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2 out of 4 people found the following review useful:
Once again, the critics missed the point., 24 July 2006

The major problem M. Night Shyamalan has had to face in recent years is exactly what he strikes out against through this film: being typecast, erroneously and viciously, by the production companies who steward his pictures and by the critics who go into his films expecting something ordinary and then bashing him needlessly because he ended up giving them something completely unexpected. Isn't that the point of film-making - to try new things, to think outside the box, and most importantly, to tell new, original *stories*?

I was so hopeful when the initial advertisements trumpeted this film as a "bedtime story". Why Warner Brothers abandoned that direction and went with the more conventional thriller angle (which this film, by all means, is most definitely NOT), I'll never figure out; if they had continued with the "bedtime story" idea, it would have played better with a movie-going public that's led around blindly by the pied piper that are the movie critics. Are there moments in the film where a strong suspension of disbelief is required? Sure, but isn't it that way with any bedtime story that you might tell your kids?

What I'm ultimately saying is that the critics looked past the big picture to nitpick on the small details, as if they're trying to top Shyamalan's admittedly arrogant attitude out of spite. (It's true that by casting himself in the role of the writer whom Story inspires to change the world, that he's opening himself up to those kinds of attacks - but can you really fault him when his performance is as strong as anyone else's in the film?) This is a wonderful *story* with many layers that will reveal themselves upon repeat viewings, and a more intelligent piece of entertainment than other films that will earn more at the box office (like Click) or received more praise from the critics (like the Clerks sequel) could ever dream of being.

Thanks, Night, for once again making the movies something more.

Signs (2002)
34 out of 55 people found the following review useful:
Unspeakably brilliant, 5 August 2002

In last week's issue of Newsweek, M. Night Shyamalan is quoted as saying to his accomplices in crime, "If I did 'Pokemon 5,' would you come? Come on! I could turn it into a metaphor for the human condition!" The scary thing about that comment is not only that he probably *could* do it if afforded the opportunity, but also that he pulls off a similar trick in "Signs," which from an artistic standpoint is easily the best film he's ever done.

The greater picture of the film is the crop signs that suddenly and quickly start appearing worldwide - and the question of whether they mean anything for mankind as a whole. But once the greater picture is laid out in the first twenty minutes, it takes a complete backseat to Shyamalan's happy & pained family of four, and focuses on their feelings, their worries, their doubts; as the horror of what's transpiring in the greater picture creeps closer to them.

When Merrill says, "It's like War of the Worlds," it's NOT hyperbole, even though we never see what transpires in the greater picture. Instead, Shyamalan focuses on the subtle nuances of the fear of the individual. Instead of seeing hundreds of soldiers fighting in hand-to-hand combat with gigantic bugs, we gain an appreciation of what it's like for those who aren't blessed with such courage - or, in Graham Hess' case, being able to find it again.

This is the first horror movie I've ever seen that both genuinely scared me - because you sympathize with the family's plight, even without seeing it - and made me laugh at the same time, because the family's reaction to the terror unfolding in the world is a sign itself of a strength that most don't have - the ability to be levelheaded and always keep things in perspective, no matter how scary or "out-there" the situation is.

As usual, Shyamalan gets excellent performances out of all of his actors, especially Willis & Breslin as Graham & Bo. As usual, everything you see means something - the trick, like with "Sixth Sense" & "Unbreakable, is whether or not you can put them all together. I'd be shocked, though, if this film doesn't get nominated for its sound - the soundtrack is Hitchcockian-creepy, and Shyamalan is a master at using sound effects to create the terror that the visual effects normally do.

Don't go to "Signs" expecting a monster movie, or a shock ending, but definitely see it before the summer's out, and be prepared to be moved in ways that you previously couldn't have imagined from a horror or suspense film. It's been said that a genius of film is one who knows how to transcend or reinvent a genre - and with this film, M. Night Shyamalan is decidedly on his way there, if he hasn't already reached it. 10/10

Going over the top sometimes works... and it does here, 3 April 2002

The ambiance that I got while watching "Death to Smoochy" was similar to the one I got while watching Tim Burton's sci-fi spoof "Mars Attacks!" Both movies take their subject matter to such an extreme that they almost end up being a parody of themselves, and neither seems to care of what the consequences will be. The question is, does it work? "Mars Attacks!" didn't work because the sci-fi spoof had been done better... but "Death to Smoochy" works because it's fresh, demanding, and above all else, hilariously funny.

Robin Williams makes the best of an underwritten role, making sure that you have just the right amount of sympathy for his character. (This ends up going two ways, but I won't say how.) Edward Norton usually doesn't play this type of role - normally, you'd see him in roles like the one Williams has here) but he mixes the over-idealism of Sheldon with real-world sensibility perfectly. Catherine Keener's change from a overzealous, filthy-mouthed producer seems a bit artificial, but the realism of Sheldon's change more than makes up for it.

The movie can be overly and needlessly dark at times, but this works because it's directly in contrast with the happy-go-lucky attitude of the on-camera world of children's television. Things move along very quickly, but again, that's part of the satire. And yes, there is no shortage of criminally annoying sing-alongs and dance numbers, but you know what they're there for. In short, the film hits you on the head repeatedly with what it's talking about, and by the end, it's enough to make you pay attention... 8/10

0 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
Highly impressed, 7 April 2001

We're coming off a year in which a sandshoe-swordfighting epic is our best picture and the Academy has made some improvements with its selections. Members of the Academy, pay attention. This film stands out as one of the best movies I've seen in a good couple of years, and I won't be surprised if it turns out to be better than Pearl Harbor.

What makes this film so riveting is not its dialogue -- rather its atmosphere and the non-verbal emotional roles that the characters play. When is the Academy going to grow some guts and give Ed Harris the recognition and Oscar he deserves? This movie is yet more proof why he stands among the elite (along with Morgan Freeman, I consider him the best actor working in America) because he can take a role with very little speaking and elicit an extremely strong reaction from the audience. This guy will make you hate his character when all is said and done. Jude Law is perfectly cast as our resident hero and counterpart to Harris, and Joseph Fiennes continues to make leaps and bounds in his performances. (I wasn't expecting much out of Fiennes, but his performance as a Soviet propagandist was so breathtaking real it could be considered the show-stealer.) I enjoyed the subtlety of both the romantic sub-plot and Rachel Weisz's performance, and the atmosphere created by the directors leaves your blood running cold.

The movie is partially fictionalized, but yet again, truth is not only stranger, but more compelling, than fiction.

"Enemy At The Gates" is more than worth your $9.50. It's certainly not for the light of the stomach -- the sniper violence can be visually shocking and nauseating at times -- but hey, war is war. If you're the type of moviegoer who appreciates subtle action and stories told with emotions, not words, then this one is definitely for you. 9/10

543 out of 696 people found the following review useful:
Simply amazing. The best film of the 90's., 6 September 2000

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

The Shawshank Redemption is without a doubt one of the most brilliant movies I have ever seen. Similar to The Green Mile in many respects (and better than it in almost all of them), these two movies have shown us that Stephen King is a master not only of horror but also of prose that shakes the soul and moves the heart. The plot is average, but King did great things with it in his novella that are only furthered by the direction, and the acting is so top-rate it's almost scary.

Tim Robbins plays Andy Dufrane, wrongly imprisoned for 20 years for the murder of his wife. The story focuses on Andy's relationship with "Red" Redding (Morgan Freeman, in probably his best role) and his attempts to escape from Shawshank. Bob Gunton is positively evil and frightening as Warden Norton, and there are great performances and cameos all around; the most prominent one being Gil Bellows (late as Billy of Ally McBeal) as Tommy, a fellow inmate of Andy's who suffers under the iron will of Norton.

If you haven't seen this movie, GO AND RENT IT NOW. You will not be disappointed. It is positively the best movie of the '90's, and one of my Top 3 of all time. This movie is a spectacle to move the mind, soul, and heart. 10/10

Strong performances, but story needed work, 23 August 2000

Cruel Intentions is probably one of the most intriguing films I have seen in a long time. Based upon the classic Dangerous Liaisons, most of the cast gives remarkably strong performances which make the film entertaining and interesting. However, the storyline is at many times ridiculous, unbelievable, predictable, or a combination of the three.

The best performance in Cruel Intentions is without a doubt Sarah Michelle Gellar's, who takes a blind eye to the girly hero type she makes famous in Buffy the Vampire Slayer to play Kathryn, the morally conflicted and evil student body president at Manchester (a college which is the background and driving point behind many of the story). This performance made her follow-up in Simply Irresistible all the more disappointing. Frankly, I think the role of the villain suits her perfectly, and I also think she was robbed of a well-deserved bucket of golden popcorn at the MTV Movie Awards.

Ryan Phillippe, as Sebastian, overdoes the evil aspect of his character to the point where his actions and words are almost completely ludicrous. Reese Witherspoon's Annette tries to balance this flaw in the script with the opposite problem: her character early on quickly takes on the role of the morals preacher. The script enters its predictable stages: they sleep together, fall in love, break up when Sebastian admits the truth about his past, then one dies in a car accident (I won't say which one); forever killing chances for true love. Blah. How boring.

Selma Blair's Cecile adds a interesting dimension to the movie: She falls for her African-American music instructor (who is later revealed to be a cohort of Kathryn), is seduced by Sebastian under false pretenses, then becomes an annoyance to both Sebastian & Kathryn with her persistence. I admire her character's persistence, but not her character's stupidity, which is omnipresent from the moment she appears on camera.

The soundtrack is nothing to write home about - the only major standouts being the Counting Crows' haunting ballad "Colorblind," and the Verve's "Bittersweet Symphony."

To sum, Cruel Intentions is a movie that tries to be original by exaggerating relationships between teens, but rather ends up being inanely predictable and at times too ridiculous to believe. However, the cast makes up for the script's weaknesses with well-rounded performances; the best coming from Gellar and Blair. And to continue the predictability, there will, of course, be a prequel...