DVD & Blu-Ray reviews: Philomena, Saving Mr Banks, Don Jon, The Counsellor, Diana


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The Independent Culture

Philomena (12) Stephen Frears DVD/Blu-ray (98mins)

This is, apart from his enduring Partridge, by far Steve Coogan’s most accomplished performance in this affecting tale of Irish Catholic Philomena (Judi Dench) who had her young son sold by nuns at the Magdalene laundry she was assigned to in the 1950s. Coogan plays jaded Martin Sixsmith, the former BBC reporter and Labour spin doctor who escorts gentle Philomena to Washington to search  for her long-lost son. Stephen Frears deftly handles this poignant, wittily scripted tale and Dench and Coogan are exceedingly good together.


Saving Mr Banks (12) John Lee Hancock DVD/Blu-ray (127mins)

PL Travers, author of Mary Poppins, has held out against Walt Disney (Tom Hanks) exploiting her beautiful creation for 20 years but she’s on her uppers and might have to cave in. The prim, anti-social fiftysomething visits avuncular Walt and nags and snipes the cartoon guru, his songwriters and the director of Mary Poppins mercilessly, at one stage banning the colour red from the musical. She’s a horror show – but apparently it’s because she couldn’t prevent her drunken father (Colin Farrell) from dying. Emma Thompson is compelling as the troubled writer in this sentimental,  old-fashioned and ultimately moving entertainment.


Don Jon (18) Joseph Gordon-Levitt DVD/Blu-ray (86mins)

Don is porn-fixated, prone to road rage and fond of pumping iron. He’s a brash Italian-American narcissist with a passion for one-night stands, until he meets Scarlett Johansson’s control-freak who tries to change and improve the bonehead. She enrols Don in a college, where he meets a sobbing Julianne Moore and forms a bond. Joseph Gordon-Levitt is an extremely winning actor, but even he can’t pull off this messy tale of (self) love and the ending is abrupt and unsatisfactory.


The Counsellor (18) Ridley Scott DVD/Blu-ray (117mins)

A glitzy cast, which includes Brad Pitt, Penelope Cruz and Cameron Diaz, fail to ignite this rambling, Cormac McCarthy-scripted thriller. Michael Fassbender plays a nameless and venal lawyer who’s grimly determined to go through with a big drug deal. His verbose, low-life pal (Javier Bardem) urges him not to, as does his drug contact (Pitt). But he does it anyway, imperilling himself and his weakly characterised girlfriend (Cruz) into the bargain. There’s a lot of yakking to no purpose here, as well as some unpleasantness (a garroting incident) and sleaze (Diaz doing something grubby with a Ferrari windscreen). A misfire.


Diana (12) Oliver Hirschbiegel DVD/Blu-ray (113mins)

Having trouble sleeping? Then tuck into this. Nothing prepares you for how dismal this portrait of Diana Spencer is. Naomi Watts, an excellent actress, is left floundering with a limp, almost comically awful script.