In years gone by full-on movie effects were reserved for stories set in the future. Films about the (real or mythical) past had bad stop motion (if they were lucky).

But I've come to the conclusion that:
(1) the past is the new future; and
(2) the present is the new past

What I mean is that now we have reached the 21st century, and are looking back rather than forward, the big techy films are about the past, not the future (either real or mythical in either case).

So I looked up the top (US grossing) films for recent years (2001-2005) for analysis.

Star Wars Episodes 1,2 & 3
The recent past of a film set "a long time ago".

War of the Worlds
A story from the past updated to the present.

Charlie & the Chocolate Factory
Set in the present, but presented as the past.

Batman Begins
The past of something set in the mythical present.

Harry Potter 1,2,3 & 4
The mythical past set in the present.

Shrek 1 & 2
The mythical past with the attitude of the present.

Spiderman 1 & 2
The mythical present.

The future of a mythical near past, i.e. a mythical present.

Day after Tomorrow

Lord of the Rings 1, 2 & 3
The mythical past.

Finding Nemo
Talking fish.

Pirates of the Caribbean
As for Shrek.

Matrix 1, 2 & 3
The future (bucking the trend).

X Men 1 & 2
The mythical present.

Terminator 3
Involves time travel, so becomes complicated. The past of a future, i.e. the present.

Austin Powers 2
More time travel. A character created in the present, but from the past, who wakes up in the present, and travels to the past.

Men in Black 2
A mythical present, but with the style of the near past.

Ice Age
Talking animals in the prehistoric past.

Monsters Inc.
Talking monsters.

Mummy 2
Set in the past, dealing with the (real) mythical past.

Jurassic Park 3
Set in the present, dealing with the prehistoric past.

Planet of the Apes
A story from the past, updated to the present, about the future.