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2002 Ernest Lilley / SFRevu
Editor:  Ernest Lilley
Associate Editor: Sharon Archer

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Aug02 Contents
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Columns:
Editorial License
US Books
UK Books
Can Books
Comics
DVD

Events/Cons:
CanVention 22 and the Aurora Awards
If It's Tuesday, this must be TOR

Feature Interview:
Ken Macleod

Feature Review: Cosmonaut Keep by Ken Macleod

BBook Reviews
The Alchemists Door
by Lisa Goldstein
Alternate Generals II
ed by Harry Turtledove
Argonaut by Stanley Schmidt
Fire Logic by Laurie J. Marks
The Iron Grail by John Woodstock
The Sacred Pool by L. Warren Douglas
The Sky So Big And Black by John Barnes
Spaceland by Rudy Rucker
Straw Men by
Michael Marshall Smith
Sisters of the Raven by Barbara Hambly
To Trade The Stars by Julie E. Czerneda
The Year's Best Fantasy and Horror
, Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling
Graphic Novel:
Murder Mysteries. Original short story and radio play by Neil Gaiman. Graphic story script and art by P. Craig Russell
Zine: The Journal of Pulse Pounding Narratives

SFMedia:
Film:
Austin Powers: GoldMember

Metropolis (2002) Restoration
& Metropolis Essay
PowerPuff Girls
Reign of Fire
Signs
Simone

 

Signs (2002)
Review by Ernest Lilley

"I see dumb people."

Directed by: M. Night Shyamalan
Writing credits: (WGA) M. Night Shyamalan
Cast: Mel Gibson: .... Graham Hess / Joaquin Phoenix .... Merrill Hess / Rory Culkin .... Morgan Hess / Abigail Breslin .... Bo Hess / Cherry Jones .... Officer Paski / M. Night Shyamalan .... Ray Reddy

Official Site: http://bventertainment.go.com/movies/signs/
IMDB Site: http://us.imdb.com/Title?0286106

I've really enjoyed M. Nigth Shyamalan's movies so far, and though Signs adds nothing new to his resume, except Mel Gibson, it's fun, scary, and surprising...just like Sixth Sense and Unbreakable. I don't think he can get away with pulling this trick out of a hat more than three times in a row without folks catching on though.

In Signs, Mel Gibson plays Father (Don't call me Father) Graham Hess, who lost his wife when the director (in cameo) ran off the road and into a tree...with Gibson's wife in the middle. Macaulay Culkin's brother Rory plays the athsmatic geek child, complete with telescope, tin foil hat and a book on UFOs. He's great. Abigail Breslin plays the Drew Barrymore/ET character, as the little girl Bo, who has visions, or dreams, that are just on the edge of right. All her comments are delivered deadpan, which provied the film with much needed humor. "There's a monster outside my window. Can I have a glass of water?" Cherry Jones plays the local head cop, and she is the closest thing to a sensible person in the film. Joaquin Phoenix plays the brother Merril, that's brother-sibling, not as in Monk. He's not that quick, but I think we're supposed to think that's cause he's from a small town.

M. Night Shyamalan (hereafter to be refered to as MNS) has fallen under the spell of an addictive formula. Its semi-active ingredients involve an action hero playing against type, a kid who sees things adults can't, the slow dawning on the inactive hero that the kid isn't delusional, and the surprising twist at the end...which reveals the entire movie to be a string of deliberate pieces of misdirection to keep the audience from guessing the point of the movie, but which, from the point of retrospective, actually lead up to the final revelation. Which point is driven home by a sequence of flashbacks to spell it out.

Tragically, when MNS looks out over an audience of moviegoers...I think he sees dumb people.

He's made this film three times now, and it gets less surprising each time. Twice with Bruce Willis, whom we can only imagine was getting tired of it, and now with Mel Gibson, who no doubt worked really hard to bring his fallen father character across...but do to the unnatural rquirements of the formula, winds up more pathetic than priestly.

MNS has evidentally reached the point in his career wheren investors trust him completely. Like Clint Eastwood, who I wish had made this movie (see footnote), he directed and wrote and had a significant role in the film. Ironically, he plays the man who killed (accidentally) Gibson's wife. In real life he plays the guy who nearly killed the film. When Gibson and his family see MNS through a pizzaria window, River Phoenix's brother, Joaquin Phoenix, playing Mel's brother, says..."Is that him?" Yes, it certainly is, in typical double entendre.

In order to pull off the gag, everyone (except the chief of police, a straightforward gal played nicely by Cherry Jones) has to check their cunning at the door.

Unfortunately, Mel's classic nothing to lose strategy is foiled by his circumstances. Backed against the wall by the "senseless" loss of his wife, his loss of faoth, and his need to protect his children, he becomes inefectual in the face of adversity.

Perhaps the strangest moment in the film is whe Mel, urged to go out and act crazy to scare off what is assumed to be local pranksters, professes not to know how to act crazy. For a man who'se career started off with a character named "Mad" Max, it must have been a difficult role.

Of course, he hasn't really lost his faith, he's just mad at a god that would take so much from him and threaten to take the rest.

Sadly, not mad enough to get up and actually take responsibility for his life, and he spends the movie sitting around in a puddle of fatalism and self pity that no self respecing action hero would wallow in.

Did I say I enjoyed the film? Sure. It had plenty of suspense, enough scary bits to leave permanent finger marks on my chair arm. The kids in the film were great, though they would have been better off if they were left home alone. I even checked my brain at the door. But when I picked it up on the way out...if Eastwood couldn't have done either the hero or director...mabye Rory's brother could have given some technical direction on how to intruder-proof a house.

Footnote: Signs as directed by Clint Eastwood ---------- Eastwood: Let me get this straight. I've lost my wife, lost my faith, my farm is about to be run over by shadowy monsters and all I can think of is to board up the house and hide? Where in this script does it say a twelve gauge shotgun won't apply the laws of physics to their gray hides? MNS: That would ruin everything. Eastwood: Maybe these monsters aren't facing a man of god...but that doesn't mean they aren't facing a man.

Ernest Lilley is Editor and Publisher of SFRevu. He also writes about technology in his publication TechRevu (www.techrevu.com) as well as being a frequent contributor in online and print publications like Byte.com, Digital Camera, Pen Computing and others. He likes station wagons with stick shifts, PDA's with keyboards, and SF with ideas.