Video Top Ten Reviews

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 past 18 months (to Easter 1997).

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. Nonetheless here we go...

1. Judge Dredd

(Guild, 15)

Judge Dredd is one of the law-enforcing judges (both policeman, jury, and judge) dispensing instant justice in Mega City One (the combined East coast megapolis of New York, Washington DC etc) in the 23rd century. Based on the innovative anti-hero character from the British trail-blazing SF comic 2000AD, we have been waiting decades for this movie. Indeed a 2000AD readers' poll was taken in the 1980s as to who should play Judge Dredd. The answer then was Clint Eastwood, and surely he would have fitted the role perfectly. Unfortunately we have been saddled with Sylvester Stallone, notwithstanding this disappointment (and that we see Dredd's face which we never see in the comic, and that a number of 2000AD support characters are missing) this film delivers in its own way. That and the huge cumulative following 2000AD has had over the years (readers come and go) ensured that this was one of the hot video releases of the year. Now all we need is a proper sequel, other movies based on other 2000AD characters (such as the Strontium Dogs) and we will really be cooking -- scrotnig!

2. Waterworld

(Universal, 12)

Kevin Costner roams a flooded World since the greenhouse effect (presumably) has melted the poles. The film went way over budget in its making, but it is hard to see where all the money went in that the special effects are not that special. Nonetheless it makes for an excellent romp. Unfortunately for SF fans many of the SF images presented -- such as the humans dwindling gene pool, the evolution of water-breathing species, submerged cities etc -- fail to be explored once initially presented. Instead the movie concentrates on the action. As an action movie Waterworld delivers, which explains its high position in the rental charts. On the SF front it disappoints.

3. Golden Eye

(MGM/UA, 12)

With global threats, thigh tech devices (sorry, high tech devices), and even the occasional dash of the mystic, James Bond movies have many tropes in common with SF and fantasy. Golden Eye is Pierce Brosnan's first outing as the fifth James Bond (or eigth if you count Sellers, Niven and Allen in Casino Royale). Golden Eye is a star wars-type device that can send an electromagnetic pulse to knock out electronic systems, but which falls into hands that plan to incapacitate the World's (electronically-based) money markets. Brosnan is an excellent Bond balancing parody and black humor with the one line quips concluding action scenes that the Bond movies popularised early in the 1960s. Robby Coltraine makes an appearence and Judy Dench plays 007's boss; itself a parody of Britain's real-life appointment of its first female head of MI5. While Daltry was also an excellent Bond, the last two movies had a more mundane backdrop to their plots; arms and drug smuggling respectively. Golden Eye is more of a return to the high techie action exotica we used to enjoy.

4. Loch Ness

(Polygram, PG)

Scientist Ted Danson (rightly) does not believe in the Loch Ness monster, so he ends up being the sceptic sent to find it. When he meets the too-cute-by-half daughter of the local hotel owner, he finally comes face to face with the creature. It has to be said that the legend of a monster goes back centuries. It also has to be said that a number of species of fish thought to have been extinct millions of years have been found in other parts of the world; indeed, Loch Ness has its own surprising ecology. The geology of the loch (on a fault line) is also unusual. With such a rich mix why could we not have something more inventive, instead of this sentimental crap? Our guess is that the 'family viewer' bumped this one up the rental charts.

5. Apollo 13

(Universal, PG)

Based on the 1970 real-life drama that captured the World's attention, Director Ron Howard's portrayal still manages to keep the suspense going. Though this is Hollywood, older SF buffs might feel the drama of two and a half decades ago of which Howard has captured at least a part.

6. Independence Day


The movie blockbuster of 1996. A 'must see', if only for the special effects on the big screen, this movie disappoints as a video. With a lousy script, cardboard characters, an SF plot that H. G. Wells handled far better a century ago with War of the Worlds, this film disappoints on every level except those with your brain turned off. On cerebral automatic though, the film is a hell of a romp and is an excellent waste of a couple of hours. It made for an ideal late night movie at the 1996 Festival of Fantastic Films in 35mm and was enjoyed by the majority of the audience. However the Festival's participants' discriminatory abilities were not to be jaded and so it was voted worst film screened at that event. As small screen video viewing will disappoint, can we have this turkey in 35mm again at next year's Festival please? Please?

7. Lord of Illusions

(MGM/UA, 18)

A private eye is hired to investigate the death of a magician's husband, and soon discovers the difference between harmless illusion and magic. This Clive Barker production is one for horror fans.

8. The Net

(Columbia Tristar, 12)

Sandra stumbles across a top secret program, goes away on holiday to return to find that every file on her says that she is someone else -- a criminal. Despite the formula plot and simple social message, this thriller is surprisingly well made with a few twists to enliven matters.

9. Tremors II: Aftershocks

(Universal, 12)

The return of the underground burrowing monsters that eat humans for breakfast. The original 1989 film was an above average 'B movie', but this sequel (as with so many) disappoints. Lacking in much of the original's dry humour, it now appears that the creatures can mutate into a two-legged form, which only serves to relegate them to bog-standard monsters.

10. Virtuosity

(Paramount, 15)

Programmed with the personality of 200 killers, a virtual reality creation (Russell Crowe) escapes into the real world. Virtual reality has been explored in several films over the past decade, but this one has the latest effects that brings a certain freshness to the action and romp. Denzel Washington is the cop hot on the trail.

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