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The more I revisit the works of the works of M. Night Shyamalan, the more I come to realize that his films work best as little cinematic character studies in the guise of something else. UNBREAKABLE was the film that really turned me onto Shyamalan and SIGNS ($35) proves itself a worth successor to that terrific film- thanks to actor Mel Gibson, who delivers one of his best, most understated, performances. In SIGNS, Gibson portrays Graham Hess, a former Episcopal priest, who lost his faith in God after the tragic death of his wife. Leaving the priesthood behind, Graham lives a quiet existence with his son Morgan (Rory Culkin), daughter Bo (Abigail Breslin), as well as his younger brother Merrill (Joaquin Phoenix); resigning himself to raising corn on his farm. However, life suddenly proves anything but quiet once Graham discovers crop circles in his cornfield.

The crop circles turn out to be only the first in a series of odd occurrences, which include strange noises being broadcast on a baby monitor, shadowy figures moving through the cornfield and an animal attack on the children. Of course, the odd occurrences on the Hess farm turns out to be anything but a localized event. Instead, they are just part of a worldwide phenomenon that involves more crop circles appearing in places around the globe, as well as strange lights over Mexico City and video footage of what appears to an extraterrestrial being plastered on the news. With SIGNS, Shyamalan deposits his rather ordinary characters into extraordinary circumstances, but ultimately, the movie is the story of one manís search for his lost faith. As I stated above, Mel Gibsonís performance is a true standout and he gives the film much of its emotional resonance. Other performances are also terrific, even the kids, neither of whom demonstrate that "look at me" cuteness that can be a major distraction in movies.

Touchstone Home Entertainment has made SIGNS available on Blu-ray Disc in a 1.78:1 aspect ratio presentation that has been encoded onto the disc with the AVC codec. The 1080p presentation is fairly terrific, delivering excellent image sharpness and definition. There is plenty of fine detail, texturing and dimensionality to the picture. Colors appear nicely saturated and fairly warm, while the flesh tones are true to life. Blacks are pretty deep, whites are crisp and contrast is perfectly fine. Shadow detail is very good, but does not reveal more than what the director wants to be seen. The film elements from which SIGNS has been transferred are pretty clean, but a few blemishes remain. Some grain is present throughout the presentation, but helps maintain a nice film-like quality.

SIGNS is presented on Blu-ray Disc with a 5.1 channel uncompressed PCM soundtrack. This is a well-mixed track that makes very good use of all the discrete channels. The surrounds are nicely deployed and add to the creepiness factor to a number of the sequences. Fidelity is great, producing convincing sound effects and a solid musical component. Dialogue is always clean and easy to understand. The bass channel is deep and adds the necessary force to the proceedings. English and French Dolby Digital 5.1 channel tracks, plus a Spanish 2.0 track have also encoded onto the disc, as have English, French and Spanish subtitles.

The discís interactive menus allow one access to the standard scene selection and set up features, as well as the supplements. The Making Of Signs is a six-part documentary that runs approximately an hour in total, which provides interviews with cast and crew, as well as a look behind-the-scenes. Multi-Angle Storyboard offers comparisons between concept and finished film. Deleted Scenes and a Short Film by M. Night Shyamalan close out the supplements.

M. Night Shyamalanís SIGNS is a well-acted character piece, in the guise of an alien invasion thriller. Additionally, SIGNS features some great work from Mel Gibson. The Blu-ray disc looks and sounds marvelous. Recommended.



Signs [Blu-ray] (2002)


DVD & Blu-rayDisc reviews are Copyright © 2008 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.



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