Signs: Collector's Edition (2002)
Menu Animation & Audio
Featurette-Looking for Signs; Building Signs
Featurette-Making Signs: A Commentary by M. Night Shyamalan
Featurette-The Effects of Signs; Last Voices: The Music Of Signs
Featurette-Night's first alien movie
|Year Of Production||2002|
|RSDL / Flipper||RSDL (75:32)||Cast & Crew|
|Start Up||Language Select Then Menu|
|Region Coding||2,4,5||Directed By||M. Night Shyamalan|
Walt Disney Studios Home Ent.
M. Night Shyamalan
|RPI||$44.95||Music||James Newton Howard|
|Pan & Scan/Full Frame||None||
English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
Russian Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s)
English dts 5.1 (768Kb/s)
|Widescreen Aspect Ratio||1.85:1|
|Video Format||576i (PAL)|
|Original Aspect Ratio||1.85:1||Miscellaneous|
English for the Hearing Impaired
|Smoking||Yes, only briefly.|
|Annoying Product Placement||No|
|Action In or After Credits||No|
Signs is the fifth movie in the filmmaking career of M. Night Shyamalan, whose first two movies were the highly lauded and much discussed The Sixth Sense, and the less acclaimed but none the less equally intriguing Unbreakable.
Now I purposely don't want to describe the plot in too much detail. As with any thriller, it's better going in with as little knowledge as possible in order to get the maximum impact and enjoyment. You would also be advised not to read the back of the DVD packaging either, as it gives away too much information. Suffice to say that the Hess family, led by Graham (Mel Gibson), live in a farmhouse adjacent to large cornfields. One morning Graham awakens to find his children Morgan (Rory Culkin) and Bo (Abigail Breslin) missing from their beds and initially nowhere to be found. Hearing faint screams Graham charges through the corn, in the direction of the sound, together with his brother Merrill (Joaquin Phoenix) and finds his children standing on the edge of a large crop circle. While they initially believe that the circles were created by a group of local vandals, it soon comes out that crop circles are appearing all over the world. Commentators are proposing much more sinister and terrifying explanations for the circles. From this point the story moves forward quickly, and you perch on the edge of your seat waiting for more information.
Signs is a well-crafted movie. While it is somewhat slow moving at times, as the story unfolds you can feel the tension and suspense quietly building. Just who is creating the crop circles and do they have a hidden purpose? Is it all a hoax or is there more going on here? Aside from the crop circles there is also a nicely crafted sub-plot, told in flashback, dealing with Graham Hess' loss of faith as a result of his wife's pointless death in a car accident. These two plots converge in the climatic finale when all the "signs" suddenly come into sharp focus with dramatic effect.
Mel Gibson gives a nicely reserved performance as a father, recent widower and ex-minister. M. Night Shyamalan, who not only wrote, directed and produced the movie, puts in a Hitchcockesque cameo appearance as the local vet, Ray Reddy.
I've watched this movie at least 6 or 7 times now, first in the local cinema shortly after its release, twice for the purpose of reviewing this disc and the previous rental-only version and several times in between. Despite knowing the outcome, it never fails to send shivers up and down my spine, particularly during several key scenes in which clues to the cause of the crops circles are presented (and I'm not telling you which, just in case you haven't seen the movie). For me this is a rare sign (no pun intended) of a story that is perfectly crafted to achieve a level of tension and emotional response far above that which can be generated by a typical movie plot.
If you enjoy a good thriller then this film is a must see. If it doesn't give you goose bumps then I suggest you immediately check your pulse because you'd have to be dead to be immune to tension created by Signs.
The video is of generally excellent quality, unfortunately there is one major flaw which occurs near the end of the movie at 95:50 during which the picture completely breaks up into blocks for 2 to 3 seconds. At this same point there is also an audio drop out. It's not yet clear whether this fault affects all discs or is evident on all DVD players, but the 2 different model Pioneer players and 2 different model Pioneer DVD-ROM drives that I've tried the disc on all exhibit the problem. It's also been reported by a site reader that he has experienced this problem on two discs.
The picture is displayed in an aspect ratio of 1.85:1 and it is 16x9 enhanced. This aspect ratio is the same as the film's original theatrical ratio.
A perfectly sharp finely detailed image is on display here which is marred slightly, and unfortunately a bit too often, by some mild edge enhancement. There is no low level noise to be seen and shadow detail can be somewhat lacking in the darker scenes, but as I recall this is consistent with my theatrical experience of this movie.
While the palette available on the interior shots is generally somewhat drab in nature the outdoor scenes provide a much more vivid, but still natural, array of colours, all of which are accurately rendered and look beautiful on the screen. Flesh tones are natural looking. Intentional blue toning distinguishes the flashback sequences from the main story.
There were no sign of MPEG or film-to-video artefacts, with even the (very common) aliasing artefact virtually absent. Film artefacts were limited to a couple of very small marks which is just as it should be for a film which is only 1 year old. Fine film grain consistent with that of the source element is frequently noticeable.
There are 11 subtitle languages available and I sampled about 10 minutes each of the English and English For The Hearing Impaired options and can report that these appear to be word perfect. They are also well timed and displayed in white text near the bottom of the screen.
This disc is an RSDL disc, with the layer change placed between chapters 17 and 18, at 75:32. The layer change is not too bad and would have been virtually undetected as it occurs during a still image of a closed door if not for the fact that the sound drops out briefly.
Although the audio for this film is mostly of a fairly quiet nature there are a number of instances in which the sound level abruptly escalates to heighten the impact of the on-screen action.
Unlike the previously released rental disc, this sell-trough version includes a dts 5.1 audio track in addition to Dolby Digital 5.1 audio in English and Russian. The English Dolby Digital 5.1 track is the default but I only sampled it for the purpose of making back-to-back comparisons between it and the dts audio which I listened to in its entirety. Honestly, to my ears except for a slight increase in volume and a very slight increase in detail with the dts track there doesn't appear to be a significant difference between them.
I found that the dialogue was always perfectly clear and hence it's easy to understand every word spoken. There were no problems evident with the audio sync.
The musical score from James Newton Howard, in his third turn as composer for Shyamalan, effectively enhances the atmosphere created by the visuals. This beautiful score underlines perfectly both the emotional and tense moments of the story, and on first hearing reminded me more than a little of some of the music from various Hitchcock movies. A nice audio commentary would be welcomed on this disc if for no other reason than to confirm my suspicion that Howard intended to pay some tribute to the master thriller maker.
The surrounds are used subtly for the most part to provide ambience but come alive when needed in support of the musical score and in, for example, in the various cornfield scenes where we are provided with a realistic representation of the corn rustling in the wind and insects chirping all around us.
The subwoofer makes it presence felt quite powerfully when and as needed.
|Surround Channel Use|
A nice collection of substantial extras have been included on this Collector's Edition disc. Among these are deleted scenes, which are something I always look forward to.
The 1.78:1, 16x9 enhanced menu, which is naturally themed around the movie, features some subtle animation, including an animated sequence which is displayed prior to the main menu as well as when selecting main menu options. The audio is Dolby Digital 2.0 surround encoded.
This is the boring "Digitally mastered for optimal video and audio performance" trailer that we always get in R4. When is somebody going include one of the more interesting "robot" trailers for change?
This featurette is displayed in an aspect ratio is 1.33:1 and this is naturally enough not 16x9 enhanced. The audio is Dolby Digital 2.0 surround encoded. The total running time is a quite lengthy 58:55. Subtitles are provided, but not in English.
These run for a total of 7:42 and can be selected individually or played in sequence using a "play all" option. They are displayed in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1 but are not 16x9 enhanced. The audio is Dolby Digital 2.0 surround encoded. The video and audio quality is very good.
Featuring the "Graham, the Knife and The Pantry" scene this runs for 2:58 and allows you to switch between the final version of the movie and animated storyboards using the multi-angle capability of DVD. An extra touch is that you can select your preferred audio from three Dolby Digital 5.1 options: the final mix, musical score only or effects only. The picture is 1.78:1, with 16x9 enhancement. Subtitles are provided, but not in English.
If you haven't come across this before it's a series of audio test signals and video test patterns that can be used to calibrate your system and includes very detailed step by step instructions on how to use it. There's some debate about whether this is as good as a dedicated test disc but if you've never calibrated your system it's well worth trying as there is potential to improve your home theatre experience. There is more info on the optimizer at www.thx.com.
NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.
Apart from expected differences in subtitle and language options, the R4 and R1 discs are identical, save for the dts audio on our local R4 disc. On this basis you can't go wrong by selecting the R4 as your disc of preference.
Signs is a clever movie and the first three quarters are absolutely brilliant as the mystery unfolds and tension slowly builds towards the climax. If there's only one DVD you watch this year make it this one.
The video quality is generally excellent but is marred by one serious flaw.
The audio quality is excellent.
There are enough quality extras to keep most people happy.
|DVD||Pioneer DV-515, using S-Video output|
|Display||Sony VPL-VW10HT LCD Projector, ScreenTechnics 16x9 matte white screen (254cm). Calibrated with AVIA Guide To Home Theatre. This display device is 16x9 capable.|
|Audio Decoder||Built in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.|
|Speakers||Front L&R - B&W DM603, Centre - B&W LCR6, Rear L&R - B&W DM602, Sub - Yamaha YST-SW300|