Critics’ Corner: Movie Title Reflux -- When They Come Back to Haunt You

Critics’ Corner: Movie Title Reflux -- When They Come Back to Haunt You

Feb 29, 2012

When two movies are called Deep Blue Sea, which one do you pick? Grae Drake and Dave White sort through the confusion for you.

You can’t copyright a title. That’s the first thing you have to know. There could be five more movies called Twilight that have nothing to do with sparkly vampires and there’d be nothing anyone could do about it. In fact, according to IMDb, there have been three movies with that name made in the United States and a lot more if you include short films and all the non-English films that translate to that word. And one of them was about Susan Sarandon, Paul Newman and Gene Hackman involved in a murder/blackmail situation. This happened in the 1990s, around same time as the non-terrible movie called Crash found its way into theaters. So you see how confusing it can get…

The Deep Blue Sea (2012) Opening in the U.S. at the end of March, acclaimed filmmaker Terence Davies makes the movie version of the play by Terence Rattigan (and now, just to add fuel to the fire, we’ve got dueling Terences) about the wife of a judge in post-World War II England (Rachel Weisz) having an affair with a pilot. Characters get their feelings hurt.

vs.

Deep Blue Sea (1999) Okay, technically the one with Rachel Weisz is called THE Deep Blue Sea. Big difference, of course – to nobody. But this is the one with Thomas Jane and Sam Jackson and the angry sharks with superbrains. Characters get their bodies chomped in half. And the winner is: Obviously the fancy British one is going to be moving and worthy and have great tweed overcoats. And with Downton Abbey done for a while, you’ll want something U.K. and vintage to tide you over. But the winner is the angry sharks with superbrains created by science-gone-wrong and the violation of the “Harvard Compact.” You can watch it drunk and that just makes it feel even more realistic. - DW

28 Days (2000) Sandra Bullock plays a pill and booze addict who, on her sister's wedding day, "introduces" a limousine to the front porch of a house, which finally gets her into rehab. Although she seems committed to denying her addiction, Viggo Mortensen staring wistfully at crates of baseballs eventually causes her to own up to her problem. She gets a plant to care for and takes the bus to the next wedding she attends.

vs.

28 Days Later (2002) Maybe you’re not confused by these two, but I am. All the time. Director Danny Boyle was bored silly by slow-moving zombies moaning for brains, so he ushered us all into the new century completely reinvigorating the genre with people infected by the RAGE virus. Unlike other lazy viruses such as Ebola or MEV-1, Rage causes people to run fast, bite other people, and scream a lot. It balances the social commentary typical to zombie movies without being preachy or annoying, and also shows us how scary Christopher Eccleston looks in military threads. Bonus: American audiences met Cillian Murphy in this film, who has vastly improved our moviegoing experience ever since. And the winner is: Part of Bullock's rehab is to wear a sign that says "Confront me if I don't ask for help," which I have tried to replicate and hang on people ever since. Because they always asked me what the heck I was doing and took it off, I have to assume they didn't see the movie and don't know how beneficial it would be. To me. The winner, therefore, is zombies. It is always zombies. -- GD

Child’s Play (1972) Groovy haircut-intensive, earnest, early '70s Sidney Lumet drama starring A-list old-schoolers James Mason and Robert Preston as warring faculty at an exclusive boy’s prep school? And who is sending all those threatening notes? And why are the students so cruel? And is someone (or someones) possessed by the devil? The kind of weird, old half-classy-drama/half-devil-mystery movie you don’t see enough of anymore.

vs.

Child’s Play (1988) Chucky. He’s a doll. He kills people. Admittedly, this is his coolest personality trait. And the winner is: Well, by default the winner is the killer doll because the James Mason movie is impossible to find now. See? This is why Martin Scorsese never shuts up about film preservation. Not everything gets released on DVD. - DW

Crash (2004) Although this movie was awarded Best Picture at the Academy Awards, it remains one of the most divisive pictures in the category's history. About racism and societal hierarchies, it stars an ensemble of incredibly talented and famous actors who were given nothing more interesting to do than utter racial slurs – and meet their comeuppance for it – or clutch dead bodies and wail at the sky. Director Paul Haggis says the film was inspired by an incident where he was carjacked on Wilshire Blvd. in Los Angeles, and it made me hope that the judge sentenced the criminal to extra jail time because he ultimately cost people all over the world two hours of their time.

vs.

Crash (1996) Instead of being recognized by a bunch of old white guys, this movie received accolades for "audacity, daring, and originality" from a bunch of freewheeling Frenchmen at Cannes. Directed by David Cronenberg, cinema's death-and-sex-pert, it sinks viewers into kinky quicksand, showing them what it's like to get sexually turned on by car accidents. If you watch James Spader on The Office but feel that it's missing the kind of energy that comes from humping Porsche bumpers, seek this one out. It's anything but boring. And the winner is: Cronenberg has it in the bag. Watching his movies is an exercise in tolerance and opening your mind to something unfamiliar and disturbing, whereas the over-simplified screenplay of 2004's Crash gives progressive ideas about race relations a bad name. -- GD

Kicking and Screaming (1995) Back in the days where independent films were a novelty just gaining street cred, director Noah Baumbach was spreading his filmmaker wings and bringing us the first of many films about hypnotizingly neurotic people. This tale is about a bunch of college kids struggling with being young, hot, directionless, and sometimes the children of Elliot Gould. Think of this movie as the low-fi Reality Bites. Bonus: You get Parker Posey in her indie-darling heyday.

vs.

Kicking & Screaming (2005) The ampersand in the title makes this movie totally different, okay? Will Farrell stars as Phil, whose life is languishing in middle-class mediocrity. His lack of passion for anything stems from his horrible, overly competitive father (Robert Duvall) stunting his sense of self-worth. Soon, they go head-to-head as coaches of children's soccer teams, and things get ugly. Mike Ditka even shows up playing himself. It's brutal. And the winner is: A tough call because Will Farrell is great when he's playing an average loser, but since nobody does malaise better than Baumbach, his version wins. - GD

Running Scared (1986) Gregory Hines and Billy Crystal are wisecracking Chicago buddy-cops. They’re off the job, forced on “vacation” for a bit, but not before they make sure to solve one last case. This kind of thing has been done to death and easy to mock now, but was a pretty funny action-comedy for its day.

vs.

Running Scared (2006) Twenty years and one Paul Walker career ascendancy later, the title is recycled for this off-its-rocker thriller about psychotic mobsters, missing guns, a boring cop, an abused kid taking revenge on his evil father, hookers studying for their GEDs and insane pedophiles getting what’s coming to them. Tarantino likes it. When it’s over and you catch your breath, you’ll wonder what you just watched. And the winner is: For sheer amounts of stuff thrown at you, go with the 2006 exploitation-of-everything entry. Laugh or wince, whatever, it’s the movie equivalent of being in a bouncy-house with screaming maniacs. - DW

And while you’re at it see also-also Gladiator (1992, with Cuba Gooding Jr. and that guy from Twin Peaks), Bad Boys (1983, with Sean Penn) and Iron Man (1951, with Rock Hudson and Jim Backus, aka Thurston Howell III).

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