The booby traps, the robbery happening on Christmas Eve, even the "mother racing home" subplot are all the same. Movie buffs continue to debate if John Hughes and Chris Columbus did a clandestine remake of Game Over with Home Alone , though the numerous similarities make the comparison hard to ignore.
Toy Story and the rest of the Pixar canon changed the paradigm for animated films. In , however, would-be Pixar movies hit a new level of emulation. The Secret Life of Pets proved a massive box office hit, perhaps in part because it borrowed the plot of Toy Story. Like that film, The Secret Life of Pets follows two rival dogs belonging to the same owner.
The older dog feels threatened by the new one, and tries to get rid of him. His plan backfires, and both dogs end up lost and have to find their way home. Along the way, they encounter a number of weird threats and develop a friendship. Even positive reviews for The Secret Life of Pets noted the obvious Toy Story parallels and that the character growth and relationships were far less memorable than in Toy Story. Controversy alert! Since the film debuted, however, rumors have swirled that Steven Spielberg actually stole the E. In this case, the movie never made it past the script stage, though it came very close for more than a decade.
Set in rural India, The Alien followed a relationship between a young boy and an alien visitor. The title character also has the ability to make plants return to life amid a glow in its eyes. Spielberg has always denied knowing Ray or ever reading the script to The Alien , though several characters in the script also resemble characters in Close Encounters of the Third Kind. A number of sci-fi aficionados, including Arthur C. Clarke, noted that E.
Nobody would deny the success of E. In a post-apocalyptic police state, teenagers must do battle with one another in a televised hunting-to-the death contest. Ostensibly a means of population control and military research, the program has a more sinister purpose: to terrorize the population into submission under a totalitarian government. Sound familiar? The Hunger Games proved a smash-hit franchise beginning in , and American audiences praised both the films and preceding novels for their fresh, creative take on the culture of reality television. Little did they know that a Japanese novel written more than ten years earlier had the same premise.
The novel Battle Royale became a massive hit in Japan, spawning a tie-in manga series and a hugely successful film. Though well-received in the United States, the book had its prospects upstaged by the publication of The Hunger Games just two years after Battle Royale hit shelves. Critics who analyze the novels, however, find the parallels a bit too striking to dismiss. Hollywood took note of the Battle Royale , with studio New Line Cinema entering into negotiations for a movie version.
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Oh, the irony…. Oh, you knew it was coming! The Force Awakens was incredibly commercially successful, breaking box office records around the world.
In essence, The Force Awakens had the exact same plot as the movie from George Lucas always described Star Wars as a tone poem, with events between films and the trilogies sort of echoing one another. Abrams, who directed the film as well as the Star Trek defended the choice, claiming that the audience had forgotten the plot of the original, a statement even young Star Wars fans found absurd. The Force Awakens may or may not be a great film, or even a great Star Wars adventure, but it certainly is the laziest! The story follows CIA agent Snow, a man imprisoned in a space facility for a murder he did not commit.
In fact, the movies seemed so much alike that John Carpenter actually sued the production in a French court for plagiarism. Even more shockingly, Carpenter won the suit. Escape from New York might have spawned several sequels, but Lockout is unlikely to produce any given the high litigation costs, and that the movie is officially a rip-off.
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Would you like to see Dove Cameron as the live-action Spider-Gwen? All that and more in this edition of Superhero Bits. Posted on Thursday, October 10th, by Chris Evangelista. Posted on Thursday, October 10th, by Ben Pearson. Jones will play a journalist who discovers a cache of love letters written by a couple decades before, and the film tells the story of how she tries to solve the mystery of who they are and if the couple ever found a happy ending.
When Tom Hanks got stranded on an island in Cast Away , all he had to deal with was finding food and shelter. For example, he voted to strike down the independent counsel act, which provides that someone not under the President's direct control must undertake prosecution of high-level presidential appointees.
On the other hand, in his opinion in Webster , Justice Scalia argued that the Court in Roe had tried to resolve a politically divisive issue that should be dealt with democratically. But on affirmative action, where he favors overturning race-conscious programs through judicial action, Justice Scalia himself will not permit an equally divisive issue to be dealt with democratically. Here the Court's lack of restraint is especially disturbing, since it forecloses a political corrective. It is not easy to identify any general set of ideas that would account for the results favored by Justice Scalia or the majority of the Court.
The most fashionable theory, more extreme than the majority's view, finds dramatic expression in Robert Bork's The Tempting of America. Bork claims that the decisive factor is not majority will, but the "original understanding" of the Constitution, which supposedly provides plain answers to most hard questions of constitutional law.
On this view, the judge's personal opinions are irrelevant. The good judge simply says what the law is, and lets the chips fall where they may. Without accepting Bork's theory, one might readily acknowledge that the text of the Constitution is binding and the ratifiers' understanding highly relevant.
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The "original understanding," however, is often ambiguous. The number of people ratifying constitutional provisions was large, and often their multiple views were inconsistent and imprecisely formed. The problem is compounded by the difficulty of deciding the breadth of constitutional principles. Was the equal protection clause -- written in broad terms -- meant to prevent discrimination only against blacks or against all racial groups?
Against groups defined in terms of race and nationality? Race, nationality, and sex? Politically and socially disadvantaged groups in general? The historical record provides no clear answer. The problem goes even deeper. The framers themselves may have intended to put in the Constitution, not their particular views, but general principles capable of change over time. If so, exclusive reliance on the original understanding is self-contradictory. The text self-consciously invites its interpreters to look elsewhere.
For all the window-dressing, "originalism" is merely the latest version of formalism in the law: the pretense that one can decide hard legal questions by reference to someone else's value judgments. Here, as elsewhere, formalism is a dismal failure. It is no coincidence that the constitutional positions of the conservative members of the Court generally line up with the conservative wing of the Republican Party: greater constraints on government to adopt affirmative action programs but fewer restrictions on governmental power to aid religion; greater constraints on federal power but fewer intrusions on presidential power; no abortion rights but greater protection of property rights.
Because the Constitution does not contain instructions for its own interpretation, judges need independent interpretive principles to make sense of constitutional law. Probably the best start on such an approach, traced by John Hart Ely in Democracy and Distrust , views the role of a constitutional court through the lens of democratic theory. Our system is republican, not majoritarian; it contains a range of protections of rights and groups likely to be undervalued by majorities.
Judicial intrusions, from this perspective, are necessary where the political process is least likely to be self-policing. Such an approach calls on the Court to be especially solicitous of rights of free expression and political representation, and it asks the Court to be especially protective of groups, such as racial minorities, women, the disabled, and perhaps the poor, who are likely to be politically mistreated.
Of course, no general theory of the Court's role is a substitute for detailed inquiry into a plaintiff's claims and the specific constitutional provisions at issue. But Ely's approach is helpful in deciding where judicial review is likely to be most justifiable. The current Court, however, shows little interest in ideas of this sort. No doubt some of the legacy of the Burger and Warren Courts is in considerable jeopardy.
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But even more important, we can now expect little help from the Court on the contemporary equivalents of the great issues that came before the Court in the past several decades. To obtain some perspective on the Rehnquist Court, we might ask what the Court's agenda might have looked like in the s if it had continued on the path the Warren Court set. In the Warren era, practices that earlier were widely accepted came to be seen as constitutionally abhorrent.
What are the new candidates today? Theories recently proposed by lawyers, judges, and academics well-disposed toward the Warren Court suggest a number of possibilities. In describing these theories, I do not mean to endorse them all or to suggest precisely how each area should be treated.
I wish only to emphasize, by a hypothetical contrast, the consequences of the current Court for democratic politics, and to see whether there might not be advantages in the shift from legal to political arenas. Such a Court might approach reproductive freedom, not only as a matter of privacy but also as one of sexual equality, with very different consequences.
Public financing of abortion, for example, might well be required, at least if public programs cover obstetric care. There are many other examples. Our criminal justice system deals inadequately with domestic violence, sexual harassment, rape, and abuses in the production and use of pornography It would not be difficult at all to imagine a constitutional attack, rooted in the principle of equal "protection" of the law, on police practices that fail to protect women against domestic violence and other forms of sexual violence.
Consider as well current rules of family law, which ensure that after divorce the welfare of most men will increase dramatically, while the welfare of most women will decrease correspondingly. In California, for example, a man's standard of living increases by 42 percent after divorce, while a woman's falls by 73 percent. The rules do not reward but rather punish women for their contributions to child care and housework. Such a Court might also want to scrutinize the methods and assumptions used in Social Security to compute benefits. Current rules favor people the more closely they come to traditional male career paths.
The Court might demand changes in workplaces that continue to be structured on the basis of male norms and expectations; it might specifically require private firms to improve half-hearted child care policies. It might insist that companies stop excluding women who are fertile but not pregnant from jobs that involve hazards to fetuses. Without much imagination, all these problems could be seen as raising issues of sex discrimination.
As currently interpreted, the Constitution has little or nothing to offer to the handicapped, even when fenced out by innumerable practices made by and for the world of the able-bodied. The sexual privacy of gays and lesbians, let alone their right to marry or to raise children, is also unprotected. Probably the best current guess is that the Rehnquist Court would find discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, including wholesale exclusions from government employment, to be unobjectionable as far as the Constitution is concerned.
A different Court would have taken this issue more seriously. People who are homeless, poor, or starving have nothing to gain from the Constitution, as the Rehnquist Court interprets it. Another Court would have made at least some inroads on the distinction between positive and negative liberties, furnishing a degree of protection to the destitute. At a minimum, a different Court would have said that selective exclusions from funding programs need persuasive justification.
These issues are only examples of the impressive set of proposals for constitutional reform that might have arisen in a second Warren era. They would have created the same sorts of pressures, dilemmas, and opportunities that the Warren Court faced beginning in the s. If the agenda seems overly ambitious, perhaps we might remember how much more ambitious were the changes that the Court introduced between and But would a second Warren Court have been desirable?
Some of the preceding proposals, such as using the equal protection clause to ensure better protection against domestic violence, would not have strained the Court's remedial competence or been likely to cause a political backlash. Some decisions, such as reducing discrimination in family law, would have been relatively easy to implement.
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But others, such as an active judicial posture in restructuring Social Security or protecting rights to food and shelter, would have strained the boundaries of constitutional interpretation, called for complex trade-offs not readily made in court, and perhaps generated so much opposition as to be self-defeating. Such decisions would not necessarily have produced consensual, durable policy changes. Recent history suggests that some judicial victories stimulate complementary political energies. Others mainly stimulate a tide of reaction that swamps the effect of the court rulings.
In any event, because of the Court's current orientation, these issues will now be resolved through representative politics rather than the judiciary.
If the Court plays any role, it most likely will become an obstacle to change, not an ally or a catalyst of it. With the Court's conservative turn, what have we lost? We will have constitutional conflicts, just as before, but now the setting for resolving those conflicts will shift increasingly to the political arena. For supporters of a progressive constitutional agenda, the most important concern about this institutional shift is that majoritarian politics might block progress.
A large purpose of constitutionalism is to protect rights that are at risk in politics. Some argue that if it were not for the courts, we would not have had school desegregation, the one-person one-vote decision, and many of the civil rights advances of the Warren era. And while the argument would have to be quite elaborate, the same considerations might justify, in at least some cases, an aggressive role for a new liberal Court.
But a liberal Court is not now a political possibility. Besides, there may be significant advantages to the institutional shift. We ought to recall that during the Progressive Era and the New Deal, the Supreme Court was mostly hostile to reform but it was unable to stop it, and its very hostility may have been a stimulant.
In the third great wave of reform in this century -- the environmental, consumer, and antidiscrimination movements of the s and s -- by far the most important changes, of both degree and kind, came from Congress. The courts played a subsidiary role. There are several lessons here. Judicial decisions are of limited efficacy in bringing about social change. Study after 1 study has reached this basic conclusion. Brown itself is usually taken as a counterexample, but as Gerald Rosenberg demonstrates in his forthcoming The Hollow Hope , it is the most conspicuous confirmation of the point. Ten years after the decision, no more than about two percent of black children in the South attended desegregated schools.
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Not until , as the Congress and executive branch became involved, did widespread desegregation actually occur. Complex social changes pose difficulties that Courts are usually ineffective in surmounting. Wade may be another illustration of the illusions of court-ordered progress, though the picture here is mixed. Undoubtedly, the decision dramatically increased women's access to safe abortions and helped to give legitimacy to the practice. Surprisingly, however, it did not dramatically increase the actual number and rate of abortions, as Hyman Rodman, Betty Sarvis, and Joy Walker Bonar have shown in their study, The Abortion Question.