Hey folks, Harry here. Last night here in Austin, Texas I had one of the great film experiences of my life, watching Woody Allen's new film with Woody Allen doing a one hour Q&A afterwards and just killing. It was astonishing to watch him and I wouldn't trade it for anything. However, if I could be in two places at once, being at this test screening of M Night Shyamalan's SIGNS would have been the other location. Folks, this summer could be the home run we've been waiting for. These reviews from SIGNS are simply breathtaking for me. Mysterio wrote me to say the movie was "I just got back from seeing this and quite frankly it's amazing! I loved this film. Hardly knew anything about it going in (never saw a script for this pass through my hands either), but by damn has M. Night has hit yet another home run with this flick." Mysterio will be reviewing the film soon, he wanted to sleep on it. In addition, there is a new SIGNS trailer which is quite nice. The reviews below are all very very ecstatic for the film. If you wish to know nothing about the film, just know that the reviews say it is great. If you want to know more, including some spoilers... Read on... It looks like SIGNS is technically a HORROR film...
I've been an avid reader of the site for sometime now and happy to be able to finally report something... I saw the first test screening of M. Night Shyamalan's "Signs"... and I gotta tell you it scared the shit outta me.... I have been a fan of Night's films. I thought The Sixth Sense was a solid movie, but was impressed with UNBREAKABLE. It wasn't so much that I liked the movie, in fact the last ten minutes alone made me never want to watch it again, but it was the first time in a long while I was able to be under the influence of a master stoyteller. It seems as though every couple of years a new filmmaker comes along that shocks the world. But with new techniques, characters, dialogue, whatever...
The main thing I dig about Night is his ability to pose simple questions with such complex answers... What if a little boy could see dead people? What if super heroes truly existed? And now.. What if there were others?...
SIGNS focuses on an family in a farming community 45 miles outside of Philadelphia ( a title card lets us know this). Mel Gibson and Joaquin Phoenix play brothers raising Mel's children. Sub-plots involve Mel's dead wife, Joaquin's baseball career gone south, and Mel's son's battle with asthma. I'd go more into detail, but learning the ticks and subtleties of this family are half the fun. The perfomances are realistic as is the setting. THE WAR OF THE WORLDS involvement with the film is played out with care and maturity. One complaint is the ending gets a bit hokey. But it's quite a ride until then. I don't want to say anymore about the film.
The print we saw looked complete, which makes the August 2nd release that much more painful.
The day will come that Shyamalan will put out a film with his balls hanging out in the air, not trying to please anyone, not trying to neatly tie things up... Just scaring people, which he quite good at. This movie scared the bejesus out of me.
Now for the next review....
I caught a Signs test screening in Marina Del Rey tonight- it was great- hope you dig my review(I sent you a review of Pluto Nash way back in the day as well):
A Signs Review
Signs is the story of one man's loss and subsequent renewal of faith. The man in this case is Graham Hess, played by Mel Gibson. Graham's a preacher who gave up the cloth when his wife died in a car accident. As Signs begins, Graham is trying to hold his family together- with 2 kids and his brother Merrill, played by Joaquin Phoenix.
Since this is an M. Night Shyamalan film, we expect a twist and this does not disappoint. Graham and Merrill discover crop circles cut into their Pennsylvania cornfield. Amid TV news reports of lights in the sky and little green men going bump in the night, it becomes more and more likely this is no hoax but a full scale alien invasion. The trailers make it look a bit like Close Encounter but it becomes quite clear these aliens are not friendly E.T.s. One creepy touch- Graham's son can hear what sounds like the aliens speaking on a baby monitor walkie-talkie and they sound quite irate. The family decides to make a stand in their farmhouse and fight the aliens if they have to- all the while trying to stay together as a family and renew their own faith.
Without ruining the surprises, I will say this film offers enough humor, suspense and action to satisfy.
Personally- I thought Sixth Sense was pretty good and Unbreakable a bit
slow- but Signs is Night's best work. It may not have as much of a wow
ending as the other two- but it is every bit as satisfying to watch- even
more so. Again, Night demonstrates a mature control of story and an affinity
for directing children. He makes Graham's two kids- one played by a Culkin
(!) believable and endearing where they could easily have been phony and
annoying. Gibson is great as the grieving father and more believably
sensitive than we've seen him before. Joaquin is touching and at times
hilarious such as his description of his own personal reason for having
faith in god- hint- it has to do with kissing a drunk, about to be violently
ill girl and a moment of lucky timing. It's too bad everyone's going to have
to wait until the end of the summer to see it- but at least they can rest
assured that if everything else coming out this summer sucks- we have one
movie to look forward to.
and here's our last review for now... Who feels the movie is probably 5 minutes too long...
Great to hear from you. Didn't actually expect a response from you!
Just got in from checking out the screening of Signs in Marina del Rey, CA. Well, what can I say about it? Other than I think Disney has a winner on there hands. 7 out of 10. And with a little tweaking in the old editing room, mostly tighting up some shots and scenes, Signs could deserve even higher marks. But before those notoriously vicious talkbackers call be a plant or sneer "typical fanboy," I have to say that I am not a devout M. Night Shamylan fan. I liked Sixth Sense, but thought Unbreakable was OK and not that entertaining when I saw it in the theater. A subsequent viewing has led me to appreciate it more, and now I think it's his best work to date. I think most people will find Signs a more entertaining, enjoyable and easier film to watch than Unbreakable. I would expect with a late summer slot and Mel's star power for Signs to easily outgross Unbreakable.
No synopsis and spoilers from me, so here some rambling thoughts about Signs.
Best things going for it:
1. Acting - Joaquin does it again ("Joaquin, you're the bomb!"). He owned the role, thank god Ruffalo dropped out. His character is funny, naive and touching. He has a couple of scenes with Mel that make the movie. Mel as always is good . Is he ever not thoroughly watchable? And both the kids turn in solid performances. They would have had a hard time finding a more adorable girl
2. Music - James Newton Howard - The music was perfect, loved all the strings (the staple instrument of suspense films). More engaging music than most films (forget Williams' overrated Harry Potter crap)
3. Story - interesting premise that Night establishes well and is generally intriguing as what is actually happening to Mel and Co. is revealed slowly (some may argue too slowy -- but I'll save that for the disses).
4. Production Design and Photography - bottom line is Night and crew (Tak!!) created a living breathing mise-en-scene that works.
Now on to the disses:
1. Pacing - my biggest complaint about films today is no one tells these "auteurs" that they need to tighten up their films and trim them (not for a damn RATING mind you). Now I don't think a film has to be quick cuts and have a rapid pace. But I strongly feel that a viewer should never think that a film is long, and Signs was maybe 5 mins. too long. Just trim a few shots or scenes a little. Night loves static shots in which the actors aren't physically doing much or delivering expressive dialogue. He has a slow deliberate style apparent in all his films, and for this style to work he needs to be tight with all his shots and scenes. He can't afford to linger too long, and linger he does.
2. Ending - In the middle of the final climatic scene, there is flashback that completes a sequence in the past which began earlier, and part of a scene we saw earlier is repeated. This completley ruins the flow of the moment and is totally unnecessary. Night, if you're reading this I BEG YOU PLEEEEEEEASE CUT THIS REPETITIVE FLASHBACK CRAP OUT!! It may have worked in Sixth Sense with the shots of the clues repeated (I didn't really like it then either), but it wasn't as glaringly bad as it is in Signs. In Signs the flashback is not of missed clues, but just ruins the moment. The sequence in the past could be completed prior to this moment and still work within the context of the film. But the repetition of part of scene already scene is just plain old bad.
3. The Final Diss -- M. Night Shamylan the ACTOR. Stop putting yourself in your films. You are not a good actor nor good looking, so there is no reason for you to be in the film. Unless, of course you were a hot chick who shows her tits.
The Payoff: Not sure if its my expectations after the "twist" endings in Sixth Sense and Unbreakable, but Signs ending felt a little of a let down. I am NOT saying Signs needs a "twist" ending, but instead that possibly it is more fun getting there. Although I may change my opinion if they CUT THE FLASHBACK CRAP!!
All in all, great acting, music and story, but needs to really be tightend up.
Keeping my glass bowl always packed,