Science Fiction & Fantastic Film

Video/DVD Top Ten Reviews - 2002

Concatenation's calculation looking at the UK weekly video rental top ten charts. Accounting for only fantastic films we have compiled the overall SF top ten for the year to Easter 2002.

This SF top ten is based on the level of UK weekly video rentals. Remember, this is the public we are talking about and not fantastic film buffs consequently below this top ten we have included a few other notables worth checking out as well some warnings-to-avoid Standby with the pop corn, here we go...

1. Jurassic Park III

(Universal, PG)

Jurassic Park III is a worthy addition to the Jurassic Park series though only just pipping (by the way we analyse the top ten rental charts) The Mummy Returns to the number 1 slot. Maybe this was because the public is a little tired of the formula - after all, special effects alone do not make a story. Indeed it is worth noting that Michael Crichton has not written the story on which this was based. Indeed the film was launched in July 2001 but was already out on video/DVD sufficiently early in 2002 to have spent 10 weeks in the top ten rental charts.

The plot. Dr Alan Grant (again played by Sam Neil) agrees to accompany wealthy adventurer (played by William H. Macy) and his wife on an aerial tour of Isla Sorna which was used as InGen's breeding and testing ground for dinosaurs (and other Jurassic fauna and flora).

However, surprise, surprise, something goes wrong and they are all stranded. Only this time the prehistoric creatures appear faster and smarter.

Much in the way Aliens is to Alien, Jurassic Park III is far more action-packed than its predecessors even if the plot is formulaic. Let's hope that they quit while they are ahead and leave the Jurassic series on this high note.

2. The Mummy Returns

(Universal, 12)

No, this is not Margaret Thatcher (UK political joke referring to a reference the former Prime Minister made at the 2001 Conservative conference that the cinema next door advertising this film knew that she was coming). Nor is this SF, but hey, its precursor was so brilliant we will let a little fantasy in this once. The Mummy Returns is in effect more of the same from the 1999 re-make of the fantastic film classic. What more can one say? There is a little plot development, but absolutely great effects, lots of action, and plenty of monsters including the obligatory skeletal warriors. If you liked the 1999 version you will not be disappointed. As indicated above, this nearly made number 1.

3. Evolution

(Columbia Tristar, PG)

When a meteorite carrying alien life lands on Arizona, the state Governor (played by Dan Acykroyd, is a tad upset. It is up to scientists (played by David Duchovy and Julianne Moore) to save the day in this fair SF comedy romp. The problem is that the alien life form is evolving rapidly (hence the film's title) from a single cell to giant flying reptiles and malevolent apes. However though coming third in our SF rental top ten (and spending 9 weeks in the commercial all-film top ten), Evolution is far from a classic and, it must be said, is a little disappointing. The film fails to tread the fine line between a serious SF movie and a comedy so leaving the viewer with little emotional investment in the characters which, it is clear from some scenes, the director expects us to have. Is this the future for David (X Files) Duchovny?

Evolution is worth viewing certainly, but our advice is to wait for this to come be broadcast on TV.

4. Unbreakable

(Touchstone, 12)

Unbreakable is inevitably going to be compared with The Sixth Sense, starring, as it does, Bruce (The Fifth Element) Willis. Only this time he is not helping a child who can apparently see the dead, but seems to have the super power of invulnerability having walked away from a train crash that killed everyone else. This in itself would be enough for some to make a great movie, but director Night Shyamalan puts Willis' character (David Dunn) alongside Elijah Price (played by Samuel Jackson) who is crippled by a rare bone disease that makes him incredibly fragile.

The film is a slow one, but it gradually and steadily builds up a head of steam as Price tries to convince Dunn that he needs to use his power. Most recommended.

5. Pitch Black

(Universal, 15)

A spaceship crash lands on a distant planet which experiences long-nights during which monster type things emerge. If this were not bad enough, tension is strained beyond the realms of Young's Modulus as the spaceship is carrying both a crew and a few convicts... Will they team up to combat their common foe, or will the convicts use the crash as an opportunity to escape...? Bet you can't just wait to find out the answer!

This somewhat run-of-the-mill movie has its moments, has a reasonable cast and special effects so, if you are the mood for a bit of SF-monster horror, it is worth checking out.

6. 6th Day

(Entertainment, 15)

Appropriately at no. 6. we have 6th day directed by Roger (Tomorrow Never Dies) Spottiswoode and starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, Robert Duvall, Michael Rapaport and Sarah Wynter. However this is perhaps a little above the usual Arnie flick even though there are - thank goodness - the obligatory chases and explosions. As for the plot... Helicopter pilot (Arnie) comes home to find he has been cloned and his double is quite happy, thank you, with his wife and child. How come and why? Well let's say that both Arnie and his clone want to find out.

Our verdict: a gnat's smidgen above mediocre.

7. The Gift

(Helkon SA, 15)

A widowed mother (played by Cate Blanchett) in the deep south of the US makes ends meet by telling fortunes. Harmless fun, you might think, but as her success is based on a real precognitive ability what would the town's people think? Her life begins to unravel when she gets on the wrong side of a local bully boy (Keanu Reeves). Things go from bad to worse when she realises that a missing girl is on his land. She begins to wonder whether her ability is a gift or a curse. Suspenseful with a few surprises, The Gift is recommended.

8.Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon

(Columbia Tri Star, 12)

Normally we would not have included a film such as this in our analysis. However, not only did this film win several Oscars, it also won the 2001 Hugo for 'Best Dramatic Presentation'. The problem is that it is not in any way science fiction... (so much for allowing the latitude of fantasy for 'the Science Fiction Achievement Award' in the constitution of the World Science Fiction Society).

Nonetheless this is a fun martial arts movie with super levitating powers added. Most watchable, but Hugo winning material? Come on fans, there is nothing wrong with fantasy but there is a separate World Fantasy Convention with its awards you know! The film is based on the quadrilogy of novels published between 1938 and 1944.

9.Hollow Man

(Columbia Tri Star, 15)

Kevin Bacon plays the scientist who discovers the secret of invisibility. But, unlike the classic H. G. Wells story that inspired this offering, it is his girlfriend's adulterous betrayal that unhinges him and he runs amok. The film uses its excellent effects to reveal some of the implications of being invisible. Hollow Man is directed by Paul Robo Cop Verhoeven.

It needs to be noted that Hollow Man came 8th in last year's top ten as it came out before Easter 2001 (so its analysis scores were divided between two years). If, in generating this year's top ten, we took into account last year's score then Hollow Man would have come second this year!

Though there is little doubt as to the inspiration behind the film, Verhoven himself is reported as liking its plot to that of Plato's The Republic. In it a man finds a ring that makes him invisible, using it to seduce the queen and become king. Plato, Wells: with such a pedigree and brilliant effects Verhoven can hardly fail.

10. Red Planet

(Warner, 15)

After the recent spate of Mars books and movies (not least the dire Mission to Mars do we really need another Martian movie? The answer is probably not, though Val Kilmer, Carrie-Ann Moss and Terrence Stamp think so as part of the first mission to Mars in 2057. Too bad, for one catastrophe later and they realise that they are an awfully long way from home. Though based on an old theme - a diminishing group soldiering on against the odds - this is a workman-like contribution and certainly worth a view if stuck for an evening's choice. Not to be confused with the absolutely dire Mission to Mars.

And then the also rans, which might have been included if this had been an SF fan viewing poll. We also include as part of our consumer service a couple of warnings you may want to avoid...

Xchange (High Fliers, 18)

Shades of Bob Sheckley's Mindswap in which in the future the ability to transfer one's individuality to another is routine. However if the person you swap with is a terrorist you might be getting more of an experience than you bargain for especially when they do a runner. Worth checking out.

Highlander Endgame (Dimension, 15)

Unfortunately the absolutely crap sequel to the original sucked the credibility and finance out of the Highlander series. Unfortunately because the third in the series (set between the first and second movie) was far far better than the second movie, though did not live up to the promise of a super immortal indicated at the end of the original Highlander. Anyway, with Highlander Endgame we have the fourth offering. Nothing special to write home about but it least it is not the cock up that number 2 was, but Christopher Lambert looks so tired of it all. Adrian Paul (star of the TV spin-off series) has a role (shame about his terrible Scottish accent.) Let's hope that this puts the Highlander series out of its misery. Plenty of flashbacks though.

Lara Croft: Tomb Raider (Cert, 12)

Based on the best-selling video game and featuring the sexy protagonist Lara Croft (played by Angelina Jolie) out to secure artefacts to save the World, this movie was all set for blockbuster audiences. Indeed the week the video came out it was top of the top ten, but dropped to number 10 the following week and then out of the top ten altogether. If this does not tell you not to bother with this one, then we do not know what will.

Soul Music (Cert, PG)

Based on the Pratchett comic fantasy discworld story. Need we say more? Recommended.

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