DVD round-up: Justified, The Kennedys, Unknown, Country Strong, Faster

This week's TV and film releases reviewed

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TV

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DVD of the Week
Justified (Cert: 15)
4 stars
In a nutshell: Lone gunslinger Raylan Givens returns

The first season of this excellent hillbilly detective drama left that cool cat in a cowboy hat Raylan Givens with crime-scene tape on his door and the chalk outline of a body on his floor. So it’s no surprise that this second run begins with Raylan clearing up loose ends, including the small matter of what to do about absconding antagonist Boyd Crowder. But it’s not just old wounds being scratched at, for the Harlan County marshals are soon in pursuit of a vicious family who control the area’s marijuana supply. Margo Martindale plays the clan’s matriarch with a soothing Southern drawl that masks a chilling determination to protect her illegal trade. David Brown

Format: DVD
Extras: Behind-the-scenes featurette

The Kennedys (Cert: PG)
3 stars
In a nutshell: Dallas in the White House

Bed-hopping and pill-popping dominate this controversial take on the Kennedy years, which was booted out of the History channel schedules in the US due to concerns about its accuracy. In reality, it ends up being a broad-brush greatest-hits countdown, packing in the Cuban Missile Crisis, two assassinations and lots of heartache within the various Camelot marriages. If you imagine JFK as JR Ewing, then the rest of the Kennedys soon begin to fit the Dallas template: Joe Sr is Jock, Jackie is Sue Ellen, Rose is Miss Ellie and Bobby is, well, Bobby. David Brown

Format: DVD
Extras: Making-of documentary and trailer

Other highlights:
Psych (Season 4) – fake psychic Shawn Spencer is back with more cases
Doctor Who: Paradise Towers – one of the stand-out stories of the Sylvester McCoy era
Coast (Series 6) – new journeys with Nicholas Crane and the team

FILM

Unknown (Cert: 12)
3 stars
In a nutshell: Liam Neeson fights to regain his identity

In this solid thriller, American botanist Liam Neeson awakens after a Berlin car accident to find no one recognises him. Shifting between identity-theft mystery and geo-political intrigue before propelling headlong into an assassination-bureau conspiracy plot, this well-maintained puzzler remains tautly suspenseful even through some preposterous moments. Neeson (back in action-man Taken mode) makes for a likeable everyman hero, January Jones (TV’s Mad Men) is ice-cool as his Hitchcock-blonde wife, while Diane Kruger plays his taxi-driver saviour. Unravelling the jigsaw clues is a lot of fun, marking out director Jaume Collet-Serra (Orphan) as a genuinely gifted genre specialist. Alan Jones

Formats: DVD and Double Play (Blu-ray & DVD)
Extras: Production featurettes, cast and crew interviews, trailer

Country Strong (Cert: 12)
2 stars
In a nutshell: Gwyneth Paltrow has those white girl blues

Sparks fly between a young, recovering-addict country singer (Gwyneth Paltrow) and her husband/manager (real-life country star Tim McGraw) in this creaky melodrama that’s full of the typical clichés associated with the musical genre. As Paltrow struggles to revive her career, manipulated at every turn by hubby, her on-off lover (Garrett Hedlund) from the detox centre she’s recently left warns that it may be too soon for another shot of fame. Writer/director Shana Feste is clearly indebted to the Oscar-winning Crazy Heart and Robert Altman’s epic Nashville, but this too often stumbles into mediocre soap-opera territory. Terry Staunton

Formats: DVD and Blu-ray
Extras: DVD includes alternative ending, music videos, deleted and extended scenes, plus there are additional production featurettes on the Blu-ray

Faster (Cert: 15)
2 stars
In a nutshell: Dwayne Johnson is on a mission to kill

Fresh out of prison, bank robber Dwayne Johnson is a man on a mission in this revenge thriller. His motivation is revealed in the course of the story but, essentially, if you’re on his list of names, you’re dead – unless, of course, cop Billy Bob Thornton or assassin Oliver Jackson-Cohen can stop him in his tracks. Despite appearing in a string of family films, Johnson shows he’s still capable of playing it mean. Unfortunately, director George Tillman Jr obviously thinks he has something important to say about forgiveness and redemption, and the impetus is lost when the movie starts taking itself too seriously. Trevor Johnston

Formats: DVD and Blu-ray
Extras: DVD includes alternative ending and deleted scenes, plus there are additional production featurettes on the Blu-ray

Other highlights:

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A Turtle’s Tales: Sammy’s Adventures – Eco-themed animated adventure
Big Momma’s: Like Father, Like Son – More cross-dressing antics with Martin Lawrence
The Round Up – True-life Holocaust drama starring Jean Reno