Random thoughts on SIGNS

Discussion in 'Archived Threads 2001-2004' started by Peter Apruzzese, Jul 9, 2002.

  1. Peter Apruzzese

    Peter Apruzzese Producer

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    This is not meant – in any way – to be some sort of "official" discussion or review thread on SIGNS, especially since it doesn’t open until August. I just want to report some random thoughts on my viewing of the film SIGNS at an exhibitor screening tonight. Be aware, there may be spoilers within, so read cautiously! The screening took place at Manhattan’s Empire 25, in auditorium number 1. Two rows of Disney execs and employees were sitting directly behind me.

    M. Night Shyamalan’s SIGNS seemingly is about an alien invasion of the earth. Unfortunately, what the movie is really about is a Man-of-God trying to regain his faith after a tragic accident takes the life of his wife. Using nearly every cliché in the book, SIGNS is nothing more than a verrrry slowly paced retread of WAR OF THE WORLDS, INVADERS FROM MARS, EARTH VS. THE FLYING SAUCERS, CLOSE ENCOUNTERS, INDEPENDENCE DAY, CONTACT, NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD and The Invaders episode of TV’s "The Twilight Zone".

    Obviously going for the show-nothing, mood-is-everything approach of his hit THE SIXTH SENSE, Shyamalan keeps the audience in the dark, both figuratively and literally, for much of the film, refusing to show the armadas of spacecraft and keeping the alien creatures in shadow, though we do see a few blinking lights hovering over Mexico City on a CNN-like news broadcast. I thought this approach was all wrong for this material. As much as I like well thought-out scripts that require a minimum of special effects, when your story relies so much on what the audience is told is "out there", you just have to show it! Otherwise, it feels like a cheat. I’m sure the defense of the film will come in with the argument that "It’s NOT about an alien invasion, it’s about 4 people." Still, we do need to see what those people are facing. Anything less than that is a cop-out, IMHO.

    This will probably be a big hit, though; it seemed that much of the audience was enjoying the film. My gut feeling is that this is aimed at people who have *never* seen one of these films before; to them, it will all seem fresh and new.

    The cast does an admirable job keeping the film believable, though it’s not much help with such a derivative script; I can’t decide if Shyamalan has *never* seen another alien attack film or has seen *too many* of them. Mel Gibson plays the Reverend well, though I could picture Harrison Ford doing this part even better. Joaquin Phoenix is fine as Gibson’s brother. James Newton Howard’s music score is a knockout, giving the film the credibility it desperately needs. The photography of Tak Fujimoto (1.85 flat aspect ratio) is very nice, though this film continues the tradition of seriously under-lighting interior scenes, turning them into a grainy mess at times. The sound is impressive, with several deep-bass scenes that made some members of the audience jump.

    You know you’re in trouble when the aftermath of a big alien attack on the farmhouse consists of a lot of turned-over furniture...
     
  2. Mark Zimmer

    Mark Zimmer Producer

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    That's kind of disappointing to hear. The original teaser trailer looked pretty poor, but the most recent trailer made it look like it would be much, much better than I'd hoped. Ah, the expectations are let down once again. [​IMG]
     
  3. MickeS

    MickeS Producer

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    Peter, to put it a little in perspective, what did you think of "Unbreakable"? I LOVE that movie, but many, if not most, critics didn't like it very much.

    /Mike
     
  4. Peter Apruzzese

    Peter Apruzzese Producer

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    Mike, I can't make a fair comparison to UNBREAKABLE as I've never seen all of it - I'll have to rent it one of these days. I wasn't a big fan of THE SIXTH SENSE, but I found this to be far worse than that effort.
     
  5. Luc

    Luc Stunt Coordinator

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    So Peter, does this movie have a twist ending like The Sixth Sense and Unbreakable or did you revealed it already?
    you're made to believe that there are no real aliens but there are [​IMG]
     
  6. Peter Apruzzese

    Peter Apruzzese Producer

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    No, there is no twist ending.
     
  7. Stevan Lay

    Stevan Lay Second Unit

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    Peter,
    I'm just curious as to how you got the opportunity to go see the movie at an exhibitor screening.
     
  8. Peter Apruzzese

    Peter Apruzzese Producer

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    That's easy! I do some freelance work for an independent theater owner (exhibitor) here in New Jersey, so, if there are extra tickets, sometimes I get to go along.
     
  9. Peter Kim

    Peter Kim Screenwriter

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    I really enjoyed The Sixth Sense and Unbreakable. However, I got a nagging feeling that Signs was bad, from the trailers. Based on the little snippets, Mel didn't seem so believable in his expression of fear and anticipation

    War of the Worlds is still one of my favorite films. Good to hear you bring that one up as a benchmark.

    Despite my disdain and weariness of Bruce Willis, I'm wondering how he would've fared in this role and why M. didn't bring him back into the fold? I actually thought he performed well in The Sixth Sense.
     
  10. Will_B

    Will_B Producer

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    I've got to agree with MikeS - until someone reviews this who saw and liked Unbreakable, we're still in the dark on this one.
     
  11. Tino

    Tino Lead Actor
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    I don't get it. Is Peter's review invalid simply because he hasn't seen Unbreakable and is unable to compare the two?[​IMG]
    Why not just accept it for what it is. One man's opinion?
     
  12. David Rogers

    David Rogers Supporting Actor

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    His opinion isn't relevant to me because I *DID* like both Sixth Sense and Unbreakable. I consider them borderline genius, and in Sixth Sense's case I do consider it genius. M.Night (since I can't spell his last name and am dashing this off too quickly to go check IMDB) is, IMO, the most brilliant filmmaker to come along in well over a decade. His cinematography, his plot and story pacings, his deliberate use of silence and shot compositions ... art. Pure art. I see lots of films that I like and enjoy that are just movies, but so far M.Night has proved to be a cut well above the rest.

    As an example of what I see in M.Night's work that I don't see in most filmmakers is a scene in Unbreakable near the end, where David is confronting the kidnapper. The camera is placed outside the room, with wind rippling drapes on the inside of the floor-to-ceiling glass doors. The rippling of the drape frames the shot as it reveals different sections of the room in time, as the shot progresses, shifting your attention around and playing the scene out. I was just utterly awestruck when I saw it the first time and said as much to my friend. He scoffed and said "its just guys flapping it off camera", and merely shook his head when I tried to explain to him how artistic the effect was on the shot. That's just one example of the level of craft and artistic brilliance I see in M.Night's work so far, and is my quick attempt to explain why I consider M.Night so highly.

    Since the original reviewer here didn't like Sixth Sense and didn't see Unbreakable (and I didn't read his post after I saw 'spoiler warning'), his opinion just won't be very useful to me.

    I'm looking forward greatly to Signs, and expect it to be everything M.Night's first two films have been. I don't mean "twist end", I mean his craft.
     
  13. Peter Apruzzese

    Peter Apruzzese Producer

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    Actually, I didn't say that I "didn't like" The Sixth Sense, I said I wasn't a "big fan" of it. The Sixth Sense was a well-crafted and paced film with outstanding performances but featured a derivative and fairly unoriginal story that just didn't grab me. It certainly wasn't the second-coming of the horror film, IMO, but was a well-done effort. SIGNS shows many of the same strengths and weaknesses, but is far less interesting.
     
  14. Peter Kim

    Peter Kim Screenwriter

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    Tino, while I was initially perplexed by the introduction of a disparate element like Unbreakable in discussing Peter's review, I think I now know what Mike and Will were getting at.

    In essence, they were trying to triangulate their likelihood of enjoying Signs based on Peter's opinion on The Sixth Sense and Unbreakable. I don't believe they were trying to invalidate Peter's review.

    In other words...as a LOTR fan, I would not use someone's opinion of TTT, someone who never read the Tolkien series, and thought FOTR was mediocre, as a guage for my prospective like or dislike of TTT.

    Simply, people want to tap into the opinion of someone in their same flock, a la birds of a feather.
     
  15. Tino

    Tino Lead Actor
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    I too understand where they are coming from, I just disagree that an opinion is only valid if the reviewer has seen all of the directors previous films
    BTW, I loved The Sixth Sense and hated Unbreakable. So I guess my opinion therefore would be invalid regardless.[​IMG]
     
  16. Peter Kim

    Peter Kim Screenwriter

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    No, as I said, I don't believe the previous posters meant to invalidate Peter's review. I believe they're trying to 'triangulate' or position themselves in respect to Peter's preferences.

    This has nothing to do with 'validity'. They are only trying to identify with someone or something familiar. I liked Peter's perspective. Let's say that someone reviews SIGNS, someone who loved The Sixth Sense and Unbreakable. Yet they came away from SIGNS with complete distaste.

    As opposed to Peter, who was somewhat lukewarm on The Sixth Sense and never saw Unbreakable. It's much easier to find positioning with the previous example than the latter.

    So, again, let's not put insults into someone else's mouth. They're only trying to determine their likelihood from like mind. A different background, like Peter's, provides for interesting perspective.

    But to gain a foothold from someone who has similar beliefs...I don't think anything is wrong with that.
     
  17. Tino

    Tino Lead Actor
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    Peter
    I don't think they were trying to "invalidate" Peter's review. Maybe dismiss is a better word.
    Still, I get what you and they are saying. I just don't think it's fair to Peter, know what I mean?[​IMG]
     
  18. Ron-P

    Ron-P Producer

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    I'm the opposite of Tino. I did not like The Sixth Sence, but loved Unbreakable. No matter the reviews, I'm looking forward to Signs.
    Peace Out~[​IMG]
     
  19. Peter Kim

    Peter Kim Screenwriter

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    Tino,
    I believe you're unfairly focusing on inaccuarately presupposing that Mike or I am dissing Peter's review. Or dismissing. Or being unfair. Please review our original posts - I cannot see any unfairness or dismissiveness.
     
  20. Peter Kim

    Peter Kim Screenwriter

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    Conversely, there is one, if not many admins that look to Ted Todorov's reviews with great interest and anticipation. I also eagerly read and respect Ted's reviews, based on what he's written before - reviews that contain criticisms and interests that mirror my own.
    So, while I read other well-written reviews by others with great interest, I'll eventually muse what Ted thought of a particular movie. Because he seems to have the same pattern of likes and dislikes. Not necessarily because I am being more fair or respectful toward Ted. Although he's earned it. [​IMG]
     

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