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Starring: Mel Gibson, Joaquin Phoenix, Rory Culkin, and Abigail Breslin
Directed by: M. Night Shyamalan
Rated: PG-13



Mel Gibson and Joaquin Phoenix make a nice on screen team. They had a gentle spark between them. This is, however the most unoriginal work I have seen from M. Night Shyamalan, That is his stories, if nothing else, are unique and thought provoking. I loved The Sixth Sense, and oddly enough couldn't stand Unbreakable. Still I appreciated his talent. Signs has me somewhere between the tastes for the other two; I am torn. Shyamalan slowly tells the tale, and in fact almost loses us to the sleepy-time fairies, but comes back swinging away...

Signs starts so hokey and riddled with telegraphed acting I found my self looking for signs….signs of life... signs of intelligence…the pretty bright red EXIT signs. But I was slowly lured in by Joaquin and the children, Rory Culkin and Abigail Breslin, as their characters grew to realize what was going on around them, I too started to understand the story, and even forgive the lethargic beginning from dramatic drama script 101 class.

Graham Hess (Mel Gibson), a former reverend, has risen this corn fed farm day to the horrific sounds of his child's maniacal screams. Uncle Merrill (Joaquin Phoenix) hears the cries too and ricochets to the fields to find out what's wrong out there. We immediately feel the closeness of this small, motherless, family.

The two fearful father figures find Bo (Abigail Breslin) and Morgan (Rory - family of what fifteen kids here folks - Culkin) unharmed shaken and stirred standing inside a perfectly schmooshed circle of flattened corn stalks within the sea of their cornfields. You know, like those weird "crop signs" we've all heard of.

Bizarre events continue, not just on the Hess corn farm but all over our world, until finally we are faced with the stark truth that - this time - we really are not alone. And these aliens never saw E.T. or ALF. They prefer the alien stories like Mars Attacks or The Twilight Zone that involve words like "harvesting" and "violent humongus invasions" with a quick cut, not to the Spielbergesque gushing loving ending, but to one filled with mangled exploding Earthlings facing imminent doom.

As these aliens gather above our cities of Earth the Hess family tries to figure out how to survive. They take a vote and decide to stay in their home, board up the windows, and wait it out while the world battles the visitors. What else can they do? Graham Hess, the former Godman, is also trying to figure out what the H-E double hockey sticks is up with the lord; to have faith or not to have faith, that is the question for him. Daddy Hess is a tad bitter with the Almighty Big G, da King of Kings, his All-Powerful I.S. (Infinite Spirit), right now for things like, "taking" his wife or having stricken his boy with asthma, and this end of the world invasion aint helping his feelings one tinsy bit.

Mel Gibson plays Graham "Father" Hess effortlessly.Come on I mean he's a natural at this father role. What's he got like seventeen kids in real life? A regular little 'Gaggle of Gibsons.' This must have been a fun , family style set. Melvin is a fine slice of grade A mansteak and is aging beautifully; like an expensive Merlot from the Napa Valley. His role was not so challenging and he waltzed through it without breaking a sweat.

Joaquin Phoenix
plays Merrill, Graham's brother and scene stealer ( per usual) . Joaquin is a big old Yummatini with a twist of citrusy perfection; handsome in a quirky truly scrumptious way. Like fresh set baklava he's layers of sweet nutty bits totaling up to a tasty manfest extravaganza of intense portions…. and as if that were not enough - he can act! Joaqi never picks total duds trust him. A "Leaf" by any other name... is still an adorable guy who'd make a girl go rabid Rhesus monkey with a even a brief sexy glance her way at a Dave Wilkins concert...excuse me. Ahem. See Quills.

Rory Culkin, brother of Macaulay Culkin brother of Quinn Culkin brother of Kieran Culkin brother of Christian Culkin brother of Shane Culkin, is blessed with the same calmness in front of a camera his kin has. It must be a part of their DNA.

This adorable Abigail Breslin who plays young Bo Hess, looks like a little cherub left behind by the angels….geeze of you could be guaranteed one of those one may actually think about breeding…..NAH!

M. Night Shylaman(lamamadingdongsalamander) cheated with this script…. luring us with his past displays. Signs is below his obvious abilities. Heck, M. even cast himself, who apparently is a recent graduate of the Quintilian School Of Acting, Motto: " Act to death! Act with broad exaggerated facial movements and bravado - no one likes a subtle actor!" in a key role. Yech. Bad boy!

Signs is really about the crop signs the world has experienced; yes aliens and invasions, even a bit of War of the Worlds. But it's also about a family in the face of terror. It's starts off bang-yer-purdy-little-head-against- a-brick-wall'd-be-funner dull and ends up riveting. Ah, thank gawd Joaquin was there to deliver some extremely clever lines and make the bad stuff kind of go away. Give it a chance.

Snack recommendation: French toast, waffles, chicken teriyaki, spaghetti, and a bacon cheeseburger, double bacon.


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