HTF REVIEW: "Signs" (with screenshots)

Discussion in 'Archived Threads 2001-2004' started by Ronald Epstein, Dec 20, 2002.

  1. Ronald Epstein

    Ronald Epstein Founder

    Jul 3, 1997
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    Real Name:
    Ronald Epstein


    Studio: Buena Vista
    Year: 2002
    Rated: PG-13
    Film Length: 106 minutes
    Aspect Ratio: 16X9 Enhanced Widescreen (1.85:1)
    Subtitles: English

    A message. A warning. A sign...of things to come.
    I have come to enjoy watching any film directed
    by M. Night Shyamalan. From The Sixth Sense
    to Unbreakable, the director has an uncanny
    talent for making a highly detailed film where every
    shot is deliberate and with purpose. He takes his
    time telling his story, slowly building the suspense.
    His latest effort, Signs, is perhaps his most
    deeply serious thought-provoking film yet.
    Graham Hess (Mel Gibson), is a man who has just
    lost his wife in an auto accident leaving him to
    care for his son Morgan (Rory Calkin) and his
    daughter Bo (Abigail Breslin). Graham's brother
    Merrill (Joaquin Phoenix) joins the group to help
    out and live with the threesome. One morning
    Graham awakens to the screams of his children from
    inside a corn field. When he arrives, he finds
    a large number of geometric figures carved into the
    family farm. At first pranksters are suspected.
    In time, however, signs turn up in a number of
    other cities as far away as Bangalore and the family
    finds that they are truly not alone.
    To say more about this film to anyone that has
    not seen it would ruin the surprise. There is no
    argument that Shyamalan is a modern-day Hitchcock,
    using every camera angle to build tension. The angles
    make you feel off-balance, slowly heightening your
    fear. In addition, the director brings a wonderful
    sense of mood to the screen, accurately portraying
    human emotion, with slow determined pacing, and
    believable dialogue that is both humorous and touching.
    The problem is, the film's payoff is unfulfilling,
    with a final conflict that is anti-climactic, almost
    unoriginal, and full of a few too many implausibles.
    How is the transfer?
    Most of you will find this transfer to be very
    warm. The picture is rather soft, not very sharp nor
    detailed, with a warm color scheme that is void of
    any brilliance. This is just fine, as it really sets
    the darkened mood of the film. The print is very
    clean, although I did notice a low level of grain
    amongst the darker scenes and in day lit blue sky shots.
    Most of the film takes place in dark surroundings
    and I was disappointed to find that these scenes
    were a little too dark, and not very detailed. Since
    I did not see this movie theatrically, I have no
    idea if this was the original intent of the director
    to bring such a low level of brilliance or detail
    to the transfer. Fortunately, with this kind of
    movie, the effect can work in your favor.
    The 5.1 Dolby Digital mix is very good, but somewhat
    lacking. On the plus side, the rear channels are
    used for an amazing degree of spookish sounds. As
    the film begins, Graham (Gibson) races through a
    cornfield towards the sounds of his screaming
    children. The front speakers crisply reproduce the
    sounds of brushing stalks as the sounds of insects
    penetrate the left and right channels. At the same
    time, the sounds of barking dogs can be heard through
    the left and right rear channels. The viewer is
    ultimately placed in the middle of the action. In
    another scene later that night, there's a rather
    amusing chase with Graham and Merrill (Joaquin)
    across the front yard that ends with rustling noises
    on the roof that are eerily reproduced in the rear
    channels. It is well directed sounds like these that
    add to the film's heightened fear factor.
    What is missing here is the effective use of the
    film's soundtrack, which stays primarily in the
    front channels. In fact, rarely did I notice any
    of the film's music surrounding the listening area.
    This is a real shame, because doing so would have
    made this a top-notch mix even despite the fact that
    DTS was considered here.
    Special Features
    Signs has been released under Buena
    Vista's heralded Vista Series label, which
    is a little confusing for the fact that this disc
    is nothing out of the ordinary for a DVD release.
    It has always been my understanding that this series
    would contain a wealth of supplemental material very
    much like New Line's platinum or infinifilm
    series. Wasn't this amongst the biggest grossing
    films of this past year? Why is there an omitting of a
    commentary track or even trailers?
    So what do we have left?
    The DVD begins with a rather spooky animated
    menu that shows a family sitting on the couch with
    aluminum foiled cone hats and interrupting static.
    Making Signs is an entire area devoted to
    the film's production broken down into individual
    featurettes. Let's look at them....
    Looking for signs begins with director M.
    Night Shyamalan (who had a cameo in the film) talking
    about his process of creating new ideas for his next
    film at the same time he is wrapping up a current
    project. Excecutive Producer Kathleen Kennedy is just
    as much intrigued with the idea of making a movie
    based on real life crop circles as was Shyamalan.
    Through this film, the director pays homage to
    Hitchcock and films like Invasion of the Body
    , and goes into great detail about the
    style and techniques he used to tell his story.
    (length: approx. 6 minutes)
    Building Signs takes us through a pre-production
    meeting in a conference room, thumbnail sketches and
    storyboards, to location scouting. All of this is
    part of the controlled process that Shyamalan goes
    through for all his movies, making sure his movies
    are as accurately detailed as possible.
    (length: approx. 8 minutes)
    Making Signs: A commentary by M. Night Shyamalan
    brings us up-and-close to the director who talks about
    what it was like to start shooting this film the day
    after 9/11. A candlelight vigil was held shortly
    before filming began, and Shyamalan was about to meet
    Mel Gibson for the very first time. Suffice to say,
    it was a day that the director will never forget.
    In an interview with Mel Gibson, the actor talks
    about the joys of working with Shyamalan as we go
    behind the camera and look at some of the film's
    most complicated shots. Using storyboards, location
    footage, and cast interviews, the director really
    gives us a detailed look at how he pieced this film
    together. This is one of the most detailed and
    interesting production pieces I have watched on a
    DVD in a long time. This certainly makes up for
    the loss of additional content.
    (length: approx. 22 minutes)
    The effects of signs examines the subliminal
    method of storytelling the director uses in this
    film. Though what you see throughout most of this
    film is vague, this featurette brings out the details
    of creating the aliens. We see many of the earliest
    sketches and ideas that were presented, and told that
    the creatures were further developed as the film was
    being shot. With storyboards, blue screen and CGI
    shots we get an idea of how the effects were carefully
    (length: approx. 8 minutes)
    Last Voices: The music of Signs takes us
    on the scoring sound stage where the final process
    of the film is now in gear. We watch Shyamalan
    work alongside composer James Newton Howard. James
    talks about scoring in advance of the filming with
    the help of the storyboards he was sent. This is
    a fascinating look at how a composer and director
    may agree or disagree with a piece of music. While
    the composer may see flaws in the way a piece was
    performed, the director may love the rawness and
    energy that is presented. From that point on, both
    men must come to terms on what they feel is the
    perfect take.
    (length: approx. 8 minutes)
    Full Circle begins with Shyamalan talking
    about the importance of making a film with a message,
    and even just as important, promoting it in the
    proper manner. We are taken to Lincoln Center
    for the film's premier, and then through the after
    shock of the film's success.
    (length: approx. 4 minutes)
    There are nearly 7 minutes of deleted scenes
    that are very short, in raw form, and add no real
    value to the film. Actually, I take that back.
    There is a rather tense sequence with an alien that
    is trying to break through the attic.
    Storyboard: multi-angle features takes
    us through three primary scenes where you can use
    your remote to switch between viewing a sequence
    in its final form, in an animated storyboard, or
    as originally conceived by the director. You can
    also switch between the various sound mixes of
    the film.
    Night's first alien movie may be pretty
    awful, but nonetheless, interesting to watch. I
    give a lot of credit to Shyamalan for having the
    balls to show some of his experimental film work
    that he made as a kid. Here, the youngster is
    being stalked by a toy robot with a Halloween mask.
    (length: approx. 2 minutes)
    Final Thoughts
    While some will consider Signs a masterpiece
    of mystery and suspense, others will find that the
    film's conclusion is rather disappointing in light
    of the terrific build-up that led up to it. Perhaps
    most all can agree that this is a film that
    continually keeps the viewer on the edge of his seat.
    It's rather odd that Disney did so little with
    a title released under its Vista Series banner.
    On the other hand, the quality of supplemental
    material here is outstanding -- certainly more
    in-depth coverage of the production than seen on
    most DVDs.
    Worth adding to your collection.
    Release Date: January 7, 2003
    All screen captures have been further compressed.
    They are for illustrative purposes only and do not
    represent actual picture quality
  2. NickFoley

    NickFoley Stunt Coordinator

    May 5, 2002
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    My girlfriend said this was a good movie, so I guess we'll be picking it up early next year.
  3. Bill J

    Bill J Producer

    Oct 27, 2001
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    Great review, Ron.

    Is the cover art in the picture the same as your copy? I thought that it was changed after it was upgraded to a Vista Series release.
  4. Dalton

    Dalton Screenwriter

    Aug 19, 2001
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    Rhode Island
    Real Name:
    Thanks once again for a great review Ron. I loved Signs and will be adding it to my collection!
  5. Ronald Epstein

    Ronald Epstein Founder

    Jul 3, 1997
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    Real Name:
    Ronald Epstein
    Cover art is slightly different but this is
    what was available to me at the time of the review.
  6. Christian Preischl

    Christian Preischl Screenwriter

    Oct 11, 2001
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    Real Name:
    Christian Preischl
    I always thought that many VISTA series 2 disc sets were pretty light on extras, most notably Unbreakable and Tombstone. The omission of the DTS track on Signs seems to be a deliberate move to make this a one disc set, though. A bit of a dissapointment IMHO, considering the list price is the same.
    The disc is already on preorder though. [​IMG] I love Night's films for pretty much the same reasons Ron does.
  7. Lou Sytsma

    Lou Sytsma Producer

    Nov 1, 1998
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    Real Name:
    Lou Sytsma
    Yep - like you Ron I really enjoy Shyamalan's efforts.

    Looking forward to adding this one to my collection.
  8. Chad A Wright

    Chad A Wright Supporting Actor

    Jul 22, 2002
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    I also feel a little let down that this is only a single disk set. I have been impressed with the Vista Series releases up to this point. Not that this is a bad disc, I just wouldn't have labeled it Vista Series from a marketing stand point.

    On the other hand, they could release any Shyamalan film as a movie only disc and I would buy it.
  9. Josh Dial

    Josh Dial Cinematographer

    Jan 2, 2000
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    Real Name:
    Josh Dial
    Great review Ron! I will be adding this to the collection for sure.
    Also, I'm pretty sure the VISTA series was never meant to be an "extra-monster", but rather a vehicle to showcase some "interesting" or "groundbreaking" or whatever you want sort of movies. [​IMG]
  10. Joshua_Y

    Joshua_Y Screenwriter

    Dec 19, 2002
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    I cant wait to get this movie! I loved it!
  11. Kenneth Cummings

    Kenneth Cummings Supporting Actor

    Aug 7, 2001
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    I know everyone in my household want this dvd. It was a very good movie that me and my mom went to see this summer and we both like it a lot. *she went on and on about it all year [​IMG])
  12. Joshua Clinard

    Joshua Clinard Screenwriter

    Aug 25, 2000
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    Abilene, TX
    Real Name:
    Joshua Clinard
    Can anyone who saw this in the theater mention something about the image quality of the theatrical viewing as compared to Ron's description of the DVD?
  13. jacob w k

    jacob w k Stunt Coordinator

    Jun 17, 2002
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    Can't wait for this one, it scared the pants off me. I remember the surrounds being incredible in the theaters and can't wait to see it at home.
  14. Aaryn Chan

    Aaryn Chan Supporting Actor

    Jul 5, 2002
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    why did you post one of the funniest part of the movie in that last screenshot? It is uneccessary spoilers.
  15. Ryan Peter

    Ryan Peter Screenwriter

    Sep 15, 1999
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    Sounds like what Ron was seeing is very similar to how it was at the theater. The scenes at night are very dark indeed.
  16. Bill J

    Bill J Producer

    Oct 27, 2001
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    It's a shame that none of the three trailers are on the disc. In my opinion the first two teasers are among the best trailers I've ever seen.
  17. Lucho Cohaila

    Nov 24, 2002
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    no spanish subtitles Ron? [​IMG]
  18. Dean Kousoulas

    Dean Kousoulas Second Unit

    Jul 15, 2002
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    Again, no trailers for Shyamalan's Vista lineup. First there wasn't one for Unbreakable (Probably my favorite teaser trailer of all time) and now there's not one for Signs...oh well (signs) (heh, I made a funny!)

    I thought the film was pretty decent, although why would the aliens attack a planet that is mostly water if they are defenseless against it?
  19. cafink

    cafink Producer

    Apr 19, 1999
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    Real Name:
    Carl Fink
    No trailers? This was one of my favorite teasers; I'm really disappointed. Are there any other DVDs available that contain any trailers for "Signs" ??
  20. Darren Haycock

    Darren Haycock Second Unit

    Nov 13, 2002
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    I think it's because they weren't aware before hand of the negative effect it had on them, that could be total BS, but hey, sometimes you gotta use your imagination.

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