Director: M. Night Shyamalan
Cast: Mel Gibson, Joaquin Phoenix, Rory Culkin, Cherry Jones, Abigail Breslin
Curiously, the phenomenon of crop circles has never been used before now as the basis of a Hollywood film ... it is a strange and mysterious world in which we live.
Gibson, a widower farmer and ex-preacher who has lost his faith, wakens one morning to find strange circles cut through his wheatfields and the beasts of the field going do-lally. Something important is about to happen!!
In the post-September 11 days, everyone in the USA appears to think Shyamalan, who brought us The Sixth Sense and Unbreakable, superior stories full of the unsettling and the unknown, has found 'the' answer for Signs, hardly more than an above-average sci-fi mystery, has been taken extremely seriously indeed.
It is a well-constructed story, to be sure, of a man's search for his lost faith and a reason to keep getting up in the morning. The trouble is that in this effort at least Gibson is not at all convincing.
Nor is he playing the sort of character who instantly enlists our support and sympathy and hope that he finds what has been absent from his troubled life ... who, in the end, cares?
Signs might have succeeded more had it not taken itself quite so seriously. It has no messages for mankind, it is merely a good-ish film that promises much but fails to deliver in equal measure.
It sort of, er, goes around in circles.
Star Rating: **+++
Still Too Many Notes
Amadeus: Director's Cut
Director: Miles Forman
Cast: Tom Hulce, F. Murray Abraham, Simon Callow, Elizabeth Berridge, Jeffrey Jones, Roy Dotrice
It is 18 years since the first sight Forman's screen adaptation of Peter Shaffer's memorable stage drama set around the supposed jealousy of composer Salieri for the loud-mouthed, slightly dotty, but genius, Mozart - and his suggested subsequent murder of same.
It was fine enough then and hardly required a Director's Cut ... since he doesn't actually cut any of it.
It remains an infuriating film since it always seems to verge on the edge of true cinema greatness, and never quite makes it over the top.
Forget for a moment the fact that Salieri, albeit that he was a journeyman musician compared to the boy-man Mozart, wasn't as jealous as the film indicates, he was, indeed, a strong supporter and early mentor of Wolfgang Amadeus, this was always a big, sprawling, Hollywoodised version of the life and times of WAM. It was, too, long and at times not very interesting.
Abraham collected an Oscar for his nasty Salieri and he just about merited it. Hulce gave us a Mozart who was always a boy behaving badly ... when you're a genius you can get away with anything.
He shrieks and yells his way through life, upsetting everybody and between bouts of ill-manners dashing off a soul-searingly beautiful bit of music.
It was never intended to be a strictly accurate historical account of the clash between the two musicians - actually, have you ever listened to a Salieri piece?
And the film was fine enough first time around.
Star Rating: **+++
Time to Forget
A Walk to Remember
Director: Adam Shankman
Cast: Shane West, Mandy Moore, Daryl Hannah, Peter Coyote
Dear me, Daryl, has it come to this?
Hannah was once one of Hollywood's most bankable stars, a striking beauty who appeared in a string of outstanding successes ... Daryl Hannah was big!!
Now, after going AWOL from our screens, she returns in this load of flimsy codswallop about, it would appear, a romance between the neighbourhood no-good (West) and the goodie-goodie Bible-basher (the not-very-well-known pop singer, Moore) ... she falling ill as what purports to be a plot develops.
It is one of those films which has absolutely nothing of merit to offer us. Watching it gives you the strong feeling that someone has robbed you of over an-hour-and-a-half of your life and you want to do them serious damage.
Live longer ... avoid this one!
Star Rating: +++++