Overall | Sixth Sense, The: Two Disc Collector's Edition (1999) | Unbreakable (2000) | Signs: Collector's Edition (2002)

M. Night Shyamalan Collection (box set) (1999)

M. Night Shyamalan Collection (box set) (1999)

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Released 4-Aug-2003

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Overall Package

    This is another box set which was released a number of years ago but we have just had an opportunity to take a look at it. This time it is a collection of movies from M. Night Shyamalan and probably contains the three best productions of his career so far. Since these films he has plotted a bit of a rocky course through recent films such as Lady in the Water & The Happening both of which took a critical mauling. This set includes the 2 disc edition of the film which broke him into the big league, The Sixth Sense and the two films which followed it Unbreakable (again the 2 disc edition) & Signs. All three are the same format as the individual releases which are reviewed below. I can confirm that the video glitch mentioned in the Signs review does not show up on the disc in this set. The discs are housed in a cardboard slipcover. These are all excellent and thought provoking thrillers with M. Night's trademark twist. Well worth owning or buying as a gift.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Daniel Bruce (Do you need a bio break?)
Saturday, December 27, 2008
Other Reviews
AllZone4DVD - Kevin S

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Overall | Sixth Sense, The: Two Disc Collector's Edition (1999) | Unbreakable (2000) | Signs: Collector's Edition (2002)

Sixth Sense, The: Two Disc Collector's Edition (1999)

Sixth Sense, The: Two Disc Collector's Edition (1999)

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Released 2-Jun-2003

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Thriller Menu Animation & Audio
THX Trailer
THX Optimizer
Featurette-Reflections From The Set
Featurette-Between Two Worlds
Featurette-Moving Pictures: The Storyboard Process
Featurette-Music and Sound Design
Featurette-Reaching the Audience
Featurette-Rules and Clues
Deleted Scenes-4 + introduction
Trailer
Biographies-Cast & Crew
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 1999
Running Time 102:58
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (42:35)
Dual Disc Set
Cast & Crew
Start Up Language Select Then Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By M. Night Shyamalan
Studio
Distributor

Walt Disney Studios Home Ent.
Starring Bruce Willis
Toni Collette
Olivia Williams
Haley Joel Osment
Case Amaray-Transparent-S/C-Dual
RPI $44.95 Music James Newton Howard


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s)
English dts 5.1 (768Kb/s)
Czech Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.78:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
Dutch
Czech
English for the Hearing Impaired
Czech Titling
Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

     As with most people who saw The Sixth Sense for the first time, I was completely awestruck and surprised by the movie's twist. Even after knowing the twist, a second viewing to comment on this new special edition DVD release did not detract from my enjoyment of the movie. Everything about this movie is sensational, from the phenomenal acting of all involved, to the spooky musical score, and even the use of colour.

    The movie, superbly written and directed by M. Night Shyamalan, details the story of psychologist Malcolm Crowe (Bruce Willis) and his emotional journey with young patient Cole Sear (Haley Joel Osment). Cole is a boy gifted (or cursed) with the ability to "see dead people". Tormented as anyone would be in this circumstance, Cole slowly opens his emotions to Malcolm as their relationship grows, while he still keeps his secret from his hard-working mother Lynn (Toni Collette).

    Cole and Malcolm together try to determine the meaning behind Cole's gift, with the movie gradually revealing the sadness and despair in both their lives. The movie is truly scary and suspenseful at times, with goose bumps erupting on many occasions on this particular reviewer. It is also a deeply moving and sad movie, displaying both the loneliness that people feel and the love (and hate) between family members.

    All performances in this movie, from the main stars to the five minute role of Donnie Wahlberg, are sensational. The way in which the actors approached the movie emotionally, as described in the extras package, is dedication personified. People talk about how the conversation between the characters played by Al Pacino and Robert De Niro in Heat was so powerful, but I believe that pales in comparison to the conversation between Cole and his mother towards the end of the movie. I personally do not know of a scene that is more powerful or poignant than that quiet exchange between mother and son. Both Collette and Osment show why they both deserved to be nominated for Academy Awards in their corresponding Supporting Roles category.

    This DVD release is excellent, and further enhances the enjoyment of a terrific movie.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    The video quality of this release is excellent, with only minor flaws.

    The movie is presented at an aspect ratio of 1.78:1, which is only slightly squarer than the original theatrical ratio of 1.85:1, and is 16x9 enhanced.

    The transfer provided is quite sharp throughout the movie, with only one or two instances where the frame does tend to look a little soft. Grain is noticeable in a couple of scenes, particularly against white or grey backgrounds, but is not too distracting. Black levels are excellent, with deep blacks where appropriate, as exhibited in the dark opening scene in the wine cellar and the many other lowly lit scenes. Shadow detail is also exceptional, with quite a lot of detail being visible in the dark. For a movie such as this, a lack of shadow detail and the presence of low level noise would have distracted and ruined the suspenseful mood of many of the scenes, and thankfully shadow detail is spot on and low level noise is absent.

    Colours are generally muted throughout, but this is an artistic decision, and not a fault with the transfer. Occasionally colours will spring to life, such as the vivid reds and greens of flowers, some clothing, and stained glass windows. One example of vivid colour against the drab surroundings occurs at 11:52 as Cole opens the door into the church. The bright red of the door is in stark contrast to the grey and muted colours of the surrounding buildings. As is revealed in the extras, the use of colour in this way is most definitely deliberate. Skin tones are also fairly muted, but never seem unnatural.

    Film artefacts are minimal, with only one or two instances where I can recall catching glimpses of black or white flecks. Due to the sharpness of the transfer, there are a number of occasions where film-to-video artefacts such as shimmering and aliasing become quite distracting. The horizontal blinds to the left and right of screen at 10:33 exhibit a disturbing shimmering effect, and the camera is not even moving, and so was very distracting. An example of a large amount of aliasing occurs at 12:07 against the church benches as the camera slowly moves through the church. Luckily these are the worst examples in the movie and other instances are minor. Edge enhancement is only noticeable on one or two occasions against buildings, but overall the transfer is thankfully free of this artefact.

    A number of subtitles are provided with the DVD, with the English subtitles following the onscreen dialogue fairly closely.

    This is an RSDL-formatted disc, but again I have failed to detect the layer change. The layer change for the previous release occurred at 42:35, which would appear to occur at a scene cut. In any case, there is no disruption to the flow of the movie.

    Looking back at Michael D's review of the initial release of this movie, I believe that this transfer may be slightly better. All the comments regarding sharpness and the level of detail in the dark scenes are consistent between both transfers. However, I had a close look at the scenes Michael indicated had noticeable grain (eg. door at the top of the circular stairs and the fridge in the dinner scene). Both these scenes do not exhibit the distracting grain that Michael described, so I can hazard a guess that this release may be an improvement.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    An English DTS 5.1 (768 Kb/s) and an English Dolby Digital 5.1 (384 Kb/s) soundtrack are provided with this new release. I listened to both options, and both are very good, with the DTS track again winning out due to reasons explained below. Start pet hate rave - Why do DVDs still insist on confirming that the user has selected DTS with that ridiculous DTS explanation and confirmation screen? Surely the use of DTS is widespread enough for DVD producers to remove this nuisance. As recently indicated in our poll regarding the DTS capabilities of our site visitors, DTS is now very much a part of most home theatre systems today - End pet hate rave. A token Czech Dolby Digital 2.0 surround-encoded (192 Kb/s) track is also provided.

    Dialogue is usually clear and easy to understand. On a couple of instances, the dialogue was a little hard to hear, particularly when Cole is talking quietly, but these are not really an issue with the transfer. I could not detect any audio synchronisation problems.

    The musical score by James Newton Howard is where this movie excels, with the music appropriately creepy, suspenseful, or powerful to enhance particular scenes. The opening bars really set the mood for the remainder of the movie, with notes that I found reminiscent of the subdued opening to Aliens. Then the strings come alive for a brief moment as the title appears and it really does make the hairs on your neck rise.

    Surround activity is a little subdued, but the surrounds do come alive from time to time. The score and appropriate ambient effects emanate from all speakers at crucial times in the movie to provide a very enveloping soundstage that effectively heightens the emotion of a scene. One good example is at the beginning of the movie as Malcolm approaches the bathroom, where the score slowly increases in volume across all speakers, effectively increasing the tension at the same time.

    The subwoofer is not called into action too often in this movie, but when it does it does so with appropriate power. One excellent example of its use occurs at 35:48 where Cole's teacher slams his fist down. The score is at its peak, the dialogue is at its peak, and then the slam of the fist is followed by deep rumbling bass much like an explosion. The combination works exceptionally well.

    As with many other releases featuring a DTS option, the DTS track is provided at a noticeably louder volume. However, even after compensating for the volume difference, the DTS track still sounds fuller, with more clarity, and a more powerful lower end. I used the scene above with the teacher to do a comparison as it involved dialogue, musical score, and subwoofer use. The DTS track sounded much clearer, with greater clarity and wider soundstage in the musical score, and more powerful but refined bass. This is not to say that the Dolby Digital track is not good ,because it is, but the DTS track just provides a more enjoyable aural experience with the movie, and that is essential for a movie like this.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

    There are a number of very good extras on the second disc, but most were included in the original release. The new extras are worthy inclusions, though. The video and audio quality is on par with a good TV presentation. However, it is a shame that the extras presented at an aspect ratio of 1.85:1 are not 16x9 enhanced. It is also disappointing to note that an audio commentary by M. Night Shyamalan was not recorded for this special edition release. An audio commentary would have capped off this release perfectly.

Reflections from the Set - 39:13

    Shows various interviews with the cast and crew on the set. I found the most fascinating part of this featurette to be the interview with Donnie Wahlberg discussing how he approached the short role he had in the movie. In fact, the way in which the entire cast prepared emotionally for this movie was incredible, and it shows on-screen. This is a new extra that is not present on the original release of the DVD.

Between Two Worlds - 37:23

    A fairly interesting documentary about the spiritual world and supernatural phenomenon, with references to other movies about ghosts, such as Ghost and The Exorcist. This is a new extra that is not present on the original release of the DVD.

Moving Pictures: The Storyboard Process - 14:52

    Shows the process that Shyamalan used to prepare and visualise various scenes in the movie, such as the "lady in the kitchen" scene, and the "reflection in the doorknob" scene. The comparisons between the storyboard pictures and the corresponding movie scene are quite interesting. This featurette was included in the original release of the DVD.

Music and Sound Design - 6:35

    A short featurette that discusses the superb use of music and sound throughout the movie. It was interesting to note that a lot of sound effects were taken from the sound of people breathing. Scenes are played with just sound and music to highlight their use. This featurette was included in the original release of the DVD.

Reaching the Audience - 3:31

    A short featurette about the opening of the movie and how it opened against competition such as the Blair Witch Project, and how everyone was pleasantly surprised that it opened at #1 at the US box office. This featurette was included in the original release of the DVD.

Rules and Clues - 6:01

    Various members of the crew discuss the rules that applied throughout the movie for interactions with the ghosts, and the many clues (some subtle and some not so subtle) that they included. I would suggest not watching this before watching the movie if you have not seen the movie. This featurette was included in the original release of the DVD.

Deleted Scenes

    Toy Soldiers - 3:14

    Visit to Mr. Marschal - 6:14

    Return to Mr. Marschal - 1:40

    Extended ending - 3:26

    Each scene is preceded by an introduction given by Shyamalan, discussing the reasons behind him cutting the scenes from the movie. These are the same deleted scenes included in the original DVD release.

Publicity

    Contains the theatrical trailer and two TV spots. These are the same as those included in the original release.

Filmmakers' and Cast Biographies

    Mildly interesting text about the cast and crew. These are the same as those included in the original release.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    This Region 4 release appears to miss out on:

    Apart from the above, the new release is identical to the Region 1 release. The differences are minor and I would recommend the Region 4 version.

Summary

    The Sixth Sense is one of my favourite movies. I was totally awestruck after first viewing it at the cinemas, and I am no less impressed upon viewing it again on DVD. Even knowing the twist did not detract from my enjoyment of the movie. The DVD treatment given is adequate, and for fans that don't have the original release, go out and grab a copy of this new special edition.

    The video quality is excellent, with only a few distracting flaws.

    The audio quality is very good, with the DTS track being the option of choice.

    The extras are quite enjoyable and informative. It is a shame that no audio commentary is included.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Chanh-Khai Ly (My biodegradable bio)
Tuesday, June 03, 2003
Review Equipment
DVDOnkyo DV-SP500, using Component output
DisplayRK-32HDP81. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
Audio DecoderOnkyo TX-SR600 with DD/DD-EX/DTS/DTS-ES matrix and discrete.
AmplificationOnkyo TX-SR600
SpeakersKef KHT 2005 5.1 Home Theatre System

Other Reviews
AllZone4DVD - Kevin S
Jeff K's Australian DVD Info Site - Ken C

Comments (Add)
It's altered from it's original aspect ratio, and yet you recommend the R4?!?! - REPLY POSTED
M.A.R- R1 release of THE RECRUIT is one of recent release! - REPLY POSTED
1.78 / 1.85 - REPLY POSTED
I can't believe what I'm reading...(Here come da rant) -
I gotta say - Capt Argo (My bio, is nothing to write home about !)

Overall | Sixth Sense, The: Two Disc Collector's Edition (1999) | Unbreakable (2000) | Signs: Collector's Edition (2002)

Unbreakable (2000)

Unbreakable (2000)

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Released 6-Nov-2001

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Thriller Main Menu Audio & Animation
Menu Audio
Multiple Angles-Train Station Sequence
Featurette-Behind The Scenes
Deleted Scenes-7 to choose from
Featurette-Comic Books And Super Heroes
Featurette-Night's First Fight Sequence
Theatrical Trailer
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 2000
Running Time 102:03
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (63:14)
Dual Disc Set
Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By M. Night Shyamalan
Studio
Distributor

Walt Disney Studios Home Ent.
Starring Bruce Willis
Samuel L. Jackson
Case Soft Brackley-Transp-Dual
RPI $36.95 Music James Newton Howard


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s)
French Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s)
Italian Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.35:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
English for the Hearing Impaired
French
Italian
Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    Unbreakable is a tension-filled movie about one man's struggle to find out why he is different to everyone else. David Dunn (Bruce Willis) is involved in a horrific train crash and emerges as the sole survivor, without even the tiniest scratch on him. It is not really a surprise to David because things like this have happened to him before, it's just that he won't admit it.

    Elijah Price (Samuel L. Jackson) takes an interest in David's miraculous escape from the crash and believes he has the answers that David has been seeking for so long. David decides he should meet with Elijah, and his son Joseph (Spencer Treat Clark) tags along as well. It is this meeting that really gets David thinking as to why he escapes harm when others around him die. Elijah is convinced that David possesses a body that is the exact opposite match to his - Elijah suffers from a disease which makes it easy for his bones to shatter. I won't tell you the full topic of the conversation because it sets the tone of the movie, but it is a subject close to every child's heart and it makes for some interesting scenes between Joseph and his father as the movie progresses.

    There is some unusual but very effective camera work throughout this movie. Quite often, the focus and main dialogue is in the background of the shot, and in the foreground there will be some subtle action to help progress the story by using actions rather than words. The first scene was shot on the train and the camera was positioned between the seats, looking back at the actors much like a child would do to have a sticky beak at the people in the seat behind. This made me feel like I was sitting in the seat rather than a wide shot that has a more removed feel to it.

    The last movie I saw with Bruce Willis and Samuel L. Jackson starring together was Die Hard: With a Vengeance which was full of action and contained many fast-paced scenes. Fans of either actor should not expect the same from this movie, but instead something with a much slower pace that really asks more questions than it answers and leaves you to come to your own conclusions. In fact, it was pleasant to see these two stars expanding their acting abilities by taking on such roles.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    The video transfer of this movie is superb, but would not be classed as being of reference quality.

    The transfer is presented in an aspect ratio of 2.35:1 and is 16x9 enhanced.

    The transfer is extremely clear and sharp. Shadow detail was excellent most of the time, but some scenes were quite dark and detail was hard to define. Upon closer inspection, I feel that this was more the director's intent rather than a quality problem during the transfer. An example can be seen at 71:30. There is no low level noise.

    The colours were deliberately muted and drab, and the clothing and scenes contained no rich colours either. There were no irregularities with the colour rendition of this transfer - just don't expect any splashes of bright, primary colours, since there aren't any.

    There were no MPEG artefacts seen. Aliasing is very rare and the only section where it was mildly noticeable was at 75:09. Film artefacts were common but were very small and they are not at all distracting, I had to look very closely to find them.

    The subtitles are true to the spoken word and were in a font size that was quite comfortable to read.

    This disc is an RSDL disc with the layer change occuring at 63:14. It is perfectly placed and barely noticable.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    This disc's audio transfer was magnificent and was a pleasure to listen to.

    There are three audio tracks on this DVD. The default is an English Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack. There are also French and Italian 5.1 options, but I listened only to the English track in its entirety.

    The dialogue was clear at all times and there were instances where secondary dialogue from actors in the background was muffled. This was in my opinion intentional to give some flow to the scene where the secondary actors were still talking but the focus and key to the scene was in the clear voices of the actors in the foreground.

    Audio sync was not a problem at all with this transfer, and was completely spot on.

    The musical score by (James Newton Howard) was well-mixed and a fitting choice for this style of movie. At times it had a mystical tone and then switches to quite an eerie sound when required for the scene. I found it a pleasure to listen to and it definitely added positively to the movie experience. The volume levels did not drown out the dialogue at any point during the movie.

    The surround channels were tastefully used and well-balanced throughout the movie for ambience, music and special effects. Directional effects and precise sound placement within the soundfield were the norm rather than the exception, putting you right in the midst of the action at all times, not just during the action sequences. At 4:50 when a train passes by, you need to lift your legs up because it sounds as if it is screaming through your lounge room. Examples of well-defined crowd scenes that envelop you with sound can be found from 51:12 to 52:51. This disc would also have to have the most realistic rainfall I have ever heard on disc. At 70:30, you would swear that it is raining outside. This was a definite bonus in setting this particular scene. Having said that, 84:50 would have to be the surround sound pick of this disc, where the surrounds are in perfect harmony with each other and the subwoofer.

    The subwoofer was active for the sounds and scenes that required it and placed an excellent bottom end on these sequences. At 73:19, it was a little heavy but this was probably warranted to suit the scene.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

    Such a good collection of extras have been bundled together for this release that they needed two discs to accommodate them.

Menu

    When you first load this disc you are prompted in all three languages to pick your preferred audio track and then you are taken to the main menu to select further options.

    The menu design is themed around the movie. The main menu features an animated clip from the movie and Dolby Digital 2.0 surround-encoded audio.

    All menu options on both discs once selected caused the audio to skip or stutter for a few seconds before your choice is displayed. This did not happen when I tested it on a DVD-ROM so it may be caused by an incompatibility between the commands used by the menu and my particular player.

(Addendum November 13, 2001: After changing my DVD player back to 16x9 mode the shuddering stopped and no longer causes any problems with the menu options from either disc.)

Train Station Sequence (4:04)

    This extra lets you move through this particular scene with various sound mixes. There is a bonus multi-angle camera feature for this scene where you follow David Dunn through the Train Station. The three audio options to choose from are;

    The video is of excellent quality, being presented at an aspect ratio of 2.35:1, 16x9 enhanced.

Behind The Scenes (13:44)

    There is quite a lot of background information about the movie shown here. It was interesting to note that Night asked Bruce Willis if he would be interested in doing this movie while they were still filming The Sixth Sense. It was presented in an aspect ratio of 1:85.1 and is 16x9 enhanced.

Deleted Scenes

    There are a choice of seven (7) different deleted scenes to play. The menu gives you the option of playing them one-by-one or selecting a "Play All" feature.

Comic Book and Super Heroes (18:33)

    Quite an interesting discussion between the cast and experts in the field of comics and superheroes. There is even a good chat with the master of comics and storytelling, Will Eisner. This is of excellent quality, being presented at an aspect ratio of 1.85:1, 16x9 enhanced and with Dolby Digital 2.0 surround-encoded sound.

Night's First Fight Sequence (2:20)

    I am glad this extra was included. This is an except from the first movie shot by M. Night Shyamalan that contained a fight scene. He and a few mates put together this movie when they were kids and the shocking acting is quite funny to watch. Night even comments that he wanted to include this "because once you have seen it, Unbreakable will be that much better to watch". This is of good quality, being presented at an aspect ratio of 1.85:1, 16x9 enhanced and with Dolby Digital 2.0 surround-encoded sound.

Theatrical Trailer (2:10)

    This is of average quality, which seems to be common for Theatrical Trailers. It is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.85:1 but is not 16x9 enhanced, and comes with Dolby Digital 5.1 sound. There was one rather large film artefact at 1:40 which lasted for a few seconds.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    The Region 4 version of this disc misses out on;

    The Region 1 version of this disc misses out on;

    It is disturbing to note that the DTS soundtrack has been left off the R4 version.

    However, apparently the Region 1 disc suffers from slight edge enhancement, aliasing and pixelization in quite a few scenes. With that in mind, I would suggest that the R4 release may well be the way to go regardless.

Summary

    For me, Unbreakable was a good, enjoyable movie but would probably not suit everyone's tastes. Movie likes and dislikes are such a personal thing so I would certainly recommend you at least watch it once.

    The video and audio quality were excellent. The well-defined sound field really added to the effects and mood of the movie. The music was well-suited to the movie and gave extra depth to the scenes.

    The extras are satisfactory, but we did miss out on a few compared to the R1 release.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Peter Mellor (read my bio)
Tuesday, November 13, 2001
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer XV-DV55, using S-Video output
DisplayLoewe 72cm. Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationPioneer XV-DV55
SpeakersPioneer S-DV55ST-K Satellite wall mouted 5-Speaker System; Pioneer S-DV55SW-K Powered Subwoofer

Other Reviews
DVD Net - Jules F

Comments (Add)
A Few Notes -

Overall | Sixth Sense, The: Two Disc Collector's Edition (1999) | Unbreakable (2000) | Signs: Collector's Edition (2002)

Signs: Collector's Edition (2002)

Signs: Collector's Edition (2002)

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Released 3-Jun-2003

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama Booklet
Menu Animation & Audio
THX Trailer
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-Full Circle
Deleted Scenes-5
Multiple Angles-Storyboards
Featurette-Night's first alien movie
THX Optimizer
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 2002
Running Time 102:08
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (75:32) Cast & Crew
Start Up Language Select Then Menu
Region Coding 2,4,5 Directed By M. Night Shyamalan
Studio
Distributor

Walt Disney Studios Home Ent.
Starring Mel Gibson
Joaquin Phoenix
Rory Culkin
Abigail Breslin
Cherry Jones
M. Night Shyamalan
Case Amaray-Transparent-Secure Clip
RPI $44.95 Music James Newton Howard


Video Audio
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
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
English for the Hearing Impaired
Dutch
Russian
Norwegian
Danish
Swedish
Finnish
Icelandic
Estonian
Russian Titling
Smoking Yes, only briefly.
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    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.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    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.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    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.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

    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.

Menu

    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.

Booklet

    A little book that provides a chapter listing and some information on the special features included on the disc.

THX Trailer

    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?

Featurette-Looking for Signs; Building Signs; Making Signs: A Commentary by M. Night Shyamalan; The Effects of Signs; Last Voices: The Music Of Signs; Full Circle

    This is really one feature broken into a number of chapters and you can select these individually or use the "play all" function. These are typical, in that we have the director, actors and other behind-the-scenes personnel taking about the movie from their perspective. For me the most interesting information was provided by the Director and I was intrigued to hear that he got his inspiration for the style of the movie from three other movies, being Hitchcock's The Birds, Night Of The Living Dead and Invasion Of the Body Snatchers.

    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.

Deleted Scenes-5

     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.

Multiple Angles-Storyboards

    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.

Featurette-Night's first alien movie

    This is good for a laugh. Clearly Night's writing and directing skill have significantly improved since this early effort at filmmaking. It runs for 2:19 which includes an introduction by Night. Displayed in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1 with Dolby Digital 2.0 surround encoded audio.

THX Optimizer

    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.

R4 vs R1

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.

Summary

    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.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Peter Cole (Surely you've got something better to do than read my bio)
Sunday, June 15, 2003
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-515, using S-Video output
DisplaySony VPL-VW10HT LCD Projector, ScreenTechnics 16x9 matte white screen (254cm). Calibrated with AVIA Guide To Home Theatre. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationYamaha RXV-995
SpeakersFront L&R - B&W DM603, Centre - B&W LCR6, Rear L&R - B&W DM602, Sub - Yamaha YST-SW300

Other Reviews
AllZone4DVD - Toan B
DVD Net - Martin F (read my bio)
Jeff K's Australian DVD Info Site - Angela A
Michael D's Region 4 DVD Info Page - NewYork

Comments (Add)
DTS -
How can a DVD get 4 stars when the picture & sound break up during the movie!!! - Macross (No Interesting Bio Here!)
shouldnt a distributer recall a faulty product? -
Has BV rectified the fault in "Signs" ? - Bran (my bio, or something very like it)
No flaw on SIGNS from boxset -
Signs - video flaw? -
No Video Problems here - Sorrow (bio - mechanical existence)
No video flaw -
No Video Problem -