The Review at a Glance: (max score: 5 )
Audio/Video total rating:
( Max score: 100 )
Studio and Year: Touchstone/Disney - 2002
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Feature running time: 106 Minutes
Disc Format: BD-50
Encoding: MPEG-4 (AVC)
Video Aspect: 1.85:1
Audio Format(s): English 5.1 uncompressed PCM, English/French Dolby Digital 5.1, Spanish Dolby 2.0
Subtitles:English SDH, French, Spanish
Starring: Mel Gibson, Joaquin Phoenix, Abigail Breslin, Rory Culkin
Directed by: M. Night Shyamalan
Music by: James Newton Howard
Written by: M. Night Shyamalan
Region Code: A,B,C
Blu-ray Disc release Date: June 3, 2008
SIGNS is the gripping story of an ordinary family as they encounter the possibility that Earth is being invaded by creatures from another planet. When Graham Hess (Mel Gibson) and his family awaken to find a 500-foot crop circle in their backyard they're told extraterrestrials are responsible. As they watch with growing dread news reports tell of similar "signs" suddenly appearing all over the world!
After the Sixth Sense M. Night Shymalan films will always get credit with me. What that means is that I will give them the benefit of the doubt until given reason to feel otherwise. There have been two of his films that I didn’t really connect with (I won’t say which) but Signs was not one of them. Conceptually this is nothing new here, but the performances by the cast, the smart direction, and the suspenseful elements preset all played out with excellent precision in the film’s 106 minutes. I just love Abigail Breslin and as I recall this is the first film that I saw her in. I know that I have said it before but she is such a scene stealer. “There’s a monster outside my window, can I have a glass of water”? I love the slow camera pans and the clever “slight of hand” that is used to provide the audience with glimpses of the aliens which helps build the suspense. Graham (Gibson) is a man of the cloth who loses his faith after his beloved wife is struck by truck while on an evening walk. He arrives at the scene in time to speak with her before she passes away. Her last words to him seem almost prophetic but he is not quite sure what to make of them. During the course of events that transpire after the aliens arrival he learns to forgive the man responsible for his wife’s death, and finds that his wife’s last words to him hold the answers to not only resurrecting his faith but saving the life of his son and salvaging his relationship with his children.
Yeah, I know it sounds a lot deeper than one might think but the story does contain all of those things and perhaps a bit more. I consider it to be a wonderfully entertaining film.
The PG-13 rating is for some frightening moments. I would not recommend this one for younger viewers.
AUDIO/VIDEO - By The Numbers:
REFERENCE = 92-100 / EXCELLENT = 83-91 / GOOD = 74-82 / AVERAGE = 65-73 / BELOW AVERAGE = under 65
**My audio/video ratings are based upon a comparative made against other high definition media/blu-ray disc.**
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)
- Low frequency extension:
- Surround Sound presentation:
- Dialogue Reproduction:
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)
- Black level/Shadow detail:
- Color reproduction:
Signs comes to Blu-ray Disc featuring 1080p AVC encoded video that has an average bitrate of 22 mbps and lossless uncompressed 5.1 channel PCM audio that has a constant bitrate of 4.6 mbps.
I remember that the lossy Dolby Digital 5.1 channel sound on the DVD was considered quite at the time. Well the 5.1 channel lossless PCM track here turns it up a notch and is of reference quality. Signs is not an action based film that has those types of explosive elements. What it does do is get the elements present within this mix right and it does so with startling precision. Dialogue sounds full bodied, airy, and tonally divergent. This mix uses the front and rear soundstages to create and immersive and engaging aural experience. Ambient and discrete sounds can be heard emanating from multiple locations within the room to create the feeling of running through a tall cornfield, sounds coming from the attic above, crickets chirping, dogs barking 100 yards away and more. The subwoofer is used to excellent effect to support bass frequencies that play perfectly with what is occurring onscreen. Some tracks mix the subwoofer channel too hot which tends to over shadow bass in the upper registers. This mix sounded very cohesive and seemed to contain a perfect balance in this regard. James Newton Howard’s score sounded amazing. The superb imaging, crystal clarity and extended dynamic presence contained in this soundtrack brought it to life with definitive appeal.
The video presentation was quite good although not on par with the audio. This is not a film that lends itself to overly vibrant images. There are a few daytime sequences that are awash with sunlight which can bring out the definable definition present (if any) within the scene. Even in those cases there were lots of shadowy areas. That is not necessarily bad news. What this presentation had going for it was that detail in low light and shadows looked sumptuous. Fine detail appeared fully resolved n most cases. Every crack, wrinkle and pore was detectable on Mel Gibson’s face. The dark sequence shot within the basement as the aliens attempted to gain entry looked stunning. As the flashlights illuminated the faces and forms of the cast they appeared three dimensional with clearly defined lines and sharp focus. The scene where Merrill and Graham are sitting on the couch (as the kids sleep in their arms) watching TV in the darkened room, there are small beads of sweat that are visible on the upper lips of both of them. I have watched this film several times and never noticed that before.
The color palette is somewhat reserved and avoids overly saturated hues. The colors used in the film are warm and pleasing while maintaining natural tonality. Fleshtone reproduction is as good as I have seen and looked superb. Black and white levels were good enough that I never felt that image quality lacked dynamic potential in either dark or light quality. What kept this from being a reference quality presentation was that there were times when image focus went from sharp to slightly out of focus. At least that is how it seemed to my eyes. This was random and sometimes occurred within the same shot. I did not see this as being attributable to the encoding but felt that I should mention it. Overall I was pleased with what I saw.
Disney has opted to port over the bonus features from the Vista Series DVD release which should please fans. They are offered in standard definition but are presented in their entirety.
The Making of Signs:
- Looking for Signs - Commentary by M. Night Shyamalan on conceiving the idea and writing the script
- Building Signs - featurette on creating the storyboard for the film and building the sets
- Making Signs - Commentary by M. Night Shyamalan on filming the main sequences used in the film
- The Effects of Signs - featurette on the physical and visual effects used in the film
- Last voices - Commentary by James Newton Howard on creation of the musical elements of the film
- Full circle - Commentary by M. Night Shyamalan explaining the steps taken to ensure the film reaches its audience
- 4 Additional Scenes
- 3 Storyboards: Multi-angle features
- Night’s first Alien Movie
Signs is one of my favorite M. Night Shyamalan films. I am delighted that Disney/Touchstone has brought it to Blu-ray Disc. Disney has done a wonderful job in support of the format by consistently supplying viewers with top notch video and high resolution audio on their new release titles as well as their catalog release titles. This one is no different as it offers reference quality audio performance and video quality that isn’t far behind. Fans of the film who have been waiting should get their orders in now. Recommended.
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