A blog about the road that led us to where we are. And where we are going.

Monday, 7 February 2011

Twin Films: The Definitive List Part #2

Continued from Part 1.

Powder (1995) Vs Phenomenon (1996)

PhenomIt’s been a long time since I’ve seen powder. Probably about 15 years so it’s a little rusty in my mind. The parallels between these two films are obvious though. Both are set in rural communities and both feature a character that seemingly possesses supernatural powers. Both deal with how the community reacts to this individual and their ultimate fate – in fact both films end in roughly the same way. powder1Phenomenon in my mind is clearly the better film. Featuring such stars as John Travolta, Forest Whitaker and Robert Duvall does little to harm it as all are well cast. The film is well written and romantic but it’s not the typical cliché Hollywood romance where the protagonists immediately fall in love, Travolta’s character George Malley has to make considerable effort to win over Kyra Sedgwick and in this respect it reflects real life much better than most movies despite its supernatural premise. The reactions of the characters in the town to George’s new found powers also seem realistic and well thought out.
IMDB Rating: Phenomenon 6.3, Powder 6.2
Verdict: Phenomenon all the way. Similarity Rating 7/10

Turner & Hooch (1989) Vs K-9 (1989)

Turnerk9These films are essentially identical. In both films a cop reluctantly inherits a dog as a partner who he must endure whilst he solves some non-descript crime. Both films are action comedies, both films feature lead actors well known for playing comedic roles and both films are an enjoyable yarn.
IMDB Rating: Turner & Hooch 5.6, K-9 5.6
Verdict: Tie – both are classic 80s action comedies.



The Truman Show (1998) Vs EDTV (1999)

trumanFilms that offer a commentary on the then emerging phenomenon of reality television – something that has since gripped the terminally braindead across the globe. I’ve never seen EDTV and doubt if I’ll ever watch it because in my opinion the Truman show was everything a film like this needed to be – a light-hearted warning about taking entertainment too far. The film deals with the subject well without being nearly as dark as it could have been because thinking about it, the premise is really deeply immoral. That premise being making someone the unwitting star of a soap opera broadcast across the globe and given some of the things that usually happen in Edtv-[cdcovers_cc]-frontsoap operas to make them entertaining, were the Truman show a reality, Truman Burbank would probably have led one of the most interesting, fucked up lives in history. The film also never delves into the psychological effects that discovering your life was a set up would actually have on a person. Such psychological effects could be devastating to a person, it’s really difficult to say and it’s a shame the film doesn’t address this in some ways because writer Andrew Niccol who also directed Gattaca evidently isn’t afraid of laying bare the realities when writing speculative fiction. That said we still got a decent film with the Truman Show but I can’t help feeling like there was a missed opportunity here.
IMDB Rating: The Truman Show 8.0, EDTV 6.1
Verdict: Never having seen EDTV I can’t give one but I would suspect the Truman Show is a superior film by far.

Deep Star Six (1989) Vs Leviathan (1989) Vs The Abyss (1989)

The AbyssThese films are all guilty of a similar premise, that of meeting an aquatic alien species underwater that seems to want to destroy humanity for one reason or another. Honestly I haven’t seen Leviathan or Deep Star Six although I may at some point give Leviathan a watch because Peter Weller usually carries B movies to being half decent – think Screamers. The Abyss is clearly the best film here, no matter how far James Cameron loses his head up his own arse it never stops the man from making a good solid film. The Abyss is also one of his best, along with Aliens and Terminator 2 – levmuch better than many people believe. If you’ve never seen it make sure you do yourself a favour and watch the directors cut because the theatrical cut is poor and doesn’t make any sense largely because it cuts out some of the key scenes in explaining the entire plot of the movie which is kind of stupid. The Abyss carries some of the hallmarks of James Cameron films – the strong female lead, the commentary on the dangers of nuclear weapons, the usual misanthropic angle, casting Michael Beihn etc. The film also features a fair amount of accurate science, something Sci-Fi movies often struggle with – for example oxygenated fluorocarbon emulsion – liquid air actually does exist. The scene with the rat breathing fluid wasn’t any kind of special effect although whether that kind of technology would 220px-DeepStarSix_Poster-1-actually let Ed Harris dive to 10,000 ft I seriously doubt. The special effects are again cutting edge for 1989 – the water tentacle scene still doesn’t look dated to this day. The Abyss for all its brilliance really should be – Ed Harris nearly drowned during the making of this film, allegedly punched James Cameron and swore never to work with him again. I do believe this was because Cameron wanted Harris’ reaction to be as lifelike as possible. Some of the rest of the cast – especially Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio called the making of this film the most painful experience of her life. The cast regularly worked 15 hours a day and constantly had to undergo decompression in hyperbaric chambers. As I understand it, it was one of the most difficult movie making endeavours in history but by God it certainly worked. 
IMDB Rating: Deep Star Six 4.4, Leviathan 5.3, The Abyss 7.6
Verdict: The Abyss by far. Similarity Rating 7/10

Toy Story (1998) Vs Small Soldiers (1998)

ToyStorySmallSoldiersOk I’m probably stretching it a little with this one but these films do feel like they ripped each other off to some degree. Both feature toys which come to life although for different reasons entirely and in both films the toys have some sort of mission or objective to achieve. Toy Story was one of if not the first film to be done completely by computer animation. Small Soldiers isn’t. Both are entertaining films and both work pretty well although Toy Story is the better of the two.
IMDB Rating: Toy Story 8.2, Small Soldiers 5.9
Verdict: No contest, Toy Story was a milestone in cinema. Similarity Rating 5/10

Avatar (2009) Vs Surrogates (2009) Vs Gamer (2009)

AvatarSurrogatesThree films from 2009 with a very similar premise – that of using avatars or remotely controlling the body of another being whether biological or mechanical from afar. All involve trying to save a planet / species in one way or another although not necessarily Earth and not necessarily humanity and all from entirely different threats. No one questions Avatars dominance here, although that said it’s not nearly as good as many people believe and at times it feels a bit like an episode of the Smurfs set in space. The film is probably the most hyped movie in history and had the largest budget of any movie ever made combined with largest worldwide gross of any movie ever made further enlarging James Cameron’s ego which is precisely what it needed because it wasn’t already big enough. GamerIt is a good film though, the special effects are practically unparalleled, the imagery and surrealism of Pandora is on par with excellence and many of the finer aspects of the film are well imagined. So this film clearly doesn’t suffer from a lack of imagination nor does it suffer from a lack of technical expertise and is fairly adept in the art of psychological manipulation as well (Take the big eyes of the Navi or the ridiculously pacifistic idea of the military as for instances). What it does suffer from is a poorly written script that seems to be a blatant rip off of Pocahontas and Dances with Wolves. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a good film but could have been so much more. Surrogates and Gamer aren’t as good but I liked both films, they take a simpler approach and don’t use $200 million budget to get their points across. Neither is great but both are entertaining popcorn flicks.
IMDB Rating: Avatar 8.2, Surrogates 6.3, Gamer 5.6
Verdict: Avatar easily wins but the other two are worth checking out. Similarity Rating 6/10

Finding Nemo (2003) Vs Shark Tale (2004)

SharkTaleI haven’t seen Finding Nemo so I can’t present any sort of comparison here. Both are obviously computer animated films set in the ocean. Shark Tale seemed to be some sort of not even slightly subtle homosexuality indoctrination exercise for children. This was of course dressed up as a Shark who was shunned for ‘being different from the others’.FindingNemo Don’t get me wrong I’m not homophobic in the slightest but using a medium such as this to brainwash children seems to be on morally dubious ground at the very least. I’m pretty sure Disney is guilty of the same thing numerous times over and given that Walt Disney is often rumoured to have been a National Socialist that’s hardly surprising; films like this have to make you wonder how much of your moral outlook and perspective on life is truly your own. Overall Shark Tale is enjoyable despite the propaganda message, probably one day I will end up watching Nemo and find it to be better.
IMDB Rating: Finding Nemo 8.2, Shark Tale 5.9
Verdict: The vote on IMDB finds Nemo to be a better film, not spectacularly hard to believe.

Antz (1998) Vs A bugs life (1998)

Bugs lifeAntzI haven’t seen either of these thank God. I have seen them frequently listed as similar films so that’s why they’ve made this list. From what I gather, both are about Ants specifically one Ant who turns out to be a hero who saves the day and both are entirely computer generated children’s films. Both sound enthralling, just how on Earth is it that they’ve passed me by?
IMDB Rating: Antz 6.8, A Bugs Life 7.3
Verdict: There’s probably not much in it. Similarity Rating 8/10

Johnny Mnemonic (1995) Vs Strange Days (1995)

jonnyNo list I have ever encountered has these movies paired as being similar so you might disagree with me that they are. But think about it, both came out in 1995, both set in the near future, both cyberpunk especially Johnny Mnemonic which is written by William Gibson – the king of cyberpunk and both involve the protagonist trying to get important data to the right people amidst a conspiracy to prevent exactly that from happening. strange daysBoth films had some nice Sci-Fi concepts, both dealt with memories in one way or another. Strange Days was about recorded memories that could be relived whilst Johnny Mnemonic was about Keanu Reeves trying to recover his lost memories. Did I miss anything? These are twin films. Which is better? Strange Days has a more realistic vibe to it, Johnny Mnemonic is pure science fiction. Johnny Mnemonic is more dystopian and shows us a world far removed from what we know whilst Strange Days depicts a world not radically different from our own. Strange Days is a better film, it just is, don’t ask me why.
IMDB Rating: Johnny Mnemonic 5.0, Strange Days 7.1
Verdict: Strange Days is superior. Similarity Rating 6/10

Independence Day (1996) Vs The Arrival (1996)

Independence DayAgain I’m struggling a little with this list because it’s difficult to compare two movies if you’ve not seen one of them. There can’t be many people alive now who haven’t seen Independence Day, it is pretty much the best alien invasion blockbuster of all time. People slag it off now sure but when it first came out, it was a huge hit and everyone raved about it. Yep it’s almost as stupid as Armageddon in terms of plot holes and despite what everyone says about using an Apple Mac to hack into the alien computer I still think this is vaguely plausible although I don’t think it would have taken 12 hoursArrival to figure out how to do it – 12 years maybe. It also features one of the most jaw droppingly pompous jingoistic nationalistic speeches ever delivered in cinema but then again expecting Americans to be humble is like expecting the French not to be arrogant. The faults of this film can be overlooked because this movie was just an excuse to have a big massive alien battle showdown, light off a few nukes, have plenty of fighter jet scenes and just generally feel good at the end when humans eventually win the day. It was fun to watch and still is fun to watch. Sentimentality abounds but everything that made Armageddon bad makes this movie good, it just works so well. As for the Arrival, I’ve heard good things. It’s supposed to be a nice little Sci-Fi gem and can’t believe that I’ve let it slip by me for so long. It’s allegedly a lot darker than Independence Day and its plot is driven more by paranoia and intrigue than explosions and special effects. First opportunity I get to watch it, I’ll let you know what I think.
IMDB Rating: Independence Day 6.6, The Arrival 6.2
Verdict: Independence Day until further notice. Similarity Rating 6/10


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