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Only the name is the same for these five movies

Imagine my surprise at a recent screening when Fair Game turned out to be a fact-based political drama starring Sean Penn.

I was expecting a remake of 1995's Fair Game, starring Cindy Crawford as a lawyer chased by KGB agents. One of the Baldwin brothers with less talent than Alec co-stars.

I'm joking, of course (except about the Baldwins). Nobody will ever confuse the new Fair Game with the old one. But movies sharing the same titles is a recurring issue in an industry not always known for originality. Recently, a judge ruled that an upcoming animated film can be titled The Illusionist, after a similarly titled 2006 release starring Edward Norton led to the filing of an injunction.

The problem can literally hit home, if Netflix subscribers, DVR users and video store customers don't do their homework, clicking on or picking up movies based on the title alone. You might wish to see Richard Dreyfuss wooing Holly Hunter in Always, and get a boring Henry Jaglom indie flick instead. Or get stuck with Chevy Chase as Man of the House rather than Tommy Lee Jones.

Today's Top 5 list is here to help, at least for this double handful of movies sharing one handful of titles:

1. Twilight (1998) andTwilight (2008): I'd love to see the tear-stained faces of 'tweens expecting to swoon over Bella and Edward, and winding up with a geezer detective yarn instead. Sure, Paul Newman and Susan Sarandon are sexier than Kristin Stewart and Robert Pattinson will ever be, but they might need Poligrip to wear vampire fangs.

2. Gladiator (1992) and Gladiator (2000): Actually, both movies feature sweaty men battling to the death, so you might get halfway through the 1992 Gladiator before noticing Russell Crowe isn't around. Rather than Roman Empire decadence, the earlier movie features underground boxing matches where Cuba Gooding Jr. and James Marshall slug it out for respect. At least it wasn't titled Fight Club.

3. Crash (1996) and Crash (2004): The first movie gives a new definition to the term "auto-erotica," with James Spader and Holly Hunter being sexually aroused by gruesome car accidents and wounds. The other is an Oscar winner for best picture, with aspirations of solving racial divisions. Choose whichever you believe possible.

4. Bad Boys (1983) and Bad Boys (1995): Sean Penn went directly from playing a Ridgemont High stoner to a juvenile jailbird in the first Bad Boys. Will Smith and Martin Lawrence acted like overgrown kids with badges and guns in the 1995 movie, which can only be entertaining if you're high.

5. Heaven Can Wait (1943) and Heaven Can Wait (1978): Warren Beatty and Don Ameche were each heartthrobs when their like-titled movies about the hereafter debuted decades apart. The former goes to the pearly gates in color and the latter to Hades in black and white, so don't mix them up. Extra confusion: Beatty's movie is a remake of Here Comes Mr. Jordan but some believe he mimicked Ameche's film.

Only the name is the same for these five movies 11/14/10 [Last modified: Monday, November 15, 2010 10:08am]
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