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Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Monday, July 28, 2014

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Snow White's the most recent character doing double duty in Hollywood.
Snow White's the most recent character doing double duty in Hollywood.

Seeing double: Five identical movie pairings

If you blinked between late March and now, you may have missed theaters swapping out one Snow White film, the kid-friendly "Mirror Mirror," for "Snow White and the Huntsman," the action-packed retelling of the story. Snow White isn't the first topic to get cloned by unimaginative Hollywood execs. Here are five other identical movie match-ups that came out within months of one another, proving that the sequel is not the most unoriginal thing coming out of Tinseltown.

"Deep Impact" vs. "Armageddon"

As the new millennium approached, as well as rumors of Y2K, Hollywood became infatuated with the end of humanity, mainly by means of meteor. "Deep Impact," starring Morgan Freeman and a young Elijah Wood, came first in May of 1998, followed less than two months later by Michael Bay's bombastic space epic "Armageddon" (co-written by then unknown J.J. Abrams).

Winner: Question: Which one of these two movies do you remember? I can't hear you through your computer, but I'm pretty sure you said "Armageddon." Despite its well-documented flaws, it's easily the more memorable disaster film. It's ironic that a movie about a meteor crashing into the ocean made such a small splash.

"The Illusionist" vs. "The Prestige"

Audiences have always been told about movie magic, but in 2006, the phrase became literal. "The Illusionist," starring a goateed Edward Norton as a mysterious Viennese magician, became a surprising indie hit in early September. A month and a half later, Christopher Nolan's "The Prestige" tried to cash in on on-screen magic with a dark, moody tale about dueling magicians.

Winner: "The Prestige" didn't catch on well with audiences and critics at the time, but years later, Nolan's film evolved into the more successful and memorable movie. Plus, "The Prestige" stars David Bowie, and any movie with Ziggy Stardust is a cinematic classic.

"The Haunting" vs. "House on Haunted Hill"

Horror isn't a genre built on originality. Put an assortment of questionably intelligent people in an ominous location and use a murderous creature or psychopath to eliminate them from existence. Apparently, in 1999, that formula was too difficult as not one, but two remakes of famous horror films from the early '60s came out. First came "The Haunting," "Speed" director Jan de Bont's mindless remake of Robert Wise's revered horror classic. Three months later, "House on Haunted Hill" took its shot at tarnishing a top-notch Vincent Price film.

Winner: It's hard to say who the winner is, but considering critics ripped both films mercilessly, the loser is easy to determine: the audience. For what it's worth, "House on Haunted Hill" has a ghost Chris Kattan and Geoffrey Rush with a hilarious thin evil mustache.

"Antz" vs. "A Bug's Life"

Disney and Dreamworks are like two kids in a classroom cheating off one another's tests. Every time one company releases a big hit, the other attempts to cash-in with an eerily similar knock-off. Their resumes are filled with these duplicates ("Madagascar" and "The Wild," "How to Train Your Dragon" and the upcoming "Brave"), but no pairing is more glaringly obvious than "Antz" and "A Bug's Life," both released in the fall of 1998.

Winner: Based on box office, "A Bug's Life" wins in a landslide, grossing $70 million more than "Antz." Unlike the previous match-up, though, audiences win either way. Both insect-themed animated adventures are fun and feature some pretty impressive visuals.

"Shakespeare in Love" vs. "Elizabeth"

The 1999 Academy Awards were great ... if you were a movie about World War II or Elizabethan England. While 1998's "Saving Private Ryan" and "The Thin Red Line" are very similar, it's "Shakespeare in Love" and "Elizabeth" that deserve recognition for their plagiarism. Cate Blanchett's historical drama came first in early November, but a little over a month later, "Shakespeare in Love" roared into theaters and eventually up to the Oscar podium.

Winner: Both movies are good, but they also haven't exactly been treated kindly by time. "Shakespeare in Love," is mainly remembered for stealing Best Picture from "Saving Private Ryan," and "Elizabeth" was followed up with an unintentionally hilarious sequel in 2007. So let's go with "Shakespeare in Love." Winning Best Picture controversially is still winning Best Picture.

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