Copycats redux

Tripping out or seriocomic-indie syndrome?

Tripping out or seriocomic-indie syndrome?

Xerox cinema is the tendency of studios to develop and release strikingly similar projects at the same time, a phenomenon that allows us the rare opportunity to pit films in head-to-head competition. Here are some more notable recent Xerox cinema battles:

The Illusionist vs. The Prestige (2006 puzzle pieces about 19th-century magicians)

Public’s choice: The Prestige ($53 million to $40 million domestic box office)

Critics’ choice: The Prestige in a squeaker (75 percent to 74 percent approval on Rotten Tomatoes)

Cinema Scoped’s choice: The Prestige. In my opinion, this match is an embarrassing rout in the Dr. Strangelove/Fail-Safe or Mike Tyson/Michael Spinks mold.

Winner: The Prestige

The Black Dahlia vs. Hollywoodland (2006 mysteries about real-life murders in old Hollywood)

Public’s choice: The Black Dahlia ($22 million to $14 million)

Critics’ choice: Hollywoodland (69 percent to 32 percent)

Cinema Scoped’s choice: I’m not a fan of either film, but I’ll give a slight edge to the more coherent Hollywoodland.

Winner: Hollywoodland

Garden State vs. Elizabethtown (seriocomic indies about suicidal dopes and the manic pixie dream girls who love them)

Public’s choice: Garden State (their domestic box-office hauls were almost identical, but Cameron Crowe’s dismal Elizabethtown cost almost 20 times as much to produce)

Critics’ choice: Garden State (86 percent to 28 percent)

Cinema Scoped’s choice: 86 percent approval is a ridiculous number for something as mediocre as Garden State, but Elizabethtown really is one of the worst things ever.

Winner: Garden State

Deep Impact vs. Armageddon (1998 asteroid disaster movies)

Public’s choice: Armageddon, the highest-grossing film of 1998

Critics’ choice: Deep Impact (47 percent to 41 percent)

Cinema Scoped’s choice: This is a brutally tough call, but unlike Deep Impact, Armageddon is at least insipid in bold and memorable ways.

Winner: Armageddon … but aren’t we all losers here?