious daughter triangle.  They all have good chemistry but out of that huge pool of actors that’s the most in depth character development.  The only thing that comes close is the plight of Chick (Will Patton), who’s estranged wife reunites with him at the end of the film after seeing him on TV.  And even that was a stretch.

 

Will Patton as Chick in Armageddon

Then there’s the shameful ploy of the amazing song  that came out of the film by Steven Tyler.  That’s right it was just ONE good song, the rest of the songs on that soundtrack are rock classics/covers.  But I still know people who say “Armageddon’s soundtrack was amazing”

The Verdict: Deep Impact is the stronger of the two films.  I realize more people think Armageddon is the better of the two but that’s just not the case.  If I want to throw back a few and have a good laugh with my buddies, yeah Armageddon would probably be the better choice.  If I want to watch a real movie I am going to watch Deep Impact.  I am a supporter of films that have some meaning to them especially in a day and age when films hardly respect good storytelling and are marketed like their bags of over processed food.  Shove in a bunch of crap, tell ’em it’s good, and maybe they’ll like it.

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