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By Avery Trufelman

Movies about similar stuff always seem to come out roughly around the same time, which makes things quite confusing for us viewers. What is going on here? Do production companies have focus groups that find similarly trending topics? Or does the powerful force of Zeitgeist seep through screenplays and pitches? Do great minds just think alike?

…Or do outside forces or current events determine the movie theme du jour?

I DON’T KNOW but here are some similar movie smackdowns.

Starting with the most recent example:

Thanks For Sharing vs. Don Jon

Two movies about porn/sex addiction. Honestly, Thanks For Sharing tried a little to desperately to relay a darker theme of addiction. It didn’t quite work, since it could have been a movie about addiction to anything: it was less about the stigma of sex addition than the stigma of support groups. Don Jon, though not explicitly (no pun intended) about addiction, focused on the struggle to find meaningful sexuality apart from Internet porn. Don Jon wins this round, mostly for execution: it was better acted, twice as funny, and a little more adventurous than TFS.

Then there’s the classic debate:

The Prestige vs. The Illusionist

This is kind of the go-to example for Similar Movie Releases, right? It’s hard not to get their names confused and remember which one stars Hugh Jackman. They are both so darn similar and well-made that it’s tough to choose a winner, but I think it’s the Prestige. Directed by Christopher Nolan, The Prestige is a little more predictable but much more entertaining, buoyed by more engaging dialogue, a better twist at the end, and a larger emphasis on magic (rather than romance). Also David Bowie plays Nicola Tesla. Done.

The crazy coincidence:

Capote vs. Infamous

Okay, they were released a year apart from each other, but they were being made at the same time. What are the odds? Two movies about Truman Capote! This is basically Phillip Seymour Hoffman vs. Toby Jones, both playing Capotes that could effortless cross over into Andy Warhol impressions. Phillip Seymour Hoffman wins by default because he is Phillip Seymour Hoffman. Star power from Catherine Keener helps him out a lot too.

And now the animation section:

Bugs Life  vs. Antz

Bugs Life duh. Antz was kind of for adults, from what I remember. An animated movie that’s not for kids? What an ill-thought-out tease.

The Wild vs. Madagascar

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eU_EXrdZavI

Madagascar had the obligatory side-plot cute army that Dreamworks relies so heavily on. You know what I’m thinking of:

The penguins are pretty legit and funny, and the characters have a lot of heart. Madagascar is more entertaining and therefore the winner.  That’s all there is to it for me.

I am not an expert, so correct me if I have slighted your favorite movie-that-came-out-at-the-same-time-as-a-sort-of-similar-movie. Also, let me know if you know why this keeps happening in this world of ours.

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