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    Tuesday, February 27, 2024

    Tipping Point: Our picks and pans

    MOVIE TIP

    Knock at the Cabin

    Over his career, Stoker-winning horror author Paul Tremblay has granted several interviews to this newspaper and last year guested at one of our “Read of The Day” author series events. So we’ve been following along in real time since word hit a few years ago that Tremblay’s 2018 novel, “The Cabin at the End of the World” — a home invasion story darkly skewed by visions of various apocalyptic disasters — was being made into a film by M. Night Shyamalan. The movie debuted recently, retitled “Knock at the Cabin,” and it’s a very well made exercise in growing tension and horror. Four seemingly disparate strangers arrive simultaneously at an isolated cabin occupied by a vacationing family and, with apologetic sincerity, make a sacrificial demand — or threatening the world will come to an end. Tremblay’s brilliant at making such seemingly absurd set-ups increasingly plausible of the course of narrative, and his ability to infuse even maleficent characters with humanity adds valuable context and credibility. Shyamalan conveys the spirit and developments wonderfully and with help from a great cast — until he completely changes the ending! Where Tremblay leaves the reader with disconcerting questions about the idea of random fate and a merciful god, Shyamalan spells it all out for us and sends a very different message. It’s a good film — and see it — but I prefer Tremblay’s troubling magic.

    — Rick Koster

    TV TIP

    The Company You Keep

    10 p.m. Sundays, ABC

    Boy, does this drama try hard — too hard. If it relaxes into the playful relationship between its romantic leads and into the adrenaline-rush stakes of its family of con artists, it could be really good. As of now, though, it’s too self-serious and too focused on its moody look (oh, the perpetual shadows!). The concept has promise: Milo Ventimiglia, in a very un-“This Is Us” performance, plays a member of a clan of swindlers. When they’re not trying to flim-flam someone, usually in the most complicated fashion possible, he’s sidling up to a woman (Catherine Haena Kim) who is an undercover CIA agent; neither of them knows the other’s profession. The chemistry between Ventimiglia and Kim is alternately (and appropriately) flirty and smoldering. Oh, and the show would be wise to use more of talented character actors William Fichtner and Polly Draper, who play Ventimiglia’s parents.

    — Kristina Dorsey

    BOOK TIP

    I Have Some Questions for You

    Rebecca Makkai

    It’s hard to quantify, but it seems as though a lot of “literary” writers are attempting crime novels. By definition, they go beyond the normal and lightly-fleshed-out “whodunnit” plot skeleton and explore all sorts of Bigger Issues within the genre framework. I think some of these esteemed folks find it’s harder to do this crime stuff than they thought. No problem for Makkai, though. The Pulitzer- and National Book Award nominee and author of “The Great Believers” dives smoothly into the “boarding school mystery” swamp with “Questions.” Former student Bodie Kane, a successful 40-year-old podcaster, returns to her exclusive New Hampshire high school seeking long-delayed justice for her murdered roommate and the campus staffer she thinks was wrongly convicted. It’s complex and beautifully written -- but Makkai really shines using the story to reflect the historical idea of justice denied for women victims, particularly in the cruel dawn of the Trump Administration.

    — Rick Koster

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