Thursday, March 30, 2017

DONNIE DARKO (2001) (4-Disc Limited Edition Blu-ray/DVD Review)

DONNIE DARKO (2001) 
4-Disc Limited Edition Blu-ray/DVD

Label: Arrow Video:

Region Code: A/B
Rating: R
Duration: 113 Minutes/134 Minutes 
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen (2.35:1) 
Audio: English DTS-HD MA 5.1 with Optional English Subtitles 
Director: Richard Kelly 
Cast: Jake Gyllenhaal, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Patrick Swayze, Drew Barrymore, Jena Malone


Synopsis: Fifteen years before Stranger Things combined science-fiction, Spielberg-ian touches and 80s nostalgia to much acclaim, Richard Kelly set the template - and the high-water mark - with his debut feature, Donnie Darko. Initially beset with distribution problems, it would slowly find its audience and emerge as arguably the first cult classic of the new millennium. Donnie is a troubled high school student: in therapy, prone to sleepwalking and in possession of an imaginary friend, a six-foot rabbit named Frank, who tells him the world is going to end in 28 days 06 hours 42 minutes and 12 seconds. During that time he will navigate teenage life, narrowly avoid death in the form of a falling jet engine, follow Frank's maladjusted instructions and try to maintain the space-time continuum. Described by its director as "The Catcher in the Rye as told by Philip K. Dick", Donnie Darko combines an eye-catching, eclectic cast - pre-stardom Jake and Maggie Gyllenhaal, heartthrob Patrick Swayze, former child star Drew Barrymore, Oscar nominees Mary McDonnell and Katherine Ross, and television favourite Noah Wyle - and an evocative soundtrack of 80s classics by Echo and the Bunnymen, Tears for Fears and Duran Duran. This brand-new 4K restoration, carried out exclusively for this release by Arrow Films, allows a modern classic to finally receive the home video treatment it deserves.

I caught up with Donnie Darko on HBO, I had missed it in the cinema, in fact I had never even heard of it when it showed on HBO. It was one of those nights I was up late, and it was on, so I watched it. From the very start I was mesmerized by it, there's something about that opening scene of Donnie waking up on the road overlooking the valley, he smiles weirdly, hops on his 10-speed bike and rides home in the early morning hours, while Echo & the Bunnymen "The Killing Moon" plays along, there's something so chemically magic about this scene for me. The movie tells the supernaturally sci-fi tale of a troubled sixteen year-old boy named Donnie Darko, a boy with a sleepwalking disorder and some possible mental health issues. 


Set in suburban Virginia Donnie Darko (2001) taps into the weirdness of being a teenager during a particular era, set in 1989 when I was when I was a sixteen year old freshman myself, it captures a certain confusedness and uncertainty, a time that makes you question your sanity, which I am sure many of us did, the teen years were awkward times indeed, and Jake Gyllenhaal wonderfully captures that teen confusion as the young man suffering from possible schizophrenia, but also wrapped up in an enigmatic time travel story that involves wormholes and parallel realities, the damn thing is near impenetrable at times, but I love the tone and atmosphere that first time director Richard Kelly (The Box) brought to his debut film.

One night teenager Donnie is awakened by a creepy humanoid rabbit named Frank who summons him outside in the dead of night, Frank informs Donnie that the world will end in 28 days, 6 hours, 42 minutes, and 12 seconds, and that the fate of the world rests on the teen's shoulders, whoa, that's heavy stuff. Weirder, seconds later a random jet engine falls through the roof of the family home and lands on Donnie's bed where he had been mere moments earlier, perhaps even stranger is that no one seems to know where the engine originated from, not even the FAA who have arrived on scene to investigate. 


The film has some seriously weird stuff happening within, the science fiction story is mind-bending and even after countless viewings of both the theatrical and director's cut, I am not 100% sure what exactly is happening, and that's probably why I love it so much, it keep me coming back and I like what it offers, it holds up to repeated viewings. Aside from Gyllenhaal's wonderful performance as the aloof and sardonic teem, we get wonderfully caring performances from Mary McDonnell (Independence Day) as his emotionally struggling mom, Holmes Osborne (That Thing You Do!) as his somewhat goofy father, and his real life sister Maggie Gyllenhaal (Secretary) as his antagonistic older sister, they share some great scenes together, a political conversation around the dinner table at the beginning sets up the family so nicely, with McDonnell really putting across how torn up she is that her son might be suffering with sever mental illness, particularly during a scene with Donnie's therapist (Katharine Ross, The Stepford Wives), tears streaming down her face as she receives some devastating news about Donnie's mental health.

There's also a pretty great cast of side characters, we have Seth Rogen (Pineapple Express) appearing against type as a high school bully, Noah Wyle (E.R.)and Drew Barrymore as teachers who seem strangely attuned to Darko's plight, Beth Grant (The Dark Half) as an annoying gym teacher, and Patrick Swayze (Dirty Dancing) as a motivational author/speaker with a  very dark secret. plus Jena Malone (The Neon Demon) as Donnie's girlfriend.


This set also contains the 2005 director's cut of the movie, but I prefer the original theatrical cut, and if I am honest about it that is probably just because the DC  changes the music cue from the opening scenes, changing out "The Killing Moon" for  "Never Tear Us Apart" by INXS, which really irked me, I don't mind the song, but "The Killing Moon" set the tone for me on the theatrical version, otherwise I like the DC just fine.  

Audio/Video: I have owned about as many versions of Donnie Darko on DVD and Blu-ray as I have of Evil Dead 2 - just pouring money into my love of the damn film, a movie which obsessed me for a long while after I first watched it, including at least two screening of the movie, both theatrical and director's cut. The only version I still owned prior to this review is the 4-disc 10th Anniversary Edition, and I was okay with it, the transfers of DD have always been problematic... until now!  What we have here with this new Arrow release is a 4K restorations of both the Theatrical Cut and the Director’s Cut from the original camera negatives produced by Arrow Films exclusively for this release, supervised and approved by director Richard Kelly and cinematographer Steven Poster, and it's one of those night and day scenarios - this clearly blows away every other release. Fine detail and clarity are improved, colors look more accurate, skin tones are less ruddy, black levels are deeper, this is just a wonderful presentation. Audio on the discs come by way of an English DTS-HD MA 5.1 track with optional English subtitles.  

Arrow carry-over all the extras from the many iterations of the film on home video in the US, and throw in several exclusive extras, including the 1996 short film The Goodbye Place(9 min), which is cool, you can feel familiar themes running through it. There also an 85 minute making-of doc made by Ballyhoo Motion Pictures with new interviews with writer-director Richard Kelly, producer Sean McKittrick, director of photography Steven Poster, it goes deep into many facets of the making of the movie, this is the sort of doc I have long been waiting for about this film. what else? we have 5-min of b-roll footage, 14-min of archival interviews with Richard Kelly, Jake Gyllenhaal, Jena Malone, Drew Barrymore, James Duval, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Holmes Osborne, Noah Wyle and Katharine Ross, producers Sean McKittrick, Nancy Juvonen, Hunt Lowry and Casey La Scala, and cinematographer Steven Poster. 




Special Features: 
- Brand new 4K restorations of both the Theatrical Cut and the Director’s Cut from the original camera negatives produced by Arrow Films exclusively for this release, supervised and approved by director Richard Kelly and cinematographer Steven Poster
- High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) and Standard Definition DVD presentations of both cuts
- Original 5.1 audio (DTS-HD on the Blu-ray)
- Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing

Disc One Special Features: Theatrical Cut (113 Minutes) 

- Audio commentary by writer-director Richard Kelly and actor Jake Gyllenhaal on the Theatrical Cut

- Audio commentary by Kelly, producer Sean McKittrick and actors Drew Barrymore, Jena Malone, Beth Grant, Mary McDonnell, Holmes Osborne, Katharine Ross and James Duval on the Theatrical Cut
- Trailer (2 min)HD 
- Twenty deleted and alternate scenes with optional commentary by Kelly (32 min) HD

Disc Two Special Features: Director's Cut (134 Minutes) 

- Audio commentary by Kelly and filmmaker Kevin Smith on the Director’s Cut
- Deus ex Machina: The Philosophy of Donnie Darko (85 min)HD, a brand-new documentary by Ballyhoo Motion Pictures on the making of Donnie Darko, containing interviews with writer-director Richard Kelly, producer Sean McKittrick, director of photography Steven Poster,
- The Goodbye Place, (9 min)HD, Richard Kelly’s 1996 short film, which anticipates some of the themes and ideas of his feature films
- The Donnie Darko Production Diary, (53 min)an archival documentary charting the film’s production with optional commentary by cinematographer Steven Poster
- Archive interviews with Richard Kelly, actors Jake Gyllenhaal, Mary McDonnell, Jena Malone, Drew Barrymore, James Duval, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Holmes Osborne, Noah Wyle and Katharine Ross, producers Sean McKittrick, Nancy Juvonen, Hunt Lowry and Casey La Scala, and cinematographer Steven Poster (14 min)
- Three archive featurettes: They Made Me Do It (5 min), They Made Me Do It Too (31 min)and #1 Fan: A Darkomentary (13 min)
- 4 Storyboard to Film Comparisons (8 min) HD
- B-roll Footage (4 min)
- Cunning Visions Infomercials with Optional Commentary (5 min)
- Music video: Mad World by Gary Jules (3 min)
- Gallery (49 Images) HD 
- Director's Cut Trailer (1 min) HD 
- 5 TV spots (2 min) 
- Exclusive collector’s book containing new writing by Nathan Rabin, Anton Bitel and Jamie Graham, an in-depth interview with Richard Kelly, introduction by Jake Gyllenhaal and contemporary coverage, illustrated with original stills and promotional material
- Limited edition packaging featuring new artwork by Candice Tripp

This 4-disc set is astounding, as a fan of the movie this is a real treat, the PQ is fantastic and there are a wealth of extras to pour through and obsess over, this is a movie that inspires obsession, a movie that will plunge you down the rabbit-hole of addictive mind-melting cinema, and this is a release worthy of the obsession, phenomenal! 5/5

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