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Goliath: a formerly great (now-down-and-out) lawyer lands a case against his old firm and their biggest client; but his life suddenly takes a turn for the even worse. While the premise is nothing new or original, this is elevated by having a horde of superb characters, brilliantly acted by the top-drawer ensemble cast: Billy-Bob Thornton, Nina Arianda, Tania Raymonde, and Kevin Weisman in particular steal every scene they’re in with phenomenally dry and naturally funny performances. It’s also quite smutty and sweary compared to most other shows – the frequency and inappropriateness of which adds an extra layer to the humour. In style and tone, a lot of Goliath reminded me of Justified; very human and flawed characters that you want to spend more time with in knockabout situations with dive bars, blues music, and some peril / mystique thrown in. It’s also very well made, measuring up to the biggest budget shows around with a bright and slick look, top-end camerawork (those time lapses!!!) and a tremendous blues/rock soundtrack. In fact, my only two reservations about the show is that the main antagonist (Bill Hurt) is pretty much played as a Bond villain with a burnt face, living in a darkened layer, and given some token perversions. Also, the first six episodes have plenty laugh out loud moments, whereas the final two wrap things up in a more straightforward way. Goliath is so funny, addictive, and crammed with entertaining dialogue & performances that I watched all eight hours over two nights. It’s a solid courtroom drama for people who don’t even have to like Courtroom Dramas.

Score: 8.5/10

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Fargo Billy Bob Thornton, Allison Tolman, Colin Hanks, Martin Freeman, Bob Odenkirk, Keith Carradine, Russell Harvard, Adam Goldberg, Rachel Blanchard, Oliver Platt

Fargo (Season 1): when a contract killer ends up in their small town he changes the lives of an insurance salesman, police woman, and grocery tycoon forever. This does well to instantly match up with the mood of the Coen Brother’s Fargo movie – there’s lots of crossover details that are familiar but not directly copied: pregnancy, outlandish hitmen, ice scrapers, car accident, salesman, the Mike Yanagita scene… It feels properly connected, instead of a forced spin-off.  It looks and feels very cinematic, even more so than the movie, and the score gives it even more heft – allowing this play more like a 10-hour movie than an episodic crime show. Although with this format it’s probably better to binge this as there’s a lot of nice and subtle callbacks to earlier episodes throughout the season. Given the screen time involved this is an actor’s dream; we spend lots of time seeing the main characters established and developed. Martin Freeman is great as the timid but very watchable asshole, but Billy Bob Thornton makes this show for me with a majestic performance as a creepy, dangerous and almost admirably smart hitman. Fargo’s lead and ensemble casting is stellar, and paired with the well-penned characters, really makes the show a joy to watch. The humour is also bang on; leveraging silly accents (a gift that just keeps on giving), and making the most of the trademarked ‘awkward, absurd, nihilistic, crimson coloured’ Coen style. This is the backbone of most episodes, however episodes 7, 8, and 9 feel a bit stretched and empty compared to the rest. Overall Fargo is one of the most promising new shows on TV, and I can’t wait for Season 2.

Score: 8/10

What if YOU’RE right, and they’re wrong?

Fargo Police Billy Bob Thornton, Allison Tolman, Colin Hanks, Martin Freeman, Bob Odenkirk, Keith Carradine, Russell Harvard, Adam Goldberg, Rachel Blanchard, Oliver Platt


Faster: Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, an insane gun and a fast muscle car are out to avenge his dead brother ten years after a failed heist. Despite everything about this film looking awesome, it’s totally pants. For a stripped down revenge film there’s almost no action and only a handful of kills. Dwayne almost goes full retard, with no expressions and about two pages worth of lines in total. Then there’s the wholly unnecessary assassin side-story that serves absolutely no purpose but to beef the film up – and has no payoff. Billy Bob turns up and does his thing; nobody else leaves a mark. Also, for an R-Rated revenge film with an action star, massive guns and fast cars there’s no boobs… genre fail! The two-minute Red Band trailer honestly has the whole story – and all the best bits. If you can’t tell by now, Faster is a waste of everyone’s time and money, that’s been done about a million times, and far better.

Score: 1.5/10

Bad Santa: An alcoholic deviant and his pint-sized sidekick pose as Santa and an Elf for a seasonal job; they then plunder the mall they’ve been working at, but can an 8 year old show them the real meaning of Christmas? BBT is superb at playing a senseless degenerate and all round terrible person, but no matter how low he stoops the scrooge in all of us still connects. With any other Santa, the Kid (Brett Kelly) would have been the star, pulling off a shockingly good junior Rainman. Then there’s the Dwarf, Mall Manager and Security guard… all great characters. For a festive film, this one’s as smutty as they get, sex, swearing, conmen, booze, strippers, blood, violence for the duration… The dwarf’s insults in particular are pure entertainment – great to listen to. The film’s backbone is some fantastic deadpan humour & black comedy, championed by a few recurring lines; shit right for a week, fix a sandwich, etc. It’s well made, well written, well paced, with well measured and well timed jokes. While it’s an anti-Christmas film, it’s still quite festive and uplifting towards the end. Great holiday movie, but don’t watch it with the kids.

Score: 8/10

Merry fuckin’ Christmas!