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Kill them SOFTLY -- and keep Nashville alive

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MOVIES

BIG RELEASE: Killing Them Softly (Nov. 30)

BIG PICTURE: Brad Pitt plays Jackie Cogan, a professional hit man. With his slicked back hair, slick leather jacket and shotgun, Cogan looks like a cross between The Fonz, an extra from Pulp Fiction... and Elmer Fudd. But Cogan isn't hunting wabbits, he's hunting the culprits of a heist gone wrong (do heists go right for anyone OTHER than Danny Ocean?). Two lowlifes have robbed a high-stakes mob poker game and Pitt is sent out to make them pay.

FORECAST: Killing Them Softly is an updated take on George V. Higgins' 1970s crime novel. Many of the lines, apparently lifted straight from Higgins' original text, will be delivered with gusto by the all-star cast that include Pitt, James Gandolfini and Ray Liotta. The tough-as-nails Cogan offers pearls of wisdom such as "I'm living in America and in America you're on your own." (Question: Did Mitt Romney's speechwriter adapt the screenplay?) The characters' verbal ammunition is often as surefire as their bullets. Australian director Andrew Dominik (The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford) looks like he hit the mark on this one.

TV

BIG EVENT: SNL Christmas (Nov. 28, NBC, 9 p.m.

BIG PICTURE: During one of the slowest TV weeks of the year, get into the dysfunctional holiday spirit with some comedy classics. NBC has helpfully assembled a compilation of Saturday Night Live's best holiday sketches. This means almost guaranteed appearances by Jon Lovitz's Hanukkah Harry, Adam Sandler's Hanukkah Song and Justin Timberlake offering his lady friends a very special gift "in a box."

FORECAST: Laughter is the best medicine. Given you'll soon be spending an uncomfortably long time with your own family, you might as well medicate early (then hit the egg nog on Christmas Eve). Expect SNL to also dig deep in its archives for classic holiday bits from the '70s and '80s.

HONOURABLE MENTION: Nashville (Nov. 28, ABC, CTV Two, 9 p.m.) Treat yourself to the best TV gift of the fall season. Help make this sure this expertly packaged musical drama doesn't get returned to the store. New shows, such as Park Avenue 666 and Last Resort, are already getting their pink slips. But Nashville hits all the right chords. Lead actresses Hayden Panettiere (Heroes) and Connie Britton bring to life two bitter country music rivals -- separated by age, but united in their drive to be taken seriously by an unforgiving industry. At this point, with American Horror Story and Friday Night Lights only recently behind her, it's fair to say that Britton can truly do no wrong. Both actresses' voices can also easily contend with Taylor Swift and company; Panettiere even hopes to record a full-length country album off-screen. (Hmmm... life imitating art. Note to Ice T: This does not mean you should become a real cop.)

MUSIC

BIG RELEASE ON NOV. 27: Alicia Keys (Girl on Fire)

BIG PICTURE: You thought The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest was tough, but wait until you meet Girl on Fire! R&B icon Alicia Keyes promises a renewed passion and energy on her fifth studio album. Apparently it takes more than one person to light the match. Album collaborators include Frank Ocean, Bruno Mars, Babyface, John Legend, Dr. Dre and guitarist Gary Clark Jr.

FORECAST: With Taylor Swift and Rihanna's recent efforts dominating the charts, Keys has some tough female acts to follow. But her music has always been fuelled by more genuine soul then many of her contemporaries. The ball is in your court: Light us up Alicia.

HONOURABLE MENTIONS: Wu-Block (Wu-Tang Clan and D-Block). I know it sounds like a video game console, but Wu-Block is both an album title and the hip-hop industry's equivalent of Bennifer or Brangelina. Other musical team ups I'd love to see?: Nickelblack Keys and Jay ZZ Top and Cee-J.Lo.

-- Postmedia News

"You don't need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows,"

but these days, a guide through the seemingly endless flurry

of pop culture is just what we need. With that in mind, here is what's on

the radar screen in TV, music and film for the coming week.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition November 25, 2012 ??65525

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