Saturday, May 16, 2015

"Wayward Pines" - A Review

“Wayward Pines” is a new television 10-episode series by director M.Night Shyamalan. He is both famed and infamous. Mr. Shyamalan broke into the Hollywood elite of motion picture creation with two basic unknown features, but it was his third film, “The Sixth Sense” that put him on the road to success. His second big movie starred Samuel L. Jackson, and while “Unbreakable” wasn't quite as well received as “The Sixth Sense” it still showed genuine style and a unique brand of movie making.

Then came a whole string of critical failures that also lacked audience appeal. While the box office receipts were still acceptable for such films as “Signs,” “The Village,” “The Happening,” and so on, that same sense of urgency and imaginativeness seemed to be missing and the critics were quick to respond in the negative, so much in fact that his name sort of became a code word for anyone with a one-hit-wonder film. Many even started calling him Shamalamadingdong.

Generally, at least in today’s market, someone with the kind of early success of M. Night would have released scores of hit movies after nearly 17-years since the first one. However, this wasn't to be for this director. After “The Sixth Sense” he only has seven completed films to his credit and not one had the critical success of that first.

Now M. Night has turned his attention to the small screen with a TV miniseries that boasts of some big award winning names including Matt Dillon, Carla Gugino, Toby Jones, Reed Diamond, Juliette Lewis, Melissa Leo and the hottest commodity on the big and small screen today Mr. Terrence Howard (Empire).

Within the first 10-minutes of the first episode of “Wayward Pines” it looked like M. Night was falling back into his old bag of tricks and bad habits, and thought I was perhaps watching just a more 21st Century take on his movie “The Village.” However, after a half-hour I recognized that this was going to be something wholly different from anything the director had attempted before on any size screen. While the premise isn't really anything new -- Man haunted by personal demons enters strange small town under extreme circumstances, finds the people secretive, and finds no exits or way to escape. That has been done before yet this time it has a freshness to it.

Once I settled in to that familiar concept and began looking at the artful direction, the brilliant acting from the cast, especially Howard and Leo’s roles, I was swept-in like this was something altogether new and a story I had never seen the likes of before. The photography and location is outstanding as is how M. Night lighted the scenes to bring in max effect. It is dirty, gritty and yet retains an ornate facade of normalcy in its presentation. By the end of that premiere episode I found myself wanting to watch more and wished it was a Netflix production instead of a network show so I could binge watch the entire series in one sitting. I hurriedly and excitingly want to know what was going to happen to Dillon’s character next. That isn't something I have felt from a Shyamalan product in a long, long time and it was a good emotion.

I will certainly not miss any of the other 9-episodes left on the docket and highly recommend “Wayward Pines” for your Must See TV list.

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