Remember, this is the UK public's box office we are talking about and not fantastic film buffs, consequently below this top ten we have included at the end a few other notables worth checking out as well some warnings-to-avoid. Also note that this chart compilation calculation did not include DVD sales or spin-off product earning, and our chart is also subject to weekly vagaries. (In some weeks most of the entries do not gross much but at other times (for example public holidays) overall box office takings are higher.) This means that the chart reflects on-going cinema attendance throughout the year and it is not a strict annual list of the year's high box office earners. So standby with the pop corn, here we go...
This is the third in the 'Pirates of the Caribbean' comedy adventure fantasy trilogy with more swashbuckling action and ghosts than you can unbuckle without a tot of rum. Oooh arrr. Jack (Johnny Depp) Sparrow races to recover the heart of Davy Jones to avoid enslaving his soul to Jones himself. As with the others in the series this is a fun film but it is fairly mindless fare. Director: Gore Verbinski. Film website here.
Another in the series based on the J. K. Rowling stories about a young wizard and his chums at a magical school. One mainly for youngsters. With their warning about Lord Voldemort's return ignored, Harry and Dumbledore are targeted by the Wizard authorities as bureaucrat slowly seizes power at Hogwarts. Director: David Yates.
This is based on the Philip Pullman 'His Dark Materials' series of novels. In a parallel universe, young Lyra Belacqua journeys to the far North to save her best friend and other kidnapped children from experiments by a shady organization. Not only will youngsters get off on this but the source material (especially the novels) has depth for adults too. That some religious fundamentalists criticised the film can only add to its attraction. Director Chris Weitz.
This outing sees Spiderman come up against the Sandman among others, not to mention his dark self. Some say this is better than Spiderman 2. Director Sam Raimi.
This is the latest attempt to bring Richard Matheson's classic 1954 novel I Am Legend and arguably the best attempt yet though it does still considerably deviate from Matheson's vision. It concerns the last human (possibly) alive on Earth with the rest of humanity having succumbed to a plague. What the film does have is great special effects of a modern deserted city. (The effects are so good you do not notice them.) The film had considerable box office success (see here) but even though it come top of the top ten weekly UK box office charts for three weeks in a row with record-breaking ticket sales, by our scoring system number 1 in a week gets the same points as a number 1 with a smaller box office take. Though this is billed as a horror it is actually quite light with little to no gore and some of the creatures are clearly SFX generated/enhanced. Director Francis Lawrence. Principal cast: Wil Smith, Alice Braga and Charlie Tahan. The 2 minutes 3 seconds trailer is here.
Inspired by the children's toy cars and lorries that morph into robots, you would be forgiven for having first impressions that this film is simply awful. Fair enough it is not brilliant but is nonetheless better than you might think. A family film it is sustained by superb effects, but not its weak plot that just about hangs together sufficiently for you to have a reasonable time. Director Michael Bay. Principal cast: Shia LaBeouf, Megan Fox and Josh Duhamel and Ranger Patrick Mulderrig as anger Patrick Mulderrig.
This is the second 'Fantastic Four' film. The first did take liberties with the Fab 4's history what with involving Spiderman's (not the FF's) nemesis Dr Doom and changing the Doom character's background. This second film at least has the saving grace of returning to the true Marvel Comics history of the Silver Surfer which was, of course, with the Fantastic Four. Another family film. Director Tim Story. Principal cast: Ioan Gruffudd, Jessica Alba, Chris Evans, Michael Chiklis, Julian McMahon, Kerry Washington (Surfer voice), Doug Jones (Surfer the person) and Kerry Washington. Trailer here
This film is loosely inspired by Steven Gould's 1992 novel Jumper. The basic premise is that the protagonist has this ability to teleport. He tries to keep a low profile but does use his ability to ease his life. Then he makes two discoveries. He may not be alone and that there may be people after him. The novel is a good one but this film very much has the feel of being either a TV series pilot or the start of a film/DVD franchise. Judge for yourself. Director Doug Liman. Principal cast: Hayden Christensen, Samuel L. Jackson, Diane Lane, Jamie Bell and Rachel Bilson.
In a countryside town bordering on a magical land, a young man makes a promise to his loved one that he will retrieve a shooting star from the mystical realm. Well the author Neil Gaiman wrote the novel on which this is based so what more can you say? This engaging fantasy has been said to appeal to those who like such films as The Time Bandits. Directed by Matthew Vaughn. Principal cast: Ian McKellen (narrator) Nathaniel Parker, Ben Barnes, Peter O'Toole, Robert De Niro, Michelle Pfeiffer, Claire Danes and Sienna Miller. See also www.stardustmovie.com.
This is the sequel to 28 Days Later that came top of our 2004 chart. A rage causing virus has wiped out nearly all of Britain's population. Now 28 weeks later those Brits that were out of the country are returning home with the help of the US. A small, strictly controlled enclave is set up in docklands London. But is the virus extinct or is the pandemic just dormant? No surprises here. Director: Juan Carlos Fresnadillo. Principal cast: Catherine McCormack, Robert Carlyle, Amanda Walker, Shahid Ahmed, Garfield Morgan, Emily Beecham, Beans El-Balawi (as himself) and Jeremy Renner.
Note: Of the above The Golden Compass, Harry Potter And The Order of the Phoenix and Stardust were all voted onto the Hugo shortlist for 'Best Dramatic Presentation Long Form' in 2008 for the Hugo Wards for SF Achievement in 2007.
And the worthies that slipped through the net...
Now, from the above, you will understand that past years have seen this page contain some films that made the Hugo Award shortlist (last year these were films from the other 'worthies' section below but this year a few of the Hugo nominations s are in the actual chart above). So we have a bit of a reputation to maintain here. It is therefore a tad gratifying to learn that not only have two of last year's top ten -- Children of Men and The Prestige -- have been nominated for a 2008 Nebula and that Pan's Labyrinth and V for Vendetta, which we had in our 2007 'Worthies that slipped through the net' list, were also been nominated for a Hugo with Pan's Labyrinth winning. Let's see what you make of this lot below...
Based on the Philip K. Dick story 'The Golden Man'. A Las Vegas illusionist can really see into the future... The problem is that the FBI get wind of this and think it will neatly counter terrorism. And then there is a nuclear threat... Director: Lee Tamahori. Principal cast: Nicolas Cage, Julianne Moore, Jessica Biel (keep an eye on her earrings between diner scene and car as they have a mind of their own), Thomas Kretschmann, Peter (Columbo) Falk, and Tory Kittles.
Seek this British film out if you can because as far as we know it has not yet (April 2008) had a cinematic release. It concerns the production of an interactive virtual reality game and industrial espionage set in India and London. Director Laurens C. Postma. Principal cast: Malcolm McDowell, Perizaad Zorabian, Christopher Simpson, Stephen Billington, Charity Wakefieldand Beth Winslet.
There are few Spanish SF films, let alone one that feature an SF convention, so this Spanish offering is a bit of a treat and an intelligent one too. The owner of a fantastic fim video/DVD shop discovers a way to enter other realities and so proving that at times reality can defy Science-Fiction. Director Carlos Atanes. Principal cast: Oriol Aubets, Anthony Blake, Manel Solás, Abel Folk, Joan Frank Charansonnet and Hans Richter.
A monster trashes New York film from the creator of the TV series Lost. The action is all seen through the perspective of young folk in their twenties and a hand-held camera. Blair Witch meets Godzilla. Much hype came with this film's launch and buffs are really divided as to how good it really is. The SF in it is rather sparse and you don't seem to get enough shots of the monster for our liking but then what do we know? You decide. Director Matt Reeves. See also www.cloverfieldmovie.com.
This fantasy is loosely based on the old -- from somewhere between the 8th and 11th centuries (before the Norman Conquest) -- Anglo-Saxon poem about a monster, Grendel, that terrorises a small Scandanvian village. The events in the poem are set earlier around the 5th century. The screenplay involved Brit SF and fantasy author Neil Gaiman (need we say more). The film is strong in the visual effects department and was even screened in 3D, but of course there is (currently) no 3-D DVD technology so you will miss out on this aspect. The director is Robert Zemeckis who of course also did Back to the Future, Who Framed Roger Rabbit and Contact all of which won Hugo Awards for Best Dramatic Presentation and all of which are SF, so this is how he does fantasy. Note: This film is different from the 2005 film Beowulf and Grendel. Academic note: J. R. R. Tolkien wrote Beowulf: the Monsters and the Critics, Oxford University Press in 1958. Meanwhile more information on the original poem's manuscript is here. So now you can watch it and pretend to be a culture vulture. Principal cast: Ray Winstone, Robin Wright Penn, Anthony Hopkins and John Malkovich.
Aliens vs. Predator: AVP Requiem (15)
Note the certificate rating: this is reasonably tame. This is the second of the second alien series combining the 'Predator' franchise and is set in the very near future when a town is in the middle of a clash between the two species. This Christmas there will be no peace on Earth. Now this second series of 'Alien' films is not nearly as good as the first (be warned!). It's all fairly formulaic but is nonetheless a good old (crap) monster film but we do get a glimpse of the Predator world. Directors Colin Strause and Greg Strause who should be recycled at the earliest opportunity for the good of the planet.
Thirty Days of Night (18)
In winter up in the Arctic circle the Sun does not shine for many days. Bad news then if your sub-Arctic community has vampires running around. This is based on the graphic novel of the same title and captures some of its imagery. Director David Slade. Principal cast: Josh Hartnett, Melissa George, Danny Huston, Ben Foster, Mark Boone Junior and Amber Sainsbury.
Black Sheep (12A)
This actually came out in 1986 but really did not do the rounds till last year. It is a comedy horror in the zoozomb vein but perhaps the comedy has more local cultural appeal? Following a genetic experiment, carnivorous sheep go walk about... It's a violence of the lambs. It has won a number of genre awards including the Sir Julius Vogel, which it would it being an New Zealand offering (and NZ produces few local films and so few are eligible for local awards) but a has also, more meaningfully, won a Utopiales prize away from home in France. Having said that, you really have to be a bit of a genre film addict to enjoy this one as the story is perhaps a little weak and acting a little patchy. Director Jonathan King. Principal cast: Matthew Chamberlain, Nick Fenton, Sam Clark and Eli Kent.
For forthcoming SF film premieres then see the Concat' Science Fiction diary.
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