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Justified: after killing a mobster in Miami, old-fashioned US marshal Raylan Givens is re-assigned back to his home turf, Harlan County, Kentucky – where his past comes back to bite him. At the heart of the show are scores of larger-than-life characters, all of whom are well-developed over the season(s) and who’s intricate, interlacing, backgrounds are slowly revealed as the show rolls forward. When Raylan (Olyphant) and Boyd Crowder (Goggins) are in the same scene, it’s TV Dynamite – not to mention other great leads in Arlo, Art, Mags, Dickie, Doyle, and supporting cast members like Gutterson, Johnny, Duffy, Bo, Helen, Ava, Loretta, Dewey… and although the show hangs mostly on Givens, there are very few characters that you’d want to write out. It stands out against most TV shows by channeling an old-fashioned western, redneck, lawless, gun-slinging vibe. It’s also focused more on entertainment, over just drama: sure, the story can be a tad on the ridiculous-and-conventient side (how many criminals are there in this district? How many men can one man kill? etc, etc) but the writers seem to understand that this is what makes the show so watchable. The script and story-writing is solid, and there’s a lot of comedy one-liners that you could easily miss. Season one went for the ‘one case per episode’ format with bits of backstory mixed in, whereas season two gambled with the larger, holistic end-to-end story arc and a few one-off cases thrown in – and when coupled with better production, writing, and a bigger budget, it really improved the show. There aren’t too many shows that blend drama, tension, action, wit and succeed in keeping it entertaining. Justified is a gem.

Season 1: 7/10
Season 2: 8/10

UP [Blu Ray] An elderly widower tries to achieve his lifelong dream of living in South America, but picks up a few inadvertent companions on the way. This one’s definitely pitched way younger than other Pixar films and while there’s some happy moments, overall it’s pretty grim, with some real tearjerking scenes. The ensemble of dogs lighten up the film and were the only things I really enjoyed: poor grammar, dog-based jokes, squirrel etc. Blu Ray presentation is absolutely fantastic, the picture is so vibrant and much of the scenes look like 3D. Best looking BD I’ve seen. Sound/Music is just as important as the dialogue – and it sets the mood / plays with your feelings, to the point of being explicitly manipulative. Up is a super-crazy adventure for kids, but a little shallow and cutesy for the grown ups.

Score: 6.5/10

The savages: ‘estranged siblings re-onnect as they take care of their ailing father in this Oscar-nominated black comedy’… only it’s not really a black comedy, just plain old grim. Only laughed at one part of this film, the rest of the ‘funnies’ were predictable or potty humour. Couldn’t believe Chris “Hitman” Partlow (from The Wire) played a care worker – casting FAIL! Laura Linney looked like a total milf for the duration. It was well-shot, and brilliantly acted – can’t really go wrong with Seymour-Hoffman. As a drama it ticks a few boxes, although it is a tough watch. However, it just doesn’t cut it as the Todd Solondz-esqué black comedy it was marketed as. Ignore the critics!

Score: 4/10