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20 Mockbusters You Might Confuse for the Real Movie

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When there’s massive hype and anticipation for a major release, sometimes smaller studios try to cash in, piggy-backing off the blockbuster’s success with their own low-budget versions. With the advent of online video streaming services such as Netflix and Hulu Plus, these “mockbusters” have been on the rise for the past 10 years. Here are 20 knock-off movies that you might confuse for the real deal (if you squint real hard).

1. Frozen Land

Following Disney’s Frozen, Phase Four Films released the animated film Frozen Land. Originally titled The Legend of Sarila, the film distributors re-branded the French Canadian movie's artwork and logo to mimic Disney’s wildly popular family film for its home video release in late November (around the same time Disney released Frozen). In fact, The Legend of Sarila was released theatrically in Canada under its original title in February 2013. Disney eventually sued Phase Four Films for intentionally misleading the public.

2. Atlantic Rim

Released a few days before Pacific Rim hit theaters, The Asylum (you'll be seeing that name a lot in this list) released Atlantic Rim on DVD. The low-budget film featured almost the same premise as its major studio counterpart, but took place in New York City instead of Hong Kong. Atlantic Rim boasted a $500,000 production budget as compared to Pacific Rim’s $190 million. The mockbuster also featured ex-Baywatch star David Chokachi and Naughty by Nature rapper Anthony “Treach” Criss.

3. Apocalypse Z

Originally called Zombie Massacre, this Italian zombie movie was re-titled Apocalypse Z when it was released on DVD in the U.K. to capitalize on the anticipation of World War Z starring Brad Pitt. The film was an adaptation of a video game of the same name for the Nintendo Wii. Iconic German schlock director Uwe Boll produced Apocalypse Z and made a cameo appearance in the film as the President of the United States.

4. Street Racer

While the low-budget film Street Racer closely resembles the title to Warner Bros’ Speed Racer, the car chase action flick's story is closer to those of The Fast & The Furious film franchise. The movie also bears a resemblance to two other racing movies from The Asylum: Speed Demons released in 2003 and Death Racers from 2008.

5. Android Cop

Released a week before Sony’s RoboCop remake was scheduled to open in theaters, The Asylum released Android Cop starring Michael Jai White. While the DVD box art looks like it was created to fool people into thinking it's the new remake, Android Cop’s narrative more resembles RoboCop 2, in which involves a drug-related citywide plague.

6. What’s Up?: Balloon to the Rescue

Brazilian animation studio Vídeo Brinquedo (Toyland Video) is known for low-budget, direct-to-DVD animated movies that closely resemble Pixar and DreamWorks family films. What's Up?: Balloon to the Rescue is a blatant rip-off of Pixar’s Up, and both films were released in the United States during the summer of 2009. Instead of thousands of small balloons to lift up his house, the elderly man in What's Up?: Balloon to the Rescue uses one big hot-air balloon. Revolutionary.

7. The Apocalypse

In 2007, The Asylum released the direct-to-DVD disaster film The Apocalypse. It was made with heavy similarities to other asteroid blockbusters released a decade earlier, namely Armageddon and Deep Impact. While The Apocalypse was originally conceived as a straight up action film, its buyers wanted the movie to have religious themes to appeal to a Christian movie-going audience. The Asylum then created Faith Films, a faith-based film distribution arm of the company.

8. Transmorphers: Fall of Man

Although Transmorphers was the mockbuster of Michael Bay’s Transformers in 2007, its prequel Transmorphers: Fall of Man actually received a few favorable movie reviews when compared to the film it was trying to copy, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen.

9. Allan Quatermain and the Temple of Skulls

Released at the same time as Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, Allan Quatermain and the Temple of Skulls was actually the film adaptation of British author H. Rider Haggard’s 1885 novel King Solomon's Mines. The adventurer Allan Quatermain was also the template for George Lucas when he created the character Indiana Jones with director Steven Spielberg. Still, there's no doubt who is trying to profit off of whom with these films.

10. Bikini Spring Break

While Harmony Korine’s Spring Breakers was originally supposed to be released in 2012, the colorful, trippy film was delayed until 2013. That didn’t stop the folks at The Asylum from releasing Bikini Spring Break, which features almost the same premise of four young co-eds from a conservative college throwing caution to the wind in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida during spring break.

11. Pirates of Treasure Island

Released a week before Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest during the summer of 2006, Pirates of Treasure Island borrowed heavily from the popular Disney film. Although the movie received harsh criticism for being a weak imitation, Pirates of Treasure Island was officially based on author Robert Louis Stevenson's novel Treasure Island.

12. AE: Apocalypse Earth

While AE: Apocalypse Earth was marketed to look like an imitation of After Earth, the low budget science fiction film’s narrative was more of a mix between Predator and Avatar. AE: Apocalypse Earth was shot on location in Costa Rica and was released a few weeks before M. Night Shymalan’s movie starring Will Smith.

13. Paranormal Entity

In 2007, Paranormal Activity was a surprise box office hit. Shane Van Dyke—Dick Van Dyke’s grandson—conceived, wrote, and made the copycat Paranormal Entity for The Asylum. Although both Paranormal Activity and Paranormal Entity were made for almost the same amount of money, the former quickly became a pop culture phenomenon and an instant classic in the horror genre, while the latter was instantly forgotten.

14. Alien Origin

In June 2012, director Ridley Scott released Prometheus, an origin story to his 1979's Alien. A few days after Prometheus hit the screen, The Asylum released Alien Origin. While The Asylum is known for its low-quality mockbusters, Alien Origin is considered one of its worst.

15. Chop Kick Panda

With the working title Tae Kwon Do Panda, Gaiam released the 41-minute animated direct-to-video Chop Kick Panda to capitalize on the anticipation and excitement of Kung Fu Panda 2 in 2011. Netflix received heavy criticism from customers who were duped into watching Chop Kick Panda, thinking it was the international smash hit.

16. Almighty Thor

A few days after Marvel Studios' Thor came out in theaters, The Asylum's Almighty Thor aired on the SyFy Channel. While Marvel’s movie was based on the popular comic book of the same name, The Asylum’s was apparently just based on Norse mythology. Almighty Thor stars Richard Grieco as Loki and pro wrestler Kevin Nash as Odin, so it has that going for it.

17. Sunday School Musical

Banking off the success of the theatrical release of High School Musical 3: Senior Year, The Asylum produced Sunday School Musical. The knock-off film was conceived when producer Paul Bales attended a seminar for marketing to a Christian audience. Like The Apocalypse, Sunday School Musical was distributed by Faith Films.

18. Snakes on a Train

One of The Asylum's first films, Snakes on a Train put the studio on the map for making low-grade copycat movies. When the producers were looking for additional financing for Snakes on a Train, a Japanese investors group became interested based solely on the poster. The would-be investors wondered if the movie featured a giant snake eating an out-of-control train. The film didn't orignally have a scene like this, but producer David Rimawi added it to secure funding. 

19. Aliens vs. Avatars

While most knock-off movies only copy one popular movie, Aliens vs. Avatars rips off two: Alien vs. Predator and Avatar. The film follows the intergalactic battle between a quarrelsome alien race and shape-shifting extraterrestrials, while six college friends find themselves in the middle of the interstellar war.

20. Kiara the Brave

Originally titled Super K, Phase 4 Films released, re-titled, and re-packaged the Indian animated film as Kiara the Brave, after Pixar’s Brave. Kiara the Brave takes place in a special part of the galaxy called Dreamzone, but somehow it didn't win an Oscar like its counterpart Brave.

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30 Memorable Quotes from Carrie Fisher
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Just days after suffering a heart attack aboard a flight en route to Los Angeles, beloved actress, author, and screenwriter Carrie Fisher passed away at the age of 60 on December 27, 2016. Though she’ll always be most closely associated with her role as Princess Leia in Star Wars, Fisher’s life was like something out of its own Hollywood movie. Born in Beverly Hills on this day in 1956, Fisher was born into show business royalty as the daughter of singer Eddie Fisher and actress Debbie Reynolds.

In addition to her work in front of the camera, Fisher built up an impressive resume behind the scenes, too, most notably as a writer; in addition to several memoirs and semi-autobiographical novels, including Wishful Drinking, Surrender the Pink, Delusions of Grandma, The Best Awful, Postcards from the Edge, and The Princess Diarist (which was released last month), she was also an in-demand script doctor who counted Sister Act, Hook, Lethal Weapon 3, and The Wedding Singer among her credits.

Though she struggled with alcoholism, drug addiction, and mental illness, Fisher always maintained a sense of humor—as evidenced by the 30 memorable quotes below.

ON GROWING UP IN HOLLYWOOD

“I am truly a product of Hollywood in-breeding. When two celebrities mate, someone like me is the result.”

“I was born into big celebrity. It could only diminish.”

“At a certain point in my early twenties, my mother started to become worried about my obviously ever-increasing drug ingestion. So she ended up doing what any concerned parent would do. She called Cary Grant.”

“I was street smart, but unfortunately the street was Rodeo Drive.”

“If anything, my mother taught me how to sur-thrive. That's my word for it.”

ON AGING

“As you get older, the pickings get slimmer, but the people don't.”

ON INSTANT GRATIFICATION

“Instant gratification takes too long.”

ON THE LEGACY OF STAR WARS

“People are still asking me if I knew Star Wars was going to be that big of a hit. Yes, we all knew. The only one who didn't know was George.”

“Leia follows me like a vague smell.”

“I signed my likeness away. Every time I look in the mirror, I have to send Lucas a couple of bucks.”

“People see me and they squeal like tropical birds or seals stranded on the beach.”

“You're not really famous until you’re a Pez dispenser.”

ON THE FLEETING NATURE OF SUCCESS

“There is no point at which you can say, 'Well, I'm successful now. I might as well take a nap.'”

ON DEALING WITH MENTAL ILLNESS

“I'm very sane about how crazy I am.”

ON RESENTMENT

“Resentment is like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die."

ON LOVE

“Someone has to stand still for you to love them. My choices are always on the run.”

“I've got to stop getting obsessed with human beings and fall in love with a chair. Chairs have everything human beings have to offer, and less, which is obviously what I need. Less emotional feedback, less warmth, less approval, less patience, and less response. The less the merrier. Chairs it is. I must furnish my heart with feelings for furniture.”

“I don’t hate hardly ever, and when I love, I love for miles and miles. A love so big it should either be outlawed or it should have a capital and its own currency.”

ON EMOTIONS

“The only thing worse than being hurt is everyone knowing that you're hurt.”

ON RELATIONSHIPS

“I envy people who have the capacity to sit with another human being and find them endlessly interesting, I would rather watch TV. Of course this becomes eventually known to the other person.”

ON HOLLYWOOD

“Acting engenders and harbors qualities that are best left way behind in adolescence.”

“You can't find any true closeness in Hollywood, because everybody does the fake closeness so well.”

“It's a man's world and show business is a man's meal, with women generously sprinkled through it like overqualified spice.”

ON FEAR

“Stay afraid, but do it anyway. What’s important is the action. You don’t have to wait to be confident. Just do it and eventually the confidence will follow.”

ON LIFE

“I don’t want life to imitate art. I want life to be art.”

“No motive is pure. No one is good or bad-but a hearty mix of both. And sometimes life actually gives to you by taking away.”

“If my life wasn't funny it would just be true, and that is unacceptable.”

“I shot through my twenties like a luminous thread through a dark needle, blazing toward my destination: Nowhere.”

“My life is like a lone, forgotten Q-Tip in the second-to-last drawer.”

ON DEATH

“You know what's funny about death? I mean other than absolutely nothing at all? You'd think we could remember finding out we weren't immortal. Sometimes I see children sobbing at airports and I think, 'Aww. They've just been told.'”

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12 Admissible Facts About Judge Judy
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Judge Judith Sheindlin was 54 years old when her namesake TV show premiered on September 16, 1996. Two years later the diminutive (5’1”) adjudicator was trouncing the powerhouse Oprah Winfrey Show in the Nielsen ratings. Today, she is one of the highest paid TV celebrities, earning $47 million per year—which she will continue to do through 2020, thanks to a new extended contract.

Fervent fans are familiar with Judge Judy’s more outrageous cases, like The Tupperware Lady and the eBay Cell Phone Scammer, but they might not know some of these fun facts about both the show and the woman behind it, who turns 75 years old today.

1. THAT GRUFF, NO-NONSENSE STYLE OF JURISPRUDENCE IS NOT AN ACT.

Judge Judy spent a little over 20 years in New York City’s family court system, where she earned a reputation early in her career for being blunt, impatient, and tough-talking. “I can’t stand stupid, and I can’t stand slow,” was one of her oft-repeated “Judyisms” at that time. She also frequently warned attorneys appearing before her: "I want first-time offenders to think of their appearance in my courtroom as the second-worst experience of their lives ... circumcision being the first." 60 Minutes filmed her in action as part of a 1993 profile, and while her hair color and eyebrows have softened since then, her impatient rants and verbal smackdowns haven’t changed a bit.

2. SHE BEGAN WEARING HER TRADEMARK LACE COLLAR AS SOON AS SHE WAS APPOINTED AS A JUDGE.

New York City Mayor Ed Koch appointed Judith Sheindlin to the bench in 1982, and to celebrate she and her husband Jerry—both civil servants at the time—took a $399 package trip to Greece for two weeks. While passing by a row of street kiosks with various locally made crafts for sale, she impulsively purchased a white lace collar from a vendor. She explained to her husband that male judges wore stiff-collared white dress shirts and colorful neckties that peeped out of the top of their robes, so that they had a nice colorful “buffer” between the austere black gown and their face. Female judges, however, had nothing but neck peeping out of their robes and the unforgiving black color revealed every minute of sleep deprivation as well as any skin tone irregularities. The white lace collar, she decided, would not only perk up her face but would also be a bit disarming for litigants—she could picture them thinking “That nice little lady with the lace collar sitting behind the bench couldn’t hurt a fly!”

3. DESPITE THOSE NEW YORK CITY SCENES ON THE COMMERCIAL BUMPERS, JUDGE JUDY IS TAPED IN CALIFORNIA.

Sheindlin spends 52 days per year taping her show. She flies to California via private jet every other Monday and hears cases on Tuesday and Wednesday (occasionally Thursday if there are production delays). One full week’s worth of shows are filmed each day. Many viewers, however, are fooled into thinking Judy is holding court in her native New York, thanks to the scenic Manhattan footage in between station breaks and the New York state flag behind her chair. That is, until something oh-so-unique to the west coast—like an earthquake—occurs on-camera. (Note that in the clip below, Judge Judy quickly ducks beneath her bench once the room begins to tremble.)

4. SHE IS BRIEFED ON THE CASES BEFORE SHE ARRIVES ON THE SET.

Judge Sheindlin does not go to the studio unprepared; producers FedEx the sworn statements and relevant information on each upcoming case to her home (Naples, Florida in the winter; Greenwich, Connecticut in the spring and summer) and she familiarizes herself with enough details to have some background, but not enough so that the case doesn’t appear “fresh” when she questions the litigants during filming.

5. THE CASES REALLY ARE REAL.

The production company has a staff of 60-plus researchers across the country who spend their days poring over lawsuits filed in local small claims courts. Thanks to the Freedom of Information Act, they are able to photocopy cases that they think might make for interesting television and those copies are forwarded to the show’s producers. Any cases that make it to the next stage (about three percent) involve contacting the litigants involved and asking them if they’d like to forego their civil court hearing in exchange for a free trip to Los Angeles, an $850 appearance fee, and a per diem of $40 (as of 2012). An added incentive is that any judgments awarded are paid by the show, not by the plaintiff or defendant. The best cases, according to the executive producer, are those that involve litigants with a prior relationship—mother/daughter, father/son, boyfriend/girlfriend, etc. Such cases engage the audience because it’s an emotional tie that’s been broken (the recurring plot on many soap operas).

6. THE AUDIENCE, HOWEVER, IS NOT SO REAL.

Regular viewers will note that the same faces seem to pop up in the audience regularly. Those folks in the spectator seats are paid extras (often aspiring actors) who earn $8 per hour to sit and look attentive. Prospective audience members apply for the limited amount of seats by emailing their contact information along with a clear headshot to one of Judge Judy’s production coordinators (sorry, we cannot provide that info). If chosen, the spectator must dress appropriately (business casual or better) and arrive promptly for the 8:30 a.m. call time. Audience members must pass through metal detectors on their way in and are not allowed to bring cell phones or any electronic devices with them, and food, drinks and chewing gum are also verboten. Spectators are rearranged after each case so it’s not as obvious that it’s the same group of people, and the most attractive folks are always seated in the front row (it’s Hollywood, after all). The audience is instructed to talk animatedly amongst themselves in between each case so that Officer Byrd’s “Order in the court!” admonition has more impact. Bad behavior is grounds for immediate expulsion (in front of 10 million viewers, as Judge Judy likes to remind us).

7. JUDGE JUDY DRESSES CASUALLY FOR THE JOB.

Sheindlin has been known to publicly chastise litigants who come to her courtroom in skimpy clothing or “beach attire,” but behind that bench and under that robe she is usually sporting jeans and a tank top or T-shirt.

8. OFFICER BYRD IS A REAL BAILIFF.

Brooklyn native Petri Hawkins Byrd earned his B.Sc. degree from the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in 1989 and started working in the Brooklyn Family Court system. He first worked with Judge Sheindlin when he transferred to the Manhattan Family Court. “We [the court officers] used to call her the Joan Rivers of the judicial system,” he recalled in a 2004 interview. “She was just hilarious.” Byrd relocated to San Mateo, California in 1990 to work as a Special Deputy U.S. Marshal and a few years later he read an item in Liz Smith’s gossip column about Sheindlin’s upcoming TV show. He sent his old colleague a congratulatory letter and added, “If you need a bailiff, I still look good in uniform.”

9. DESPITE HIS SOMETIMES IMPOSING COURTROOM DEMEANOR, OFFICER BYRD IS ALSO A VERY FUNNY GUY.

He is a talented impressionist, but his sense of humor almost cost him his job—or so he thought at the time. Once, back when he was working with the feisty Judge Sheindlin in New York, he donned her robe and reading glasses to entertain his co-workers with a barrage of Judyisms. Of course, as always seems to happen when one mocks the boss in the workplace, he was caught in the act.

10. THE OCCASIONAL CELEBRITY RELIES ON JUDGE JUDY’S BRAND OF JUSTICE.

Depending upon your own definition of “celebrity”, of course. Actress Roz Kelly (Pinky Tuscadero on Happy Days) appeared on the show in 1996 as the plaintiff, suing her plastic surgeon for a leaky breast implant that was impeding her acting career. One year later, former Sex Pistol John Lydon (a.k.a. Johnny Rotten) appeared as a defendant when drummer Robert Williams, who was hired to support Lydon on a solo tour, sued the singer for lost wages and an assault. Despite Lydon’s occasional bad courtroom behavior, the decision was made in his favor.

11. THE STAR ORIGINALLY DIDN’T WANT THE SHOW NAMED AFTER HER.

Sheindlin first envisioned calling her show Hot Bench, a term used frequently in the appellate court, but the producers wisely advised her that the term was meaningless to TV viewers who didn’t work in the legal system. Her next thought was Judy Justice, since she’d overheard her court officers warning deadbeat parents who were delinquent in child support payments that they were in for a load of "Judy Justice" if they weren’t prepared to cough up some money. In retrospect, Sheindlin realized the wisdom in calling the show Judge Judy: She couldn’t be easily replaced, as the various judges had been on The People’s Court. However, after 19 years on the air, she still does not refer to herself by that sobriquet; whether introducing herself to someone or advertising her show in a promotional clip, she is always either “Judge Sheindlin” or “Judge Judy Sheindlin.”

12. JUDGE SHEINDLIN INHERITED HER SENSE OF HUMOR FROM HER FATHER.

Murray Blum, Judy’s beloved father, was a dentist whose office was in the family home. In those days—before sedation dentistry was an option—a dentist’s best tool to distract nervous patients was the gift of gab, and Murray became a master storyteller out of necessity. Years of listening to her father at the dinner table and at family gatherings taught Judy how to deliver a punchline. One evening outside of a hotel in Hollywood, Sheindlin was approached by a woman who introduced herself as Lorna Berle. She told the judge that her husband Milton was a huge fan and asked if she would mind talking to him for a moment. The elderly comic slowly emerged from a limo and Judy greeted him by singing the theme song to Texaco Star Theater, her favorite TV show as a child. Milton Berle complimented her in return, saying “Kid, you’ve got great comic timing.”

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