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    Sunday, April 14, 2024

    Tipping Point: Our picks and pans

    BOOK TIP

    Florida Man

    Tom Cooper

    The title of this 2020 masterpiece refers, of course, to pop culture shorthand describing a large demographic of weirdos who do stupidly bizarre things in the state of Florida. In this case, though, the titular Floridian is career beach bum Reed Crowe, whose shenanigans have more to do with bad luck than idiocy. It’s as though the biblical Job bought a Hawaiian shirt and moved to the Everglades. The story covers decades, and Cooper – whose lush, day-glo prose shimmers in the fashion of James Lee Burke – surrounds Crowe with a tremendous cast of support characters and irresistible situations. Take note: In Catface, the author has created one of the greatest and most indelible villains EVER, and that’s saying a lot. Too, the novel’s structure doesn’t follow the usual five-stage narrative arc, and in Cooper’s hands, it turns out to be a wild and successful literary gambit. Wise, clever and perversely comic, “Florida Man” is reminiscent of its Deep South cousin, “A Confederacy of Dunces,” in that the work’s substantial glee and hilarity are grounded in a genuine sense of heartbreak and loss.

    – Rick Koster

    MOVIE TIP

    Book Club: The Next Chapter

    Talk about an aspirational movie. This light comedy follows four acting legends portraying well-off women who travel to Italy. As they traipse across Rome, Venice and Tuscany, they eat, drink, run into plenty of interested men, and laugh a lot. Is this sequel a great movie? No, but it’s enjoyable in a non-demanding way. It’s a pleasure to spend time with the Actress-of-a-Certain-Age Mount Rushmore of Jane Fonda, Diane Keaton, Candice Bergen and Mary Steenburgen. The plot involves Fonda’s character getting engaged and the pals deciding a bachelorette trip abroad is called for. But the movie’s real raison d’etre is the cast, which also includes Don Johnson, Andy Garcia and Craig T. Nelson. Well, the cast and the scenery. As far as another recent frothy Fonda film, “The Next Chapter” is much better than “80 for Brady.”

    – Kristina Dorsey

    TV TIP

    Black Bird

    Apple+

    I’d describe the basic plot of this six-part drama miniseries as stretching the bounds of credibility. In it, a charismatic but imprisoned young drug dealer/gun runner is offered freedom and a pardon IF he can build trust with an enigmatic murderer/possible serial killer and somehow get him to disclose the location of a victim’s body. The thing is? “Black Bird” is based on a true story. And, under the extremely capable stewardship of writer/producer THE Dennis Lehane, this is one riveting psychological crime story. The entire cast is very good – including Ray Liotta, in his final role, as the young convict’s ex-cop father. But someone named Paul Walter Hauser, cast as the fiend, is freakin’ excellent. Disturbingly so. His acting chops suggest the late genius Philip Seymour Hoffman while nonetheless crafting a completely original character. Who the hell is this Hauser guy?!

    – Rick Koster

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