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Signs
DVD disk
10.08.2004 By: The Shootin Surgeon
Signs order
Director:
M. Night Shyamalan

Actors:
Mel Gibson
Joaquin Phoenix
Rory Culkin

Rating:
Movie:
Extras:
Overall:

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WHAT'S IT ABOUT?
A former priest (Gibson) abandons religion after his wife's death and is forced to rethink his entire life when cornfield crop circles appear to be a signal from unknown places. Aliens? Signs?
IS IT A GOOD MOVIE?
Based on M. Night Shyamalan's previous work, I really expected this to be yet another dark, creepy supernatural thriller, but to tell you the truth, it was pretty straightforward and that was the movie's only real deficiency. Without spoiling it for anyone, I have to say that the "mystery" is cleared up rather early on in the film and we're pretty much left with an straightforward thriller, minus the guesswork of having to figure out whodunit. On the bright side, Mel Gibson puts another notch in his bedpost with another highly emotional (and highly convincing) performance as the preacher who second-guesses his fate after a truck (driven by director Shyamalan, incidentally) slams into his wife and leaves him alone with their two children (Culkin and the adorable Abigail Breslin as his daughter Bo) and his own brother; played very well by the always entertaining Joaquin Phoenix.

Regardless of what your feelings are about Shyamalan's previous two films (THE SIXTH SENSE, UNBREAKABLE), one has to admit that you always walk out of them thinking "what if?" and this one is no different. Crop circles are still pretty mysterious and to date, not all of them can be explained by a few English blokes walking around with boards and rope so the film does touch on everyone's natural fear of the unknown. What it doesn't do, unfortunately, is take that fear and really stimulate it by keeping you guessing. Every time a question comes up, it's basically answered too quickly for us to ponder the potentially good or potentially horrible consequences and the film's ending doesn't really display the entire magnitude of its events. Nonetheless, it still makes for decent late night viewing with a few creepy moments and what's more, Mel Gibson crying, as in most of his films. And let's not forget the very entertaining character played by Joaquin Phoenix. As Gibson's brother Merrill, he infuses some much needed humor in the film and gives us another taste of his versatility as an actor. A beautiful farmhouse setting rounds up the really neat and simple look of the film and makes the irregular events in this most quaint of places, look even more disturbing. Overall, a good watch on a dark rainy night, but nothing really out of the ordinary.
THE EXTRAS
The offerings begin with "Making Signs", an excellent hour long documentary tracking the film's evolution from the first conceptual meetings to the end. Shyamalan narrates the feature and proves to be a most interesting host. He's joined in this by Gibson, Phoenix and other cast and crew members who discuss not only the movie itself, but also the young director who's quickly becoming a household name. Unlike many other DVD features, this is not a piece of studio fluff with pats on the back being handed out in generous portions, but it's actually an intelligent (and fascinating at times) discussion on the experience of making a film by a man who wrote, produced and directed it.

The rest of the lineup isn't as stellar. It includes a group of five deleted scenes which won't really be missed by anyone who watches the movie and an interactive feature called "Storyboards: multi-angle feature" which allows you to watch a few scenes from different perspectives (storyboards or finished) and to play them with different audio mixes (finished, voices, effects). Also included is "Night's first alien movie", which is a very short film Shyamalan made as a kid in his living room about a monster chasing and eating him.
FINAL DIAGNOSIS
Not really what I expected, although I can surely see myself watching it on another occasion. A decent viewing, but nothing terribly out of the ordinary. Worth a definite rental and consideration for future purchase.
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