Elena Shumilova is mother to two young boys, Yaroslav (5) and Vanya (2). An architect by trade, the Russian artist only took up photography in 2012, wanting to capture the precious moments a mother witnesses as her children grow up.
The family owns a farm in Adreapol, Russia, where they have many animals including dogs, cats, ducks and rabbits. The special bond that can form between the animals and people is what she tries to capture through her photography. Shumilova tells Daily Mail that when she graduated University she spent a lot of time sketching and painting and it is this background that has come to define her photography and composition.
First things first… Who are you?
Mike Marts: I’m Mike Marts, group editor of the Batman books for DC Comics. The DC Universe prints and publishes 52 titles a month. Of those 52, there are usually around 14 or so books that fit into the Batman group, so I oversee all of those, but they won’t be directly edited by me. I edit probably six or seven of those titles a month, then the rest are handled by people in my group.
Talk a little about the process of creating an issue of Batman. How many people work on an issue of Batman?
MM: It’s quite a few. We have anywhere from two to three editors internally — myself, an associate, and an assistant that will work on stuff, but then the creative team is usually about four to five people strong. There’s a writer and a penciler — those two are the main two people — then we have an inker, a colorist, and a letterer.
And that’s the order it that goes in when a comic book is being made?
MM: For the most part, yeah. Generally, we’re dealing with the writer first. In the case of Batman, it’s Scott Snyder. He’ll be the first person I talk to when generating new stories and coming up with ideas. His partner in crime on Batman is the penciler, Greg Capullo.
Each title we do has its own writer and penciler team. In the case of Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo, it’s not like Scott’s just coming up with a story and tossing it to Greg and he just does his thing; these guys are collaborating all the time — talking about pages and panels, story beats, how to make things better, how to make things new and fresh and exciting. They’re almost like one organism, these two guys.
How long does it take to get from idea to printed issue?
MM: Right now we’re generating ideas for books that will come out in November or December. So we’re looking six months ahead, at least in terms of core story and maybe a cover idea, that type of thing.
Five months out is probably when we want to get a script in, four months out is when it starts to get drawn. A lot of the time it runs a lot closer. Then a book will go out to the printer about a month before you’ll see it on the stands.
So ideally, from start to finish, six months. The actual core production time of the writing, the art, the coloring, and the lettering is probably about a two-and-a-half- to three-month production cycle.
Which of those steps takes the longest?
MM: The pencilling usually takes the longest. That’s where a lot of the time is eaten up. It takes a lot of time for a penciller to draw just one page. The pace we try to live by is a page a day. If you do a page a day, and there’s 20 pages in each issue, the average guy is doing an issue a month. And you can still take weekends and holidays off.
Doesn’t always work out that way, and some guys are five-week guys and some are six-week guys, so you have to plan your overall schedule accordingly.
Do all the Batman writers work so closely that they’re aware of what’s happening with the character, or is there a character bible they can refer to?
MM: Some of the guys and girls talk a lot. They’re friends, they’re collaborators, they share ideas. In the case of guys like Scott Snyder and Jeff Lemire, they’re constantly throwing their scripts back and forth, asking, “Hey, what do you think of this?” Sometimes it’s on the editors to make sure all the creators are getting the information that they need, so that the writer of Batman knows what the writer of Batman: Detective Comics is doing, and vice versa. We do have something similar to a story bible. A lot of times it will be specific to a certain story arc.
For instance, last year with Batman we did Death in the Family and before that we did The Court of Owls, and for each of those story lines there was a mega-document constructed by the writer, which we shared with all the members of the Batman creative team, so they know that this is what Gotham City is like during the week of this story line, and this is what this character should be doing.
Are the writers obligated to follow that document? If they have a really awesome idea, can they rewrite the document a little bit and push that change out to the other creators?
MM: Sure, that kind of thing happens all the time. The documents are there as a road map, especially when we’re dealing with the stories. The stories can change as we go. When a good idea comes along, then we’ll certainly push that in there and get the most out of it. It happens frequently.
Very rarely do you get to the end of a story line and look back at that original document and it’s exactly the same. It’s always growing and changing. That’s part of the beauty of different collaborators working on the same thing. The things that remain constant is the character stuff. Batman is always going to behave like Batman, Robin is always going to behave like Robin.
When someone like Scott Snyder is writing Batman, can he make decisions that change the character? Does that need to go through you?
MM: It depends on what’s being attempted. If it’s a routine thing — you know, Batman is fighting Joker this month — that’s something that can be handled with the writer and the editor, me, and Scott.
In the case of something bigger — like last year when we decided to cut off Joker’s face, and had him running around without a face — that was something we were doing to change the character, so that goes up the flagpole. That goes to the editor-in-chief. If it’s something more serious, it’ll go to the publisher.
It really depends on how risky the decision is. Most of the decisions that are being made day to day can be handled by the editor.
So something like the character Robin dying in Batman Incorporated, that’s a situation where it has to be cleared by everyone?
MM: Exactly. That’s an enormous thing that we had planned for many years. When Damian Wayne was created seven or eight years ago, the idea was always that he’d eventually die, so that’s very big and it’s not just the editor and writer saying, “Oh, we’re going to kill this character.”
It’s something we have discussions about, and everyone has to approve it and feel good about it. Even if we made that decision seven years ago, things could be different now. The character could be more popular, which, in this case, he was. So you have to think about the equity in the character, how the readers will react, whether this will be a good thing in the long run, whether there’s a plan in place.
When something big like that happens, are all 14 Batman titles prepared for it?
MM: We’re primarily dealing with the one character, and he appears monthly in five different books, sometimes more, so there’s a lot of coordination across all the Batman books. We had a special month afterwards where we had each of the titles reflect upon the death of Robin in their own special way. Now, in the ongoing monthly stories, it’s still something Batman is dealing with.
What about smaller things? If Batman gets injured in an issue, is that something that’s reflected in the other Batman titles?
MM: It can be, if we feel it’s big enough. Commissioner Gordon broke his nose once, so he had a broken nose when he appeared in Batgirl and Nightwing. If it’s something less serious, or something that you or I could bounce back from in a week, then we don’t have to coordinate.
Does each Batman book have its own Batman? Is the Batman: The Dark Knight Batman a different character from Scott Snyder’s Batman?
MM: Not necessarily. With all the books we publish here in-house, that Batman is the same Batman. We go to great lengths to make sure he operates and behaves in the same manner in all the books. Where things are different is in the type of story we’re telling. In Scott Snyder’s Batman, that’s the “continuing adventures of” or the soap opera book. Grant Morrison’s Batman Incorporated may be more of an ensemble cast, with more sci-fi and more epic storytelling. Greg Hurwitz on Batman: The Dark Knight might be telling Batman stories, but they’re from the villain’s point of view. It’s in the type of stories that we tell that we make the differences and vary things.
Was the pre-New 52 Batman character more difficult to wrangle? He was going back in time, and there was a caveman Batman, and for a while, Dick Grayson was Batman. Was that more difficult to keep tabs on than the current Batman?
MM: Maybe just a little bit, yeah. Nowadays, with only two years behind us, if I have to pull a reference on a character, or go back to a story line, there’s only 21 issues that I have to worry about right now. That being said, the job of juggling a character’s continuity is always going to be a little bit tricky and always going to be part of the job. It might be a little bit easier now, but ask me that same question four years from now, and I might say it was as tricky as it was before.
Are you saying that Batman is going to go back in time again?
MM: Anything is possible.
How many issues does a story arc take to tell?
MM: It varies. For instance, the issue we’re currently working on with Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo, Batman: Zero Year, is aggressive. It’s 11 parts. Some people might see that as long, but we’ve proven that these two guys can tell the longer story arcs with Batman, and people really respond to it and enjoy it.
That’s probably as long as we go. Sometimes stories are two parts, sometimes they’re three or four, depending on the nature of the story and how much story you’re trying to tell.
You mentioned Batman: Zero Year. Is that a new origin story for Batman?
MM: It is. It’s an origin story and more. We’re starting six years prior to the current timeline. This is a period of time before Bruce Wayne has become Batman, before he has decided to put on the mask, before he has thought of the name Batman. We see him returning to Gotham City after several years journeying the world and training and educating himself in various fighting forms. Things are starting to fall into place in Gotham to help mold him and to help him create Batman.
So the Batman origin story we all know, with his parents in the alley, that’s already all happened?
MM: Yep, that’s happened in the past. That’s all set, and those are all important things that have happened to Bruce, and some of those things we’ll see in this story line, but that happened when he was about 10 years old. In the Batman: Zero Year story, Bruce is in his twenties, and the bulk of the story line takes place there, just prior to him becoming Batman.
Are we going to just be following Bruce Wayne in Batman: Zero Year, or will we see some of the supporting characters as well, like we did in Batman #0?
MM: Yeah, in fact, people who read #0 will, right from the get-go, see the Red Hood Gang and the Red Hood Gang leader. They’re involved in this story line. In the first issue, you’ll also see the Riddler in his very early days, before he’s really grown into the Riddler persona. Other characters like Alfred will be there, of course. You can probably expect to see Commissioner Gordon in the story line. A lot of fixtures of Gotham will be there.
Is anything going to change from what we know about Batman’s origin?
MM: I don’t want to give away too much, but there will be things here that we have not seen before. At the same time, I’ll say that anything that’s essential to the core origin of Bruce Wayne and Batman, you can expect that to still be there, but you’ll see it expanded in a very interesting new way.
In January 2014, two people were found guilty of sending death and rape threats to the feminist campaigner Caroline Criado-Perez in the most high-profile online abuse case Britain has yet seen. They told BuzzFeed News why they did it — and what happened next.
At 2.29pm on 29 July 2013, Isabella Sorley, a then-23-year-old advertising graduate from Newcastle, said on Twitter: “Me doing something when tired only leads to one thing, me loosing [sic] my temper, but I’m sure sleep and wine will sort me out later.”
Twelve hours later, between 2.25am and 2.55am, she sent six tweets to two people: feminist writer Caroline Criado-Perez, who was campaigning for a woman to be featured on the £10 note, and Labour MP Stella Creasy, who supported the campaign.
The tweets said: “Fuck off and die…you should have jumped in front of horses, go die; I will find you and you don’t want to know what I will do when I do… kill yourself before I do; rape is the last of your worries; I’ve just got out of prison and would happily do more time to see you berried; seriously go kill yourself! I will get less time for that; rape?! I’d do a lot worse things than rape you.”
The press, whose interest in online abuse cases reached a peak in the summer of 2013, invariably describes internet trolls as “vile”, but in person, when BuzzFeed News meets her in Newcastle, Sorley, now 24, is confident and polite, and at times witty and self-deprecating. It’s hard to imagine her getting a kick out of telling someone to “kill yourself before I do”.
So how did she end up sending someone death threats at 2am?
“Alcohol,” she says without pausing to think. “I’m a horrid drunk and it’s just stuff I say when I’m drunk. I’ve read police statements of what I’ve said when I’m drunk and I’ve heard it read out in court and it’s all alcohol. It makes me really mean and nasty.
“It’s just something inside me … and I guess Twitter just became an outlet for that.”
Three days before Sorley sent the offending tweets, 25-year-old John Nimmo in nearby South Shields sent abusive tweets to the same two women via five pseudonymous accounts. His 20 tweets between 27 July and 29 July included these statements:
“Ya not that gd looking to rape u be fine; I will find you; come to geordieland bitch; just think it could be somebody that knows you personally; the police will do nothing; rape her nice ass; could I help with that lol; the things I cud do to u; dumb blond bitch.”
Nimmo and Sorley live just 12 miles apart, but don’t know each other (BuzzFeed News met them separately). They were both sentenced on the same day for the exact same crime.
On 24 January 2014, at Westminster Magistrates’ Court, Sorley was sentenced to 12 weeks in prison and Nimmo to eight for sending malicious messages, under section 127 of the Communications Act 2003.
They served half their sentences in London jails and were each ordered to pay £400 to their victims – although the judge allowed them to take up to three years to do so because of their lack of funds.
In the aftermath of the tweets, both Criado-Perez and Creasy spoke of the lasting effect of abusive messages like these, and Creasy later admitted to having installed a panic button in her home. Criado-Perez said she struggled to eat, sleep, and work at the height of the abuse. She declined to comment for this article; Creasy has not yet responded to our requests.
More and more people are being arrested and convicted for internet trolling. According to figures from Big Brother Watch, 6,329 people across the UK were charged or cautioned for malicious communications-related offences between November 2010 and November 2013.
Of these, at least 4,259 were charged and 2,070 were cautioned, and 355 cases involved social media.
Creasy and Criado-Perez received torrents of abuse from scores of Twitter users over the summer of 2013 from as many as 147 Twitter accounts, so what made Nimmo and Sorley so special? Twelve months on from their release from prison, what do two of the country’s most notorious internet trolls think about the case now? Were they especially wicked compared to all the other Twitter trolls on the bandwagon? And was it right for them to be punished with imprisonment?
What is not in doubt is that Sorley for several years had a serious alcohol problem.
When she was arrested for the abusive tweets in October 2013, she had 25 offences to her name, all of them alcohol-related, including assaults and counts of being drunk and disorderly. That’s why she got a harsher sentence than Nimmo, despite having sent fewer truly offensive tweets.
While on bail for the trolling offence, Sorley was arrested and charged with assaulting a police officer. She had recently pleaded guilty to another assault, on New Year’s Eve.
While she doesn’t absolve herself of responsibility for her abusive tweets, she does emphasise that she was very drunk when they were sent.
Sorley has woken up on the streets more than once, and is still subject to a public order banning her from Leeds city centre. One magistrate called her a “one-woman crimewave”.
She joined Twitter in 2011, the second year of her degree in creative advertising at Leeds College of Art (she got a 2:1), and she has studied social networking’s effects on marketing and commerce. She speaks convincingly about how social media “can engage customers in a way you can’t with TV adverts”.
Both Nimmo and Sorley say they offended for the same reason: because they enjoyed the attention and endorphin-generating effects of becoming briefly famous, or notorious, on Twitter. Without any planning or forethought, they joined a bandwagon that was already rolling. It was a game and they enjoyed it.
“I guess it was just for a laugh really,” says Sorley. “I spent a lot of time wondering why I did it. One journalist said, ‘Was it just because you were getting a kick out of it, was it just for a laugh?’ and yeah, that’s pretty much it.
“I saw [Criado-Perez] was trending a few days earlier, I just sent out a tweet going, ‘Why is this woman trending?’ And I got in a conversation with these randomers and they were going, ‘Yeah she’s getting abuse,’ and then people were saying ‘why are you being a victim-blamer?’ and I said ‘I’m not, but if she’s getting abuse she’s bound to have done something.’”
Sorley says she got carried away, encouraged by the retweets and favourites she was getting. Then, three months later, seven police officers turned up at her parents’ house with a warrant for her arrest.
“My mam rang me about 7.30 or 8 in the morning and said, ‘I’ve got these police here,’ and I thought it was a joke. I said ‘Mam, are you being serious?’”
Sorley had an idea what was coming. She’d read in the news that Criado-Perez’s lawyers were threatening to complain to the police about Twitter abuse. “I was worried,” she says, “but because it had got to October I thought I’d got away with it.”
She entered a guilty plea at the earliest opportunity and was told by her solicitor that she wouldn’t go to jail. She only booked one day off from her job at Asda, thinking she’d be back in soon.
The trip to London for her sentencing was her first time in the capital. And despite the publicity the case had generated, on the morning of the hearing Sorley decided to take in some sightseeing. To her solicitor’s alarm, she posted a selfie outside Buckingham Palace.
“I didn’t see anything [wrong] in it, like,” says Sorley. “I’d never been to London before. I was staying at a mate’s house and he had to go to work – we were up really early. He said ‘Stay in my flat until the court case’ but I said ‘Nah, I don’t want to’, so we went on a sightseeing trip.”
In court, the shame of what she’d done began to hit home:
“Obviously when they read it all out, I just hanged my head in shame, trying to, like, imagine myself not there. It was all about getting through it really.”
The court hearing was made worse by the presence of her sister in the public gallery. Sorley’s family supported her, but hadn’t known the full extent of what she’d said.
“Obviously they called me an idiot for doing it,” she said. “But they’ll always stand by me – they’re just pleased now I’ve got a hold of my drink problem.”
Eventually, having read the papers, the managers at Asda realised she wouldn’t be turning up for work any time soon.
“They actually wrote to me in prison saying I’d be called to a disciplinary hearing,” she says. “I said that I doubt Holloway are going to give me a day release to go to Asda.”
Sorley found herself behind bars yet again six months later, in August 2014. “I guess I was celebrating getting out, but not in the best way. … I punched someone and got convicted for battery.” Sorley says she’s been sober since that prison stint.
When she was charged, Sorley tweeted a string of indignant messages arguing, in essence, that Criado-Perez should just put up with the abuse. With the benefit of 12 months’ hindsight, does she think the trolling sentence was fair?
“I don’t think that long a sentence [was fair],” she says. “It was obvious I had a drinking problem. I’d just been given a community order by Newcastle magistrates, but because I got prison I couldn’t even keep my probation meetings in Newcastle. And I needed help with my addiction more than anything.
“I think education is really important. I think it’s obvious that the judge wanted to send a message that this wouldn’t be tolerated.”
She and Nimmo were not exercising free speech but abusing it, she admits now:
“Threats are wrong. There’s a difference between free speech and threats. Free speech, if you’re just going to moan about something, if you said ‘people deserve cancer’, that’s free speech.
“But as soon as you talk at someone and say ‘you deserve cancer’, that’s different. Threats and free speech are completely different. I know a few people say this is a free speech issue but it’s not – threats have always been wrong, no matter if it’s on social media or it’s face to face.
“If you’re putting someone’s life in danger or making them feel scared, that’s different to free speech.
“I don’t want sympathy – I don’t deserve it, I did something wrong. But I’d like to think [that people say] ‘good on her for sorting out her drink problems and finally admitting them’.”
John Nimmo is a shy man. In court, his own lawyer described him as a “somewhat sad individual” who was “effectively a social recluse”.
Having made the trip from South Shields to Newcastle, he tells BuzzFeed News about his experience in a halting, nervous manner, while occasionally sipping a Coke. When asked to describe himself he uses just one word: “Shy.”
After a pause: “I don’t go out much.”
What does Nimmo think of his tweets now? “Terrible,” he says. “It’s not who I am. It’s not me.”
Like Sorley, Nimmo, now 26, looks younger than his age. He has what he calls “moderate learning difficulties”, although his lawyer didn’t press this point during mitigation.
During his sentencing, the judge said he had more than than enough mental capacity to understand his actions and was guilty of a “sophisticated” level of trolling involving multiple accounts. “I knew what I was doing,” he says now.
“I’m trying to use the experience, with the National Bullying Helpline, to get it out there that if you do it you might get locked up,” he says.
“The irony of it all is that I wasn’t even passionate about the subject or the people I was bullying. I was simply bored, saw what was trending, and leaped on to the bandwagon.”
Nimmo has been on Twitter for years – he was an early adopter, signing up not long after it launched. He can’t recall exactly when he started creating anonymous or pseudonymous accounts – it was “a few years back”, maybe “a couple of years” before he was convicted.
He doesn’t deny that he said nasty things online before, but “it wasn’t that bad, not as bad as what I did [in July 2013], you know, it was just normal things like disagreements”. He was a compulsive if not particularly unusual Twitter user who would often tweet about computer games.
So how did he get from there to sending rape threats to people he’d never heard of, including “I will find you”? His answer is strikingly similar to Sorley’s.
“It was trending,” he says. “I saw it was trending, so I looked into what it was about and, stupid me, I decided to join in. And I was getting, like, retweets, I was getting favourites and all that – and even the person I was sending tweets to, the person I was tweeting at, was retweeting it and answering back.”
And as with Sorley, Nimmo had – at best – only a vague idea who his victims were. Only after sending his abusive tweets did he see a TV news item about the £10 note campaign.
The common advice given to people dealing with online abuse is “Don’t feed the trolls”: Don’t respond or react to the abusers and hopefully they will go away. Block them and move on.
Instead, throughout this period, Criado-Perez stood up to her abusers with defiant replies, routinely retweeting them to offer a glimpse into the kind of vitriol she was receiving. She later said, in a speech in September 2014: “Not feeding the trolls doesn’t magically scrub out the image in your head of being told you’ll be gang-raped till you die.”
While he admits his actions were plainly wrong, Nimmo now says that her reaction more than anything else encouraged him to “get on the bandwagon” and join in:
“I thought to myself, you know, she wants us to carry on. Because when you answer back, that’s a conversation. I’m not blaming her, but if she didn’t answer back then I wouldn’t have [carried on].”
Nimmo uses almost the exact same phrase as Sorley to explain his abuse: “It was just all about a laugh.
“I thought in my head actually, that when someone sees something like that and they read it, they’re gonna complain … But you think, ‘This is Twitter’ – you don’t expect to be raided by nine police officers.”
It took a producer on Newsnight to reveal Nimmo’s real identity by befriending him on the PlayStation Network.
As with Sorley, the police turned up at his dad’s house first, and then at his own at 2.30pm on 1 August 2013. While Sorley confessed to her crime immediately, Nimmo said nothing during the police interview, on his lawyer’s instruction.
In another parallel, Nimmo’s trip to London for his sentencing was his first time in the capital, and he “made a weekend of it”, visiting the Sherlock Holmes Museum on Baker Street with his fiancée, Naomi.
He was already engaged to Naomi when he was arrested, and says he feared she might leave him.
Nimmo is apologetic, but still thinks he was made an example of. “But I don’t think it worked as a deterrent,” he says, pointing out that several online abuse cases have happened since, some where custodial sentences were handed down but suspended.
While in jail, his fellow prisoners were amused by the novelty of someone being sent down for sending tweets – some even congratulated him.
“I’m in prison, with muggers and murderers and all that, just for saying some words on social media. I just thought, ‘I’ve done a daft thing, [I’ve gone] down to prison.’”
Nimmo was criticised during sentencing for his lack of contrition and regret for his actions, and for appearing to blame his victims. A year on from his imprisonment, what does he think about them now?
After a long pause, he says he is concentrating on helping the National Bullying Helpline.
What would Nimmo say to his victims now? “I’d say ‘sorry’. I’ve been told that it was free speech, what I did, but that just was crossing the line.”
So you just crossed that line? “I went straight over it.”
One theory holds that that one of the main reasons people act differently online to the way they would in a face-to-face encounter is “dissociative imagination”, the idea that for some the internet represents a parallel world not populated by real people.
Sorley says she recognises this as a feature of her own behaviour: “It’s because people don’t engage their emotions. Yeah, there’s that thing of having that power to send horrible stuff because you don’t have the instant reaction you’d have while saying it face to face.”
Nimmo and Sorley both accept they did wrong, but both feel their sentences, served 280 miles from home, were harsh. They remain two of the UK’s most high-profile convicted internet trolls, despite an unknown number of similar offences happening every day.
Criado-Perez has shown in quite horrific detail the long list of messages she received at the time, many of which were similar to Nimmo’s and Sorley’s, yet the only other high-profile conviction from the long list of people who trolled Creasy and Criado-Perez is Peter Nunn, who was sentenced to 18 weeks in jail in September 2014 (Nunn is appealing).
Sorley was already well-known to the police, while Nimmo seemed to fit the classic profile of an internet troll and had just been outed by media reports.
The police would have had to put a real name and address to the other anonymous accounts before acting on them, and here was an opportunity to send out a real message that the police had got a grip on what had become a national scandal.
As for what the future holds, Nimmo says he has no immediate plans other than to get a job – although the problem is, “If you search my name, what comes up is all this” – and to get married.
As for Sorley, she is unemployed but has plans to launch a social enterprise business designed at helping young people with alcohol addiction. It’s just in the planning stage, but she says she’s serious about using her experience as a way to help others.
One curious aspect of this case is that both Sorley and Nimmo are still on Twitter – but both using their real names this time. A restraining order prevents them from mentioning or contacting Criado-Perez and Creasy, but Twitter’s rules don’t specifically say anything about convicted trolls keeping their accounts or starting new ones.
“I’ve also got another account,” says Nimmo. “But I don’t do trolling from it. I shouldn’t have said that, should I?”
Many films popular today for their supposed originality really just rework well-used tropes. With a little digging, you can uncover predecessors that are coincidentally extremely similar in plot. Occasionally, the overlap even extends beyond coincidence into outright plagiarism, and the original filmmakers sue to get the credit they’re owed.
10The Hunger Games
The most lucrative and controversial story of teens killing each other under controlled conditions for public consumption, The Hunger Games has the world’s attention by the eyeballs. While many have criticized Suzanne Collins’s prose and certain contrivances in the story, many think the premise and characters transcend the limitations of the writing.
Film it’s uncannily similar to: Slashers
Thought we were going to say Battle Royale, didn’t you?
Slashers is a 2001 B movie about game show contestants having to kill serial killers or be killed themselves. Its acting may be dodgy, and its satirical point against reality television feels a bit dated today, but it features many story points and elements later shown in The Hunger Games, such as an ironically pleasant and flamboyant host for the event and trackers on contestants that will kill them if they break rules.
The Hunger Games also apes other earlier stories of regular people placed in an arena, but one specific factor sets this connection apart: the way Slashers deals with the interaction between the audience and the contestants. Early on, a major female contestant learns that she needs to achieve audience sympathy (or enticement in the form of removing clothing) to get special advantages.
9The Blair Witch Project
For about 10 years, this 1999 movie about an students filming a documentary in the woods (and dying horribly) was the most profitable theatrically distributed film ever. It’s also often credited with launching the found-footage horror subgenre.
Film it’s uncannily similar to: The Last Broadcast
The Last Broadcast is an indie mockumentary released one year before Blair Witch. In it, the creators of a public access show go camping and go missing, leaving only footage from the woods to indicate the cause of their deaths. It was popular enough in the independent horror circuit despite a $900 budget. The creators of The Blair Witch Project saw it and admitted that it influenced them.
The Blair Witch Project would have been far more similar to The Last Broadcast if directors Eduardo Sanchez and Daniel Myrick had stuck to their original plan and made The Blair Witch Project a pseudo-documentary in the style of Unsolved Mysteries. Not until after the three actors went out into the woods and provided enough quality footage for a feature-length movie did they restrict the movie to rough, handheld footage. Originally, Blair Witch was promoted as a broadcast of pseudo-documentary content. This was later repackaged as The Curse of the Blair Witch.
This science fiction epic has gone from being a megahit that critics hated to the crux of a creative empire. It was part of a one-two punch with Jaws in changing the way that motion pictures are released in America. In so doing, it was also accused of infantilizing American cinema.
Film it’s uncannily similar to: Silent Running
In 1977, the Universal Studios science-fiction series Battlestar Galactica looked suspiciously similar to Star Wars in terms of production design, particularly the spaceship models. Time magazine, for one, called it a “blatant rip-off.” This was not too surprising, as John Dykstra supervised special effects for both Star Wars and Battlestar Galactica.
Fox sued Universal in June 1978. Universal countersued on the grounds that Star Wars had plagiarized Universal’s own film Silent Running, about an environmental extremist in space who kills his crewmates. The focus of the countersuit was on the extremist’s robot assistants, to which the famous robot R2-D2 bore a supposedly infringing resemblance. Allegedly, designer Ralph McQuarrie had based R2-D2 on the Silent Running bot. In the end, neither side was found guilty of infringement.
Aladdin is one of the films of Disney’s 1990s animated film renaissance. It’s also been panned for introducing excessive anachronisms and random pop culture references as humor, which would become increasingly common in animated films in 2000s.
Film it’s uncannily similar to: The Thief and The Cobbler
The Thief and the Cobbler has become a legend in animation fan circles if not among the general moviegoing public. Writer-director Richard Williams spent 28 years working on this cartoon and on projects that allowed him to finance its production. Not until he won an Oscar for Who Framed Roger Rabbit? did he get official production support from Warner Brothers. The studio worked on the film whenever Williams and company were available, and some of the crew moved on to other projects during production. One of those projects was Aladdin, which would ultimately come out a year before Williams’s movie.
The resemblances are specific and numerous. Both films are set in a desert city, and both are about poor young men who infiltrate royal families with liberated princesses. Both feature a Sultan character who is a heavy old fellow in white clothing. The Thief counterpart to Aladdin‘s Jafar is the royal vizier Zig-Zag, who is designed similarly to Aladdin‘s Genie. It’s surprising that Warner Brothers didn’t try to hit Disney with a cease and desist order just to slow their movie’s production.
Back when Pamela Anderson was one of the biggest performers in America, this 1996 comic book vehicle for her bombed horribly. It did so poorly that it wasn’t even capable of winning a Golden Raspberry award, although this may have been due more to the new public distaste for Pamela Anderson than due to the movie’s intrinsic faults. For example, Roger Ebert gave it 2.5 stars out of 4 before the hype backlash began.
Film it’s uncannily similar to: Casablanca
The greatest love story in film history and probably the most famous film made during World War II inspired this movie on a nearly shot-for-shot basis. The eponymous Barb Wire owns a bar like Rick’s Cafe, her ex-boyfriend shows up during a scheme to sneak out of enemy territory to safety (in this case, into Canada), and so on. The film even completely restages the plane departure scene at the end of Casablanca. The movie doesn’t seem to be trying to sneak this in, since the villains of the movie are dressed in uniforms modeled off the SS officers in the earlier film.
It’s unclear why this approach was taken. It’s not played as a parody. And most ’90s comic book fans weren’t chomping at the bit for an homage to the classic film.
This 2007 Shia LaBeouf film is about a teenager who witnesses his neighbor committing murder. He takes it upon himself to put the suspect under intense surveillance. Fortunately, he has plenty of free time for this because he’s under house arrest.
Film it’s uncannily similar to: Rear Window
The 1954 Alfred Hitchcock classic features the same setup of a suspected murder and a witness who is stuck at home. Since James Stewart’s character is confined to a wheelchair instead of just having an ankle bracelet, the situation is inherently more tense and suspenseful for him and the audience since he has less agency.
In 2008, a lawsuit was filed against DreamWorks Studios by the Sheldon Abend Revocable Trust, which owned the rights to the short story on which Rear Window was based. In 1990, Sheldon Abend had won a landmark copyright case over this short story, but his heirs had less luck with this suit. In 2010, the case was thrown out of court by Judge Laura Taylor Swan on the grounds that the two stories were alike only in highly general ways.
The court of critical consensus wasn’t nearly so kind to Disturbia, with many reviews claiming that it was just “a limp teenage by-the-numbers version of Rear Window.”
4Oz: The Great And Powerful
This prequel to The Wizard of Oz features James Franco as the Wizard. He rides a tornado into a fantasy world where he becomes the hero of a collection of backward, well-meaning folk after unleashing the evil of the villain through his own weakness.
Film it’s uncannily similar to: Army Of Darkness
The two stories share a very similar structure in terms of how the hero is introduced to an alien environment. They share plot elements, such as books from the hero’s time enabling him to design devices that defeat the villains. The Wizard gets a magically outfitted carriage; Ash from Army outfits a 1973 Oldsmobile with swinging blades that obliterate skeletons. Plus, both films feature Bruce Campbell getting hit for no relevant reason.
There presumably won’t be too many lawsuits over this since Sam Raimi directed both films. Raimi expressed concerns over taking the assignment because he felt Great and Powerful couldn’t compare to the original Wizard of Oz. Falling back on the structure and gags from one of his beloved old fantasy films must surely have felt like a safe bet.
3Plan 9 From Outer Space
Celebrated as one of the worst movies ever made, Plan 9 tells the story of aliens reanimating the dead to intimidate humanity. It’s notorious for featuring a zombie army of literally only three people. One of them has his hand over his face the whole time to hide that’s he’s played by a double, rather than by film icon Bela Lugosi.
Film it’s uncannily similar to: Invisible Invaders
A sci-fi horror film from the same year as Plan 9 from Outer Space, this is also the story of aliens reanimating the dead to intimidate humanity. The living dead even have an invincibility to bullets that is shared by their counterparts in Ed Wood’s film, and they’re returned to death by ray guns.
Curiously, the larger-budgeted, generally better-made movie is the one that slipped into obscurity in this case. Indeed, film critics like Leonard Maltin seemed to rate Invisible Invaders as worse than Plan 9 because its incompetence was less entertainingly extreme. This just goes to show that even ineptitude should not be done in half measures.
This 2013 horror film about all laws being suspended is probably as well known for how absurd its premise is (and how unexplored its themes are) as it is for its supposed scares and suspense. Nevertheless, it’s well on its way to a second sequel at the time of writing.
Film it’s uncannily similar to: Settlers Day
Settlers Day is an unproduced screenplay by Douglas Jordan-Benel that was submitted to Universal through United Talented Agency. It shares a premise with The Purge, leading Jordan-Benel to sue Universal Pictures for $5 million. In both films, murder is legal for one night, and killers lay siege to one family’s fortified home.
In the course of the lawsuit, UCLA film professor Richard Walter submitted expert testimony stating that the similarity of the screenplays was so striking that it would be “virtually impossible” for it to be just a coincidence.
Michael Bay’s 2005 film The Island features a community of clones isolated for organ-harvesting. One man escapes and meets the person he is cloned from while on the run. DreamWorks paid $1.5 million for the movie’s script.
Film it’s uncannily similar to: Parts: The Clonus Horror
This 1979 film features a community of clones isolated for organ-harvesting. One man escapes and meets the person he is cloned from while on the run. That’s only part of 90 similarities identified between the two films.
DreamWorks seemed to concede that The Island had copied elements. They gave the creators of Clonus a seven-figure settlement.
Caspian Tredwell-Owen, who wrote the script, didn’t work again for seven years. This may make him the only person in Hollywood history punished for being unoriginal.
Hollywood thinking today is to release sequels to practically any blockbuster…which is why in 2007 we saw a rash of threequels: Spider-Man 3, Shrek the Third, Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End, Ocean’s Thirteen, The Bourne Ultimatum, and Rush Hour 3. All of those films made oodles of cash, showing if at first you do succeed, try, try again until you’ve milked it dry.
Surprisingly, even some classic and well-renowned films have been given sequels, but needless to say, they have not become classics. Most of the films on the following list were not intended as “official” sequels, but nevertheless continued the stories and characters of earlier classics. Unofficial sequels can work well… a few such films are very popular, like The Lion in Winter (a “sequel” to Becket since Peter O’Toole plays King Henry II in both films) and The Silence of the Lambs (technically a sequel to Manhunter, even though Frankie Faison is the only actor in both films). However, most of the following failed miserably, as audiences preferred the unspoilt originals.
Universal tried to repeat the success they had with the 1973 classic starring Paul Newman and Robert Redford. They failed. By replacing the original’s two huge stars — the reason The Sting was so great — with Jackie Gleason and Mac Davis, the filmmakers basically acknowledged they were making a second-rate sequel. The film failed, and The Sting II was banished to the forgotten film vault in the sky.
The Wiz it ain’t. Disney’s sequel to the classic The Wizard of Oz came 46 years after the 1939 original – earning this sequel a place in the record books. Unfortunately, that is about all this is known for, as it was a commercial and critical failure. Director Walter Murch reportedly wanted only scant references to the original film, with the intention of remaining faithful to the L. Frank Baum novels; for instance, the Tin Man, Scarecrow, and Cowardly Lion are only briefly in the film. But why do that when the whole point of this sequel was to capitalize on the success of the original?
George C. Scott reprised his role as the no-nonsense General George S. Patton in this CBS TV Movie. Like the original, it’s based on a book by Ladislas Farago; the setting this time is after World War II, when General Patton is dying after a car accident. With his wife (Eva Marie Saint) at his bedside, the General reminiscences about his good ol’ pre-WWII days. Ron Berglas plays young Patton. Why such a classic war film like 1970′s Patton would get a simple TV-movie sequel is beyond me, especially if they were able to convince George C. Scott to reprise his role. The movie ranked ninth in the ratings for the night, but one wonders if audiences weren’t keen on seeing such a bombastic man go out with a whimper instead of a bang.
Nick Tate, Timothy Bottoms, Edward Fox, and George Takei (!) all star in this war epic follow-up to the 1957 classic The Bridge on the River Kwai. It’s based on a 1979 book by Joan and Clay Blair, which in turn is based on a true story. The plot concerns the workers of the previous bridge who, after it is blown up, are shipped to Japan. Along the way, there is much war-related action.
One year after the original was re-released to theatres, an unofficial TV sequel was produced with Ralph Fiennes in the titular role. Shown on PBS’ “Great Performances” in 1992, the movie dealt with Lawrence at the 1919 Paris Peace Conference following World War I. The New York Times called Fiennes’ peformance more authentic than Peter O’Toole’s, as in this movie it portrayed him as a complicated, ambivalent, and dark man, rather than a flamboyant, swashbuckling hero. Steven Spielberg reportedly saw Fiennes’ performance in this and asked him to sign up as a Nazi in Schindler’s List.
Filmation, an animation studio known for Star Trek: The Animated Series and Fat Albert, came up with the brilliant idea in the 1980s to produce sequels to classic Disney films. Their first one was Happily Ever After, a “sequel” to the 1937 Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs picking up where the first left off. Snow White meets the Seven Dwarfelles, cousins of the Dwarves, and they team up to destroy the evil Lord Malice. Despite a big-name cast (Ed Asner, Carol Channing, Zsa Zsa Gabor, and Malcolm McDowell), the film was received poorly by just about everyone. Filmation did produce one other Disney “sequel,” Pinocchio and the Emperor of The Night, which had a great title but nothing else going for it.
A Christmas Story is a beloved Christmas classic. Its sequel more than a decade later is not. Kieran Culkin takes over as Ralphie, whose quest deals not with obtaining a Red Ryder BB Gun, but some kind of top (a dice) to pit against some bully’s top. WTF? Tedde Moore returns as Ralphie’s teacher, and Jean Shepherd narrates, but the rest of the original cast is kaput. MGM later retitled this My Summer Story; you probably don’t want this on your Christmas list.
Alexandra Ripley’s 1991 novel of the same name, a sequel to Gone With the Wind, was turned into a TV miniseries in 1994. Joanna Whalley played Scarlett O’Hara and Timothy Dalton took over as the dashing and suave Rhett Butler. Not taking “I don’t give a damn” for an answer, Scarlett attempts to win back Rhett’s heart, traveling to Ireland in the process. This eight-hour miniseries, aired on CBS during the November sweeps, garnered substantial ratings, but ones less than hoped for by the network. The era of the epic miniseries was over. Still, it’s probably worth enough to take a look, if you can find it on video– after all, Sean Bean is in it, playing the evil Lord Fenton.
One of those “technically a sequel” films. The 1980 film Raise the Titanic featured Richard Jordan as Dirk Pitt, a role sent to Matthew McConaughey in Sahara. Both are based on Clive Cussler’s novels of the treasure-hunting Dirk Pitt, and both had tremendous budgets (and consequently were tremendous failures). Raise the Titanic’s producer lamented that it would’ve been cheaper to “lower the Atlantic.” Some reference to the first film can be found during the opening credits, when a clipping in Dirk Pitt’s office references a “raising the Titanic.”
OK, you’ve heard of The Queen, but did you know that it is essentially a sequel to the 2003 TV Movie The Deal? Both movies feature Michael Sheen as Tony Blair, and both were written by Peter Morgan and directed by Stephen Frears. The Deal is based on a supposed meeting between Tony Blair and current PM Gordon Brown, with Blair telling Brown to step aside and allow him to run as Labour Party leader while allowing Brown sway over domestic policy.
Contributor: Peter B-P
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